My greatest source of inspiration is humanity. As inherent as it may be to us all, some express their humanity effortlessly. Compassion, kindness, generosity, and understanding are its common synonyms, but I find it is best defined by the word trust. Trusting someone, being trust worthy, all while trusting the flow of life defines humanity to me. It is most evident when we extend our hands out filled with nothing but love, and expect nothing in return, knowing wisely that sharing love carries its own value. It is found when we approach life with an open heart and an open mind, trusting its natural unfolding. In our complex reality ‘humanity’ feels like an endangered word, one that is rarely championed and seemingly archaic. It is in fact a rare and precious gem, one which I value and explore in my work.
As I move through life, I find myself intuitively guided to the humane human. At times they find me first. A stranger with a foreign but familiar accent found her way to the gallery where I work last weekend asking if we had WiFi. She had tried next door first and was told to try a hotel across the street. A sign outside our gallery caught her eye. It says: Looking is Free. Her curiosity and chance led her in. She explained that she was visiting from Canada on business and needed to call a Lift back to the hotel after a morning indulging at the beach.
I couldn’t help but ask her where her accent was from and was stunned to find she was from my natal city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Like a lightning strike, the energy expanded in the room. We switched to speaking rapidly and excitedly in our native Portuguese. We asked each other: what neighborhood were you from back home? How long have you been away? Did you immigrate with family or alone? On and on we giggled and talked, joyously sharing details of our lives as if we’d always known each other, as if we were not, in fact, facing a complete stranger. Language can be a warm blanket, a comfort that makes us feel safe, understood, connected. We cozied up to each other, leaving my American co-worker quite lost and thoroughly entertained by our lively exchange.
Our open, trusting natures, and our mutual need to understand each other lead us to explore each other’s humanity through conversation. Soon we had exchanged life stories and contact information. She encouraged me saying she had never seen work quite like mine, and telling me she had contacts to share with me who would love and support my work. I let her know her energy was inspiring me and that I’d love to share my craft with her. We made a date to do a photo shoot that very night as she planned to fly home the next day.
Moments like these drive me. Rapid fire instinct lead me to connect authentically with her, human to human, heart to heart. We exchanged energy boldly without borders or boundaries, as family would. Our exuberant humanity on display gifted us the opportunity to create magic together, without fear or hesitation.
The images we created were both powerful and empowering. Gorgeous, talented, and hardworking, Samanta exuded all the markers of a successful self made woman. Yet during the shoot it became clear: she was a confident professional, but felt vulnerable in this new arena posing for the camera. Only a few hours before I had been a mere stranger, but I described to her who I saw in front of my lens. With both words and images, I reflected back to her the glory, power and magic I saw in her. I reminded her how open, courageous and inspiring she was. Our joined experience moved us both, lending intimacy to our creations. Humanity connected us, and revealed us to each other and to ourselves. I am so grateful for this chance encounter with a beautiful human. Obrigada Samanta.
Light Painting Photography: Linda Costa Cheranichit
Model: Samanta Monteiro