There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. If you do decide to travel to Mauritania, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Mauritania, you should avoid unnecessary local travel.
A month in Morocco and I feel that I am only scratching the surface, but finally starting to understand how some things work here. After being greeted by pleasantly easy going places free of hassle and annoying characters in the early goings, we eventually made it to the "other" part of the country.
It seems that with time I am getting worse at this blogging thing. Life has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride over the past few months, so, that's my excuse. Anyhow, no time to dwell on the past. Moving on...
In today’s world of technology and modernization it doesn’t make sense that there’s a place which lives virtually oblivious to that world. A place where ancient customs are still upheld strictly and where people walk around half-naked, with the little clothes that they wear being mostly those, which they designed hundreds of years ago. A place like that does exist and it’s called the Omo Valley. I had the opportunity to visit the area and to have a glimpse into the lives of the Hamer people by spending a few days in their village.
When you drink four chocolate milkshakes at a Western cafe, when you would rather chat to other travelers than take photos, when you arrive at a camel market, but don’t care about shooting anything and just want to catch up on sleep—that’s when you know you’re getting tired, getting close to burning out.
Dramatic landscapes, kind, warm people and photographic inspiration at every corner - this was my romanticized vision of Ethiopia. Perhaps this vision was what made me all the more disappointed and emotionally deflated, when for over a month I came across more rudeness, dishonesty and overall strange treatment than anywhere else I had traveled. It took time and a lot of luck to meet the right people, to finally find the Ethiopia I dreamt of, but I have found it and, it is A-m-a-z-i-ng! I'll give you a bit of a background story to put things in perspective and then, to the photos.
The climb takes around forty-five minutes and it is literally a climb using your hands and feet for the last part of the journey. Holes in the vertical rock surface are what you use to keep yourself from falling off and to get to the top. As The "Lonely Planet" guidebook says, if you're scared of heights, "Don't look down!" Having a panic attack or"freezing" here would not be a good idea.
Heat, huge crowds, continuous pushing and shoving, religious chants accompanied by war cries and the never ending tooting noise produced by vuvuzela-like instruments (those annoying things you heard at matches during the last world cup). This is Timkat (celebration of the Ephiphany) in Gondar. If you don't like any of the mentioned, this isn't the place for you. I didn't know any better, so I went.
My dream has finally come true. I’m in Africa! Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to be exact. Well, ok, the Addis Ababa part of it is far from a dream. To me the city seems like one big tragedy of humanity - a strange fuse of colonial and socialist architecture as well as tin-shacks that make up most of the small shops and all the slum dwellings. The city is overwhelming in many different ways - beggars, street hustlers, noise, pollution - a little of everything. Nevertheless, this is Africa! I have wanted to come here since I was a child and now I’m here at last.
Over one month, no blog posts. I have a good reason... kind of. I’ve been moving around Spain and Portugal. Living life, experiencing things and well, resting. I think without realizing it, I was on the verge of burning out after my Himalayan adventure.
The villages of Spiti Valley are ridiculously picturesque. The landscapes, the people’s faces, in some cases, their costumes and in others, the combination of everything, I often feel like I am in a fairytale. It’s hard to believe that such places still exist, but I sure am glad that they do. Dhankar was one of the more fairytale-like villages that we visited and here are some images from there.
As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook already know, my new eBook is out. It’s called “Captivating Color - A guide to dramatic color photography”. You can get all the details about it at Digital Photography School. For the first week, we’re also giving away my eBook on light “Seeing the Light” for free, so if you’re interested in either one of the eBooks, now’s a good time to get ‘em.
I was riding back (on a rented motorcycle) to the city of Dumaguette from my little paradise on the beach and noticed a large building with a sign “Dumaguette Cockpit”. From the inside of the building I could hear a rowdy crowd, I came up to the entrance to make sure that this was indeed what I thought it was. I was assured by the ticket-selling lady that this was the place where cockfights took place and that the fights would continue from morning till midnight everyday for the next few days.
The other day we went to a livestock market in the village of Malatapai. I heard that this market is the second biggest of its kind in all of the Philippines, naturally this made me very curious. What can I say about it? It was...something, really something.
Those who know me even a little, know how frustrating and irritating I find Christmas to be. Not only Christmas, but the whole period that leads up to it. I’ve blogged before that my work as a Santa Claus photographer (seeing the ugly side of Christmas) back in my university days might have had something to do with it, as did undoubtedly the fact that I spent my childhood days in communist USSR, where Christmas was purely a religious thing and religion was frowned upon.
I’ve left the cool Cordillera mountains for the warmth of the plains and a rather amazing city (more like town) by the name of Vigan. Vigan is supposed to have the highest amount of preserved colonial buildings anywhere in the Philippines and I have to say that these old Spanish/Mexican/Chinese/Filipino “relics” make the town very atmospheric indeed...
Things have been a little unusual from the first day since I arrived in Manila. I didn’t know what to expect from this city, but I certainly didn’t imagine that it would be so incredibly, almost futuristically developed...
Changes on the way! I've redesigned the website as well as the blog. It's not a major overhaul, but it is something that I feel reflects me and what I do a little better and in a slightly more 'modern' way.
I’ve been back in Sydney for some time now. With all the trips back and forth over the years, it is no longer strange to be jump between these worlds, which are so different from each other.
I keep thinking of Vanuatu. In particular I’ve been thinking of the big question of development there, the tourism development or whatever development for that matter. As I had mentioned in past posts I photographed some people and places in order to help promote a couple of the lesser known regions to tourists, in a sense to develop tourism there.
Before I left Vanuatu I managed to get a photo story into Air Vanuatu’s inflight magazine “Island Spirit”. Besides being on the airplanes the publication can be found at every single hotel and guesthouse around the bigger towns of the country. That will be a good little push for George and South West Bay, hopefully. But I keep thinking about where the potential development, where all that interaction with tourists and all the building of new guesthouses, new facilities will lead. Will it really be positive, as I perhaps naively hope? To be totally honest, the country for most part is perfect, or rather it would be perfect, if there weren’t these conflicting views that the modern, developed, “white-man” world is bringing.
Prior to leaving the island of Santo I met an interesting young anthropologist. He had a very cynical view of where things might head. History, he said showed that development had never been good for societies similar to that of Vanuatu. Urban drift, alcohol consumption, increased crime rates - these were all byproducts of the so called modernization. I could only imagine in horror how the wonderful places I’d been to might be affected if things don’t go quite as planned.
In some ways I agree with the anthropologist, but another part of me feels that at times the thinking and reasoning of academics is quite unrealistic. He suggested that it would be better to keep things as they are, the locals don’t need all this crap that we have, they’ve been living for hundreds of years without it. Agreed. But then I had been in Vanuatu long enough and had spoken to enough locals who lived in between these two worlds - the modern and the ancient and they were desperate to see more of our world, to do those things that the “white-men” get to do. Young, a good friend I made on the very remote Rah Island had worked in Port Vila - the capital of Vanuatu for a few years, he acquired a taste for TV and he desperately wanted to see different parts of the world. When I told him that what they have is special, that they don’t need to seek happiness elsewhere or to change things at home, he replied “Yes, but I want to see why it’s so special here. I want to see other countries and to be able to decide for myself.” Fair enough, I think.
He also said something that was very simple and ultimately really insightful. “The white people used to come here and say - you must all change, become modern, wear clothes, stop your rituals, worship Jesus. Now they come and say - go back to the ways of the past, become more traditional, we want to see more of your culture. What are we to do? We are very confused now! What is it exactly that you want from us?” What Young said reflects the way many young Ni Vanutu people from the islands must feel. He’s confused and somewhat frustrated, and; who’s to say that development will answer his questions? Who’s to say that Port Villa isn’t going to become the next Port Moresby (considered by many one of the least livable cities in the world)? If Port Vila is indeed heading that way, tourism will be a pretty small concern in comparison the multitude of serious problems that will arise.
And so I keep asking myself. On the one hand; what is the point of development in a place like Vanuatu? On the other hand; what is the point of preserving things, if all the young locals want to do is watch “Rambo” and “Lost”? Can they really be blamed? Are they lesser people than us that we should decide what’s good for them and what’s not? And then ultimately I ask myself; what is the point of doing what I started? Meaning helping the locals attract more tourists to their areas and in effect “develop” them.
I guess I find comfort in one story that was told to me by an American NGO worker who I met along my journey. He had the same dilemma as me at the beginning of what has now been a four year commitment to developing medical centers around the country. He once asked a more experienced NGO worker: “What is the point of what we’re doing? These people survived for so long without us. Are we just f--cking up their world, by pushing them forward and changing their ideology with what we are doing?” To this he got the following reply. “Development is inevitable, you aren’t going to be able to stop things or go back to the stone age, but things can move forward in different ways. Development can put everything on its head and basically destroy an entire society or it can be brought on more gently, more gradually and that will lead to a much smoother transition and a less disastrous result. You’re one of the people who’s trying to achieve the latter and that is a good thing.”
I hope that my involvement would put me in the latter category too. I should also mention that in Vanuatu development has so far only been “passed down” to the locals from the foreigners that have invested in the country (or before colonized it). The foreigners are in power, while the locals are mostly picking up the crumbs of the benefits of this “development” and they are often having to do this away from home, because development is centered only around the capital and the island of Espiritu Santo.
Tourism outside of the main islands, would actually put a lot of people in an entirely different position. They would not have to go outside to earn their money, they would become business owners (some already are), they would be empowered to make their decisions and whether that would be to go back to the ways of the past or to watch DVDs well, that’s a decision which I believe they deserve to make.
Well, that’s about it for this post. I needed to get those thoughts out of the system. I invite anyone who has read this post in full to share their opinions; whether cynical or not I am very interested to read what other people are thinking. What have some of you learned from your journeys or perhaps from living in countries which have seen rapid development recently?
You might not hear all that much from me in the coming weeks (though I’ll try). I’ve been busy archiving my collection with the aim of putting up on Photoshelter. I’ll also be slightly redesigning the website and the blog. Good changes are on their way. Stay tuned.
Hello good people of the Cyberworld! I have a new eBook out! As you probably gathered from the image above, it’s called “Journey through Java”. This one is a collaboration with David duChemin’s “Craft and Vision” team and it is a part of their very popular “Print and Process” series. Basically, it’s my photos and words, their structure and design.
Those of you who have been following my blog for some time are aware that I have known this duChemin fellow for a while. I think quite highly of the man, so when David approached me about doing one or possibly even a few eBooks for the “Print and Process” series, I said - “Sure thing mate!”
What really excites me about this eBook is the fact that the structure of it allowed me to focus on a specific stretch of time during my photographic journeys and as a result I was able to delve deeper into my photographic process than ever before. The eBook is fairly personal, but at the same time, the knowledge one should come away with is applicable on a very wide scale.
There’s talk about the equipment used, the technical aspects (every image has the Exif data provided) as well as composition and light. These things are all discussed in a very practical sense, as they relate to the images included in the eBook. There is a somewhat philosophical side to what I’ve written too. In this eBook I really wanted to touch on what makes a photograph more than a snapshot or an overused cliché and so I’ve devoted a whole section to the discussion of what it means to create shots that are deep, original and express what the photographer feels to the fullest.
Who is this eBook for? It is for anyone who enjoys my photography and wants to know how I go about creating my work. I do however feel that the eBook will be particularly useful for the serious amateurs who want their photos to be more than “pretty pictures” as well as those thinking of doing travel and documentary photography for a living.
The really good part for all of you strapped for cash is - it’s only $5! And if you use the promotional code JAVA4 as you check out from Paypal, you’ll get it for $4 (offer expires 11:59pm PST October 3, 2010).
To purchaseor for more info, head over to the “Craft and Vision” site HERE or click the cover shot at the top. As always, your support is really appreciated!
I’m still in Port Villa as I write this, but heading home soon. More photos and hopefully some videos to come soon.