"Living in a foreign country can be a real mix of experiences and emotions. Most of the time I love where I live and am happy to be here in Central Asia. But there are times when it feels really hard," says Cheri Magarrell, visual peacemaker and former wedding / portrait photographer. She's discovered her calling in Central Asia and is enjoying developing as a cultural photographer. She loves connecting with people in an empathetic and genuine manner and desires to show the true beauty of these people and the places she visits. You can see more of her work at deepsoulphotography.com.
Cheri's words below encourage us to be intentaional about seeing beauty & they show us what this idea actually might look like. Enjoy...
I don’t live in the “prettiest” of cities and occasionally it can really get to me. It is a city full of box like buildings covered in years’ worth of dirt and grime. The sky is often gray with smog. Things are run down and just aren’t that “pretty”. So what do you do when your soul longs for beauty? How do you find contentment in a place that, outwardly at least, seems less than satisfying?
For me that contentment has come, in large part, through my photography. Often when I am feeling down and “culture stressed”, I will deliberately take my camera out and go searching for beauty. By doing this, I find that my perspective gradually changes. I learn to see things differently. I see that the exterior of that building that I thought was so ugly actually has the coolest texture, or I see colours and lines that I know will make an amazing shot. Sometimes I photograph a local person on the street and end up having a wonderful time visiting with them. All these help me to find the beauty that IS here and to enjoy where I am and the people that live here. They lead me to contentment in this place. And I think when I feel more content, and feel connected to a place and its people, I am able to take better photographs…photographs that really capture the true beauty of the place. I think it is harder to show beauty if your mindset says “This place is so ugly and I don’t like these people!” If you can overcome these thoughts and feelings and come to appreciate a place and find the beauty in it and its people, your photographs will reflect that and have deeper emotion to them.
Let me give you an example. One day, I was feeling down, and so I began to think of going out to photograph. I chose to go to a market area that I had found a few months before. I had stuck my head in through a shrouded doorway and realized the interior was a gold mine, photographically speaking, but I didn’t have my camera with me at the time. So this day I returned. I walked in the door and immediately my creative juices began to stir and I started to get excited. There were so many possibilities! I started to work near the front door, and began with a long exposure shot of the entire market. A woman walked towards me as I was shooting and I got a lovely ghosting through the image.
I looked at my viewfinder and exclaimed to myself “Wow!” My despondency was replaced with an excitement that I was HERE, in this place, at this moment. What a privilege. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. I continued through the market, photographing the produce, the proprietors of the shops, and customers purchasing their various goods. The fishmonger allowed me to watch him help his customers for quite a long time. Many of the shopkeepers were laughing at me…wondering why on earth I would want to be photographing what, in their minds, was a very ordinary place! I laughed along with them, which helped me build a bit of camaraderie with them and as a result I was also able to shoot more freely because now, I was becoming a friend, not just a nuisance.
I left the market after finishing, thrilled with the images I had. But more than that, I felt joy. I had had positive interactions with locals, which helped me to appreciate them. I had found loveliness in a city often lacking in beauty. I was able to overcome my despondency and focus on the beauty waiting to be found around me, and my photographs reflected that. And in the midst of all of that, I found contentment. It is a constant journey, and I certainly haven’t “arrived”, so I know that my search for beauty will continue as my emotions continue to fluctuate. But I am learning to love the journey, and I am committed to the search.
Disclaimer: While IGVP strives for unity and clarity of vision, each blog author is responsible for his or her own words, links, and references. They do not necessarily represent the many voices and opinions of individuals within the visual peacemakers movement, the Guild, or the IGVP Founders.