This post is the latest in Kike Calvo´s series The Photographic Chain, which profiles photographers from around the world he meets during his travels.
The biggest lesson in my career… Not to take away some one’s dignity by my actions, particularly with my photographs. Three people that I knew well and worked with influenced me on this subject. My mother, Audrey Hepburn and Mother Teresa. They all emphasized abut human dignity. I am a human first, and then only a photographer. While I was covering the Ethiopian draught in 1984, I saw a woman who delivered he baby by the roadside and the baby’s umbilical chord still attached to her. My reaction was to cover her with her clothes and call the doctor and nurse who were in the nearly camp. A TV crew had seen this and went to their jeep to get the camera and film her in the state she was lying on the road naked. The camera man was so upset that I had clothed her and almost punched me for ruining his photo. During the same trip, a woman asked me to hold her dying baby in my hand. Since all her children died one by one in her hand. She said please save me from the disgrace of having my last child in my hands. So, I held the baby and when the baby died, she left with out saying anything. I had to do the burial ritual for this little baby myself with the help of my driver and translator.
The biggest lesson in my life… My dear mother was a the biggest influence in my life. She taught me an old Sanskrit proverb when I was young man and asked me to follow that. It is called “This Day”. It is about today and living in the present.
Look to this day for it is Life
the very life of life
In its brief course lie all
the realities and principles of existence.
The bliss of growth
the splendor of action
the power of glory.
Yesterday was just a dream
and tomorrow only a vision
an Old Sanskrit proverb.
The moment I will never forget… In 1988 I was in Ehiopia doing a story on the poorest people who were garbage sifters, who collected garbage and recycled. I was photographing this old lady who was blind in one eye and lived alone in a shack made of tin. I was in a hurry to get back to the hotel since at that time, Ethiopia was under a lot of unrest and a revolution was going on. Asmara was still part of Ethiopia. Eritria was not formed yet. My helicopter was waiting to take me to Addis Ababa where I was staying. There was a curfew after 6PM. This lady wanted me to stay a little longer since she kept saying to me and my interpreter that I cannot leave until she gave me something to take with me.She was actually waiting of her only possession, a hen, to lay an egg. Finally she gave me that egg and asked me to take it to the hotel and eat it. Giving is the greatest gift. This lady taught me that. When I got back to the hotel, I told the cook to boil that egg for me for my breakfast the next morning. He laughed and said “Just an egg. We have eggs here. Why is this so special?” I will never forget that encounter as long as I live.
“I first met Kike at the United Nations while I was working as a photographer. Our common interest was photography. During my stay at the UN as a photographer. I had come across many young people with great interest in photography. But Kike was dedicated to learn and get better at his skills. He was passionate about it. I knew from the very beginning that he will one day be a wonderful photographer. And my guess was right.” — John Isaac