Fr. Damien de Veuster, Died April 15, 1889


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Apr 11, 2007
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EXIF: D40, 18-55 VR, 1/50s f/14.0 ISO400 55mm with some PP in Capture NX that I would have a hard time describing.

This isn't HDR it is one image.

I posted this last night but I feel I need to add the story of who Fr. Damien was to add context and to explain why I produced this shot the way it is.

Fr. Damien is a Saint in the Catholic church in Hawai'i, a man who literally gave his life in the service of others.

Everybody knows that Hawai'i is a paradise on earth, with lovely weather, lush landscapes, crystal clear blue waters with a heart of volcanic fire.

There is a dark, unexplored side to Hawai'i as well, and Fr. Damien was a part of that.

When the western cultures came to Hawai'i, one of the things they brought with them was western diseases. Like many isolated native cultures, these diseases devastated the population of the islands because people had no natural immunity whatever to them.

One of the diseases that European and American visitors brought was Leprosy (know known as Hansen's disease)...

It was believed at the time that the only thing that could be done with lepers was to isolate them, and in Hawai'i King Kamehameha V chose an extremely remote and barren peninsula on the tiny island of Molokai for the "lepper colony" at a settlement known as Kalaupapa. There is a steep mountain ridge which divides it from the rest of the island, and even today the only two ways of getting there are by air or by using a steep and dangerous mule track.

The colony, being cut off and entirely dependent on outside resources, became drunken and lawless... and into this hell-in-paradise walked Fr. Damien, who volunteered after prayer and fasting to go to Molokai to help serve the spiritual needs of the community. In those days, people who were sent there were forever barred from seeing their family and homes again... even though some were mere miles away.

Fr. Damien immediately was able to make an impact, and he helped the people turn what was a squalid lawless settlement into an organized, civilized community of people. Farms were started and schools were built.

After living and working in the community for 11 years, Fr. Damien contracted leprosy himself. Instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for himself, he redoubled his efforts to get as much building and organization done before his time on earth was gone.

Fr. Damien died on April 15, 1889.

The above statue is in the cemetery of the Painted Church near Kealakekua Bay on the western side of the big island. Fr. Damien is actually buried in his native Belgium near the village where he grew up, after being moved there from Hawai'i in 1936.

But Fr. Damien's legacy lives on in Hawai'i to this day. There is still a colony of people who suffer from Hansen's Disease at Molokai. The entire community is part of a National Historical Park and the residents there welcome visitors share their stories of isolation and hope. Visitors are welcomed, but because of the nature of Hansen's Disease they must complete a health statement with the State of Hawai'i. Nobody under the age of 16 is permitted to enter the site.

The photograph above was processed by me to try to express how I feel about Fr. Damien. The overt lushness of Hawai'i surrounds an image of a man that is slowly deteriorating into history... his laurels fading with time... and amongst the lushness there is also a dark storm fading on the horizon but not yet gone.

All of the parts of this picture are real, it is one shot. The emphasis in the post processing of the picture is mine.
WOW , photographer AND writer!!! Thank you. This was a great tribute. Now I see the meaning to all the color. Wonderful work :)

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