"I followed this girl out into the water during Pongal, the Tamil New Year festival. She was one of thousands if not millions, that day on Chennai's Marine Beach, the second longest in the world. On the third and final day of the festival, families throng to the beaches, irrespective of socio-economic class. She was having a personal moment away from the crowds and was unaware of me."
As I soak in Kirk Mastin's print, the world population is surging past 7 billion. India is on pace to become the most populous nation in the world, surpassing China within the next generation. Our global community is becoming increasingly urbanized and inter-dependent, with growing demands to stay ‘connected’. My life feels as though it is under constant attack from information and ideas on all sides. I’m not complaining. I love it actually. It’s stimulating.
Yet, looking on as this woman enters The Ocean I couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous. The place where she stands is a sacred place – where water meets the land – and one of my favorite places in the world. As a waterman – a swimmer, surfer, and diver – I have a love affair with The Ocean. It is my place of refuge. It is my sanctuary from the blistering pace of life digitalized and globalized. It is the place where I prefer to go when I desperately need to think clearly. When Mastin writes in his backstory, “She was having a personal moment away from the crowds and was unaware of me,” I knew the feeling exactly. It happens every time I enter The Ocean and get a quiet reprieve from the near-constant connection.
In Kirk Mastin’s print I see the duality of my own existence. The earthy sand being churned by an energetic sea mirrors the gentle colors of the clothes wrapped around this woman's dark skin and hair. The Ocean draws me into my own mind and then back to shore, and my other reality, again. I feel the “thousands, if not millions” as I leave them behind; but I know I’ll be back because I love the hectic squalor – check my messages, leave an update, schedule that meeting, prepare this presentation, scan the news – of my daily life as a teacher, husband, colleague, and friend in the information age.
As an educator, I do my best to prepare my students for our 21st century online world. Working with Nuru Project, I can virtually bring my humanities students to New York, around the world, and back into their own lives with engaging projects in photojournalism. We use Skype to connect with other learners and experts around the world, and share our thoughts and images using various social media and web platforms. The 14 and 15 year-olds in my class hardly take notice of the whirlwind pace of things. They’re actually far too comfortable if you ask me. I also want them to know the great power of solitude: the peace and wisdom that can come from being alone with your own thoughts; the true nature of The Ocean, and all of Nature’s other elements; and the knowledge that when we enter The Ocean alone it is “irrespective of socio-economic class” or any other divisions we have created back in our communities. I want to introduce them to the woman in this image. I want them to remember to stand where she stands.
At Nuru Project, we connect photojournalism with causes. Consider benefiting Acumen Fund at checkout with your Kirk Mastin print purchase. Acumen Fund invests in Indian entrepreneurs who are building businesses that provide services like housing, water, and healthcare to the poor. You can see this print in person next Wednesday, 11/9 at our Dignity NYC photo auction in support of Acumen Fund.
Danny Kinzer is a teacher at the Kaohsiung American School in Taiwan. He is a surfer, an avid traveler, a lover of kids, and an extremely tall individual. Nuru Project CEO JB Reed has been teaching students in Danny's humanities class about photojournalism via Skype.