Dancing Sloth Bear.

In the past few years, a concerted campaign to free India’s Dancing Sloth Bears has resulted in sanctuary for as many as 300 or more. Poaching had led to a dramatic decline of the wild population.

The cubs of parents captured by poachers, were sold to India’s traditional dancing bear owners the Kalandars, who for centuries trained them to entertain the local people. In recent times, their life of suffering and maltreatment, had extended to being paraded on the roadside hoping to attract tourist dollars.

Without anesthetic, a hole was pierced through their highly sensitive muzzle or palate. Passing a rope through the raw hole ensures the handler can then control the bear. Any pain inflicted by pulling the nose rope upwards causes the animal to stand erect as if it were dancing. In this way, the spirit of the bear is broken, which gave the owner complete control. With teeth filed or removed, it effectively ensured they could never be returned to the wild.

When I was last there, a few remaining bears and their handlers could be seen around Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh. In this shot, I think the boy was as surprised as I was when all of a sudden the handler made the bear stand bolt upright, right there in front of us. How they are tethered is very cruel. When he requested money, it became very tense with me having to tell him what I really felt about the treatment of the bears. It finished up, him leading the bear away, very agitated, disgruntled and without payment.

Rockabilly barber.

The combination of “rock” and “billy” is derived from the two musical genres, the classic Rock and Roll and country music from the 40’s and 50’s which is also known as “hillbilly”. Now widely known and followed by a great number of enthusiastic devotees, this modern sub-culture is simply called rockabilly.

In the United States many of the artists had their origins in western swing, rhythm and blues, Appalachian folk music and of course boogie-woogie. Since the 70’s, old style dance forms a central part of the rockabilly revival. Here in Sydney the movement is big, and I attended a couple of regular dance nights, that just buzzed with colour and energy.

Their fashion is right out of the 50’s, with labels for guys and gals marketed in key locations around the world. Dozens of labels like Voodoo Vixen, Soupuss and Tripp NYC a sample of the many offering the latest designs and patterns.  Halloween inspired fashion and paraphernalia is also big with labels like Zombitch and Kreepsville – freaky and creepy sells.

Here in Sydney, a monthly gathering for a rockabilly market provided a wonderful opportunity to photograph the faithful. Sporting the latest gear and hairstyles, this alternative mainstream in their 20’s and 30’s were liberally ‘inked up’, and made for wonderful subjects.

From Los Angeles, this barber/stylist was invited by a local Sydney salon to ply his trade in the trim rockerbilly style. A consummate professional, he prided himself on giving his customers the perfect shave. I watched for some time, impressed with his style and precision, his tool of trade, the trusty cutthroat. He had a great pair of hands and amazingly placed no time limit on delivering the perfect job.

You Never Know Until You Get There.

A place in the shade, to contemplate, to prepare for what is before the visitor, and later, a place to remember. I would imagine the significance of the tortured looking vine escapes but a few.

The Memorial Stupa erected at the entrance where victims remains are reverently preserved.       A mass grave is at centre of picture.

A mass grave for 166 headless victims.

Instruments of torture. These palm frond stems with razor sharp serrated edges were among the rudimentary objects and farm tools used to beat victims to death – less expensive and way more painful than bullets.

Detail of a mass grave.

 

The Killing Tree against which the executioners beat babies and children till they died.

 

Visitors walking among the pits of mass graves.

Detail of victims clothing and bone fragments from a mass grave.

Victims bone fragments collected after being exposed by each passing of the monsoonal rains.

All is now quiet except for the sparring that takes place between these roosters. The pond to the rear is thought to be another mass grave that still awaits excavation.

For a small sum of money, considered a donation, it is possible to place flowers or incence in rememberance.

According to age, the sculls of victims are neatly and respectfully displayed in tier’s within the Memorial Stupa.

The recovered skulls displayed in the memorial. Face to face with so many of the dead, is sometimes too much for some to bear.

View of classrooms and quadrangle area of Tuol Svay Pray High school in the heart of Phnom Penh. Commandeered and converted by the Khmer Rouge for torture and murder of 20,000 Cambodian people by the Pol Pot regime.

A visitor surveys details of of what the particular building was used for, including what type of victims were tortured there.

A visitor moves from room to room observing the displays of countless photos of men, women, and children tortured and murdered at S-21 prison.

The school headmasters office was used as the prison administrators office. Nowadays the museum administrators office.

One of several school classrooms converted for torture.

The body of one of the last 14 victims found tortured and murdered by the Khmer Rouge before they fled in the face of the Vietnamese invasion. Note bird on top of corpse.

A young boy wearing tag No1. He was the first person to be tortured and murdered at S-21.

Made from reinforcing iron rod, these shackles and bars were used as harsh rudimentary restraints when torturing victims.

Stairway to ‘hell’.

Most victims never made it outside unless they were to be hung upside down from the then schoolyard swings which were neatly converted for yet more torture.

Every victim was photographed for the record. The first step in their processing before torture, confession and murder.

Among the many displays and photographs are these young Khmer Rouge soldiers who worked at S-21. Their job to administer basic but henious forms of torture.

Paintings created post genocide. Cathartic by nature, and for some, one of the many roads to healing.

The burial site where the last 14 victims were laid to rest. They were found by Vietnamese soldiers when entering S-21 after the Khmer Rouge had hastily tortured and murdered them, then fled.

 

I’d been talking to Paul Raffaele, a writer and friend of mine, about an up and coming trip I was planning to make to Cambodia earlier this year. We’d previously worked on a story together for the Smithsonian Magazine in Northwestern Pakistan. I’d planned to be away a couple of weeks, so a relatively shorter trip than usual.

I was aware that it was the ‘dry season’ in Cambodia, and that in Phnom Penh, the former King Sihanouk’s cremation would take place at the end of my stay. With only a couple of destinations scheduled, I wanted to ensure quality time in each. I’ve always wanted to visit Phnom Penh, not only for its place in history, but to experience the capital in the ‘new’ Cambodia.

This blog relates to one particular aspect of the trip to Cambodia. When talking to Paul, he’d enquired about my itinerary, and whether I wanted to see the Killing Fields. My reply was considered and fairly emphatic. I replied that in the limited time available to me, I’d prefer to sidestep that part of Cambodia’s history, primarily because I wanted to explore the iconic places, as I would in any other country. I also wanted to spend some time on and around the Mekong River.

Call it misguided, in hindsight, I now see my decision Continue reading

Facebook Reject – Hammer Tribal Couple

This post was removed by facebook for not complying with their publishing standards. I will let the viewer make up their own mind with regard to that. Thank you to all who ‘liked’ and posted favourable and supportive comments on the image. This version, (cropped, as the last one was deemed indecent and unacceptable), I have posted for those who have not yet seen it. If you wish to see the original, and of course make your own judgement, please be aware as it contains nudity, albiet it in the most natural way possible. You can see it on my blog page here –

During my travels through Ethiopia’s wild and facinating Great Rift Valley, I was able to appreciate the diversity and cultural differences of several of the tribes that live in the Omo River region.

The men and women of the Hamer tribe are very image conscious, going to great lenghts in adorning themselves with beads, shells and metal bracelets. While many are topless, their basic attire consists of a loosly worn cow hide dresses. Men prefer colourful printed fabrics worn as wrap arounds.

I had been invited to one of the more important ceremonies. A Right of Passage ceremony called ‘The Jumping of The Bulls’, where the younger women goad the men into whipping them, to show their support for the prospective bridegroom at the centre of the festivities. This couple, in high spirits, were certainly stand outs, among the many revelers.

A ‘gem’ in my own backyard.

An older style Sydney ferry, the Borrowdale approaches Cockatoo Island having set out from Sydney’s main terminal at Circular Quay.

The main gateway building to Cockatoo Island saw a record 157,000 visitors pass through to see and experience the 2012 the 18th Biennale of Sydney.

Overshadowed by gantries and long disused cranes, visitors to the Biennale loose themselves in the relative coolness of the dry mist used in the Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya’s exhibit entitled Living Chasm.

In the shipyards General Store, pigeon hole style shelving, still carries markings denoting the specific items once carried.

This massive laser cut styrofoam sculpture (20 times large than what is shown here), the largest exhibit at the Biennale, was created by New Zealand artist, Peter Robinson. Its representation of the islands sandstone base being shaped by convicts, and the huge links of chain signifying the shipyard itself.

This close up shows the precision detail of the laser cut technique in Peter Robinsons work.

Challenging to some, Colombian artist Maria Fernanda Cardosa exhibit in the ‘Museum of Copulatoty Organs’ proved fascinating to those that made it through the entrance. The exhibit showed highly finished larger than life plaster casts of many of the insect worlds sex organs.

The church style windows, some with aqua coloured glass, cast mixed light on Australian artist Monica Grzymala’s cotton rag paper and twig representaion of the cycle of life.

Inside the entrance of the Front Machine Shop, this constantly moving projection of ‘cats cradles’, engaged children whith its interactivity.

Based on the belief that all matter in the universe has a life of its own, English born Philip Beesley, created an amazing work, a hybrid that combined engineering, experimental chemistry, sculpture and architecture that in several ways, physically responded to the human presence.

Architectural detail of the Joinery Shop on it’s northern side.

The geometry of these neon tubes seemed to contrast greatly with this convict dug tunnel excavated around the mid 1800’s. There are two such tunnels which provide acess from one side of the island to the other.

A group of Japanese tourists realax after spending an afternoon on the island. In the background, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and rising above the CBD at 300 metres in height, Centrepoint tower.

Ria Verhaeghe ehibited her work in the chapel of the old Prison Complex. Hailing from Bruges in Belgium, she combined newspaper, hair, cloth and latex to reveal the world that hides and fluctuates within images we see in the press everyday and how we correlate these in our everyday reality.

The Scar Project 2005-2012 by Montreal’s Nadia Myre, contained a great number of small works on canvas, requiring three roons to show them with great effect. Essentially, each canvass portrayed a scar in a persons life, sewn by the individual themselves, representing the physical, spiritual, psychological or emotional aspects of those scars.

This work, a reflection on the artist hersef, and her regret of the passing of her youthfull innocence and the transition into the ‘harsh’ and sometimes ‘cruel’ place that is the world of her adulthood. Jin Nu from China, opposes the collectivised thinking at the time of her growing up under the One Child Policy.

The industrial background of the Main Turbine Hall was being used as the ‘set’ or backdrop for this bride and grooms wedding photographs.

Looking south west towards Balmain area. The dock in the foreground is Sutherland Dock.

A ‘peek’ into one of the many big spaces that are a feature of the many wonderful locations used to exhibit the ‘artists works’. New Zealand born artist Sriwhana Spong works across different mediums of assemblage, video and performance. References to the body, mythology and dance combine with modernist abstraction are used in this work exhibited in what was once the Electrical Shop.

Open to the sun and wind, this work by Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuna represents the ancient form, the ceque, a system of fabric sightlines that connected all Andean communities. Five thousand years ago, they had no written language, and so a way to remember was created using textiles and knotted cords.

This exterior of the Joinery Shop is certainly an intriguing sight. Such a beautiful example of the trade. As the sign indicates, all the furniture and the fittings for the boats worked on at Cockatoo Island, were made there.

There are two docks this size on the island. This one, Sutherland Dock, was constructed in the late 1800’s and could accommodate of 22,000 tons. It was later modified so as to be able to be used by ships of the Royal Australian Navy. On good weather days, the Biennale is a very popular event, as indicated by the cues of visitors patiently waiting for the ferry home at days end.

An artist skillfully paints one of several of the historic homes on the island. They are well preserved, and have commanding views. This one of federation style, was once home to the medical officer and engineering manager in the shipyards heyday. Today it is let for holiday accommodation.

With pinpoint accuracy, the resident gulls will be ‘off with the booty’, as quick as look at ya’.

If you live in a big city as I do, then the list of ‘must does’ and places to go can be very long indeed. Many factors of course dictate just how adventurous one may become in their own ‘backyard’. Sydney is a vibrant city with a reputation world wide for its beaches and the associated surfing culture, its famous architectural icon the Sydney Opera House, and of course, the ‘old coathanger’, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, now known for its stunning views via the bridge climb ……. of course the list is long. Occassionally one can make time to get another ‘tick’ on the list.   Cockatoo Island, a Unesco World Heritage Site, lies to the west of the Harbour Bridge and a convienient 3k’m ferry ride from the CBD.

Cleared of most of it’s vegetation in the mid 1800’s, it started its European journey as a penal colony and the one of Australia’s Continue reading

Travels in Quebec

Jacques Cartier sailed up the St Lawrence as early as 1534. Initial settlements were essentially set up to trade in furs. A remarkably diverse province is Quebec, second only in size to Nunavut……….

I have travelled many times to Quebec. My wife is French Canadian and her extended family live there. It’s a wonderful place to see and experience. Being the french speaking part of Canada, it has always felt like an interesting mix of Europe and North America. Montreal, wonderfully cosmopolitan, expressive and vibrant. An artistic feel is evident in so many ways, and pleasingly, is generously exhibited in the public arena. Its architecture, colonialist inspired or modern and imaginative, I have always thought a fantasic mix.

It is however, as it is on most occasions, forays into the country that most inspire. While retaining that North American feel, their attention to detail is superb, a certain style, charming and quaint. Time spent on L’Ile aux Coudres, a small island in the St Lawrence, illustrated this aspect perfectly. So to, a sidetrip to Beauce, down towards Vermont on the US border.

The real getaway came when heading 600 km’s north from Quebec City via Chicoutimi to an area called Lake St John. With our Ford Flex packed to the gunnels, and only just enough room on the back seat for camera gear, (readily accessible of course), the journey is made on what I would say are the best roads in the world. A far cry from the majority that are required to get us to, well lets say, the ends of the earth type destinations, the ones more often than not we normally take. A good playlist, definitely a hotdog or two, and a moose sighting if you keep your eyes peeled, and are really lucky, got us there, and all in armchair comfort.

My sister in law and her partner Jacques cosy chalet awaited us, fully equipped, and the most wonderful base from which to explore the lake and its surrounding areas. Although only a modest few degrees to the north, there was evidence that the leaves were turning, and the process that preceeds the long winter had already begun.
The days were still sublimely warm, with no hint of summer abating. If the night had been clear and cool, Jacques and I would often rise at first light to survey the potential for heading out on the lake. The weather, water and light, always different, gave rise to an expectation as to what wonderful experience might lay ahead. Some days when the conditions allowed we would travel 40km’s or so, to survey the mouth of some of the big rivers that feed the lake. One day heavy fog rolled in, blocking out the sun, dropping the temperature substantially, and diminishing visibility to such a point, that navigating became almost impossible.

Trips like this afford more time in which to reflect, catch up on old friends and enjoy lunches and dinners. Smoked trout, mushrooms picked locally from the forest and sometimes topped off with the amazing dish that is blueberry or strawberry pie, picked wild of course.
This all comes with the inevitable down loading and editing that is part and parcel of photography. While not always welcome or timely, dealing with it on a regular basis, makes for a smoother and relatively trouble free landing on the return home, where, after thirty plus hours and the jetlag that accompanies it, you will get to see the fruits of your labours, and truly appreciate the visual record of your most recent journey.

The lights of downtown Montreal, Quebec’s largest and most vibrant city.


As with many large North American cities, Montreal is home to a wide variety of cultures.


Two student protesters embrace after successful protests
‘downtown’. I later found out the frying pan was used as a means to create a din, at the event at which they were successful in having university fee increases 3. Two student protesters embrace after successful protests
‘downtown’. I later found out the frying pan was used as a means to create a din, at the event at which they were successful in having university fee increases


Even on the smallest of balconies, people would catch a ray of sunshine. Evidence that, in general, summers are short, and winters are long, too long.


There to see a photographic exhibition in another section of the cathedral, I could not resist a look, like many other visitors seen here making their own photographic record of this most magnificant structure, Notre Dame.


Night life, restaurants and bars abound around Rue Saint-Laurent.


Great weather helped make for a huge turnout at the 2012 Gay Pride parade in Montreal.


Montreal’s Gay Pride parade in full swing.


The Gay Pride parade passes east along René Lévesque


Wonderful murals like this one on the corner of Saint Laurent and Des Pins, abound in many areas in and around downtown.


You mention busking in Quebec and the name of Guy Laliberte, a partner in the founding and creation of the world renowned Cirque du Soleil will invariably come to mind. These buskers really made fantastic music and reaped the benefits of an extremely generous crowd of visitors, both local and international.


Beach goers in the tiny vallage of Saint Adolfe de Howard in the Laurentians, make the most of the last of what they say was the best summer ever.


As far as the eye can see. This secondary road on the way to Beauce and ultimately the boarder and the State of Vermont in the US.


The ferry across to L’Ile aux Coudres on the St Lawrence River.


Birds gathering at sunset, L’Ile aux Coudres.


An unusual sight at St Henri on L’Ile aux Coudres. Probably created by the by the very high tides the St Lawrence can experience. The tides in nearby bay of Fundy, new Brunswick are the highest in the world.

Chapel St-Isadore on L’Ile aux Coudres is maintained by the local faithful.


Even the smallest communities like this one in St Henri on the L’Ile aux Coudres, have their church, something central to their patrimoine (heritage). Travelling through the countryside is literally a journey from one spire to the other. Mostly painted silver, they shine brightly, acting as landmarks to all.


Here on the western shore of the St Lawrence, three generations of one family, along with their pooch, enjoy yet another perfect summer day.


This wonderful house in St-Jean Port Joli is now an Auberge (guesthouse), and was the former home of a prominent sea captain and his wife dating back some 150 years.


Beautiful late afternoon ‘godlight’ bathes the St-Lawrence River and the abandoned island of Pillars of Stones, whose lighthouse and community was razed to the ground by fire a century ago, but never rebuilt.


After twenty something days without rain, finally some leadened skies and the heavens opened. For a time, everything around St-Coeur de Marie became fresh and green.


These Alaskan Malamutes are used by their owner and handler as a sled dog team during the long winter.


With the sun sinking below the horizon of Lake St John, a man fishes peacefully as his daughters frollick nearby.


This chalet on Lake St John is the country getaway and belongs to my sister in law and partner, and is a superb base from which all exploration takes place, whether on land or on water.


At 80km’s in diameter, Lake St John creates its own weather. With the disparity between air and water temperatures, fog and mist can provide early morning atmospherics. You have to be up real early and invariably will not see nor hear another boat.


Once having cut the motor, and from first light, the early mornings were fresh, silent and allowed time to view and digest the sublime beauty as the fog lifted and the hidden landscape was revealed. Only calls of the occasional bird pierced the air.


With a storm raging all night, there are bound to be incidents. In this unusual scene at Point Wilson on Lake St John, a man, waist deep, tows his yacht back to it’s mooring after having rescued it from where it had run aground on the shoreline nearby.


By late afternoon the scene had changed markedly.


At twilight, lights pinpoint the location of chalets on nearby islands, some just not visible during the daylight hours. The lights on the far shore are from a town with the wonderful Indian name of Metabetchouan.

Downtown – Martin Place – Sydney CBD

Martin Place is located in the centre of Sydney’s CBD. Although crossed by two of its main thoroughfares, it’s a pedestrian only area, and a key focal point of the city. Some of Sydneys finest old buildings such as banks and main post office are there, and at its western end a War Memorial honouring those who lost their lives serving their country.
Last summer I had been doing some work in the vicinity, sometimes joining the lunchtime crowd that tends to gather in the area. While the people are mostly office workers, there are others Continue reading

Welcome to my first Blog post.

I have been keenly following a few other blogs for some time, and still do. In many ways, I wish I had been up to speed with the whole process long before this. So now is the time ….

Whatever your level of interest in either photography or travel, I hope there is something in this blog for you. At the very least, I hope the thoughts and images  might inspire you photographically, and perhaps allow you to think and appreciate more of the world in which we live.

There will be info and accounts about experiences from past journeys, and those currently in the pipeline. Along the way, photo tips and info relating to certain images will also be included in some posts.  I have started writing a series of eBooks about journeys I have made and are continuing to make, so I will let you know about them as they become available.

You are welcome to reply at any time, and I look forward, whereever possible, to responding to you.