Monday, January 11, 2016

Wine Photographer Janis Miglavs seen in Photo District News



For the non-photographers, Photo District News is the magazine targeted towards professional photographers. So now after 40 years of using a camera to support a family and lifestyle, can I officially consider myself a professional photographer?




Before I head out on each assignment, I do this little meditation to clear my mind, so I'm approaching every winery with an explorer's excitement about seeing it for the first time. So no matter how many wineries I've visited, it/s fun and a brand new experience.


Workers in the vineyard at Changyu AFIP Global winery, Ju Gezhuang Town, Beijing city area, Miyun County, China. China wine country.

Vineyards in Beng (also called Bu) village on LanCang (also called Lantsang, Lansang and Mekong) River, in the Heng Duan (Hengduan) Mountain Range, Yunnan Province, China, Asia. China Wine country.

North America, USA, Washington, Washington, Yakima Valley, Yakima county. Stone chapel a top of Syrah vines at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima AVA.

The sun sets behind San Vicente de la Sonsierra village perched on a hill top overlooking vineyards in La Rioja region of northern Spain.


 

Winemaker Paul LeRoy in the barrel cellar at Hermannhof winery in Hermann, Missouri, USA.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Water Spirit commands the village women to quit polluting the spring


I went to the isolated Bedik tribe in the most remote corner of southeast Senegal to find how their beliefs compared to those I grew up with.

Iwol village, Bedik tribe, remote southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

When I asked Jean Babtist Keita, the Bedik Chief of Iwol village, about God, he explained that they had one Super God and many Spirits.


Chief Jean Babtist Keita, Iwol Village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.
  

Chief Keita told me a story to illustrate their idea of a Spirit: "Once our women went to the village spring to fetch water. But they did not take care of the place. They were spoiling the water."

 
Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.


"One day when they went there, they saw into the water a face, a white face, a bearded face.

 Chief Keita continues: "They were afraid. They rushed back home.

"When they arrived, I asked them, 'what did you see?'

"'We saw a white face on the water,'

"Are you sure it was not your own faces? Did you bent down and see your own faces?

"'No,' the women replied.

"Then I knew certainly it was one spirit. Maybe the spirit in charge of the water, who wanted to tell them to take more care of the water.

"From that day, the women tried to take more care of the place.  Since then nothing more."


Kids going to fetch water. Iwol Village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.



This is my illustration of the Water Spirit from Chief Keita's description.

A Water Spirit came to warn the village women to quit polluting the spring. Chief Jean Keita told me that the Water Spirit had a white face with a beard and wings that looked like bat wings. Guess what? After seeing the spirit, the women took better care of the village spring.  Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.


When I asked Chief Keita to sketch a spirit, this is his drawing. He said that everything was accurate, but he didn't know how to draw the feet.   Iwol village, Bedik tribe, Senegal, Africa.



All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs
janis@jmiglavs.com

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our faces: are they given, earned or do we just grow into them?


So my subject's face: was it a mask given her, did she earn it with her personality, or did she just grow into it? So how did she get her face?


Bume (sometimes called Nyangatom or Bumi) tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

While photographing the Bume tribe in the remote Omo region of Ethiopia, this one woman began shouting and making fun of me. 

In response, I pretended to threaten her in an exaggerated, humorous way. Others laughed at my dancing antics. Even my serious subject squeezed a pimple-sized smile from her face.


Bume (sometimes called Nyangatom or Bumi) tribe, Omo region, Ethiopia, Africa.

So how did my subject friend get her face?


All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs
janis@jmiglavs.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dusty-faced African children made me wonder what would happen if the whole world experienced collective joy for two seconds daily?



Journal:   May 12       Peul tribe village of Ibel, remote southeast corner of Senegal

Africa really intimidated me. Yeah, people called me a “world traveler,” but Sub-Saharan Africa was bigger than my imagination and, in my mind, full of dark lurking unknown mysteries.

A woman carrying a basket on her head walks past one of the family compounds comprising the Peul-tribe village of Ibel (Ebel) in the remotest southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.


So I’m sleeping in my mosquito-netted REI hammock in Omar Ba’s family compound. I had chosen this Peul tribe village of Ibel as a base camp as it was perfectly located below the cliffs where the Bedik lived, my final destination for a couple of weeks. 


Home Sweet Home in Omar Ba's family compound in Ibel, Senegal, Africa.

In the 90 F coolness of first light, muffled giggling and polite little whispers woke me up. Just outside the woven reed fence of Ba’s little compound, a group of eight curious mostly butt-naked village children wanted a peek at the visitor.

Putting on my shorts, I waddled into the group. For a few moments all of us were shy. Then I clumsily uttered the few words of Peul I knew, “Good night” and “thank you.” I love kids so I started tickle poking a few in the stomach. A barrier was broken. We all laughed, over and over. In the commotion, some rubbed their curious little fingers across my arm and giggled when the white didn’t rub off my skin.

One kid reached out to hold my hand with his small dirt-encrusted fingers. Then somehow, spontaneously, we all held hands and started walking in a V-shaped chain like migrating geese. I was at point. 

In the quiet of predawn, wordlessly, we meandered away from the houses. Behind us the hushed sounds of an awakening village: chickens clucking, roosters crowing, adults talking quietly as they started the morning cooking fires. It all seemed so peaceful, so isolated from the rest of the world.

Our little migrating flock wandered across the stubble of harvested fields. With the wide eyes of a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant, I looked back over the bobbing heads of the children towards the collection of thatched-roofed mud huts. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. I was swimming in a river of bliss. “This is real. This isn’t Disneyland,” I whispered to myself.

Three little boys running towards the Peul-tribe village of Ibel (Ebel) in the remotest southeast corner of Senegal, Africa.

I felt totally out of my element, but really alive. I was a little boy exploring the world in my own adventure movie, playing a bit role on a tiny planet hurtling through space at 65,000 miles per hour. Inside a tiny crack opened in some deep part of my being. I was connecting with something I didn’t understand.

Here I was sharing sheer joy together with a group of kids from a different culture, a different language, a different religion, a different ethnic race. Where were the barriers?

I looked down at the dusty-faced children and wondered if they too saw the world differently holding my hands. For those 15 or 20 minutes of our walk, I regained the innocent joy of these little kids.

Later that day, I wondered what was it that allowed us, from two totally different situations, to share such a moment of collective ecstasy, of being so alive?

Then in my wildest dreams I dared to wonder what would happen if this feeling of collective joy spread around the world, even for a few moments every day?

Why not? This is Africa, we all originated here. 

Villagers watch as a local bus crammed with people from the Peul-tribe village of Ibel (Ebel) head away.  Senegal, Africa.


All photographs and text © 2015 Janis Miglavs
www.jmiglavs.com
www.FiveFingersProject.org
janis@jmiglavs.com

Why build a $100 million Disneyland-like wine oasis in the Chinese desert?



In China's far-west Xinjiang desert, not far from where Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road, sits a new wine oasis. It's called Chateau Baron Balboa. Changyu, China's largest winery, built it to provide the visitor a Disneyland-like "wine experience" in the dusty desert.


The road to Changyu's wine oasis, Chateau Baron Balboa, in the desert of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.
Changyu, China's largest winery, built Chateau Baron Balboa wine oasis to attract visitors. The marketing idea is to provide a Disney-like "wine experience," then convert them into wine consumers.

Professional wedding photographers are lined up two or three deep at key locations to take snaps of newly weds. Changyu's Chateau Baron Balboa, in the desert of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.
Changyu Chateau Baron Balboa near Shihezi, Xinjiang, is designed to be a Disney-like tourist destination under the shell of a European-style chateau. China's largest winery, Changyu,wants the visitor to experience wine culture at all of its four Sino-based chateaux, and then, of course, buy more wine. In the near future, Changyu plans to build at least two more chateaux, plus a whole wine city, which by itself will reportedly cost about 6 billion yuan (about US $1billion), near its headquarters in Yantai, Shandong Province.

Changyu's Chateau Baron Balboa, in the desert of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

Changyu's Chateau Baron Balboa, in the desert of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

Workers trim Cabernet sauvignon vines by hand at Changyu's Chateau Baron Balboa, in the desert of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

General Manager and Winemaker of Changyu Chateau Baron Balboa in Xinjiang, Hao Dongshu, holds a copy of my book China the New Wine Frontier to the chapter on sister winery, Chateau Changyu AFIP Global near Beijing. These are two of Changyu's current chateaux.

Yes, they do actually make wine at Changyu Chateau Baron Balboa, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

A specially-designed-for-the-tourist-walkway totally encased in glass and Greek-style columns, showcases the Chinese made bottling line on the left and a cellar housing French-oak barrels on the right.  Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

To the Chinese, Europe, especially France, means good wine. So Changyu hopes to set a "wine experience" mood for the visitors.
Somehow, even this bronze rock star musician in the Chateau garden area must be part of the "wine experience" Changyu offers visitors.

When I found this dog-headed photographer statue, I knew that this had to be the right place to take a great photograph.


All images © Janis Miglavs 2015
janis@jmiglavs.com

Chinese government dusts off an ancient master plan: use soldiers to work the vineyards.


How would you have fed the 10,000  soldiers needed to man the 13,000 miles of Great Wall 2000 years ago? And how would you feed all of your soldiers out there conquering new territories?

Frustrated by the futility of long supply lines, the Chinese emperors and generals developed the idea of soldier farmers. These guys would be warriors and at the same time know how to grow their own food.

Supply line problem solved.

Now it looks as if the Chinese government looked to history to help solve a current problem.

Quite by accident, on my visit to the Citic Guoan winery vineyards way out west in Xinjiang, I found that the Chinese government has resurrected the 2000-year-old eat and conquer concept.


A tractor pulling a wagon passes some housing built for Han soldier-farmers near Fukang, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern Xinjiang Province, People's Republic of China.

These workers prune Chardonnay vines, preparing them so they can be buried during the frigid vine-killing winter on agricultural land managed by the 222 Unit of China's Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, known as XPCC, the PCC or Bingtuan for short. a unique economic and semi-military governmental organization in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region). The grapes are used by Citic Guoan Winery.

To deal with the restless Uyghur population, some of who blow up buildings and people, the government has sent an army of Han (the dominant ethnic population in China) out west.

During the summer months these imported men and their families work the fields, including the vineyards. When the cold months come, they train as soldiers. For the government, this instantly solves two problems: provide workers for the labor shortage out in the west and have a standing army ready to battle insurgents.


A worker prunes Chardonnay vines, preparing them so they can be buried during the frigid vine-killing winter on agricultural land managed by the 222 Unit of China's Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, known as XPCC, the PCC or Bingtuan for short, a unique economic and semi-military governmental organization in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region). The grapes are used by Citic Guoan Winery.


Entire towns are built for these Han soldier-farmers.



This castle-like building houses the kindergarten classrooms on a "bingtuan," military-run farm. China, Xinjiang Province, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture.

Housing for the Han Chinese settlers on a "bingtuan," military-run farm near Fukang, Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern Xinjiang Province, China.

This Han worker prunes Chardonnay vines so that they can be buried for the freezing winter. While the vines are dormant, he will train as a soldier. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern Xinjiang Province, China.

Citic Guoan Winery gets Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from this vineyard sitting in front of a nuclear power plant and Bogda Peak in the Tian Shan Mountain range.
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China.

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2015
janis@jmiglavs.com

Dealing with my fear, suffering and dreams in Africa.

 

            “‘My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,’ the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.

            “‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.’
Paulo Coelho in  The Alchemist


On my first Africa trip I felt like that little kid in the lower right, overwhelmed. But my dream, my purpose kept me going. With each new trip, a little more fog of fear lifted and the purpose became even more clear. If you didn't recognize the guy with pink ears and hat, that's me surrounded by Konso tribe people in a  remote corner of Ethiopia, near the Omo region. Photo taken by son Ryan.
 

One of my most satisfying experiences as a photographer was to bring photographs taken on an earlier trip to the villagers. I photographed his Konso woman on my 2001 trip and gave her a print on a later trip. You can see her reaction. Over and over I experienced the joy of giving these prints. Konso tribe, Ethiopia, Africa.