Who are you?

January 3, 2009

 

Photographer and Pew Fellow Cheryl Hatch poses with Gabriela Zerom, left, and her aunt, Tsege Habtu, in front of Tsege's home in Hagaz, Eritrea. Tsega is a midwife, who performs female circumcisions and Gabriela is part of a campaign by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students to inform people about the dangers of this traditional practice.

Photographer and Pew Fellow Cheryl Hatch poses with Gabriela Zerom, left, and her aunt, Tsega Habtu, in front of Tsega's home in Hagaz, Eritrea. Tsega is a midwife, who performs female circumcisions, and Gabriela is part of a campaign by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students to inform people about the dangers of this traditional practice. November 1999. Copyright 1999 Cheryl Hatch ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

On the edge of my chair, I sat enrapt, leaning toward the TV screen broadcasting the performances at the Kennedy Center Honors last week. Watching Roger Daltrey and Peter Townshend as honorees, I remembered the Who concert I attended as a teen. Three decades later, I found myself marveling at the narrative of their lives, the force and beauty of their songs and their place in our history—and mine.

Who are you?

I believe we are the stories we tell.

As I started this blog, I was reticent—an irony, of course, since I’ve spent my life as a writer and photographer asking people to trust me and reveal their stories, to share their lives with unseen strangers.

Here’s a piece of my narrative.  

The daughter of an Army officer, I scanned the black-and-white images from the Vietnam War on the nightly news, looking for my father’s face. At night I’d kneel by my bed in my footie pajamas and pray for his safe return. As an adult, I followed in his footsteps, armed with a camera, tiptoeing among the dead and kneeling besides wailing mothers at their children’s graves. After a decade of documenting the brutality and devastation of war, I was a still photographer in search of stillness, a broken spirit in need of healing.

 

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

–Eleanor ROOSEVELT

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