Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I've got a new and improved blog!

Hi everyone,

First of all I would like to say thank you to all who have been following my blog. Since the very first post, I've enjoyed reading your comments and hearing your encouraging words. Even those of you who have not commented.....it's just nice knowing that you're interested in what I have to say. If it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't be doing this....so, again, thanks for coming along for the ride so far....it's nice to have you on board.

This blog is important.to me, because it's my way of sharing my experiences, insights, and opinions. Since it's important, I felt compelled to take it to the next level, so I hired a woman named Suzette Durazo, (a recent graduate of Platt College of design in San Diego), to get it up and running. I think you'll like the new blog; it's a bit more elegant and personalized than my free "blogger" blog.

Anyway, if you don't mind migrating over to my new blog and re-signing up or whatever, I would appreciate it.

This blog will remain up indefinitely but all new posts will appear at

Sorry folks, as of midnight January 1 I am having some difficulties and my new blog  is off-line. I'm working on it and hope to be back on line soon!

If you have comments, suggestions or constructive criticism, I'm all ears...there's a contact page where you can drop me a note.

Well....I guess that's it, I'll see you over at my new blog address..... www.karlgrobl.com/blog
Sorry folks, as of midnight January 1 I am having some difficulties and my new blog is off-line. I'm working on it and hope to be back up soon!



Friday, December 18, 2009

Back From a Quick Trip to Chicago

Sorry for not having posted for such a long time. I have quite a few things in the hopper at the moment and haven't have time to write. Just yesterday afternoon I returned to San Diego after visiting my folks in Chicago. Now I'm  back to work.......Please hang in there for a few more days as I'll be announcing the launch of my new, improved, blog.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good News From Afghanistan

Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, "Our relationship with Afghanistan is a long-term commitment," "As security improves our relationship grows ... especially with economic and political development. Speaking of development and commitment; with funding from USAID, one of my biggest clients, Education Development Center (EDC) has been implementing education  programs in Afghanistan. In 2005 I had the opportunity to document those projects.
If I've learned one thing while traveling all over the world and shooting for countless NGO's it's that education can make a country more self sufficient and secure. An educated populous is probably less vulnerable to exploitation by some charismatic, but tyrannical leader or political party. Education is, as the say; power.

In Afghanistan there is a huge need for education. According to EDC, "Many Afghans who grew up during decades of war and repressive rule are now in their twenties, struggling to find their footing in a dramatically altered and rapidly changing country. Deprived of the opportunity for schooling in their early years, many are unable to read. In rural areas, about 70 percent of heads of households cannot read or write." Women are also at a great disadvantage when it comes to learning. Women in Afghanistan are more often than not denied any formal education at all. EDC has been working to change that.

EDC's Literacy and Community Empowerment Program (LCEP) is a groundbreaking community development project that connects rural villages throughout Afghanistan with an integrated package of literacy, governance and economic empowerment opportunities. LCEP is the first step in a larger, more ambitious long-term initiative to create sustainable literacy and community development opportunities for Afghanistan's rural population. Click here to see a slide show and learn more about what EDC is accomplishing.

We hear a lot of bad news from Afghanistan, so I thought I would point out something positive. And, oh, by the way;  if you were wondering about the photo of the bridge (below) in my previous post...that's another EDC project. I guess you could say that EDC is building bridges, both literally and figuratively.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Gandamack Lodge, Kabul

With the news websites awash with talk about the time frame for troop withdrawls from Afghanistan, I've been reminiscing about my 2004 trip there. I ended up clicking on some video footage and was reminded of a guy I met, named Peter Jouvenal.  He is the BBC cameraman who shot the liberation of Kabul in November 2001. Peter opened the Gandamack Lodge in Kabul later that year. Since then, Peter's place has been a hang out for journalists, similar to the Oloffson in Port au Prince, Haiti, which I wrote about here...but that's another story.

Anyway, the Gandamack must be buzzing these days and I keep wondering who might be staying in the room I occupied during my visit to Kabul. The room in question is on the main floor next to the front desk, just down the hall from the gun display/sales cabinet.

The door to the room had been kicked in a few too many times and it wouldn't latch, but that really didn't matter, because anyone trying to get in would first have to get through the iron gate out front, or scale the barbed wire fence and navigate past the armed guards, dogs and the two guys brandishing AK47's at the door. Besides, since the room didn't have a private bathroom, the broken door made it more convenient when I had to go down the hall to use the facilities.

On one wall of my room was a kerosene heater from the 1970's with a dilapidated vent system that leaked like a sieve. The room smelled like a fuel depot, but hey, it was my temporary home and the other guests at the lodge were pretty interesting folks, so I was happy to be there.

On my first night there, the Taliban blew up a school just down the street and the explosion woke me up.  After that, I slept fitfully for the rest of the night, and was anxious to get breakfast and meet some of the guys who I had heard drinking and partying well into the night.  It turned out that they were two British ex-SIS guys (Secret Intelligence Service) and a retired Navy Seal from Iowa. They were all doing private security in Kabul. Arriving at the long, family style, breakfast table they each un-holstered an assortment of 9mm semi-automatic pistols and several clips of ammunition.  One Brit had a copy of Soldier of Fortune Magazine under his arm. 

The first guy to speak greeted me with "So, what the Fuck are you doing here?", I replied that I was in Afghanistan to take some pictures for an NGO doing a women's education program and several community development projects funded by USAID...he looked a little confused at my answer, then asked me what I was "packing".
"Uh....Canons" I said as I reached under the table to pull out my Mark IIs, one with a 70-200 f 2.8 and the other with a 16-35 f2.8 attached. ...the two Secret Service guys and the Navy Seal looked at each other, shook their heads and burst out laughing, then the second Brit exclaimed... "goddamn, you're fuckin' crazy!"

That was my welcome reception in Kabul. For the next few weeks I would travel around the country photographing Education Development Center's programs in and around Kabul and in the north near Herat.
I'll be blogging tomorrow about that experience and the NGO, Education Development Center, for whom I have shot jobs on 4 continents.

Bt the way, for those of you planning a visit to Kabul for the holidays, it's good to know that Peter has body armor for rent right there at the Gandamack and he will even help arrange fixers and/or body guards for you. Oh, also...don't forget the house rules at the Gandamack, which clearly state that only sidearms are permitted in the dining room, so please, leave those RPGs and your larger weapons at home or in your room.

The Gandamack is located at Sherpur Square, next to the UNHCR HQ, just up the road from DHL, across the road from the queues for visas at the Embassy of Iran. TELEPHONE +93 (0) 700 27 6937 there website is here

Friday, December 04, 2009

Hopital Albert Schweitzer, Haiti

While on the topic of Hospitals, I feel compelled to share with you the story of another truly amazing hospital, this one, in Haiti. Back in 2001 I shot a job for Health Volunteers Overseas. One of the locations that I photographed was HAS or Hopital Albert Schweitzer (yes, it’s Hopital not Hospital). HAS was started 50 years ago and the story behind it is one, that I think, you might be interested in.

HAS was started by William Larry (Larimer) Mellon, a member of the wealthy Carnegie Mellon family of Pittsburgh. Larry fell under the spell of Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel laureate, physician and humanitarian who started a hospital in the African country of Gabon. Following in Schweitzer’s footsteps, Larry Mellon, well into his 30’s, enrolled in medical school, became a physician and built a hospital in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Mellon’s story and the story of HAS is told in the book “Song of Haiti”, which should be on Oprah’s must read list.

I’ve had the opportunity to shoot for HAS many times and my visits there are always eye-opening and inspiring. The work being done there by HAS’s crew of dedicated humanitarians is astonishing. Have a look at the HAS website to learn more about this amazing institution. I produced a rudimentary video for HAS, but since I made it quite a while ago, a plug-in required. Sorry.

While in Haiti, I usually make it a point to spend at least one night at the Oloffson hotel in Port au Prince. It’s one of those places where journalists hang out, and  one always meets interesting people there. Here’s a short piece I did about the hotel and it’s colorful proprietor, Richard Morse.

Have a great weekend, and I'll try to post on Monday.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Angkor Hospital For Children, Cambodia

Yes it's true, just last month posted about Angkor Hospital for Children, but I'm posting again for two reasons. First, because their 2008 Annual Report just came out, full of images that I captured while shooting their story for Town and Country Magazine earlier this year. 

And secondly, because Friends Without a Border is having a Photography related charity event in Los Angeles this month which benefits the Angkor Hospital for Children!  As you may remember from the article in Town and Country or my earlier posts, The Angkor Hospital for Children was started by photographer Kenro Izu

THE FRIENDS WITHOUT A BORDER'S 1ST ANNUAL LOS ANGELES GALA  will take place on Thursday, December 10th, at the historical Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel The evening includes both silent & live auctions with a special "Children" portfolio by famed National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry

There are also musical performances by Robin Thicke, celebrity hosts Paula Patton, Kate Hudson, Josh Jackson, Ali Larter & Hayes MacArthur, Eva Longoria Parker, Molly Sims, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Moyer, Amaury Nolasco, Jennifer Morrison, Rebecca Gayheart & Eric Dane, with special guest emcee Matthew Lillard. 
View the Invite. View the Catalog.  Including the piece I donated here
For inquiries, email mayanna@fwab.org or call 323.843.2870.

If any of you folks are looking for a fun night out in Los Angeles, which benefits a great cause, check it out!