In the summer of 2012, I did a project on the fascinating floating villages of Cambodia. Early one morning, on the road to Kompong Khleang, near famous Siem Reap, we passed a small village and me, my wife and our rickshaw driver paused to have some noodle soup. After our breakfast, we were invited into the small wooden house of a local family - consisting of at least three generations - for a Coca Cola. It’s where I shot this candid family portrait.
A young, tattood Cambodian man and his daughter. It’s his firstborn child. He and his wife are planning to have many, many more. Over forty percent of the Cambodian population is under the age of sixteen.
Way back in the year 2005, I wasn’t a photographer. I didn’t even know I wanted to be one. I was just a traveller. An adventurer. Someone who wanted to see and experience the world, not capture it. Just looking at it and feeling it was enough. In those days, I carried two or three Kodak plastic, disposable cameras - about $5 each - with me on the road. Twenty-four shots, take out the film and throw away the camera. It was iPhoneography avant la lettre. Seriously.
I’ve got forty-eight shots of my 2005 summer trip through Pakistan and Afghanistan. Give me six weeks there now, and I’ll shoot two thousand images with a camera that’s worth at least ten times the value of the complete contents of my backpack back then.
This image was shot somewhere between Bamiyan and Band-i-Amir, Afghanistan. This gentleman was a fellow passenger on the minibus. I remember him being of Tajik origin. Other passengers convinced him to pose for me. He didn’t see my plastic camera. He was looking right through me. Because he was blind.
After our tea-break, he wandered off into the desert, all by himself, using only a wooden cane to guide him. We left without him. I guess he’d reached his destination.
The negative was seriously battered. I used Adobe Lightroom to get rid of a few scratches. Funny, but the metadata of this image is lost forever. I’m guessing it’s ISO 400.
Here’s another shot from last year’s Day of Ashura (November 14, Nabatiye, Lebanon). This man became unwell after losing too much blood. He’s about to be taken to a medical tent for further treatment. His wounds were self-inflicted with a knife.
If you’re new to all this: on Ashura Day, shiite muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn Ibn Ali, grandson of the prophet Muhammad.
Spring plans are unfolding fast and I’m getting excited. I’ll be shooting on assignment in Jordan this February - Amman, Salt and Zaatari refugee camp - and head for the Indian subcontinent by April. I’m still available for other (humanitarian) assignments in the Middle-East during February and March.
Here’s an old black and white portrait of a young girl on the streets of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India (2011). You gotta love those eyes.
Best wishes to you all. Here’s a peaceful image to kick off 2014. A buddhist woman prostrating herself at Bodnath stupa (near Kathmandu, Nepal) early in the morning. I nearly fell off the ledge of the stupa while taking this shot.
This image is licensed by my US agency Tandem Stills + Motion and can be purchased right here:
Currently editing images from Iraq for Getty Images. Brings back good and bad memories. People were good, driving habits were bad. Here’s another shot from Iraqi Kurdistan, a different angle this time. It depicts Iraqi Kurdish men, passing time in the late afternoon sun, having tea and playing with their prayer chains, at a tea house in the old bazar of Dohuk (a.k.a. Duhok or Dahuk).
1/800s, f/4, ISO 400.
This image is licensed by Getty Images and can be purchased right here:
I take pictures of things that fascinate me. And most of the time, that means: things I don’t understand. Not even after getting my university degree in Philosophy.
I can see what’s in this picture. It’s in my IPTC-data: “Shiite muslim man receiving medical attention by female nurses in a tent after fainting due to excessive blood loss. Wounds in forehead were self-inflicted by using a traditional sword or knife. Day of Ashura, Nabatiye, Lebanon (November 14, 2013).”
But it’s not the ‘What?’ question that bothers me. It’s the ‘Why?’ question.
I do not judge this man, since he’s not hurting anybody besides himself. Feel free to comment, but be respectful.
When in the Middle-East, my favourite way to pass the time is hanging out with the locals at random tea houses. As elsewhere in Northern Iraq - or Iraqi Kurdistan - there’s no shortage of tea houses in Dohuk (also spelled as Duhok), so I had a good time over there. Also, striking up a conversation was easy, since this close to the Turkish border, there’s always someone around who speaks a few words of Turkish. And since my wife’s from Turkey, I speak the language.
Yes, I’ll be back in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014, to report on Syrian refugees in the area.
These friendly Kurdish Iraqi men are wearing traditional baggy trousers and headscarves. It’s late in the afternoon and they are waiting for the call to prayer.
For those of you who think that I post too many muddy and bloody shots, here’s another cute image. A young girl playing with a hammock, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Her grandfather makes brooms, which are sold at the local market by her father.