#154, Read a photographer’s biography
Yesterday I read the most amazing book. It was, “Learning to Breathe; one woman’s journey of spirit and survival, ” by Alison Wright. It is really a memoir and not a biography, but I was eager to read it and it occurs to me, it doesn’t HAVE to be a biography to make the list- I make the rules here, I can make this slight alteration to The List. It’s not a cheat, its being flexible. Flexibility is a good thing.
I first learned of Alison Wright by watching a video archive of a lecture she delivered at the Annenberg Space for Photography. After I heard her lecture, I wanted to know more. I found the story of her memoir incredible, but her whole life story leaves me shaken and in awe.
Not only has she traveled to the far reaches of the globe, she has been in the thick of violence, natural disasters, famine, disease, and she has been a witness to a spirituality that has become both her guide and her solace. The Dalai Lama has written the foreword to her book, and she has had the privilege of photographing him on several occasions.
Astonishingly enough, this isn’t really what her book is about. Her book tells the story of how she survived a horrific bus crash traveling from a very remote village in Laos. She absorbed the impact of the collision so acutely, that the paint from the oncoming logging truck colored her pant leg blue and days later a bruise with the impression of the truck was embedded on the flesh covering half her body. Her lungs were collapsed. Her back, tail bone, and pelvis were all broken, her arm was nearly sliced to shreds, and her heart and other internal organs had been relocated inside her body somewhere near her shoulder. She should have died. There is no reasonable explanation for her to be up and breathing and still photographing the people of the world.
She attributes her survival to well-intentioned villagers who banded together to keep her alive.
The testimony she gives of her own personal strength and courage are an inspiration to say the least, but her compassion and spirituality give the story a roundness and a humanity that I found profoundly moving.
I read the book in two sittings, devouring each fascinating word with wonder, thrilled to know that adventures of this magnitude are still even possible. It continues to give me hope to know that there are courageous people in the world fighting the good fight, championing the underserved, shifting the consciousness of what is acceptable, and holding themselves to a moral standard of inclusivity and integrity.
It’s wonderful when a book like this lands in your lap with such force that it takes your breath away.
316 days to go!