As part of National Geographic’s Artifacts series about physical items that have meaning to photographers in the field, the contents of my camera bag were featured on their PROOF blog. Excerpts below.
1. International vaccination certificate. I’ve been vaccinated against everything imaginable, but I still managed to catch typhoid fever on a trip to Nepal.
2. Memory aid booklet from a hostile environments training class. I spent a week in the English countryside with retired British special forces soldiers learning how to deal with minefields, negotiate through armed checkpoints, and keep cool in a hostage situation.
3. Toy camera hand-made out of cans of Cuban Bucanero beer by a street vendor in Havana who dresses like Santa Claus all year long. When you hit the shutter the lid pops off and a smiley face springs out.
4. Polaroid PoGo printer. Great for making tiny prints in the field directly from the camera. I’ll use the prints to thank subjects or add them into my journal.
5. White khata scarf given to me by a Rinpoche in Nepal. It symbolizes purity and compassion. This one kept me safe while covering the civil war in Nepal, so I’ve continued to travel with it.
6. Black leather passport cover from the Republic of Kalmykia.
7. Gandhi figurine for inspiration, and a toy string doll which reminds me of my son.
8. Porcelain figurine of a French peasant woman from a galette des rois, or king cake. (In a French Epiphany tradition, if by chance you get the slice of pie with a trinket inside, you are crowned king of the party.)
9. Cloth figurine of a Peruvian mother and child.
10. Ricoh GXR digital camera mounted with a 50mm Leica lens from the 1950s.
11. In-flight safety cards from a few dodgy airlines, including North Korea’s Air Koryo, Nepal’s ill-fated Cosmic Air, and a Cubana card for an aging Soviet Yak-42 airliner.
12. Leica M digital camera with a 35mm lens. Probably 85 percent of the photos in my portfolio were taken with a fixed 35mm lens.
13. NGM press card and a business card with the name of my photo agency.
14. A Mao Zedong lighter. I don’t smoke, but I found this so kitschy and odd that I started collecting other unlikely lighters during my travels. The camouflage one is from the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
15. Wooden prayer beads given to me by one of my workshop students in China.
16. Silver bracelet from Nepal.
17. Red-and-white beaded Santeria bracelet from Cuba.
18. Two Moleskin notebooks. One is for captions and interviews, the other is a personal journal.