My Best Photo in 4 Months

Charlene journal

It was one of the rare occasions that I had a full hour to hang around and just watch Buthena attend to her clients. Everyone was a little unsure about the cameras at first but I was there for so long that they got used to it and stopped paying me any attention.

That, for me, is always when the magic happens.

Good Medicine

Charlene journal

Central Iraq, May 2019 In my present line of work, I meet many extraordinary people. Folks who have made it through war, exile, unimaginable loss, and still find the grit to get up and do their best each day. Folks who go above and beyond to care for those around them. Like the extraordinary Dr Mustafa, whose story is up on the Preemptive Love blog today. Check it out. He’s a displaced doctor, serving displaced families. He’s a qualified physician, with a “real job” at the hospital where he lives, and more opportunity than folks who don’t have his level of qualification. He doesn’t have to take a second one in this devastated town, where the work is hard, and frequently heartbreaking. But for some …

Language Lessons

Charlene journal

Photo above: December 2018 in Copenhagen. Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, Iraq I’ve been learning Arabic, the last couple of months in Iraq. It’s doing some funny things to my brain, which became apparent during the latest trip to Copenhagen (I was there a couple of weeks ago, for 6 precious days). My progress in Arabic itself is slow, but spoken Danish is way more accessible than before…this, after not hearing any for 5 solid months. I’ve never formally learned Danish. Only reason I can read any at all is because of Flemming’s late father. He had all this Viking history—which I am mad for, and he was a veritable encyclopedia on—in Danish history magazines. On long visits to Jutland in years gone by, I’d park myself on …

Amouna | Preemptive Love

Charlene journal

Kurdistan, Iraq In the photo above, Amouna kisses her granddaughter during an afternoon of work. I’ve been waiting to post this one for a while. Read the full post here. As a woman, it’s always great to see other women reclaim their confidence and their lives. And so often, all most of us need is a little helping hand. Amouna is one among thousands and thousands of Iraqis displaced by ISIS terror. Life in a refugee camp is hard (to say the least), and she’s been struggling to make ends meet for 6 children, alone. Then Preemptive Love donors stepped in to give her exactly the hand she needed to make her business work. So she’s making enough of a profit to never have to …

The Light of Her Eye

Charlene journal

Kurdistan, Iraq A few days after I started work proper in Iraq, i encountered a 6 year old Syrian refugee called Ileen, who really took a shine to my camera. I wrote about her experience with the X-Pro2 for the Preemptive Love blog, so do check it out there. That was the first time I met her. She’d never seen me before and was a little shy, peeking at me over the shoulder of my colleague and her Mum, so after a bit i started taking photos of her and showing them to her on the back of the camera, hoping to draw her out. It had the desired effect: she sidled up and pretty soon was leaning on me, besotted with my magic box …

The Grass Is Greener Over Here

Charlene journal

Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan I arrived in northern Iraq in the wettest cold season the region has seen in… maybe forever. It rained and rained and rained for weeks on end, with grey skies and clouds that hung heavy on the twin mountain ranges flanking the city. I’ve enjoyed the rain and cold… but the continuing deluge has been deadly for thousands all over the Middle East, as infrastructure collapses and lives & livelihoods are washed away — usually that of already vulnerable folks. I wrote a piece for Preemptive Love’s blog. Read it here. When I got here I was all agog at the green and rain and cold. It was a complete counterpoint to the dry brown heat I landed in, back in September. …

30 days in Kurdistan

Charlene journal

Sulaymaniyah, Iraq I’ve been in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) for a month as I write this. It’s great to be on the ground, finally getting into the work I’ve been waiting so long to begin. On the personal photography front, things are at a complete standstill. Pretty much every photo I’ve made for myself is from a car, or the broad windows of our office. There are a few reasons for this It’s been raining. A lot. Which means I haven’t been walking around. There were some sunny days when I first landed, but that stopped pretty quickly. Here in the northern city where I live, it didn’t let up for 2 straight weeks. So I bum rides or take cabs everywhere. You’d think lots rain …

On the Instax SQ20

Charlene journal

Back in January, I got to play with the Instax SQ20. I’ve never used an instant camera of any kind before, and it never occurred to me to try the Instax, despite it being a Fuji. It’s a bit… well, too cute. But Instax Danmark was after something a little different from the super slick, very lifestyle, uber feminine imagery that their brand evokes. That worked for me, because none of those things describe me in the least! Christian from Instax Nordic gave me a camera, 4 cartridges of instant film and said “go do your thing.” So I did. Went out and shot the usual things I normally do. Trains, buses, reflections, and whatever else caught my eye. Read my piece on the SQ20 …

On Writing

Charlene journal

Singapore To write is to make a clearing in the wilderness in which, almost literally, you can see the wood from the trees. In the thick of anything, you hardly know who you are or where you’re going (which is the redeeming power of experience); at your desk, recollecting emotion in tranquility, helped by memory’s editing devices and imagination’s hunger for possibility, you take something that might only have been heartache and turn it into something more provocative, enriching, and even instructive. – from Writing Undoes Me, by Pico Iyer It’s been a week and a half since I’ve been on the new job. My work in Preemptive Love, is telling stories. Through words, still photographs, and/or video. As I’m working remotely at the moment, …

On Painting

Charlene journal

Singapore I haven’t been shooting much since I’ve been back in the motherland, so this post has nothing to do with photography, travel, or anything I usually blog about. It’s about about painting. Walls and such. I’ve been domestically preoccupied for a few months. Late 2018, before I headed to Copenhagen, there were weeks of prep for the big government upgrading program to our flats that gave thousands of us brand new bathrooms – among other things – and Mum’s own concurrent renovations. Then it was a week of cleaning, and I painted my room before heading off to Denmark for a couple of months. In the couple of weeks I’ve been back from Copenhagen, I’ve been painting the rest of the house. Let me …