1 Mekazahn

Man Vs Nature Photo Essay Where Children

No matter their cultural background, no matter their economic situation, kids will always find imaginative ways to have fun. Their wild imaginations and magical childhood moments, when captured on camera by talented photographers, can make for truly wonderful photos. These 33 images we collected will prove that childhood can be wonderful no matter where you go.

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Many in the Western world fear that technology is making today’s children lose touch with nature and with their own creativity, and while there are arguments to be made for the intellectual stimulation that apps and programs for children can bring, there’s also something to be said for simply playing with a stick in the mud or chasing dandelion seeds though an open meadow.

For better or worse, the children in these photos seem entirely content making their own fun. For us adults, it’s important not to let our world-weary and jaded experience stifle our childish hopefulness and imagination!


Image credits: Ipoenk Graphic

Image credits: Agoes Antara

Image credits: I Gede Lila Kantiana

Image credits: Gede Lila Kantiana


Image credits: Светлана Квашина

Image credits: Elena Shumilova

Burkina Faso

Image credits: Òscar Tardío


Image credits: Chan Kwok Hung


Image credits: Damon Lynch


In this era of tremendous political and social change, two major forces are competing to shape our world. On the one hand, there is a tendency toward splintering, the basis for civil wars, ethnic nationalism, and isolationism. Every day our newspapers are filled with examples of people determined to define themselves as better than, different from, and against others.

On the other hand, there is a pull toward cohesion, multinational institutions, economic networks, security pacts, and social values of cooperation and tolerance. Here, women and men unite within and across cultures for the sake of a common good such as environmental protection, economic development, human rights, and the alleviation of poverty and sickness.

Because the United States is built on the blending of multiple cultures, we know these two forces firsthand. The cleavages within our society have a healthy aspect, allowing individuality to flourish and self-expression to be rewarded. But they also can lead to a destructive fragmentation, and a fostering of mean-spirited self-aggrandizement that pits one group against another in ruthless (and sometimes deadly) competition.

This collection of photographs is organized around the common human values that unite us across cultures. We look into the eyes of a Tamang boy on the Nepal/Tibet border, and we see the same innocence as on the fresh face of an American Boy Scout. The bonding of a parent and a child is repeated over and over, in the arms of a Balinese, Masai, Thai, or Samburu madonna. And that bonding generates an inner security that encourages the vitality that can lead a group of women across Himalayan snowfields, or a man from Arkansas to the White House.

But life isn’t defined by achievement alone. The hardship of poverty in urban America can taste as bitter as war in Central Europe. In the best of worlds, that hardship is transformed into wisdom, etched line by line in the holy book of a Lao monk, or on the face of a Masai elder. And out of that wisdom emerges the capacity for solitude, the ability to draw strength from the beauty of an Alaskan dusk, or to stand watch alone on the streets of Sana’a.

Thus, across the globe, in cultures of extraordinary difference, we witness the commonality that underlies our diversity.

That word “witness” has several meanings in English. It can be synonymous with seeing. It can refer to a person who testifies in a court of law. Or it can also have a religious connotation, as a verb meaning to attempt to convert others by describing one’s own religious experience.

I find myself moving among all of those definitions, particularly as an ambassador in the Clinton Administration. At times I simply take in the sights around me. At other times, I report on what I’ve seen. And at other times, I carry out my mission with an earnestness reminiscent of a deep religious experience.

I remember vividly one day in 1992 visiting a Masai village in Kenya. The Masai are a people whose culture is less complicated than any other I’ve ever encountered. Their huts are made of sticks and cow dung and are constructed in a circle, forming a corral for the cattle at night. Early in the morning, the cattle are driven out into the fields. Unaccustomed as I was, the smell of fresh dung was almost overwhelming.

The boys and men go out and sit with the cattle. Within the corral, the women tend to the children and make jewelry of small glass beads, seeds, and cowhide. They were anxious for me to purchase their jewelry, although they wanted to be sure the money went directly into their hands so they could buy cooking oil.

I was taken into one of the houses and offered the only piece of furniture – a three-legged milking stool. In one room there was an elevated dung bench, covered with a cowhide, for sleeping. Nearby was a small slit in the wall so that smoke from the occasional fire would have an escape. Chickens pecked at the ground around my stool.

One of the four Masai women spoke English; she was their link to cultures far away. I struck up a special relationship with her. She was delighted at how my sunglasses changed the world. Then she looked through the telephoto lens of my camera and her jaw dropped in amazement. Finally, I showed her my video camera. She watched herself replayed on the screen and squealed.

Eventually, it was time to tear myself away. I rejoined my husband and children at a tent camp from which wild game safaris in the Masai Mara were organized.

I walked up to my family as they sat around the swimming pool. They were laughing, engrossed in conversation. They waved for me to come over and asked casually how my day had been. I looked at them blankly and tried to speak, but couldn’t.

The gulf was too great. There were no words that could bridge those two worlds. But I remember the feeling. I was deeply aware that those Masai tribal members and I had almost nothing in common in terms of possessions, customs, language, myth, or history. Yet, we were still somehow united – as human beings sharing the same evolutionary process, looking at the same skies, inhabiting the same globe, and returning the same smile.

I couldn’t find the words that day. I still cannot find them. I only have pictures.

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