Monday, February 16, 2009

January Reading: III

The second photography book I tackled in January is Annie Griffiths Belt's A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs. Belt was one of the first women hired by National Geographic and, for me, her story had greater significance because of it.

She recounts her early days in photography, falling in love with light as a college student. She decides to photograph a tree bathed in morning light on a golf course. Veterans of the course whisper behind her prone form on the grass. When the sprinklers turn on and drench her, she realizes just what they were whispering about. Drenched but undaunted, she pushes forward with her photography.

Belt got her start at National Geographic when an editor called asking if she had photos of a Minnesota blizzard. She did and the rest seems to be history as she became a regular photographer for the legendary magazine. So much of "luck" is hard work; Belt was willing to venture into the cold, forbidding Minnesota weather to satisfy her own vision first and foremost.

Without question, Belt's photos are excellent. They range from natural landscapes to insider views of Ramadan celebrations, never before photographed. Belt's work is technically sound and photographs with a storyteller's instinct.

What made this book special to me is how Belt managed to be a great photographer and a great mom, hauling her family along on photo expeditions. She writes about needing to step away from her family for intensely full days of work. Still, traveling the world with her kids and husband brought them closer together and implanted the lifelong love of travel in her kids. On a personal level, I hope my husband and I can sow those same seeds of interest in experiencing the world in our kids.

Belt's book is a joy for the eye and for the heart. Her photos made a grey January much brighter for me and pushed me to think about how my own family could benefit from time together on the road.

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