Why "Baraka"?

turkey toiletMy travels have taken me through more than 40 countries – but not very quickly.

I waited in a lot of hot and dusty lines, took many slow and crowded bus rides, felt confused and lonely for days on end.

In these long hours, travelers usually just complain, talk to each other, or sleep. I eventually learned to do the opposite: When I’m bored, annoyed, worried, or tired, I look more closely at what is right in front of me.

Instead of zoning out, I pay more attention.

In doing so, I see the organic architecture that infuses even the simplest or ugliest scenes. It is a wealth that is always at hand.

In Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, NC, 2011

The word ‘baraka’ in Arabic means ‘blessing,’ or ‘gift,’ but I interpret it more along the lines of the Sufis, who use ‘baraka’ to mean ‘divine essence.’

So when I thought of what to name my photography business, back in 2006, Baraka Photos seemed perfect. I also had fond memories of the 1996 film, Baraka, which has no narration but takes the viewer on a contemplative journey through the world’s visual rhythms.

At the time I named the business, I had never heard of the future US president, Barack Obama. When he first ran for office I went to some lengths to assure folks that Baraka Photos was not a political campaign office.

My goal was to provide meditative images to help people see their personal connection with worlds that appear to exist far outside of us. This idea carried over into an educational exhibit I produced about the people of Afghanistan, called “Beyond the Mountains.”

Last year I folded the business, but I kept the name for my website. Now I use it in the name of a nonprofit I started, Baraka Foundation, to assist education and information in isolated mountainous regions.