Over the past decade I’ve been immersed in my two passions – photography and travel. Below are the images which have been born of these passions. The photos are in a more or less chronological order, mirroring my journey.
It all began in India...
I spent my first four trips traversing much of India on a motorcycle. I searched for nomadic shepherds, tribes, traditional wrestlers and performers possessed by Gods. Often I simply gave over to chance.
A spiritual wanderer walks along the banks of river Gomti in the holy town of Dwarka. I'd planned this image. The man walked towards me, the birds were behind, I anticipated what would happen. As I turned around to take the shot the dog just walked into the frame.
Rivers hold great spiritual significance in Hinduism. Mortals cleanse themselves of their sins by taking a dip in them. The Narmada is one of the holiest of all Indian rivers. It is believed that just a glance at it is enough to be rid of all the earthly sins. This man bathed in the Narmada every morning and evening nevertheless. Despite almost immeasurable levels of pollution inside the water, drinking from the rivers is common among the devout.
I’ve traversed much of India on a motorcycle. I’ve focused on villages and small towns.
(Left) Reang tribal woman from Tripura with an elaborate necklace made of coins. (Right) Rabari matriarch in her traditional dress. In India much of the culture and traditions in India are still visually alive in the costumes of the people, particularly the women.
Rabari shepherd herding his flock of animals. The Rabari have a strong bond with their animals. Some men claim that they can tell apart each female by the taste of their milk.
This Rabari girl lives in a small village in Kutch. The area is extremely dry and tough to survive in. I called this photo “Kutch Diamond” because she was like a diamond in the rough amidst her surroundings.
Like many young girls in India she was initially too shy to have her photo taken. She finally summoned up the courage when an entire crowd of village children encouraged her.
There are countless unusual activities in India that you won’t see anywhere else. This woman was working hard all day recycling mattress-stuffing in a dark room. Manual labour is extremely cheap in India and often activities that are handled by machines in the West are done by hand or with the help of the most basic machinery.
Kushti is India’s traditional wrestling on red soil. It’s popularity has dwindled throughout most of India, but there are some Kushti hot-spots. One of them is Kolhapur and the surrounding villages. Here the start wrestlers still command the respect of the society and wrestling matches regularly draw crowds of tens of thousands.
A paradoxical tradition takes place in South Indian state of Kerala. Men of low caste and low social status turn into living Gods when they perform a ritual called Theyyam. It is believed that a Theyyam performer becomes possessed by a deity. During this time people from the highest ranks of the society, bow down and seek his blessing.
Many large temples in Kerala have their own temple elephants. Despite the fact that elephants occasionally lose their temper amidst frenzied crowds of devotees and kill or injure some of them every year, they remain a huge part of religious festivals and celebrations.
Much of my time was spent in East Java. I photographed a project on the sulphur miners of Ijen crater, visited Mount Bromo and explored the tiny island of Madura.
Miner Tohari loads his creaky bamboo baskets with broken chunks of sulphur. Generally the baskets are filled until the weight reaches 50kg - 100kg, depending on the strength of the individual.
As the miners make their journey back up from the bottom of caldera to the top of the crater-rim, the terrain becomes more difficult to navigate. Steep mountain paths, crumbling rocks and a steady traffic of other miners and tourists are a constant challenge. A step in the wrong direction can mean death.
Miners on a smoke break on their way down to the bottom of the caldera. To avoid the sometimes scorching heat, the men begin their work-day well before the sun rises. Each man tries to make at least two journeys down to the crater rim and back.
Miner Paing grimaces as wind blows poisonous sulphuric fumes his way. The fumes are linked to causing various respiratory diseases, yet virtually none of the miners protect themselves with anything more than a wet piece of cloth. Inhaling the sulphuric fumes leads one to feel like crying, vomiting and coughing uncontrollably, all at the same time.
A Javanese farmer poses with his buffalo after preparing land for planting rice. The man is from the same village as the sulphur miners, but his income is generally less than half of what men can earn by risking their lives and health in sulphur mining.
Horsemen making their way to the foot of Mount Bromo. The men arrive early each morning. They earn their living by taking tourists on horse-rides up to the crater rim.
A Javanese fisherman brings the catch from his boat ashore. The fish is generally sold within moments at an improvised market directly on the beach.
I traveled through the countryside. Gathered my own history from elders and photographed regular, working folk – once the heroes of the USSR superpower, now under-appreciated, underpaid and virtually forgotten.
Belarusian women walking along a rural road from one village to another.
- Where are you going? I ask.
- We’re taking the goat for… sex… to make little goats. Replies the woman with the goat.
A 93-year-old woman speaks to her 70+ year old nephew. The two live in Palesie, a unique region isolated from much of Belarus by swamplands. Palesie is famous around Belarus for the long life expectations of its elders.
Yosef Dorozhko is 84 years old. He spent most of his life in neighbouring Latvia, but, through various twists of fate Yosef could no longer afford to live there. He returned to his ancestral home in the countryside of Braslav, Belarus. The house has no running water or electricity.
Yosef lives alone and was glad to have me and my wife as company, those three tea cups on the table are prepared for us.
The Braslav region is home to over 300 lakes. Many of them are fished on an industrial level, with most of the fishing brigades under tight control of the government. The men’s salaries are incredibly low, even by local standards.
The fishermen work throughout the year. In winter they make holes in the ice and spread a large net under it. The temperatures drop to -30C, enough to freeze one’s moustache.
I traveled around Maramures, a region known for traditional villages as well as the openness and hospitality of its people.
Romanian-Hungarian farmer taking a break from tilling the fields before winter. In parts of rural Romania much labour was still performed manually when I visited.
Romanians love Tsuika, a national drink that can contain as much as 60% alcohol. This image is of one potential effect of Tsuika. The man is running around, flapping his arms like wings, while the dog watches.
Woman preparing pumpkins to feed her animals for the winter. The pumpkin seeds were set aside to share with her family.
A shepherd herding the village’s animals in the hills of Maramures. In a typical village everyone has their own animals. Because some of the elder villagers aren’t able to walk the necessary distances for their animals to graze, a shepherd is assigned and paid by the village to take care of the animals of whoever is unable to do it themselves.
Traditional houses and churches are still a common sight in the villages of Maramures. However, the humble, wooden homes are gradually being replaced by large, concrete constructions built on the money of the youth who left Romania to work in Western Europe.
I spent time with the fishing community on Maskelyne island. Explored Malekula’s culturally rich South West Bay and shot an improvised tourism campaign on the island of Rah.
View of Mota and Rah Lava from an aeroplane window. Vanuatu is an archipelago nation. Air travel is the fastest way to get around to some of the more remote islands. An airport is often nothing more than a grass field and flights are sometimes delayed because a villager’s grazing animals are blocking the landing strip.
Fishermen from Maskelyne islands rowing their canoe to a fishing spot where they’ll dive and spear fish for dinner. Maskelyne islands are highly dependent on the fish in the reefs around them for their livelihood.
Chief Ayar Rantes walking overlooking his land with his dogs. In Vanuatu what looks like wild bush to the untrained eye is often a garden where the villagers grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
A baker in the village in South West Bay, Malekula is getting firing up his oven to bake bread. The oven was made by an American Peace Corps volunteer over a decade before and has since been used to bake bread almost daily for the entire village.
David, a teenage boy from Rah Lava island climbs up a tree with a slingshot. Teenage boys spend some of their time hunting birds and flying foxes.
Young Dimitry struggling to row a canoe in a bay between Rah and Mota Lava islands.
With no electricity or video games, children playing in the waters of the lagoon at sunset is a regular sight on Rah and Mota Lava islands.
For a month I documented a small fishing village on the island of Panay. I went out to sea with the fishermen. They invited me into their homes and I we shared a mic for karaoke.
Fisherman passing a speared fish to store on the boat.
Spear-fisherman waiting for a fish to appear under a Fish Attracting Device - a raft with some palm branches under it. The fishermen can generally dive down to 10 meters depth and hold their breath for up to 2 minutes.
Fisherman puts on locally made diving goggles.The frames are made out of wood and the glass comes from used beer bottles.
Schools of baby tuna inside of a fishing net. Every year, for a few consecutive nights, schools of baby tuna are intensely fished on their migration through some of the bays of Panay.
To celebrate my 30th birthday and to escape an early midlife crisis, I took a motorcycle journey through the Indian Himalayas - starting with the Spiti Valley, riding up some of the world’s highest motor-able and ending in the low-lands of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dhankar monastery and fort in the morning. The Indian Himalayas are full of dramatic views, but this one is the favourite from my journey.
Men playing cards in a local restaurant in the village of Nako.
Boy from Uttar Pradesh riding a donkey in the Himalayan Spiti Valley. Children from poorer communities in the low-lands of India travel to the Himalayas to work as helpers for the well-to-do families. Their duties include cooking, cleaning and herding the animals. None of these children go to school.
Women returning home after a full moon ceremony performed in the mountains above their village.
Monks having tea between classes in the monastery kitchen in Zanskar.
Grandmother waits for her son to come home with grand-daughter by her side. Spiti Valley.
Road workers return to camp after a day of hard labour. The workers come from all over India and even Nepal. Their wages are low, the housing is barely adequate, yet their work results in connecting some of the most remote Himalayan villages to the rest of the world.
A family in the valleys of Zanskar bringing home their animals for the night.
Of all the places I’ve visited so far, only India is more rich in culture and tradition than Ethiopia. My 6 moths of motorcycling around the country allowed me to glimpse at this with my own eyes. I traveled through the predominantly Christian south, with it’s incredible rock churches, to the Muslim Afar region and the town of Harar in the West, to the Omo valley – home to some of the world's most ancient tribes.
Ethiopian Orthodox priest stands with a wooden cross in front of a rock church carved out in the cliff face (behind his right shoulder). Tigray.
In Tigray highlands a daughter brings fire wood to help her mother cook injera - Ethiopia’s national sour-tasting flatbread.
Pilgrims walking through a tunnel on their way to visiting one of the rock churches of Lalibela.
Sun sets on a pilgrim camp in Lalibela. Lalibela sees thousands of pilgrims during religious festivals and celebrations. One of the most important of these is Ethiopian Christmas held on January 7th.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christian man reading from a prayer book during morning mass. The mass generally lasts a few hours. The texts are written in the ancient Ge’ez language and only those who are trained in the language can read them.
(Left) Ethiopian priest writing a prayer book. The books are written on goat leather because it can last for centuries. The knowledge is passed from father to son, so young boys watch their fathers from an early age. (Right) A boy is being baptised inside of a church.
Children playing in the highlands of West Tigray at sunset.
The face of a salt-worker in Danakil depression – the hottest place on earth. The workers generally stay in the salt pans until midday, afterwards making their journey to the salt collection base in the town of Berhale.
The salt is gathered from the salt pans and later loaded on camels to be taken to a collection base in the village Berhale. Here a caravan of camels arrives to pick up salt which was collected in the morning.
Because water in the region is scarce, rains present an opportunity to do some things that the modern world takes for granted. I still remember how unusual it sounded when the mother of the elder boy said from inside the hut “Aike, it’s raining, wash your little brother."
(Left) Hamer mother with a baby. Mothers stay predominantly inside the hut for the first 40 days of the child’s life. The protruding decoration on the woman’s neck signifies that she is the first wife of her husband. Hamer men can have multiple wives. (Right) Portrait of Gonko one of the heads of his village.
A Hamer settlement at twilight. With no electricity for kilometres the only illumination after sun set are the stars and the cooking fires inside the huts.
I wanted to pass through Mauritania pretty quickly on my way down the West African coast. People in towns were not particularly open towards photography, so I assumed this to be the case everywhere. Things changed when I met a young man by the name of Alioune on a street in Atar.
Alioune became my translator and showed me a different side of Mauritania. While the Sahara desert that makes up most of the country is rough and inhospitable, the people of the desert are some of the most welcoming in the world.
Nomad giving water from a well for his camels. The nomads of Mauritania pick and choose what to take from the modern world. Their culture has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, but they have adopted some of the technologies. Some nomads, including this one now carry a diesel powered pump to help them get the water from the well faster.
A father and son walking through a small desert storm. I met the two when they were on their way to taking water home on the backs of donkeys. It turned out the donkeys weren’t theirs. When they found out I could give them a lift, they quickly unloaded the donkeys and loaded up my Landrover.
A girl stands outside of her desert village settlement near the town of Oudane.
Children reciting the Qu’aran in a local Mahadara (the name for a religious school in Mauritania). It was +40C, but the children’s enthusiasm was high.
The past and the present. A traditional man on a camel – the only vehicle the Sahara has seen for centuries and a Toyota pickup speeding past and spewing black smoke.
Start of a camel race at a desert festival. Over 200 participants entered.
Summers in Belarus
On my next visit to Belarus, I started to photograph that world which was immediately around me – relatives, friends, friends of friends, the lake where I swim and fish in the summer, the little things that I didn’t notice nor didn’t deem worthy of photography before.
Lisa – my friend’s daughter walks through a rye field in a traditional Belarusian dress and a crown of flowers.
My nephew Max running around in a field in Braslav on summer day with storm clouds gathering.
Summers in Belarus see a lot of rain. Here my nephew Fedor presses his nose against a car window after going shopping with his family.
Belarusian artist Anatoli Skamaroshenko having a heart-to-heart conversation with his daughter Mariana in the family’s dacha (holiday home).
My friend Yuri talking about life with another friend in front of his countryside home outside of Braslav.
Fish dying inside a fishing net. While net fishing by individuals is officially illegal in the lakes of Belarus, it’s a tradition that goes back centuries and is impossible to stop among the locals. If you snorkel around many of the lakes you will see nets under water.
Yuri going for an evening dip at sunset in a small lake in the Hrodno region.
Over the last few years I’ve traveled by car around Spain, Portugal and Italy – countries that share Latin roots and th fervour with which they celebrate festivals and keep their traditions alive.
Chatholic procession in Sicily. Each town in Sicily has their patron saints and when the day of the saint comes, hundreds of locals fill the streets to celebrate and to show their religious fervour.
Men vs. bull at a Capeia in the North of Portugal. Capeias are an old Portuguese tradition. They involve a group of men using a forçao (a fork-like wooden construction) to taunt and to enrage the bull. The forçao is later put aside and the men continue to tease and taunt the bull individually.
The tradition used to play an important role in match-making. The women could see who the toughest and bravest men in their village were. It seems that the Capeias still play this role, though to a lesser extent.
Woman sunbathing on a beach in front of a factory. Industrialisation and dense construction are common along stretches of Spain’s east coat.
Summers can get very hot in Madrid. Various restaurants use intermittent vapour sprays to cool down their customers during the hottest parts of the day.
The aqueduct of Segovia at sunset.
Aerial view of a rock formation Bardenas Reales – a semi desert region in the North of Spain. The soils are made up of clay, chalk and sandstone and have been eroded by water and wind to a point where some look like they’ve been carved out intentionally.
Participant of Correfoc, literally translated as - Fire run. Correfoc is a festival in Catalunia, Spain. During Correfoc, fireworks are shot out of pitchforks, carried by the participants who are dressed as devils. Before the fireworks start exploding, they make a fountain of sparks that come out of the pitchforks. People bathe in these, dance around them and then, duck or run for cover, once the fireworks go off.
The holy city on the river
Anyone who loves photographing people has either been or wants to go to Varanasi. The imagery from this photographic paradise is familiar to everyone. I wanted to get Varanasi out of my system and to see if I could come up with my own distinct view of this frequently photographed location.
A foreign visitor meditates on the banks of the Ganges while a local pilgrim feeds seagulls who pass through Varanasi at the beginning of winter.
Boatman in the middle of the river with seagulls flying behind him.
Low-caste labourer getting loaded up with wood at the burning ghat – a place where hundreds of bodies are cremated each day. In Hinduism it is believed that being cremated in Varanasi transports the soul directly to heaven, escaping the cycle of re-incarnation.
The rhythms of Varanasi – wind moving a drying sari, birds flying and a boat slowly moving up the Ganges.
Ganga Aarti has become a famous spectacle for anyone who visits Varanasi. While crowds gather around the two big stages, in a quiet corner, less than 100m meters away a young boy emulates the elder performers movements in the hopes that he too can one day be on the big stage.