Pigroast 2K9

It’s become an annual tradition in my circle of friends. Although one year we deviated and fried a turkey instead, New Year’s day 2009 saw the third annual Pigroast in James & Jennifer’s back yard in Church Hill, the oldest part of Richmond. Warning: some faint-hearted vegetarians may wish to avert their eyes. James & Jennifer are currently missionaries in Scotland, but are renting out their house to Leah & Jeremiah, James’ sister and brother-in-law. Thus, the tradition was able to continue without interruption. Most of the day was spent hanging out in the back yard around the pig pit in eager anticipation of the advent of the barbecue later that evening. Jeremiah put the pig on the fire around 6am New Year’s morning. During the 13 hog-roasting hours that ensued, plenty of tortilla chips with homemade salsa, as well as several rounds of keg-drawn Yuengling, were had by all.[…]

Read More

Armenia, Stuck in the Middle.

A small nation with a big heart, Armenia has nearly been whittled away by its neighbors over the centuries. Today, most Armenians live outside the country’s borders in diaspora communities throughout the world. Its ancient traditions remain strong and intact, however, despite years of invasion, persecution, occupation and displacement. Even though conflict continues to this day, Armenia’s hospitable and vibrant people have not lost their disposition to live life to the fullest, seemingly oblivious to current and past upheaval. Armenia has been called a master of geopolitics. Straddling Eastern Europe and Western Asia, and in the peripheral vision of both Tehran and Moscow, it maintains excellent relations with the two while looking more toward the West for its model of government. Above, Leyli learns to walk in Gusangagyugh Village, Shirak Region. The Caucasus region is no stranger to turmoil. Nearby Georgia experienced the most recent eruption of conflict in the[…]

Read More

Georgia: the Cost of Conflict

It’s my job to shove my camera in people’s faces. Though I’m usually more tactful and delicate than that, it sometimes feels like I’m intruding beyond my bounds – at times being insensitive. Today was one of those days. I’m in Georgia (the Republic) and I’ve spent the day photographing some of those displaced by the recent war between Georgia and Russia. It can be distressing to be in the same room with the victims, hearing their stories of how their homes were destroyed, fields burnt, loved ones killed, while I am forced to walk a thin line between having a sympathetic ear and getting the job done. These people have lost virtually (or almost) everything except their lives. Even if they had homes to which they could return, the political situation in South Ossetia, where most refugees shown here are from, is not welcome to ethnic Georgians and is[…]

Read More

Remembering Gonaives

Parts of Haiti are under 16 feet of water this week. Over the past month the country has been inundated with heavy rains brought by four storms: Fay, Gustave, Hanna and Ike. Caribbean nations are often the first to bear the brunt of these powerful storms that form in the Atlantic. Last December I photographed for ten days in Haiti. Most of the time was spent in the Northern port city of Gonaives, where these photos were taken. Today Gonaives is the scene of some of the most widespread devastation wrought by recent storms in this developing nation that sits just a stone’s throw away from the Florida coast. Gonaives occupies a low plain between the bay to the west and the mountains to the north and east. Haiti is known for its extensive deforestation, and the mountains around this city are representatives of this trend. When rains come, the[…]

Read More

Observations in Lima:

Peru’s capital is a teeming megalopolis of street vendors, exhaust fumes, cathedrals and bright lights. Following my most recent assignment with Heifer, I spent four days photographing some of Lima’s 8 million residents. I’ve divvied up the following photographs into what became four dominate themes: work, devotion, transit and leisure. From the wealthy suburbs of Miraflores to the up-and-coming pueblo joven of Villa Maria, Lima enjoys a stronger economy than the rest of this developing country. For this reason, many leave their homes elsewhere to make new lives in this boomtown on the Pacific. Work… Devotion… Transit… Leisure… All photos Copyright 2008 Jake Lyell Photography

Read More

My Grandmother the Obama Fan

So I am back from Peru now. I have a lot of great photographs from Lima, but before I get to those, many people ask what I do when I’m at home. Here’s a little bit of insight into my life in Virginia… I don’t put my camera down when I’m back home, though I’m not as good at toting it around as I am when I’m on assignment. I’m still trying to get into the mentality that I am always on assignment, even when I’m not in a foreign country. On Wednesday I went down to Chesapeake, a 90 minute drive, to hang out with my grandmother. Above, our lunch outing at her favorite restaurant, the Pirate’s Cove. At 85, my grandmother still gets out and does her own shopping and errand running, though at a slightly slower pace than she’s perhaps used to. Her shopping destination of choice:[…]

Read More

High and Dry – out in the sticks of Northern Peru

I can’t be sure what comes into mind when you think of Peru but I imagine your thoughts are similar to thoughts of Egypt: ancient ruins and exotic kingdoms. Lately when I mention I’ve been in Peru the next question is usually a bright and inquisitive “Did you visit Machu Pichu?” Unfortunately I did not, though it’s not a total loss as I much prefer the company of the locals to 50 or so backpacking gringos. While some might have to do a Google search to match the country of my latest destination to its continent, Peru’s ruins, its mountains, culture, customs and even cuisine have put it squarely on most westerners’ mental gazetteer. This is my second journey into Peru. My first was exactly one year, and maybe 12 or so blog entries, ago. Back then I found some very dire living conditions in the Amazonian city of Iquitos,[…]

Read More

Flights, Frontiers and the Fleas in the Andes

From the moment I walked off the plane to get my baggage in Quito, I was out of breath and a little light headed. At 9000 feet, Quito does funny things to a guy used to living at sea level. It wasn’t long before we came back to a more familiar altitude. After sleeping just four hours at the hotel, we hopped an early morning flight down south to Ecuador’s Loja (low-ha) region. On this most recent assignment with Heifer, Loja’s airport was the starting point for Christian and me on our journey west toward the Peruvian border. In just an hour’s flight from Quito we landed in a beautiful valley in the Andes Mountains. After taking some breakfast in Catamayo, we set out for an 8 hour drive to the border – five of which hurdled us through bumpy, unpaved backroads that gradually spiraled down the mountains into dry[…]

Read More

a Change of Scenery – my week in Ireland

Not exactly an assignment, but still mostly a working week, I’ve recently been in Ireland. The occasion: my friends Ryan and Aoife gathered the closest of their friends and family from throughout the world for a week-long convergence in County Wicklow, just south of Dublin. At the end of the week the two bonded in holy matrimony on a hillside near the town of Blessington. Though we’ve known each other for about 15 years, Ryan and I became good friends when he returned to Richmond a couple years ago after living in Chicago, Italy and Ireland, respectively. A talented web and graphic designer, we’ve collaborated on a few projects as well. He is the architect of this blog and my forthcoming website. Both of us well traveled, we share a love of other cultures and ways of life. Shown above on the windy moors, Ryan holds on for dear life.[…]

Read More

Kilimanjaro to Victoria Falls – Documenting Heifer’s work in the African interior.

Traveling in the developing world can wear on one’s conscience. Although the simplicity of lifestyle and overwhelming hospitality found there can be extraordinary, more often than not, essential needs are not being met, and daily life is a struggle. As my friend, writer Christian DeVries put it while remarking how fortunate we were to be born in America, we (Westerners) hit the jackpot in the global lottery. Lucky we are indeed. It is my observation that those in the States, regardless of background, who truly work hard and make good decisions can provide for their own needs and those of their family and possibly even save a bit on the side. This is not the case in many places in the world. Work ethic is certainly an essential ingredient in success; but drive, determination and hard work mean nothing when the pillars of society are not in place to reward[…]

Read More