In these days following the earthquake in Nepal I have been remembering my visit there in late 2001. With so many people killed in the devastation of a natural event I wonder what has happened to the people I photographed almost 14 years ago. This particular photo was taken at a Hindu temple in Durbar Square. I believe it was destroyed in the earthquake and, looking at this photo, I wonder if it was empty at the time or if there were people inside.
Having a personal connection with a place brings a greater sense of reality when a disaster strikes and suddenly it is easier to be aware of the real people affected by tragedy; those who have lost their lives, those who have lost loved ones and their homes, their places of work, their capacity to earn a living and the stress placed on their hope for the future.
Amid the tragedy, it’s been good to know that all my BMS World Mission colleagues living and working in Nepal are safe and well. I know that they are now busy doing what they can for those in need. I’m pleased that BMS is running an appeal for help and that once the relief effort, the cameras, microphones and reporters have left, my colleagues will still be there working with people to rebuild their lives and their hope.
This photograph was originally shot on Fuji Pro 800 colour film, transferred to digital jpeg format and processed to monochrome in Adobe Lightroom.
It was a very hot humid day on the Indonesian island of Nias, which sits just off the western coast of Sumatra. This was in the latter weeks of 2005 after the island had suffered from an earthquake on March 8 and the earlier tsunami of 26 December 2004.
I was there as part of a BMS World Mission filming team and as we were filming I spotted this couple watching us from the window of their home across the road. I was struck by their white faces, covered in a rice paste for sun protection.
This just seemed to present such a peaceful contrast to the seismic upheavals the island had endured so recently. Here was a couple of people who seemed completely relaxed and at peace in their circumstances, happy to simply sit in the shade of their home watching the world go by. Or, more specifically, watch some white westerners filming in the heat of the day. I wonder what their impression was of us.
This makes it into my travel retrospective as an expression of the simple things in life and how we can learn so much about value from those who have so little in material terms. I often think that we easily become prisoners of our material prosperity; the more we have, the more energy we must expend in maintaining and protecting it. How easy it is to forget about the joy of simply being.
This photo was shot at 1/600 sec at f4.5 on a focal length of 105mm.
I recently gave a short talk illustrating different ways in which photography is communication and used this image as an example of paying attention. By that I mean that there’s an aspect of communication involving the photographer through paying attention to the subject. For me this happens at least three times. First of all in the original taking of the photograph, considering the framing, composition, lighting and exposure; secondly in the editing process, and again in any viewing of the photograph.
This photograph was taken in Afghanistan in 2003, soon after NATO had taken over security in the country following years of conflict and Taliban rule. The taking of this photograph happened very quickly as it was one of those quickly spotted opportunities. In paying attention to the subject I was struck by the thoughtful reflective pose of this older man as he sat among some friends. I particularly noticed how the light was falling across the upper part of his head, coming from slightly behind and that his eyes were looking down, essentially away from the light. Given this man’s apparent age and the recent history of the country, I wondered what his eyes had seen and what his thoughts might be. I found it easy to imagine that he was thinking about things he’d seen, things that had been visible to him because the light fell on them. He looked to me like he carried the burden of his thoughts and I wondered if this meant he was a little discomforted by the light.
Originally shot on colour film this image was transferred to a digital format allowing me to work on it in Lightroom where I decided to convert it to monochrome in order to make the feelings it evokes rather more stark. I needed to pay attention to the subject again in the editing process in order to reconnect with my thoughts on taking the photograph and to get the tones and balance right in the mono conversion.
It’s a personal favourite, and was an easy choice to include in my retrospective.
This photograph was taken in Afghanistan in December 2003. On the last day of filming, my BMS World Mission colleagues and I were in a village high above Kabul when I came across this young girl holding a small child. I have no way of knowing, but I assume there is a family relationship here and that perhaps the girl is a sister or aunt to the child. It struck me as an example of the natural caring that continues between people in even harsh and challenging circumstances.
I think the contrast of light and shade illustrate the juxtaposition of conflict and caring. For that reason it’s in my travel retrospective.
The photograph was taken on Fuji 800 Pro film stock. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of the exposure details but in processing, as well as having negs and prints, the photos were all converted to digital format as JPEG images. The original image was in colour and the reprocessing to monochrome was done exclusively in Lightroom 5, with minor adjustments to tone and contrast.
I was going through my library recently and decided it would be interesting to do a retrospective of some of my favourite photographs. Inspired by Don McCullin’s book, simply titled “Don McCullin”, I decided that all the photographs for the retrospective would be converted to monochrome. To keep a sense of scale and focus, I decided to limit the retrospective to my travel photographs.
Here, then, is my first offering in my Travel retrospective series.
I visited Afghanistan in December 2003 with colleagues from BMS World Mission as we did some filming there. NATO had taken over security earlier that year after Taliban control of the country effectively ended in 2001 under US retaliation for the twin towers attack. At that time it was a very beleaguered country. There was a lot of war damage visible in Kabul. Many buildings were bombed-out shells and walls were riddled with bullet holes. There were no street lights.
Flying kites has been popular in Afghanistan for a long time and ranges from being a common hobby to sport and even an art form. The Taliban outlawed kite flying during their time in control and it only resumed after the collapse of their regime.
This photograph was taken in a mountain village where we were filming and was one of those opportune, unplanned moments. I spotted this young boy flying his kite and it struck me as a symbol of new found freedom. The interesting thing is that this was about freedom to return to a traditional pastime. In many ways it symbolises for me the way in which repressive regimes are not merely anti-western, though there are those that present that face. Rather those regimes are about controlling the population for their own ends rather than the for the good of the people and here was an expression of freedom to resume a national tradition.
Being high in the mountains and having the perspective of looking up at this young kite flyer, I had a real sense of the freedom of flight. He’ll be eleven years older but I hope this young man, as he will be now, is still flying kites.
The photograph was taken on Fuji 800 Pro film stock. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of the exposure details but in processing, as well as having negs and prints, the photos were all converted to digital format as JPEG images. The original image was in colour and the reprocessing to monochrome was done exclusively in Lightroom 5, with minor adjustments to tone and contrast. I also cropped the original to improve the overall composition.
Is it possible to have a favourite photograph? This is a question I have been pondering as I work on my personal photo book for 2014; a collection of images that hold personal memories from the year.
As is the case with my taste in music, the concept of “favourite” has a temporary nature and often depends on the mood of the moment. Choosing a favourite image from 2014 became a challenge and as I browsed through the year’s catalogue of photos I began to find it a very difficult one. There were simply too many options from family, to creative images, to places visited. I finally gave up on the idea of a favourite and settled on choosing an image that spoke to me in a meaningful way. And this is the one I chose.
I like its simplicity and the way it captures a range of colour from the warm tones of the sand to the cool blues and whites of the sea and sky. Many of my landscape images have a clear uninterrupted horizon and I think this is a reflection of the fact that my preference is for open spaces where I can simply “be” and feel a connection with creation which I find is blocked out by the busyness of modern life.
For me, however, the most striking feature of this photo are the footprints on the sand which emerge from the sea. In one moment, they evoke a sense of arrival, presence and passing. They are a reminder that we leave traces of ourselves as we journey through life and that we ought to aim to leave positive traces wherever possible. These footprints in the sand also remind me of Genesis 3: 8, 9 where it tells of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. I know a beach is not exactly a garden, but equally the garden of Eden is a concept rather than some classically formal 17th century horticultural setting. Adam and Eve heard God walking in the cool of the day and decided to hide as they had disobeyed him. So, for me, this image carries a sense of comfort; the footprints representing God’s unseen presence with us. It also, however, serves as a reminder that we cannot hide from truth as we leave echoes of ourselves wherever we go and that’s not a bad thought for Christmas.
The photograph was taken on the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland and was shot at 1/320 sec at f18 on a focal length of 29mm.
British troops finally left Afghanistan in late October 2014 ending a 13-year campaign in the country as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). I was prompted by this to reflect on my own visit to Afghanistan in December 2003 as part of a BMS World Mission filming team. This was only two years in to the presence of British forces and, based in Kabul, we were daily reminded of the devastation that country had faced through many years of bitter conflict and occupation.
Many words have been written about Afghanistan but this particular photograph sums up much of what I remember of my time there. As many writers, politicians and military commentators have focused in more recent years on the activities of Al-Qaeda and the terrorist threat to the west, it’s easy to forget that Afghanistan is populated by ordinary people trying their best to live a peaceful life.
My abiding memory of the people we met is that they were warm, friendly and very hospitable. What makes this one of my favourite photos from Afghanistan is that you can’t really tell it was taken there and that, in a way, expresses a sense of ordinariness. Here is a young girl holding a small child, probably a brother or sister. I can only imagine what she may have seen or experienced in her young life but her eyes hold hope and there’s a hint of a smile not very far away.
It reminds me that in conflict situations there are always ordinary people who are caught up in it, innocent victims of the violence of others. Ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives, just like us.
Today, 11 November, is Remembrance Day when millions of people stop what they are doing and observe a two minute silence at 11am in memory of those who have been affected in all conflicts. Traditionally the focus is on the men and women of the armed forces who lost their lives in the defence of freedom. I’d like to also remember the ordinary people who, through many conflicts, have also lost their lives and been otherwise affected.