Melanie deJesus for Langly connects with Brand Ambassador, Amber L. Canterbury, to discuss recent work in the Congo, her moment of gratitude, and life on the road.
MD: I'm catching you in the middle of your travels. Where are you at the moment, and what’s the reason for this particular trip?
ALC: I'm in northern California visiting some friends at their farm and enjoying country life. Stopped along the coast to sleep under the trees and watch the Perseid meteor shower. Magic.
MD: You were in Japan at the start of this year. Was there a moment during your trip that made you feel lucky to be alive and taking photos for a living?
ALC: I have that feeling often! One of my favorite moments on that trip was waking up in a small rural town in northern Japan called Shizukuishi, pulling back the curtains and seeing the mountainous landscape covered in a vast blanket of white. The place I rented lacked central heating and it was so cold inside my room I could actually see my breath but I was so excited about the all the fresh snow I was hardly bothered. I grew up in Florida so white winters are still a novelty to me. I spent the morning hiking and playing in the snow and the afternoon warming up in an onsen.
MD: And did you happen to capture that moment on film or did you just relish in the glory? :)
ALC: I did a lot of relishing that day. I try to remind myself to put the camera down and just enjoy what's happening sometimes.
MD: Tell us about your work in the Congo. You went in 2016?
ALC: Yes! Two of my good friends run a nonprofit organization called Justice Rising that builds primary schools in Congo. They spend 6 months out of the year there. I came out to document the schools, students, and life in some of the villages they work in for a fundraising campaign.
MD: Was there an element of danger or uncertainty that you had to overcome in order to do the work you set out to do there?
ALC: I take calculated risks. I believe in the work they are doing so when I was offered the opportunity to collaborate on a project with them the decision was easy. I was given fair warning and mostly knew what to expect going into a red zone, but there were challenging moments where I felt uneasy and a little in over my head. I would quietly remind myself why I was there and that allowed me to stay focused. Two weeks for me; a lifetime for others. I was absolutely incapable of complaining.
MD: I’m sure this trip stirred the soul. What was your takeaway? Any definitive message you gained and would like to share?
ALC: My brain has a tendency to compartmentalize things. In Congo I was at work. I was an observer, there to document. Returning to my life in L.A. was disorienting. The contrasts were glaring. I became acutely aware of the relativity of reality. You cannot un-know. There is work to do.
MD: Must have been an amazing experience. You were recently commissioned by Blue Bottle to travel to Central America. What was your experience like there? What were you sent there to document?
ALC: So beautiful! Blue Bottle sent me to document the origins of some of the coffees they offer. One highlight was Finca Kilimanjaro in Santa Ana, El Salvador. I had just flown in and the itinerary for the first day was somewhat uneventful. There was a change of plans and within minutes of setting my bags down I was escorted into an armored SUV and driven 3 hours off road up the slopes of a volcano. So, you know, pretty mellow.
MD: Any projects coming up that we should look out for?
ALC: I'm volunteering with the National Wildlife Federation's #SaveLACougars campaign and their effort to fund the construction of a wildlife overpass on the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon. Also working on a personal documentary project about my hometown.