What should I cook, a Turkey or a Goose?
How many people are coming for Christmas day?
"Would you like another glass of Champagne darling?"
"Thank you yes, this wrapping paper is simply divine."
Everyone is running around buying stuff for Christmas. It’s exciting and be honest, you know that after the holiday period, half of it will be in a landfill. May be the most exciting thing is just the buying of it, because after its unwrapped it sits on the floor and gets thrown in a cupboard or a box. Many of us also have financial pressure to keep up the pretence of Christmas, so the very thing that is supposed to make us happy is making us more stressed out. So less is maybe more. Less consumption and more genuinely trying to help others.
Its sounds a bit cynical but the best part of Christmas is sharing good times with friends and family. Unfortunately we aren’t all so lucky. Some people have absolutely nothing and they don’t have the means to drag themselves out of this situation. So if you have a chance, help a little, give a little and make it better for those who have less.
I started these two photo series a long time ago but some how they relate to each other. Think of it as my Christmas cards. The first series was of homeless people around the world. It started in 1991 in Los Angeles where I noticed homeless people everywhere. However the longer I lived there the people became invisible as if they didn’t exist. The irony is that no one wants to exhibit these pictures either. But what is truly sad is, that these people were once like you and me, but events and circumstances led them to this place on the street.
The other series is La Dolce Vita, which is a sarcastic statement on the ideals of fashion and consumption. I was in Paris in 2014 and was amazed by the exquisite shop windows of the great fashion houses. They use mannequins that represent bodies and people that don’t exist in the real world. It was like the famous Greek sculptures of men raised from the seabed over 2000 years ago. Something we could aspire to but never be. Also the dream to be part of it and never succeeding leads to unhappiness. Just as the homeless didn’t meet their dreams, whatever they may be.
Our friends Shannon and Alex organised a fantastic Charity Christmas concert with the children in the neighbourhood singing and playing music. At the same time they raised a significant amount of money for Room to Read, which is a fantastic charity whose goal is to educate girls in poor countries. Everyone had a good time and we all contributed and it brought our community together in a genuine way. The charity I am working with the Water Survival Box is providing immediate shelter and drinking water to people in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This is something hopefully we never need, but let’s face it no one is immune to natural disaster.
So buying less and giving more at Christmas may be more fulfilling and you have the opportunity to genuinely help. You can also make a donation, but often the most valuable thing is your time to help others. Merry Christmas and may it be merry for others who need it.
Here are some charities to look at but there are many more
Vaughan James is a photographer and writer based in Zurich Switzerland