A post from my motherland - Belarus. It's personal and it focuses on my family and friends in the country of my birth.
I also had a mini computer tragedy. The files from Mac OS X somehow got screwed up and I was unable to load up the system as soon as I arrived in Vanuatu. Luckily I also installed a copy of Windows 7 through bootcamp meaning that I can still use the computer to an extent, albeit very minimally. So much for Mac's famous reliability - big disappointment there. Stupidly I forgot the system recovery disks and I don't have much software to work with on the Windows system. Nevertheless, here are some images that have been processed relatively little, you might still see different versions of them sometime down the road. The images are a quick overview of some of the things I've come across so far on this adventure.
The image at the top is of a young chief climbing a tree to look for fruit bats and birds (which the local people hunt). People don’t usually wear this sort of stuff any more (apart from ceremonies and festivals), but this is what they used to wear not all that long ago. I got involved in helping some local people make some promotional shots of their area for tourism, so the man dressed for the occasion as did the other people in traditional outfits.
This was the scene right outside of our bungalow on Maskeyne island off the larger island of Malekula. Pretty lovely place, we stayed for a week and a half and I got to experiment a little with some underwater photography.
Fishing at Maskelyne island. The man is hitting the water to scare the fish so that the swim towards the net and get tangled in it. It was pretty wet in the boat (lots of splashing), so I was real glad to have my Aquatech housing, more on which in future posts.
Spear fishing by the reef, still in Maskelyne. Just one image under water for now, more to come.
Maskelyne is not all underwater stuff. I came across this boy on the way to the village in which our bungalow owners lived.
Abobe is a “Nakamal” a kind of a local bar, except the people don’t drink alcohol, but Kava – a very foul tasking drink made from a root. I will say again it tastes pretty awful, but the effect is great and Nakamals are great places to meet the locals and do some bonding.
Continuation form the series which the first photo belongs to. These guys were amazing tree climbers. I did manage to get up on a branch a little above the ground in order to get this shot.
Same young chiefs photographed one they got off the tree. The trees I should mention are some of the most photogenic I’ve ever come across.
I love shooting stuff by the fire and this is probably one of my favourite images of the sort so far. Here Jenny, the daughter of a man I befriended in one of our bungalows is preparing our dinner. Amenities in many parts of Malekula are pretty basic, here Tyreesa the young sister is providing some extra light.
I really loved shooting inside the thatched huts that make up the main part of architecture in most villages around Vanuatu. Children are everywhere in Vanuatu and they are some of the nicest and cutest kids one is likely to encounter. As much as I love India, the children there can be absolute monsters, that’s never been the case in Vanuatu. In this image Victor, Jenny’s sun is the baby and in the back it’s his grandma and a neighbour girl doing some mat weaving.
Chied Ayar Randes. This man is one of the favourite characters I’ve come across so far on all of my journeys. Besides being a chief he’s also a church elder, which is actually pretty contradictory, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Despite wearing not much more than a banana leaf around his private parts he reminded me a bit of my grandfather – full of interesting stories, strong beliefs and basically he’s someone who might come across as a simple village man, but in fact is a very smart fellow who sees the bigger picture better than most of the people around him. I’ll definitely post a little story with some photos of him in the coming days.
Chied Ayar’s hands planting a yam. It’s one of the main parts of the local diet all around Vanuatu and as far as I know a lot of the Pacific too. I have to say, I am really not a big fan of the stuff and though I have tried yam in some really tasty dishes, if I never see it again in my life I’ll be just fine.
Youngsters fishing in a lagoon in the remote South West Bay, Malekula.
More net fishing in the same place, there’s actually quite a bit of fish there and I love fish, thus the lagoon was a place I liked too.
Another photo taken for the tourism campaign. I saw this boy wearing the outfit a few days earlier during a festival. The festival is another story, but it was not a place where I could get the kind of shot of him that I wanted (I’d have to compete with some pretty intense and sometimes rude tourists who mostly traveled to the festival on their yachts).
Same boy in the background and a son of a chief at the front. The thing he’s wearing is a curved pig tooth which forms when the pig’s bottom or top teeth (don’t remember which) are pulled out. For a tooth like that to form it takes a few years and a pig with this prized possession is worth a substantial amount of money, as it’s the kind of pig that’s used in grade-taking ceremonies, where young men become chiefs and older men move higher in rank after they perform traditional dances, kill pigs and share food with local villagers. The leaves above the boys heads are local umbrellas, for real. It started to rain during the shoot and once some adults brought them these leaves I thought it was a great opportunity.
A local baker in Wintua, South West Bay, Malekula lighting a fire. I shot a whole bunch of photos in his bakery. As I mentioned, I loved shooting in the interiors and the bakery was pretty awesome with some nice backlight and sidelight. I also shot some video there and I hope I’ll have enough time to share some of it when I get back.
Ok, so that’s about all for the quick overview. There are of course many more images and I’ll try to post some mini stories with some of those photos while I am near the internet. Next Wednesday I should be going somewhere pretty remote again, so hopefully I’ll have the time. In any case I just wanted to share something quick in case I don’t get the chance in the near future.
This is the first post since my 29th birthday, which I had about a week ago. If you’ve been following this blog for over a year, you would have perhaps read that I am really not so crazy about birthdays. Twenty-nine... things are getting really serious now, I’m kinda grown up. :) It feels like I was at university just yesterday and at high-school last week. While I am very glad that I am not in high-school now (though I still get the nightmares, like a lot of you probably do) it is very, what’s the word - strange, surreal to be on the verge of turning thirty.
It seems like my birthdays over the past few years have been days for some sort of self assessing. I try to reflect on what I’ve done with my life and ponder where I’m heading next. It’s always been a little depressing to self-assess myself. I’ve always felt like I hadn’t done enough, like I hadn’t seen all the places I wanted to see and well... just insert whatever unfulfilled goals you have and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I do fully realize that my life is pretty awesome in many ways and many people dream of traveling the world and taking photos. I’m not complaining by any means, it’s just that I always seem to be behind on my plans and on top of that in the past it’s always been a struggle to get the finances together for the next trip, there was that feeling of uncertainty and the question of “how long can I keep doing this?” was never too far away.
For the first birthday in my life however, this isn’t a very pressing question. It seems that all the hard work I’ve put into my photography, eBooks, agency contracts as well as establishing contacts with magazine editors is finally paying off. For the first time in my life my finances are not much of an issue, at least not enough to have me worried about the ability to do what I love most. I have to say “This feeling is great, no doubt about it!”
It feels like there’s a world of new, possibilities ahead of me now as far as travel and photography are concerned. I am writing this post because, well because I’m pretty excited, but also because there’s a lesson to be learned, not that most of us don’t know what that lesson is - hard work and perseverance pay off. Maybe not right away, but eventually they do.
I’ve been getting more emails and even occasional calls from young aspiring travel photographers than ever before asking me for advice relating to being a travel photographer for a living and while I still don’t feel like I’m the appropriate person to ask anything about this matter, I can at least say some positive, encouraging words to them - “It can be done” even by someone like me, who for most part just kinda floated around not knowing what the next week will bring. Sure there’s the crisis and it’s always been “impossible” to make money through photography, particularly through travel pictures, but if you have the skills, a degree of talent, a lot of perseverance and if you ignore all the nay-sayers, then you can do a lot of what others say is “hard” or even “impossible”. If you ask me, there’s never been a better time to be a creative person. With the internet anyone is their own publisher, director, broadcaster or basically whatever they want to be. If you have a quality product - i.e. a solid body of work, you can make things happen. Actually let me repeat that, you need a solid body of work.
A lot of people try to jump the gun and want to make a career out of a few dozens half-decent travel snaps and become disappointed when things don’t go their way. That’s simply not how it works, forget it. So my advice to all of you who want to be “Travel photographers” is simple, in fact it should be pretty obvious and I’ve been saying it all along, but I guess with all the tweeting, blogging and whatever else that people who want to be photographers do, they forget that you need to actually be good at photography, to have something to show in order to sell yourself.
I had a reality check in regards to this back in 2005 when I submitted a bunch of photos to Lonely Planet, hoping to be represented by their image library. Their editors probably laughed (or cursed at me for wasting their time), but emailed me a polite response saying that while I had some strong work there was not enough of it to warrant a contract. The email might as well have said something like - “You’ve sent us ten decent images and four hundred and ninety shitty ones, (they needed a submission of 500) thanks for wasting our time, don’t submit again until you take this seriously.”
I learned my lesson and hung onto the little positive bit of the email. I figured that the editor had no reason to lie to me and thought that if someone in a quality organization like LP thought that I had at least some strong work, then I have to build on that and I so I went out shooting stuff pretty intensely for a couple of years, using money that I earned working crappy jobs.
Ok, that’s enough of that. On a completely different note, I’ll be on the road again in a couple of weeks. My next destination - Vanuatu. I knew nothing about this country until very recently, but the more I’ve researched on it the more intrigued I’ve become. It’s actually quite easy to become intrigued with a nation which is made up of 83 islands, some of which are home to very traditional tribal groups and there’s only information out there on about two or three of them (the islands). The only way to find out more is to go, so that’s what I’m doing. It helps that Vanuatu is only about a four hour flight from Sydney, so you could say that I’ll be exploring what’s out there in my own backyard, ok, perhaps in the neighbor's backyard. You get the point. :)
I’ll try to squeeze in a post before I go, but that’s all for now. Oh, and the seemingly unrelated image at the top of the post is a screen grab of the front page of the Corbis Images website. They featured (it’s gone now) one of my wrestler images there, which I thought was a pretty awesome welcome, as I fairly recently signed a contract with them. I probably mentioned before, I am now represented by two of the world’s favorite/hated (depends which way one looks at it) photo agencies - Getty and Corbis Images.
Yesterday we left Junagadh. I don’t want to get all sentimental here, but I will say that the kindness of the people who came across our way – new friends and old, is the reason why it is impossible not to fall in love with this region and India in general. I think Hardik’s parents and friend Sandeep may begin having nightmares about sewing machines and luggage carriers after accommodating all our needs, while Tanya was making the carriers for 24 hours without a stop. Our old friend Upendra Bhai who works with metal made the metal part of the carrier that goes on the back of the bike. He didn’t mind that we came to his place at 9pm and that he would have to work into the night. This was the third time that we asked Upendra Bhai to help us. Every time we appear unexpectedly and every time he agrees to help. He refused to accept any payment for his job; he said that he was happy to help and see us again and that was enough.But of course nothing in India is straightforward and simple, at least not for me. Five kilometers into our journey towards Ahmedabad, which is about 350km away we realized that the design of our metal carrier was miscalculated. It bent and we had to reposition the bags in hopes that we could still make it all the way. Fortunately we did. Now we’re in Ahmedabad – the commercial center of Gujarat – a city which is polluted, noisy and well, not one of my favorites. Ideally I do not want to spend more than a couple of days here, I have wasted enough time. In reality I know that nothing is certain and all I can do is hope for the best.
I’ve been contemplating this for a while and at last I have entered the world of bloggers. The final push was my journey around Indonesia. I regretted not being able to share the amazing experiences and the many lessons in photography, travel and life that one encounters on the road.
I want this blog to serve a few purposes. Obviously it is a ‘place’ for friends and family around the world to see what I’m up to, but I hope that it can also be a somewhat valuable resource for fellow wanderers, photographers or even armchair travelers.
Some of the questions regarding the technical/practical side of photography will also be answered here. I am often asked something along these lines – What lens did you use? How was this lit? How did you get access? Periodically I will post an image and provide an insight into what was involved in making it.
Feel free to comment, interact and ask more questions. I will do my best to respond any time I am near a connection.