Photo Stories: African Women and Kids
Affected by AIDS Share their Lives


Eugene Ahn

Venice Arts mentor Eugene Ahn has hand-written in excess of 6,000 lines of code in support of the House is Small but the Welcome is Big's interactive web component. When he hits about 6,500 lines, Eugene expects to take a little break and write a proper bio.

comments from website visitors:

Eugene Max and I just got back safe and sound. There is a $20.00 US airport tax when you leave. I hope you all have safe travels, thanks for everything ! Steve
Steve and Max USA USA USA !!
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2007 3:13PM

Hey Eugene, Keep it up, man. You guys are seriously amazing, and I am so proud and impressed by the kid's photographs. Please tell them all they have a huge fan in the States!
In Yo Brain
Posted Thursday, August 16, 2007 10:13AM

Thank you so very much for telling me about this site. I have just spent four hours looking at it. It's incredible!!!! I have also passed it on to friends that I'm sure will enjoy it as well. Congratulations!!! Keep up the great work!!! Karen
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 6:56PM

eugene - we are all following the team's work. the photography is really moving and everyone is clearly connecting with the participants. the quality of light & the compositions in every photograph is just stunning and really lends itself to their stories.
venice, ca
Posted Friday, August 10, 2007 11:28AM

Hi Eugene, What an adventure!!! Stay strong and keep up the good fight. Hallo to Joanne.
jay ahn
san jose, ca
Posted Wednesday, August 08, 2007 4:43PM

Eugene, I love the "salmon-colored earth" entry. Now THAT, my friend, is an adjective worth remembering. Nice work, seriously. Looking amazing!!!!! Pablo
Close to My God
Posted Wednesday, August 08, 2007 2:22PM

eugene the site is working so well. the portrait work also looks to be amazing. your description of the surrounding area was really visual and we look forward to seeing it all depicted throught the eyes of these young people. good luck!
venice, CA
Posted Tuesday, August 07, 2007 10:43AM

Eugene! Congrats on making it! Keep on fighting the good fight down there, and keep pushing that Arts Agenda - ha! Take care and can't wait to hear all about it when the team returns!!!!!
The Venice Arts Digital Lab
Posted Tuesday, August 07, 2007 9:20AM

congrats on making maputo. we are thinking of all of you!
venice, CA
Posted Saturday, August 04, 2007 8:14PM

Eugene you may know this by now but we have your blue back pack and the small Peloican case. Good luck ! steve
Steve and Max in Maputo
Maputo Holiday Inn
Posted Saturday, August 04, 2007 5:05AM

Eugene you may know this by now but we have your blue back pack and the small Peloican case. Good luck ! steve
Steve and Max in Maputo
Maputo Holiday Inn
Posted Saturday, August 04, 2007 5:05AM

Eugene...Ni Hao! Enjoying the site, great work...and I don't just mean the coding :)
Posted Saturday, August 04, 2007 4:31AM

Hey all! Hope things are going well. Eugene, is there an RSS feed I can plug into for IPE site? thanks!
Venice, CA
Posted Wednesday, August 01, 2007 11:38AM

good luck, safe travels, the site looks great!
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007 4:00PM

I like this site. Great work!
San Jose, CA
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 11:00AM

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photos by this person (click to view larger):

Getting lucky at the dump
Eugene Ahn

Young film director
Eugene Ahn

Feeling good after lunch
Eugene Ahn

Double check time
Eugene Ahn

Colors of Maputo
Eugene Ahn

FUNDAC honors Zego
Eugene Ahn

Rumble seat recipes
Eugene Ahn

Walking on water
Eugene Ahn

Human camera bag
Eugene Ahn

Eugene Ahn

photos of this person (click to view larger):

Upside down for photography
Joanne Kim

New threads
Tomas Cumbana

At work making pictures
Joanne Kim

Double up
Joanne Kim

Drawn to the web
Joanne Kim

Camera triangle
Lynn Warshafsky

Photography mentors
Lynn Warshafsky


blog entries by this person:

Mexico City exhibition details

Eugene Ahn

Posted 6:18PM on Tuesday, June 09, 2009 Pacific Time
Mexico City is being added to the list of exhibition venues for 2009. I recently received confirmation that the Enkidu Annual Humanities Summer Conference will display the project's images during conference proceedings. The theme of this year's conference, according to its organizers, is to "interrogate storytelling, memories and identity constructions from a wide range of perspectives, and in their manifold cultural and social manifestations." The nature of the conference is global, with presenters hailing from around the world. In addition to accompanying the House is Small exhibit, I am presenting on two topics, including a paper entitled, "Re-visioning the myths of poverty and oppression through first-person practices of participant produced photojournalism." The proceedings take place in the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico.

Maputo exhibition photo coverage

Eugene Ahn

Posted 7:37AM on Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Pacific Time
UNICEF has provided a few photos of the exhibition space in Maputo. They've been posted on the Venice Arts Flickr page

Photo essay on AOL Australia's FotoZone

Eugene Ahn

Posted 12:38PM on Sunday, June 15, 2008 Pacific Time
The project's co-founders are seen in a photo editing session in this June 2008 slideshow gallery on AOL Australia's FotoZone.

Denver exhibition TV coverage

Eugene Ahn

Posted 4:00PM on Friday, June 13, 2008 Pacific Time

Colorado KUSA-TV's June 12 broadcast of an interview with Dr. Neal Baer, co-founder of The House is Small but the Welcome is Big photography project.

Photographs by mothers and orphans affected by the global AIDS epidemic are now on exhibit in Denver at Gallery M Through July 13.

Upcoming exhibitions

Eugene Ahn

Posted 7:00AM on Wednesday, June 11, 2008 Pacific Time
Upcoming exhibitions of The House is Small But the Welcome is Big:

Denver, June 11-July 13, 2008
Gallery M
2830 E Third Ave
Denver CO 80206
877 331 8401

Maputo, July 8-19, 2008
Centre Culturel Franco-Mozambicain
Av. Samora Machel nį468
CP 491 Maputo Mozambique
(+258) 21 31 45 90

New York City, September 20- October 18, 2008
Exit Art
475 Tenth Ave
New York NY 10018

Storytelling as social change

Eugene Ahn

Posted 9:57AM on Friday, May 09, 2008 Pacific Time
Neal Baer, co-creator of The House is Small but the Welcome is Big, recently spoke at the University of Southern California on the topic of using storytelling as a tool for social advocacy. Drawing on his experience as physician, television producer, filmmmaker, and co-creator of the project's work in Africa, Baer shared his perspective on what makes storytelling such an important part of his work in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"Stories are our life force -- our continuity with each other," Baer said. "The way you tell your story isnít important -- itís that you tell it. Tell it and your story will change someoneís life. Someone will hear it and not get infected. Tell your story and you will change the world."

Baer noted that while infection rates differ across various regions of the world, HIV/AIDS presents global consequences. Storytelling helps give shape to the global nature of the disease, and works to shift public attitudes. Influencing the public will helps organize responses to disease-spreading behavior and develop more effective treatments in fighting the disease.

Baer challenged his audience to embrace storytelling as a way to influence public opinion and be an effective social activist.

"You donít have to be a doctor to tell stories about HIV and AIDS -- or about any social issue that stirs you, moves you," he said. "Each of you can reflect on why you came today -- what private, personal story compelled you to come here? Whatever the reason, itís a good one. And each of you can draw on whatever personal story that made you come here and turn it into a public story, to be shared with others, to motivate others to learn and to take action."

Baer's comments and presentation visuals are archived online at the Institute for Photographic Empowerment website.

Russell talks about project in TV interview

Eugene Ahn

Posted 4:50PM on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 Pacific Time

Venice Arts photography mentor Russell Baer was interviewed for a TV spot on the Mozambique project and apparently it's set for broadcast tonight (Tuesday, September 11, 2007).

"I shot a press segment on a local TV show called So Cal Life that is promoting the Mozambique project," Russell announced in an email. "They will be airing several of the photos with the interview."

It will be the first appearance of the kids' work on U.S. television.

Russell says: "Check local listings for airtime. For me in Santa Monica it is channel 31 KVMD TV at 7:30 p.m. and itís easy to find on TIVO."

No jet lag with these photos

Eugene Ahn

Posted 2:23PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 Pacific Time

Happy to report all the photographs made by the kids in Maputo have survived the journey from Africa to the United States. Before departure, the team made four or five full-set copies of the project's complete photo collection, which consists of several thousand JPEG images. (The images displayed here on the website represent a small slice from the full collection.) The archive copies -- saved to various portable hard drives and DVDs -- were sent back with different members of the project team on different international flights. After all the experiences with lost luggage, we weren't going to take any chances. My understanding is that photo editing work for the physical exhibition is already under way.

The great Maputo bagel hunt

Eugene Ahn

Posted 2:03PM on Thursday, August 16, 2007 Pacific Time

Jim showed up at the hotel yesterday very excited. During the day, he had discovered a place that does bagels and coffee. A place that he said was worth going back to.

Bagels and coffee in Maputo. I don't drink coffee, but the idea had an immediate allure.

Jim couldn't recall the name of the place. But he knew it's being run by two Americans and is located in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in town, near the Irish Embassy.

Enough information to go on. The bagel hunt was on.

So this Thursday morning, we piled into a run-down taxi parked in front of the hotel. The driver held together two wires sticking out of the steering column to start the car, and we rode the taxi's sad, rattling frame into what could only be described as the Mozambician dream: Paved roads with speedbumps. Multi-story mansion-sized homes on generous lots. Eight-foot-tall perimeter walls. Uniformed guards.

And lots of construction. It appears there's a building boom going on in Maputo. A RE/MAX realty office is slated to open up a branch in the neighborhood's small but impressive office block that also contains a beautician, a cash machine with armed guards, and our bagel pad, Cafe Sol.

We spent a leisurely morning on the sun patio enjoying a most unlikely breakfast.

It seems only right to see first-hand how, or at least where, the wealthy in this town live. And how they live. It's not much different from how the wealthy live anywhere in the world. Usually the rich and the poor don't live together. The whole point of being rich is so that you don't have to be poor.

But not far from this spot of bageled bliss is a sight that graphically illustrates the intricate link between economic classes, how the rich and the poor are not separate, but instead, more like twins separated at birth while still performing in roles that enable and sustain the character and identity of the other.

Jim led us to a spot where posh homes that would be considered mansions by most standards are lined up on one side of the road. On the other side of this same road, clusters of the most primitive shacks imaginable provide a surreal counterpoint to the city's divide between the rich and the poor.

We've spent a lot of time over the past two weeks in Maputo suburbs where the homes are held up more by necessity and love than by economic wealth or the sound construction that such wealth can buy. These meager habitations, as depicted in so many of the photographs being made by the kids, lack the most basic amenities such as electricity, running water, windows, and sometimes roofing. Truly, in these cases, the house is small.

It's amazing, then, to see mansion after mansion sporting perimeter walls topped with electrical security wire. Some homes in the slums don't even have electricity. But it seems most of the mansions have so much access to modern infrastructure that they can liberally utilize electricity in punitive land security measures.

It's amazing, further, to see shacks and the mansions sharing the same road. Odds and evens of the same street address will determine whether you're a have or a have not. Whether you can walk down the street for your hot bagel sandwich, or whether you grow corn at the base of a hill covered in your neighborhood's trash that will never get picked up and hauled away.

Audio recording studio setups

Eugene Ahn

Posted 2:17AM on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 Pacific Time

Here's how to set up the high-quality sound recording equipment. Use this if you are recording audio for podcast, or a high-quality audio track in support of video.

Hardware narrative:

Rode NT1-A microphone connects via long XLR to Samson S Phantom preamp which connects via short XLR to M-Audio Fast Track (bench settings -- mic input: 75%; mix: 25%; input monitor: mono; output: 75%) which connects via USB A-B to Apple MacBook and a pair of Sony studio headphones.

Remember to use a critically important power transformer and adapter when powering the Samson preamp, or else the gear might fry. The MacBook doesn't need a transformer.

Software setup:

GarageBand works well because it's easy. Sync software settings to the hardware narrative described above by configuring a recording track as Real Instrument > Vocals > No Effects; Input: Channel 1 (Mono); Monitor: Off. Metronome: Off.

Kudos to Zegó

Eugene Ahn

Posted 2:24PM on Tuesday, August 14, 2007 Pacific Time

Congratulations to Zegó, who was recognized tonight as one of the Mozambique's emerging artists. This morning, before meeting up with Alcides and Chris for a day of filming the BYkids documentary, Zegó got a telephone call and was advised to be ready to accept his award at a private dinner ceremony at the Restaurante 1908 in downtown Maputo. During the day's filming, he bumped into a colleague and traded pants with him on the street so that he would be more presentable for the formal evening affair.

Honored for his 2005 documentary exploring the generation gap among Mozambique's established and emerging generations of artists, Zegó was given a cash prize, and more significantly, recognition for work that looks closely at the country's social and political issues.

"Something like this does not happen every day," Zegó kept saying after the ceremony, with his characteristic cool enthusiasm. I ran into him at the restaurant by chance. My group, from the photography side of the project, ended up there in search of a dinner experience. He had been summoned to be honored. Zegó hadn't had the time to organize a family member to accompany him, so he brought someone else he's spent a lot of time with this past week -- project film mentor Christopher Zalla.

I see Zegó as part of a generation of Mozambician artists and activists who see art and activism as equally important parts of citizenship and community-building. Next month, he performs in a one-man show about the country's political situation. The play was written by the friend he met on the street, who loaned him pants for tonight's ceremony. In November, Zegó travels to Brazil to screen and lecture on the film that earned him his honor. Next year, he travels to Russia to work on a film about a road trip from St. Petersburg to Siberia.

Hello Tuesday, August 14

Eugene Ahn

Posted 2:18AM on Tuesday, August 14, 2007 Pacific Time

Today is Day 7 and the groups are splitting up today to spent time both in the field and in lab. Jim, Russell, and Steve are working with kids from Reencontro, who are continuing their photography work in Maputo neighborhoods. The UNICEF activistas are meeting with Joanne and me at the Maputo Holiday Inn for a computer workshop session. We plan to give the young activists a survey of the technology tools and we are using every day in support of the project. By giving them hands-on exposure to our photo, video, audio, and web workflows, we want to inspire them to think about the different ways they might choose to communicate their message. Don't be surprised if you start seeing them blogging and posting video interactives on the website in the next day or two.

Hello Thursday, August 9

Eugene Ahn

Posted 4:27AM on Thursday, August 09, 2007 Pacific Time

Today is Day 4 and the kids continue photography in their neighborhoods and at their homes. Yesterday, the groups spent time in the Ferroviario suburb. Today, the groups shift attention to the Hulene suburb. Both areas represent some of Maputo's poorest neighborhoods, where homes often lack plumbing, electricity, heat, windows, and even roofing. For kids like the ones participating in our project, daily life also lacks the support of parents, as many children have lost their mothers and fathers to AIDS. These kids continue life on their own, as the country does not have the infrastructure to respond to their situations with comprehensive social welfare or foster care.

Like yesterday, the team has split into several groups to help maximize the ability to visit as many places as possible. Everyone is eager to work on their stories. Not surprisingly, the kids' enthusiasm for storytelling is translating into striking, memorable, and meaningful imagery.

Two of our groups moving around the neighborhoods are made up of Reencontro kids, children left orphaned because their parent or parents died of AIDS. A third group consists of UNICEF-sponsored youth activists, teens who are deeply concerned about the welfare and future of their country and are advocating awareness and action on the issues that concern the young generation. Finally, the BYkids film team continues its work making Alcides' movie.

Hello Tuesday, August 7

Eugene Ahn

Posted 8:00AM on Tuesday, August 07, 2007 Pacific Time

Day 2 of photography just concluded. The project team met up with Reencontro in Bairro Ferroviario, a Maputo suburb considered one of the city's most impoverished. The roads are unpaved pathways of salmon-tinted loose earth. Vendors sit in chairs and on wooden stumps alongside the roads selling vegetables, charcoal, and baskets. One-story structures made of mostly cinderblock and corrugated metal paneling form the basic local architecture for homes, shops, and community buildings. The neighborhood has been hard-hit by AIDS, which has claimed lives and left children to raise themselves without their parents. Reencontro occupies a cozy space in a building with a community pharmacy. The organization uses its space to provide local orphaned children with job skill training, such as sewing and handicraft making. A medical clinic is run in a back room, and while we were there a nurse was giving treatment to a teen diagnosed with AIDS. Down the road, we met up with our kids and community members. There was a huge crowd of people who sang a moving folk song about "getting rid of the disease of the eighties." It is in the neighborhood of these people where the kids spent their first day of field photography. For some, this is home. Others live nearby. We are offloading images from twenty cameras now and expect to be uploading highlights to the website in a matter of hours.

Hello Monday, August 6

Eugene Ahn

Posted 11:29PM on Sunday, August 05, 2007 Pacific Time

Day 1 with the kids is today. Team is meeting in about a half hour to go over details. The entire group -- both the kids from Reencontro and the teens with UNICEF -- is meeting us here at the hotel, where we will do introductions, learn how to use cameras, and do a little photography. Portraits will be the subject of today's shooting activity. Russell, who makes portraits for a living and who teaches Venice Arts portrait workshops back in Los Angeles, will be leading. Expecting photo uploads to website later today. Also, filed under video is the first of several interactive profiles of the team. This one is a short video-subtitled audio interview with Maputo filmmaker, Zegó, who will be assisting Neal and Chris with the film.

Touchdown Maputo

Eugene Ahn

Posted 2:36AM on Sunday, August 05, 2007 Pacific Time

Thanks everyone for the comments and welcome. After a an unplanned 34-hour layover in Johannesburg, I have finally joined the rest of the team in Maputo. In all, getting from Los Angeles to here took three days. The keys to safe and sane traveling in Africa appears to be: travel with plenty of patience and don't expect your baggage to travel with you. It turns out my luggage made it to Maputo before me on an airplane that I was not able to board. To me that sounds like a security concern, but fortunately the only things out of the ordinary in my bags are a mobile podcast studio and half a bag of Trader Joe's honey sesame sticks.

Ben's luggage is still missing. We spent most of yesterday in Johannesburg exhausting all opportunities in trying to locate the missing luggage. From the observation deck, we watched the rest of the team leave on the morning flight. Then we spent a few hours pounding the pavement all over the international terminal, exhausting all our leads with various airport operations people who were unable to help us very much. Then we slept on some wooden benches. Then we caught the last flight of the day to Maputo. We met Neal on that flight, on his way in from Madagascar. He had some amazing stories of his conservation tour there, and of the groups working to preserve the island's fragile environment and rare animal species.

It's late morning now, and I am a room at the Maputo Holiday Inn overlooking the beach. The skies are overcast, the air temperature is comfortable, and there is a healthy offshore wind bringing flutter into the tops of the palm trees that line the beach. The project team has a planning meeting this afternoon and tomorrow the project begins.

Johannesburg layover

Eugene Ahn

Posted 8:39AM on Friday, August 03, 2007 Pacific Time

Quick update. After a very long and tedious travel day, part of the project team is making an unplanned layover here in Johannesburg, South Africa. Due to a missed connection, we probably spent a good seven hours at the airport here unsuccessfully trying to get on any one-hour flight to our final destination. The good news is that most of our missing baggage, especially the ones containing the cameras, has been located. Also, part of the project team was able to get a connecting flight and is in Maputo now. I'm just now getting settled in my hotel room at the Southern Sun. We'll be back at the airport tomorrow morning.

London layover

Eugene Ahn

Posted 5:01PM on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 Pacific Time

The journey from Los Angeles to London was overdosed with drama. At the airport, it took us three hours to run the check-in gauntlet. During that time, a woman had to be taken away in an ambulance.

The most tenuous moment of this leg occurred on the flight itself, somewhere over Canada. A man began to storm down the cabin aisle, desperately screaming for a doctor. Fortunately, one was on board. This man's mother had fainted while in her seat or was otherwise unresponsive. The man sat down in the empty seat next to me, visibly upset, and I offered him some water and conversation to help him keep composure while the physician made assessments.

The man sitting next to me turned out to be a Los Angeles high school student, as big as a bear and showing a fierce protective instinct for his mother and family. They are traveling to Armenia where they will have a month-long reunion with some 60 or so relatives. In our conversations, the student told me of his dream to live in an ocean-view house in Malibu, and to work as a doctor, specifically as an ostetrician/gynecologist. "I thought about what kind of doctor I want to be and I decided on this area of ob/gyn because I want to help people to have joy in their life."

His name, translated from Armenian, turns out to be something along the lines of "Sneaky Tiger," although there's nothing sneaky about his very direct intentions and outlook on life. Here's a kid who really believes in studying hard and putting in the work. He has made a road map for his own life. Whether he ultimately reaches the final destination that he has set out for himself is beside the point. What matters is that this person has big dreams and is making use of powerful tools and resources to realize them.

It's clear to me that someone growing up with a strong family/community environment, and access to education, is going to have better and more opportunities to make goals and do something about achieving them. It got me thinking as we get closer to starting our work with young people who live in a country where, according to U.S. State Department statistics, the adult illiteracy rate is more than 50%, the average citizen has spent less than two years in school, and a growing number of children are living as orphans.

Tools and resources, as well as powerful practices that make use of them, are needed to help young people in these conditions work on the dreams that will lead them to a better life.

We're in London for another day. Tomorrow, my fellow travelers (Joanne, Russell, and Jalal), will meet up with the rest of the project team, and as a group we will continue on to Maputo.

imagemagick, PS batch actions, cron

Eugene Ahn

Posted 12:28AM on Sunday, July 29, 2007 Pacific Time

That's the desired order of preference when it comes to deciding on best method to generate multiple image sizes. There's a possibility imagemagick will not be installed on the server before the project commences. In any case, I've written some batch actions scripts that take most of the manual out of whipping up lean thumbnails.

In general, the formatting guidelines are as follows:

  • Landscape thumbnails orient to 120 px wide by 80px or 90px tall
  • Squarish thumbnails orient to approximately 100px on each side
  • Portrait thumbnails orient to 120px tall by 80px or 90px wide

Hello world

Eugene Ahn

Posted 12:00PM on Saturday, July 28, 2007 Pacific Time

OK, it's official. The website is live.

Blogging from a mobile phone

Eugene Ahn

Posted 3:44PM on Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Pacific Time

The website is now set up to publish blog entries via a mobile phone. I am trying it out right now with this entry using my Motorola Razr. Everything appears to be working well because my thumbs are tired.


Eugene Ahn

Posted 7:59PM on Monday, July 23, 2007 Pacific Time

The project's podcast was registered with iTunes today. For all of you aspiring podcasters out there, the compliance and formatting requirements are explained here.


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When my parents died some neighbors and family abandoned us, although some are still supportive, but it is different than before. Now, my family will say hello in the street, but they will not come into our home. I asked my Uncle, why doesnít anyone visit us? Why wonít people visit?
Maputo project participant

A social art initiative by