Hands That Tell a Story

Rodeo

Hands That Tell a Story

By Donnie Sexton
Senior Writer

In my travels, I’ve always been drawn to photographing faces. Trying to be respectful, I’ve attempted to askChina permission first.

When I approached a woman in a Thai village with a kind but weathered face and asked to take her photo, she shook her head no.

Her hands were busy pulling apart strands of twine. I gestured to her hands, pointing with my camera, and she nodded yes. By refusing to let me photograph her face, this gentle human challenged me to capture those stories embedded into one’s hands through my images.

Hands take on many appearances, from knotted, callused, misshapen, silky smooth, bony, wrinkled, gangly, bloody, elegant, tattooed, and scarred. Hands create, touch, mold, comfort, gesture, and communicate, especially for those who cannot speak or hear. I’ve witnessed hands wiping a snotty nose, clasped in prayer, shaping clay on a potter’s wheel, clutching cell phones, kneading bread dough, counting money, lighting candles, painting toenails, and giving me the finger.

The list goes on. Having the privilege of photographing hands from so many countries has become a distinctive way of telling stories.

Harvesting olives is big business in Extremadura, an autonomous community in western Spain that borders Portugal.
Harvesting olives is big business in Extremadura, an autonomous community in western Spain that borders Portugal.
An older woman from the Hamar tribe in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley peddles unique bracelets and necklaces produced by the women in her tribe.
An older woman from the Hamar tribe in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley peddles unique bracelets and necklaces produced by the women in her tribe.
The iconic Burg Al Arab Hotel in Dubai is one of the most expensive places to bed down in this wealthy city. Everything is done with a touch of elegance, including afternoon coffee service.
The iconic Burg Al Arab Hotel in Dubai is one of the most expensive places to bed down in this wealthy city. Everything is done with a touch of elegance, including afternoon coffee service.
These hands are busy mixing teff flour, water, and starter in a huge vat to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread. Injera functions as an eating utensil for scooping up stews, vegetables, salads, and sauces.
These hands are busy mixing teff flour, water, and starter in a huge vat to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread. Injera functions as an eating utensil for scooping up stews, vegetables, salads, and sauces.
Buddhist devotees and monks present offerings and prayers in the form of oil lamps at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. Temple workers have the messy job of cleaning up the used vessels.
Buddhist devotees and monks present offerings and prayers in the form of oil lamps at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. Temple workers have the messy job of cleaning up the used vessels.
The Holi Festival is high-spirited Hindu festival celebrated by throwing colored water and powder on each other. Also known as the Festival of Colors, this event marks the passing of winter and the arrival of spring.
The Holi Festival is high-spirited Hindu festival celebrated by throwing colored water and powder on each other. Also known as the Festival of Colors, this event marks the passing of winter and the arrival of spring.
The Tongjing Scenic Area near Chongquing, China, is home to a troop of monkeys. A volunteer caretaker feeds the critters corn and grain and looks after their well-being.
The Tongjing Scenic Area near Chongquing, China, is home to a troop of monkeys. A volunteer caretaker feeds the critters corn and grain and looks after their well-being.
The annual Crow Fair powwow in eastern Montana becomes a showcase for Crow Indians to dress in exquisite native garb and adorn themselves with beadwork and jewelry reflective of their heritage.
The annual Crow Fair powwow in eastern Montana becomes a showcase for Crow Indians to dress in exquisite native garb and adorn themselves with beadwork and jewelry reflective of their heritage.
Teodosio Argandano Caviedes is a traditional hat maker in the rural Peruvian village of Maras. He has made over six thousand hats in his lifetime using old-world methods.
Teodosio Argandano Caviedes is a traditional hat maker in the rural Peruvian village of Maras. He has made over six thousand hats in his lifetime using old-world methods.
At the Hoi An Lantern Festival in Vietnam, lotus flower lanterns are released into the Thu Bồn River, with a belief this gesture brings health and happiness to a person.
At the Hoi An Lantern Festival in Vietnam, lotus flower lanterns are released into the Thu Bồn River, with a belief this gesture brings health and happiness to a person.
By refusing to let me take a photo of her face, but giving me permission to photograph her hands, this Thai woman gave me a valuable insight into how I capture images.
By refusing to let me take a photo of her face, but giving me permission to photograph her hands, this Thai woman gave me a valuable insight into how I capture images.
A novice monk in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a bowl in hand, starts his day by walking the streets and accepting food donations from locals.
A novice monk in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a bowl in hand, starts his day by walking the streets and accepting food donations from locals.

Henna

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