Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brazza In Congo

Photo ©James Estrin/The New York Times-All Rights Reserved.

The New York Times just featured a review of the exhibits "Brazza in Congo" and “Brazza: A Symbol for Humanity” that are being held in Manhattan. These are the kind of exhibits that capture my imagination, particularly since one of my favorite historical figures is Sir Richard Burton, the British scholar and explorer.

The exhibits revolve around Pietro Paolo Savorgnan di Brazzà, (1852-1905), who was a Franco-Italian explorer. With the backing of the Société de Géographique de Paris, he opened up for France entry along the right bank of the Congo, eventually leading to the French colonization of Central Africa. His easy manner and great physical charm, as well as his pacific approach among Africans, were his trademarks. Under French colonial rule, Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, was named in his honor.

I'm truly conflicted by men like Burton and Brazza. Were they heroic explorers or crass exploiters? They certainly were precursors to the colonization of Africa, and to the ensuing imperialism in this continent. As the New York Times article remarks:
Imperialism is widely seen as the original sin of the modern West, whose ramifications can still be felt in the aftershocks of warfare and corruption that continue to plague so much of the African continent.
Despite my abhorrence of colonialism, I prefer to think of Burton as a genius, as the quintessential explorer, as a talented writer, as a brave soldier, as an orientalist and ethnologist, and as a remarkable linguist with an extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures who was reputed to have spoken 29 European, Asian, and African languages. Perhaps Brazza was of the same caliber? I'll find out.

Addendum: My verdict? Seemingly a well-intentioned man with lofty and commendable ideals...but he was not Richard Burton's caliber.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Guardian's Greensdale: Circumcision Photos Outrage

Roy Greensalde is Professor of Journalism at London’s City University and has been a media commentator since 1992, most notably for The Guardian newspaper.

In his column Outrage at Circumcision Pictures appearing this morning on the Guardian newspaper's website, Mr Greenslade has endorsed the position I've taken on the issue of publishing photographs of a child's (female) circumcision in the Washington Post and other publications.

My posts have appeared here, here and here.

My thanks to Benjamin Chesterton of Duckrabbit Multimedia who shared my revulsion, and who posted the absolutely brilliant post Smile for the camera please - whilst I cut off your clitoris … Not funny is it.

And thank you Mr Greensdale.

Addendum: And to all of those who've commented as having no objection to the shameful publication of this child's face and name in the photo essay, here's what you ought to reflect on: what if the child was your daughter, niece or relative? Would you still have the same opinion? Hypocritical comments are easy to spot.

Addendum II: Larry Hayden of Making Photos just added his opinion. He writes: "In this case, Andrea Bruce might have been exposing an abhorrent practice that provides that voice. But when she took images of the seven-year-old girl's face, submitted them for publishing and then took an award for the photographs, she became part of the hypocritical nature of this country in particular."

Addendum III: Kayla Keenan's riposte to a revolting comment and her opinion in the commentary section of the Guardian's columns needs to be read carefully by all concerned. Here's an excerpt:
No one involved has said that this practice is not an atrocity nor that it should not be brought to the attention of the world public. They simply have not reduced themselves to believing that the only way to do that is at the expense of a child. They refuse to shout "Show us the bloody bits." If your morality has plunged to so little as to care for that girl as an individual and human being first and foremost, you cease to be able to care for all the others to whom this will befall. And the end of your concern only "illuminates" the situation to those who already abhor it with no change to the end result (helping that child)... That alone makes this exactly the kind of hypocrisy which perpetuates the violence rather than ends it.

Addendum IV: Another voice..this time from Charukesi Ramadurai in the Bring On The Misery on CounterCurrents.org, from which this excerpt is taken::
The question here is, would the publications and the organizations have allowed an American or Western European girl to be featured in the same way, name, face and all? I googled out of curiosity and came upon a report in the Daily Mail UK that talks about the plight of young British-African women who are forced to go through the procedure. This, of a victim being interviewed - "promise you won't print my name or anything?" she implores repeatedly. And they don’t.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The first soup comes from Delia's Winter Collection and must be one of the best soups I have ever eaten.

The recipe can be found here on Delia's website.

The flavour combinations are truly wonderful, and if you are a curry fan, then this soup must surely go on your 'to do list' of recipes.

Hopefully, you will have spices that haven't been bought ready ground. It really is worthwhile roasting your own spices when you need them. The aroma from the spices when you are crushing them in the pestle and mortar is heaven.

I always try to remember not to liquidize soups too much, because I prefer my soups to have some texture to them.

The parsnip crisps for the garnish are very easy to make, simply slice the parsnips very thinly, fry in hot fat for a few minutes and then, as if by magic, they start to curl and twist into wonderful shapes.

The Cream of Celery soup, comes under the heading of luxury soups in Delia's Frugal Food.

I had some celery and leeks that were starting to look sorry for themselves, suddenly these tired looking vegetables transformed themselves into a delicious soup.

I bought my celery seeds from the health store, unfortunately, these aren't very easy to find. You can buy them from the Seasoned Pioneers website though.

Here is the slightly adapted recipe.



ISBN 9780340918562 - Page 23

350g sticks celery trimmed (save the leaves), 25g butter, 110g peeled potatoes cut into chunks, 2 sliced and washed medium leeks (white parts only, but I used all of the leek), 570ml chicken stock, 275ml semi-skimmed milk, ¼ teaspoon celery seeds, 2 tablespoons cream, seasoning.

1. Melt the butter in a large pan over a low heat.
2. Chop the celery and add it to the pan, together with the potatoes and drained leeks. Then stir to coat the vegetables with butter, cover very gently for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time to prevent the vegetables from sticking.
3. Pour in the stock and milk, sprinkle in the celery seeds and some salt. Bring to simmering point over a very low heat (watching it doesn't boil over), cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are absolutely tender.
4. Liquidize the soup until it's your preferred consistency. Return the puree to the pan and add the cream.
5. Bring back to the boil, taste and season.
6. Just before serving, chop up the reserved celery leaves and use these to garnish the soup.

POV: Why Aren't You Shooting Multimedia?

Photo ©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved.

Over at Black Star Rising, Stanley Leary, to the understandable chagrin of many videographers, has posted his opinion that still images to which audio has been added can be more effective than video. His opinion is summarized by his following points:

* Nearly 70 percent of the audience learns visually;
* Multimedia packages are easier and less expensive to produce;
* Multimedia packages are easier for the audience to access; and
* Multimedia packages offer a more enjoyable, nuanced visual experience.

I agree, and used the same arguments (well, except for the first one which I didn't know) when explaining the advantages of multimedia to student photographers as I did during the Mexico City Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, and will do so again at the forthcoming workshop in Manali, India.

I ought to also stress that real multimedia is what is being discussed here. There's a huge difference between real multimedia features which consist of still photography accompanied by ambient sound and narrative, and still photographs accompanied by random musical tracks....added because they sound good or because the photographer likes them. Given the choice producing a "silent" slideshow or a slideshow with random tracks downloaded via iTunes (notwithstanding copyright issues), I'd always go with the former.

Following the photojournalism workshop in Mexico City, I expounded my multimedia evangelism in a previous post on TTP.

A word of caution though. Multimedia is not a panacea for ill thought out or badly produced projects. It still needs good stories, great photographs and certainly, audio that is part of the story and part of the photographs.

Addendum: I just saw Alan Chin's post on the RESOLVE blog with his take on the "multimedia insanity".

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Julie Aucoin: Travelography

Photo ©Julie Aucoin-All Rights Reserved.

Following the unpleasantness of the subject matter of my POV: And The Outrage post of two days ago, it's a relief to feature Julie Aucoin's travel photography on The Travel Photographer blog.

Julie who's based in Nevada, describes herself as a passionate photographer, an adventurous traveler and experienced stage manager. She's one of those photographers who, as a child, perused the pages of the National Geographic magazine and this implanted peripatetic seeds in her.

When not managing jugglers and trapezists, Julie travels the world and recently returned from trips in Central America. The above photograph is of a vendor in Guatemala.

Julie also has another website here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Work: Katha'kali

Photo ©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved.

Here's my Katha'kali gallery...images from a private photo-shoot at a Kathakali school in Thirssur during the Theyyam of Malabar Photo~Expedition. I plan to create a multimedia slideshow of these and other Katha'kali images shortly.

I scheduled the private photo-shoot because I'd had the experience of photographing a Katha'kali troupe in Kochi a few years ago just before they performed their art, and the room was overcrowded with tourists. I didn't want to experience the same difficulties and restrictions during the photo-expedition. As a consequence. we had complete access to the actors while they were applying make-up, wearing their fabulous costumes and to their performance, all to ourselves!

Katha'kali is the dance-drama of Kerala, in which its performers (all men) wear fantastic make-up, billowing costumes and enormous crowns. Katha'kali has been described as "The Passion Play of Hinduism" and while its origins are unclear, its current format is traced to the 16th century. It's based on the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Gita of Jayadeva and other religious narratives and poems. The actors themselves do not utter a word...singers and musicians provide the narrative and musical backdrop.

The actors endure a long and difficult training period. They are taught to project emotions with distinctive facial expressions and hand gestures. Some of the actors insert a seed in their lower eyelid in order to redden their eyes, as part of the 'look'. The application of the make-up is an art form, and requires several hours to complete. This is done by artists who've spent a decade or more of training.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

POV: And The Outrage Continues

The onward march of the tone-deaf myopic lemmings continues!

The National Press Photographers Association has announced that Andrea Bruce of the Washington Post has been awarded second place in the International News Story with her photo essay on a young girl in Kurdistan being circumcised.

Readers of this blog will recall reading the reasons for my revulsion at this photo essay, which I expressed here and here.

The NPAA's contest judges now join The Washington Post editors (who published the photo essay on December 28, 2008), and the White House News Photographers Association (who awarded it a prize), in publishing Andrea Bruce’s photographs of a Kurdish girl having part of her clitoris cut off. The moral myopia of these organizations is just breathtaking. Sheelan's right to privacy and her dignity have been cavalierly shrugged off by a bunch of provincial editors, judges and their assistants....or does Sheelan and her mother have no right to privacy because they are impoverished Kurds and don't know better? Isn't the right to privacy and dignity a basic human right deserved by the wealthy and the poor, irrespective of creed, race, national origin and age?

I realize Andrea Bruce needs to earn a living, but she's a talented and experienced photographer and could've used simple photographic techniques to preserve Sheelan's privacy, while still conveying the atrocity of this ignoble practice. The editors of the Washington Post didn't even think of hiding the poor girl's name...they published it in full. They would have never published these photographs if the girl lived in Kansas, or Ohio, or California...or Europe, or wherever else there was a legal system capable of redressing this obscene trespassing of privacy. This child is only 7 years old and her image and name are made public...on the web?

In the (unlikely, in my opinion) event that the Washington Post had written permission from the girl's family to publicly show these photographs, it should mention this at the start of the feature...but it hasn't. By all means, publish this photo essay in an effort to publicize the abhorrent practice, and to arouse the public's awareness of it...but do it in such a way that protects the dignity of the innocent victim, and ensures her privacy.

I'm far from being alone in being revolted by this photo essay. Benjamin Chesterton, who worked for the BBC, has written an eloquent and powerful post on his blog also criticizing it, and it can be read here. I also received numerous emails (mostly from women) supporting my stance, and the posts linked to above receive the most traffic of any of my posts.

We naively wonder why we are disliked by so many. Let us treat and respect others as we treat and respect ourselves...that'll help.

Update: The APhotoADay blog has picked on Benjamin Chesterton's post, and posted its Furthering The Abuse.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New EOS Rebel T1i DSLT

Canon U.S.A. has introduced a new addition to its Rebel lineup, the EOS Rebel T1i Digital SLR camera, the first in the Rebel line to feature full HD video capture.

The new Canon Rebel T1i SLR incorporates some of the technologies from the EOS 50D and EOS 5D Mark II models. With a 15.1 megapixel CMOS sensor and HD video capture, along with the DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor, the Rebel T1i provides entry-level photographers some of the features in more expensive camera models.

The Canon EOS Rebel T1i Digital SLR Camera is scheduled for delivery by early May and will be sold in a body-only configuration which includes a rechargeable battery pack and charger, USB and video cables, a neckstrap, an EOS Solutions Disk CD and a 1-year Canon U.S.A., Inc. limited warranty at an estimated retail price of $799.99. It will additionally be offered in a kit version with Canon’s EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens at an estimated retail price of $899.99.

NPPA: Best of Photojurnalism 2

Image © Sigit Pamungkas-Reuters

The National Press Photographers Association is continuing to announce winners of ‘The Best of Photojournalism 2009’ award in various categories, one of which is Enterprise that is described by NPAA as "A photograph of a ‘found situation’ that features strong human interest elements, or a fresh view of an everyday scene. A picture that uses humor or focuses on the lighter side of life is well suited for this category."

The winner in this category is the above photograph by Sigit Pamungkas of Indonesia. It's of Muslims attending prayers on the eve of the first day of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan at a mosque in Surabaya, East Java August 31, 2008. Muslims around the world congregate for special evening prayers called “Tarawih” during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

It was one of the photograph which the Boston Globe's The Big Picture chose as Photograph of The Year 2008. I posted about this series here. I believe it's a lovely photograph and well deserving of the honor bestowed on it.

Image © Katharina Hesse/Grazia Neri for Vanity Fair Italia

Another photograph well deserving of the top prize in the Local News & Personality category is Katharina Hesse, with her photograph of a Bangkok prostitute, published by Vanity Fair Italia.

Katharina's project -from which this image is from- was about the estimated 2 million prostitutes in Bangkok, 70-80 percent of whom are infected with HIV. Yet to the women working the streets or bars, most of whom have little to no eduction and work simply to survive, these numbers do not deter them from leading such a risky life. The fact that prostitution is a profitable sub branch of Thailand’s booming tourism industry, many women do not seek a different lifestyle, and harbor the hope that they will be lucky and find a foreigner who will take them to their country.

One Shot: Arun Bhat

Photo ©Arun Bhat-All Rights Reserved.

Arun Bhat is a travel photographer and writer based in Bangalore. He has been traveling all over India for past five years, especially the mountain regions, photographing the country's diverse culture and landscapes. He's also the author of The Painted Stork travel blog, and rides a Royal Enfield Bullet Thunderbird motorcycle during his travels across India.

While on my Theyyams of Malabar photo-expedition, I came across Arun as we were photographing a Theyyam ceremony at the Trikannad Temple near Kasargode. He mentions our encounter here, where you will find many more of his well composed images of the Theyyam. He captioned the above image of the Theyyam as practicing the raudra rasa, or anger expression, by looking at his refection in a hand mirror. (The image is not as sharp as the original sent by Arun...that's because I had to enlarge a bit for the blog).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

John Kenny: Africa

Photo ©John Kenny-All Rights Reserved.

Here's a treat for those who love Africa and black & white portraiture!

John Kenny is a British photographer whose work with remote African societies is recently receiving substantial press coverage. Imagery from the previous 2007 exhibition, 'Light, Land and Water: Beauty in Africa', has been published extensively throughout 2007 and 2008. The image "Omo Valley Girl" was chosen as the cover for "Professional Photographer" magazine (April 2007), as well as receiving "Image of the Week" in the Times, and was used extensively in promotional content for the "Affordable Art Fair" (2007), "Glasgow Art Fair" (2008) and Time Out (2008).

His new collection of images of remote tribal peoples from Niger, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali is being exhibited at Capital Culture, Covent Garden in London.

My thanks to Candace Feit for the heads-up.

PDNedu Student Photo Contest

PDN has announced the results of its Student Photo Contest which saw more than 1,350 submissions. The judges were Jen Bekman, David Laidler and Jill Waterman.

The Travel category was won by Alessandro Penso from Italy, The Fashion|Portraiture by Kimberly Halverson of Minnesota, the Documentary by Michael J. Mullady of California, Fine Art by Felicia Genevieve Bawolek Carpinella of Michigan, and Still Life by Chris New of Georgia.

Monday, March 23, 2009

NPAA: Best of Photojournalism

Photo ©Tomasz Gudzowaty/Courtesy NPAA-All Rights Reserved.

The National Press Photographers Association just announced the winners of ‘The Best of Photojournalism 2009’ award in eight categories: Natural Environment, Sports Picture Story, Olympics Feature, Olympics Action, Sports Feature, Sports Action, Conceptual Photographic Illustration and The Art of Entertainment.

I particularly liked Tomasz Gudzowaty's Naadam festival in Mongolia, which sees three sport disciplines, wrestling, archery and horse races. The photographs were taken in Baganuur and Erdenesant.

One Shot: Fabiano Busdraghi

Photo ©Fabiano Busdraghi-All Rights Reserved.

I haven't posted a One Shot feature in quite a while, and Fabiano's work in Antarctica seemed just right for it.

Fabiano Busdraghi is a Milan-born Italian photographer. He has a master in Physics at the University of Pisa, and another in Oceanography and Meteorology at the University Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris where he now lives and works. He recently took photography and writing as his full time occupation, traveling to various remore areas of the world including Antarctica.

Fabiano's photographic works range from travel, reportage and more artistic and personal work. He works in digital and traditional photography, and has been using alternative techniques, such as palladium and platinum, gum bichromate, cyanotype, Van Dyke Brown, and carbon prints.

His main website is here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Bill Granger is famous for his breakfasts and you just know his recipes are going to taste good.

I love muesli and granola, and mostly only make enough to fill a large storage jar, so that I can quickly move on to the next recipe.

The recipe Bill gives, is a blueprint really, and one that you can easily adjust to suit any particular whims you may have at the time you make it.

I cooked the cereal on a conventional oven setting but it didn't seem to brown and crisp and so I popped the fan oven on and it very quickly browned and crisped up.

After going to Tom's Kitchen for brunch and eating granola, I wanted to reproduce something similar. This wasn't as rich as Tom's granola but tasted every bit as good!

Oh! nearly forgot - you will need a small dish of Greek yogurt drizzled with honey to go alongside!!


ISBN 0864119917 - Page 53

If you make the full quantity it will yield 1.5kg.

You will need: 125g unsalted butter, 6 fl oz honey, 1½ teaspoons vanilla essence, 500g rolled oats (I used jumbo oats), 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup shredded coconut, ¾ cup pumpkin seeds, 1 cup rye flakes, 1 cup chopped dried fruit, such as sultanas, apricots, cranberries etc.

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C(325°F). Place butter, honey and vanilla in a small saucepan. Cook gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the honey and butter are combined.
2. Place the remaining ingredients, except the fruit, in a large mixing bowl and mix well, Slowly stir in the butter mixture, making sure that each grain is evenly coated.
3. Spread the cereal over two baking trays and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the grains are crisp and very lightly browned. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the baking dish. Also, check that the grains aren't over browning.
4. Remove the cereal from the oven and allow to cool.
5. When the cereal has cooled, add the dried fruit and stir evenly through the grain mixture.
6. This can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Here is a link to a couple of other granola recipes.

POV: Gulf Photo Plus

I'm pleased to see that Gulf Photo Plus is set for March 30 to April 4, 2009 in Dubai. This event promises to be an exciting venue for Middle Eastern photography in an area that, frankly, is not known for being in the forefront of visual arts and photojournalism.

However, what makes me really glad is to see that my friend Asim Rafiqui is scheduled to participate in the event by giving a workshop titled The Working Photographer-A Primer. The four and half days with Asim will concentrate on the production of a photo narrative by each student, the subject being agreed on by the instructor and the student on the first day of the workshop.

To my mind, there are few who could this as well as Asim. He's not only a remarkable photojournalist, but he holds well thought out opinions on the current status of photojournalism, and supplements these with a sharp intellect and incisive knowledge of international affairs. For those of you who haven't read Asim's thoughtful and frequently non-mainstream and courageous posts, do yourself a favor and drop by his The Spinning Head blog and by his brilliant opus-to-be The Idea of India.

There are about a dozen excellent photographers scheduled to participate in the Gulf Photo Plus by giving interesting workshops as well. These are top notch photo-professionals such as Vincent Laforet and Joe McNally among others.

It's a little disconcerting that there aren't any photographers-tutors (except for Asim) of Middle Eastern or Asian heritage...perhaps next year? I could name quite a few who'd more than qualify to the Gulf Photo Plus organizers.

Report: Nagas, Hidden Hill People of India

As promised in an earlier post, I dropped by the Rubin Museum of Art yesterday to see its new photographic exhibit: Nagas: Hidden Hill People of India by Pablo Bartholomew.

Pablo Bartholomew is an independent photographer based in New Delhi, who worked as a photojournalist recording societies in conflict and transition. His works have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Business Week, National Geographic and Geo amongst other magazines and journals.

The exhibition of about 20-25 prints is held on the lower floor of the beautiful Rubin Museum (I'm struck by its incredible aesthetics every time I visit). The exhibit is also sponsored by Air India.

The photographs are of the Nagas, erstwhile headhunters of India's easternmost state, and were mostly made during the early 90s, when presumably Pablo visited. In all candor, I wasn't overly impressed by the photographs, and while I don't regret seeing the exhibit, I was disappointed. I haven't learned much about the Nagas from the photographs either, although I now know that some of the elder headhunters wear a necklace with small carved wooden heads, for how many they allegedly hunted. It's naturally against the law now.

The photographs' sizes seemed to be in the range of 18x24 to 20x24 and were frameless, encased in a sort of thin Plexiglas. I think the product used is FotoFlot, which was mentioned on my blog here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Canon 500D?

1001 Noisy Cameras reports of rumors/buzz that a new Canon 500D Digital Rebel will probably be announced on March 25. The specs are a 15-megapixel sensor, full high definition video recording, ISO 12800, DiGiC 4, and 900k+ dots LCD.

Do I care? Not really. I've had such great results from my new Canon 5D Mark II that I'm deliberating whether to buy a second body, relegating my venerable Canon 1D Mark II to an assisted living home (aka my closet). I'm still angry at Canon for not having supplied enough LP-E6 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries for the 5D Mark II, but having experienced how long my battery lasted in the field, I've calmed down a bit.

POV: Simple or Flash?

Photos/Layout ©Anna Wolf-All Rights Reserved

I recently read an interesting article on Photopreneur which deals with what catches the eyes of photo editors.

The point made by the article reaffirms my belief that the simpler the website the better. With photographers' websites so easy and cheap to create, how do photo editors choose which online portfolio to spend time looking at, and decide to contact its owner? The answer? The simplest. I'd also add to that that the images have to be large...as large as those on the Boston Globe's The Big Picture (which, in my view, will revolutionize the way images are displayed on the web).

The Photopreneur article says it very clearly: "Despite the whiz-bang features and slick animation offered on so many sites, simple is usually best. Editors are short of time, and faced with a large number of images they want to gain an understanding quickly of what the photographer can do. They’re less interested in what the photographer’s Web developer can do."

A great example for a photographer's online travel portfolio is by Anna Wolf. Large images and clean scans of articles with Anna's images to show how her images fit in an editorial context is the perfect example of what photo editors are attracted to.

Flash? Fuggetaboutit

British Museum: Between Assam & Tibet

I neglected to mention that during my visit to the British Museum a few weeks ago, I dropped by its exhibit Between Assam & Tibet, which displayed a collection of cultural artifacts and photographs of two tribes from the remote Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, the Apatani and the Monpa.

The Apatani live in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh, and are animists. Their economy depends on growing rice in a unique way which maximizes the yield in their enclosed upland valley. The Monpa live on the Bhutan-Tibet-India border at high altitude. They are ethnically different from the Apatani and are Buddhists, in the past more closely linked to Lhasa in Tibet, than India to the south.

The photographs are by Michael Aram Tarr, an anthropologist and photographer, who has just spent the last five years living and working in Arunachal Pradesh, which is still pretty much an isolated region.

An interesting interview with Michael is here.

Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are regions of India which I haven't seen yet, and I wonder whether 2010 will see me leading a photo-expedition there.

Friday, March 20, 2009

NY Times: Inside Peru's Cocaine War

Photo ©Moises Saman for The New York Times

In a very well produced slideshow (but non multimedia), the New York Times featured Moises Saman's photographs of the Peruvian military's war against drug producing and trafficking in Inside Peru's Cocaine War.

In a remote corners of the Andes, Peru's army is battling a resurgent rebel faction of the Shining Path, taking a page from Colombia’s rebels, which reinvented itself as an illicit drug enterprise, rebuilding on the profits of Peru’s thriving cocaine trade. The region is Peru’s largest producer of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine and, as in Bolivia, coca, a hallowed symbol of indigenous pride, is ubiquitous here. The mildly stimulating leaf chewed raw here since before the Spanish conquest, is largely legal; cocaine is not.

liveBooks: Art Wolfe: New Business Model

liveBooks, the company which provides custom photography websites has featured an interview with Art Wolfe, described as a conservation and fine art photographer, who is reinventing his business model by selling his stock images directly through his liveBooks website and a Photoshelter account linked to it.

The quality of the recording is not that good, as it's recorded in the open air but one gets the sense how Art Wolfe decided a few years ago that he had to diversify away from his stock photography, and enter the world of television through his Travels to the Edge series. Click the above image to take a listen.

(via The Click)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Theyyams: Incarnate Deities

Photo ©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved.

As the regulars readers of this blog know, the Theyyams of Malabar Photo Expedition was a resounding success in terms of both imagery and logistics, but who (or what) are really the Theyyams?

The term Theyyam is the corruption of the Malayalam word Daivam or deity. It may also be derived from the Sanskrit word for deity which is "deva". It's an indigenous religious dance practiced only in North Kerala, and a cult predominant amongst rural areas, consisting of several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs. It involves virtually all castes and classes of the Hindu religion in the area, and its adherents consider the Theyyams as incarnations of various deities, and seek their blessings and counsel.

There are nearly 400 Theyyams representing various local deities, as well as legendary and mythological characters. For instance, one of the Theyyam is named Moovalamkuzhi Chamundi, another is Puliyoor Kali and Padinhave Chamundi. I was also told by Vinay, our fixer, that only members of a specific sub caste can become Theyyams, and this privilege is passed on from generation to generation.

A fundamental component of the Theyyam performances is the make-up which involves intricate face-painting and various body decorations. During one of the rituals, we witnessed a Theyyam whose body was covered with cotton-like tufts to symbolize a tiger. Different costumes like an armor, complex headdress and other body decorations are prepared by artists members of the same caste. Some of the costumes are made of of coconut leaves, while headdresses and masks are made of more solid materials, while bracelets and anklets are heirlooms, passed on from father to son. Male and female deities are represented by Theyyam performers, and it's rather easy to differentiate between the two, since the performers incarnated as goddesses wear bras made out of two halves of a dried-out coconut shell!

Article appearing in the Manorama newspaper
(the widest circulated newspaper in the world!)
of February 25 on our photo-expedition.

The Theyyam prepares his performance by meditating while being made up, and enters in a sort of a trance, whereupon he walks (aided by assistants) over to the temple's shrine and gradually morphs into the shrine's deity. The Theyyam follows the accompanying cacophonous music and its furious drum beats by going further and further into a trance. At the appropriate time, the Theyyam is seated on a stool and devotees approach him with donations and solicit its advice, which he provides in a raucous voice. I was also told that the Theyyams' advice is provided in a mixture of Sanskrit, Old Malayalam and Tamil. I also found it interesting that both Theyyams and Kathakali performers use similar eye movements to convey emotions.

There's no question that the stage-practice of Theyyams and its intriguing rituals make it one of the most fascinating religious performances of India...and is the reason for it to have been the underpinning of my photo expedition in Kerala.

Documenting such unusual indigenous rituals and festivals by combining photojournalism and travel photography techniques is what makes my photo expeditions-workshops different than the rest...and what makes me enjoy them. Setting up photo tours based on itineraries copied from travel brochures is not what I believe photo expeditions should be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Theyyams of Malabar: Victoria Olson

Photo ©Victoria Olson-All Rights Reserved.
A sand bagger on the shores of Mangalore, Karanataka

The Theyyam of Malabar Photo Expedition was joined by a number of talented full-time and part time photographers, whose primary objective was to photograph the Theyyam religious rituals as well as the Kathakali dance-drama, both indigenous to Kerala.

This is the fourth of a series of posts which showcase a sample of the work of the photographers who joined the expedition. The fourth post features four photographs by Victoria (Torie) Olson, a contributing editor at Wild Fibers Magazine, and author based in Vermont. Another peripatetic globetrotter, Torie traveled to Bhutan, Morocco, India and Thailand among other countries, to document indigenous traditions including textile arts and fiber farming.

Instead of Theyyam and Kathakali images, Torie provided these images made near the shores of Mangalore where, during our photo expedition, she spent time documenting a number of fishing communities. I would guess that based on the jewelry, these women are from Gujarat. She uses a Nikon D90 with a 18-200 lens.

Photo ©Victoria Olson-All Rights Reserved.
Hauling the daily catch on the shores of Mangalore, Karanataka

Photo ©Victoria Olson-All Rights Reserved.
A worker on the shores of Mangalore, Karanataka

Photo ©Victoria Olson-All Rights Reserved.
Repairing fishing nets on the shores of Mangalore, Karanataka

William Dalrymple: Nine Lives

By pure chance I landed on the website of one of my favorite authors, William Dalrymple, whose new book – Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India – will be published by Bloomsbury in October.

I've copied this excerpt of the accompanying blurb from the Amazon UK website:
"Nine people, nine lives. Each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. Exquisite and mesmerizing, and told with an almost biblical simplicity, William Dalrymple's first travel book in a decade explores how traditional forms of religious life in South Asia have been transformed in the vortex of the region's rapid change. Nine Lives is a distillation of twenty-five years of exploring India and writing about its religious traditions, taking you deep into worlds that you would never have imagined even existed."

This promises to be a cracker of a book, and if you want to get a taste for its contents, you can read this article on the devadasis in the New Yorker magazine.

These are the kind of books that ought to be read by all established and aspiring travel-documentary photographers, since they provide ideas for photo-documentary projects, and intellectual/historical texture to successfully develop such projects.

Just before traveling last month to India, I recently re-read parts of Dalrymple's City of Djinns; parts dealing with the Sufi dargahs in Delhi, and this enhanced my appreciation of these sites while I visited them.

2009 Sony World Photography Awards

© Wojciech Grzedzinski (Courtesy Sony World Photography Awards 2009)

The Independent featured winners of the 2009 Sony World Photography Awards as revealed yesterday. Each of the photographers on the list, along with the runners-up in the professional categories, will be exhibited at the Sony World Photography Awards ceremony at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, on Thursday 16 April.

Of the 12 professional category winners, one photographer will be the recipient of the L’Iris D'Or, the Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of the Year. On the night they will be awarded $25,000. The winning amateur photographer, selected from the eight category finalists, will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Wojciech Grzedzinski of Poland won the award for Professional Photojournalism and Documentary - Current Affairs, with his photograph of a Catholic priest blessing a soldier in full combat gear. Since time immemorial, religion has been used to absolve the sins of war...and why not, since most religions were, and are, the cause for violent conflict.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Theyyams of Malabar: Rosemary Sheel

Photo ©Rosemary Sheel-All Rights Reserved.
After the ritual, this Theyyam is no longer inhabited
by the goddess. Pullikunnu, Kerala

The Theyyam of Malabar Photo Expedition was joined by a number of talented full-time and part time photographers, whose primary objective was to photograph the Theyyam religious rituals as well as the Kathakali dance-drama, both indigenous to Kerala.

This is the third of a series of posts which showcase some of the work of the photographers who joined the expedition. The third post features four photographs by Rosemary Sheel, a travel photographer based on the West Coast. Rosemary is a peripatetic globetrotter, who traveled to Tibet, Turkey, Mali, Morocco, China, Laos, Cambodia Egypt and India, and she regaled us with stories of her adventures. She used a Nikon D300 with 28-105 Tamron (f 2.8) and a D200 with a 12-24 Tokina (f 4).

Photo ©Rosemary Sheel-All Rights Reserved.
A somnolent Theyyam has his face painted in traditional patterns, Pullikunnu, Kasaragode, North Kerala

Photo ©Rosemary Sheel-All Rights Reserved.
Part of the Theyyam ceremony involves the Theyyam
circumnavigating the temple. Pullikunnu, Kerala.

Photo ©Rosemary Sheel-All Rights Reserved.
Layers of orange silk cover starched muslin underskirts
for a bouffant look necessary for a Kathakali performance.
Thrissur, Kerala

Smithsonian 6th Annual Photo Contest

Photo ©Wahid Adnan-All Rights Reserved

The Smithsonian Magazine selected the finalists from their 6th Annual Photo Contest. There are ten for each of the five categories; People, Americana, Altered Imnages, Natural World and Travel. From these 50, five category winners and a grand prize winner will be chosen.

Viewers can determine the winners by voting for their choice. The winning entries, including the chosen winner, will be published in the print edition of Smithsonian magazine during summer 2009.

My choice is the above photograph by Wahid Adnan of Chittagong in Bangladesh. Not to take away anything from Wahid, but G M B Akash won first place in the 2007 Gordon Parks International Photo Competition with a similar photograph of a young girl riding a train in Bangaldesh.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Theyyams of Malabar: Alia Refaat

Photo ©Alia Refaat-All Rights Reserved.
Final makeup touches on a Theyyam, Thrikannad Temple, North Kerala

The Theyyam of Malabar Photo Expedition was joined by a number of talented full-time and part time photographers, whose primary objective was to photograph the Theyyam religious rituals as well as the Kathakali dance-drama, both indigenous to Kerala.

This is the second of a series of posts which showcase some of the work of the photographers who joined the expedition. The second post features four photographs by Alia (Coucla) Refaat, a commercial photographer from Cairo, Egypt. Alia studied Mass Communications, and trained at Spéos Paris in commercial, portrait and studio photography. She used a Canon 5D Mark II and a 24-70mm 2.8 on most of her photo shoots during the expedition. It is Alia's first travel photography expedition, and she plans a series of exhibitions in Cairo of her photographs.

Photo ©Alia Refaat-All Rights Reserved.
A Theyyam ensconced in his costume, Pullikunnu, Kasaragode, North Kerala

Photo ©Alia Refaat-All Rights Reserved.
A Kathakali performer carefully applying his makeup, Thrissur, Kerala

Photo ©Alia Refaat-All Rights Reserved.
A Kathakali performer being assisted in his costume, Thrissur, Kerala

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Goodness! That's a long title for a dessert, but deserved it is.

I love coffee and have been longing to make these for a long, long time now.

Last weekend I had a few special meals to cook and it was an opportune time to make these.

These wonderful desserts have now made it to my list of 'I'm definitely going to make these again'.

First you put your spoon through the clouds of whipped cream laced in a sweet coffee sauce, then dip further into the smooth coffee mousse - need I say any more!

This wonderful recipe comes from Delia's How To Cook Book Two - ISBN 056338431X - Page 188.

Delia's recipe uses instant espresso powder for the mousse and the sweet coffee sauce.
Here is a link to Nigella Lawson's cappuccino cupcakes I made, way back in 2007, and fabulous they were too, this recipe also uses instant espresso powder. Also, here is a link to no less than 372 recipes which use espresso powder.


Maria at The Goddess's Kitchen and Rosie from Baking Cakes Galore have awarded to me The Adorable Blog award. Thank you Maria and Rosie.

The rules for The Adorable Blog Award are:

Nominate as many blogs which show adorability, cuteness and charm.Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.
I am passing The Adorable Blog award on to:

The Caked Crusader

New Blog: Photocrati

I've just joined Photocrati, a unique photographers’ blog consisting of a group of professional photographers from diverse fields; wedding, corporate, travel, humanitarian, nature and wildlife, and specialized studio.

Photocrati is the brainchild of Erick Danzer, who is both its founder and editor, and along with him are Steve Buchanan, John E. Marriott, Bill Millios, Booray Perry , Fred Troilo and myself. More photographers are expected to join this eclectic mix of image professionals.

Photocrati will bring a collection of tips and how-to articles covering everything from photographic technique to gear to starting and running your own photography business, insider knowledge from fellow professionals in your field for dealing with common challenges, knowledgeable commentary about what’s happening in various fields of photography, and random thoughts and ruminations from others who share your love of photography and share the challenge of making a living from it.

I will be posting my personal take on travel photography, and I look forward to read your comments on Photocrati. You can read one of my initial posts here: Kathakali: Dance-Drama

Theyyams of Malabar: Beverly A. Sanchez

Photo ©Beverly A. Sanchez-All Rights Reserved.
An entranced Theyyam approaching the devotees, Kasaragod, North Kerala

The Theyyam of Malabar Photo Expedition was joined by a number of talented full-time and part time photographers, whose primary objective was to photograph the Theyyam religious rituals as well as the Kathakali dance-drama, both indigenous to Kerala.

This is the first of a series of posts which will showcase some of the work of the photographers who joined the expedition. The first post features four photographs by Beverly A. Sanchez, whose main forte is candid portraits. Over the course of the expedition, Beverly adopted a more journalistic approach to her image making. She works with 2 Canon 5D Mark II bodies, a 70-200mm 2.8, a 24-70mm 2.8, and a 16-35mm 2.8. She has photographed in Puerto Rico, Morocco, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

Photo ©Beverly A. Sanchez-All Rights Reserved.
Theyyam make up follows age-old traditional patterns, Kasaragode, North Kerala

Photo ©Beverly A. Sanchez-All Rights Reserved.
A Kathakali performer in the Pacha character (hero), Thrissur, Kerala

Photo ©Beverly A. Sanchez-All Rights Reserved.
A Pacha character & the Virtuous Lady in background, Thrissur, Kerala

Saturday, March 14, 2009

RMA: Nagas, Hidden Hill Tribes

The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City's Chelsea area has just announced a new photographic exhibit: Nagas: Hidden Hill People of India by Pablo Bartholomew running from March 13 to September 21, 2009.

The accompanying blurb reads:
Residing in the low Himalayan hills of northeastern India and Myanmar (Burma), the Nagas are a people faced with both tradition and transition. This very diverse community is divided into a number of tribes and sub-tribes and speaks as many as 30 different languages. In Nagas: Hidden Hill People of India photographer Pablo Bartholomew offers a visual anthropology of these historical headhunters, particularly the preservation of their traditional culture and their interaction with and adoption of Western religion and influence.

This is certainly an event I won't miss. Nagaland and the so-called Seven Sisters in north east India is one of the last remaining area of the subcontinent that I haven't visited.

I will report on the exhibition soon.

Holi: The Festival of Colors

Photo ©REUTERS/K.K. Arora-All Rights Reserved

I've been waiting for the Boston Globe's The Big Picture to feature its choices of large format images of Holi, and I didn't have to wait long.

Holi, which usually falls in the later part of February or March, is a traditional festival celebrated in India and elsewhere such as Nepal and Bangladesh. The main day is observed by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other, and bonfires are lit the day before to commemorate a religious event.

In the above photograph, women tear off the clothes of men as they play huranga in Dauji temple near the northern Indian town of Mathura during this year's Holi festivities. Huranga is a game played between men and women a day after the Holi festival during which men drench women with liquid colors and women tear off the clothes of the men.

It does look like fun, doesn't it? Potentially damaging to one's camera gear, but certainly fun.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Robert van Koesveld: Thaipusam in Penang

Photo ©Robert van Koesveld.-All Rights Reserved

Robert van Koesveld's biography tells us he has set aside “at least the next 2 years” from his career as a psychotherapist to focus on his crafts of photography, making and traveling.

Considering himself an image-maker rather than a picture-taker, Robert has worked with alternative processes and darkroom printmaking and considers that the digital ‘lightroom’ is an extension of that practice. He returned to photography about ten years ago, and has always been an enthusiastic traveler, traveling with his wife to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, India, Malaysia and Bhutan. They also travelled to Mali for the Festival au Desert in Timbuktu and explored the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kashgar. They are returning to Bhutan soon where they will travel the West-East traverse to deepen their connection to this country. Together, they are working on photographic essays and articles arising from their shared travels.

Robert's submission to The Travel Photographer blog is a well put together SoundSlides of Thaipusam, with many "in your face" imagery and accompanying soundtrack. Some 800,000 Hindu Tamil and Chinese devotees of Muruga (also called Subramaniam), the Hindu God of War, gathered in Penang (Malaysia) to celebrate Thaipusam, where Robert was at the time.

Apart from his travel website, Robert maintains a fine art photography website well worth one's while to browse around.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

WHNPA's Picture Story Award

I've just learned that The Washington Post photographer Andrea Bruce was named 2009 Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association for her recently published feature on female circumcision in Iraqi Kurdistan.

I already expressed my shock at The Washington Post's decision to publish Bruce's photographs showing the face of the young girl being circumcised. I wrote this:

"On the other hand, I'm shocked that The Washington Post editors decided not to preserve Sheelan's privacy and dignity. Here's a 7 year old whose mutilation, a terribly humiliating and painful experience, is now seen on the internet. Would the editors be so cavalier in invading the privacy of a 7 year old in New York City for instance?...or is it because Sheelan and her mother are impoverished Kurds that they ignored their basic rights??"

I wholeheartedly support any effort to eradicate this barbaric tradition, but showing Sheelan's face in Bruce's photographs is what outrages me. By all means, publish the feature to enlist support against the practice, but grant this young girl the same dignity as we would to someone in the United States or Europe. Or is it just cheap sensationalism at the expense of Kurds who don't know any better?

Perhaps some will argue that the White House News Photographers Association chose well, and I certainly have no quarrel with Bruce's talent, but I wonder if its members would have voted the same way had these photographs been of their own daughters? But we'll never know, will we?

In the meantime, we remain tone deaf and naively wonder why we are disliked by so many.