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© Youssef Ismail

Member Since:
July 16, 2002

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Profotos Member Biography - Youssef Ismail

Who am I... Why am I Here?
Greetings of Peace...

I was born and raised in Southern California. I have always had a connection to the earth from an early age. From being in the field with my father who was a landscaper and nursery owner to playing army and building push go-carts in my youth. As I entered my teenaged years, I became interested in cartography, orienteering and navigation, not to mention hiking, fishing, hunting and camping. I even took up the art of Falconry for six years early on in college. I was trained as an engineer in college, obtaining a B.S., M.S. and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. It was during my time at Stanford University pursuing my masters and doctorate degrees that I discovered the joys of photography. It was also during that time that I had discovered the religion of Islam and became an observant Muslim.

I mention photography and Islam together because it was Islam that presented the need to pick up a camera. Each year Muslims perform a ritual fast from dawn until sunset for 30 days in the Islamic lunar month known as Ramadan. In my first fast, I would regularly break fast with the other Muslim students on campus. Nearing the end of the month a huge debate surfaced among the other students about how to end the month long fast.

You see, the month of Fasting is a special religious time of the year, a month in which the naked-eye sighting of the new crescent moon is needed to establish the beginning of the fast and also for its end... Back to my first year of fasting.

The debate that night was centered on whether an actual sighting was needed or if the month's end could be determined using astronomical calculations. Growing up in the outdoors, I of course asked if anyone actually went out and physically looked for the crescent moon. To my surprise, the answer was NO. At that point I left that useless debate. Why argue about predicting when the crescent would be seen if no effort is made to actually see it?

I decided I would make an effort to sight the new crescent moon marking the end of the month that year. I never saw it. The next month I went out each night, knowing that it would have to come around again in about 29 or 30 days. I failed to see the new crescent that month also. But I continued. Several months later I finally saw a new crescent moon just after sunset, as thin as an eyelash yet very clear and white in a deep red-orange sky. It was exhilarating. The sad part was no one believed me. Well, I had a camera, a Minolta Freedom Zoom 90 point and shoot, I just have to take a picture of a new crescent, then there will be no doubt.

My point & shoot did nothing but shoot me in the foot. Even though I saw new crescents, the camera could not produce what I saw on film. I needed more Zoom power I thought. I looked around on the what used to be the internet 12 years ago on campus and found some guy selling an old 35mm Canon QL model with a 55mm and 70-210mm zoom lens, for $50! I was set. The next several months were difficult as I learned how to make this old relic work.

Finally, the end of a lunar month was approaching, it was sometime in October, I think in 1993, I saw and photographed a first day new crescent moon, the image below. Not much of a photograph, but now I had proof! I managed to photograph about four new moons before the other Muslim students on campus wanted proof of my sightings.

I presented to them my pictures as proof, and all they could say was "you saw that!" Of course I saw it, I could not photograph it without seeing it.

Which brings me to why I am here. Its all about seeing. Seeing the moon. Seeing the sun go down day after day. Seeing the land basking in warm golden light. Seeing the trees swaying in the wind. Feeling the warmth of the sun and the caress of the wind on your face. Hearing the fluttering wings of butterfiles while sitting in a meadow.

Its about recognizing where we came from and where we are going. Its about slowing down from the absurd microsecond-megaflops speeds that we are obsessed with and taking the time to really stop and smell the roses. Its about gaining an understanding that we are only a small part of a much larger whole. Its about learning how to re-integrate ourselves with that whole and glorify and praise the very Source of it all, The Creator.

The humans on this planet, the supposed caretakers of Mother Earth, are in a state of heedlessness. Not thinking about the consequences of their actions and what they will do to the Earth and Us. We are spiraling out of control at unthinkable speeds and if we dont put the brakes on soon and relize what it is that we are doing, we will destroy ourselves and the Earth with us.

That is why I am here, why I have a Net Presence. I want us to wake up and start living up to the responsibilities that come with being the Caretakers of the Earth.

I hope you Enjoy my work and I hope that you find some inspiration to regaining the dignity of our stewardship of the Earth.


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