Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Verdict: Gnawa Photo Expedition

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Now ensconced in sunny and hot London, I've reflected on the past 2 weeks spent photographing in Morocco during the Gnawa Festival Photo Expedition, and two key words immediately jump to mind: frustrating and sublime.

Here's the frustrating bit: people photography in the large cities of Morocco is to say the least, extremely difficult. Moroccans are generally reticent to pose under any circumstances, and photographing them on the sly (say in a marketplace) can lead to some unpleasant confrontations. I recall that we were photographing fishermen off-loading their catch in the post of Essaouira, and hearing one of them, clearly irritated by our presence, asking his colleagues if we thought them to be monkeys in a zoo. Other Morrocans would agree to pose provided they were paid, then adopted the dreaded "frozen look". Some noticed our cameras, and immediately covered their faces whether we pointed our cameras in their direction or not. Street photography needed ingenuity and a self-starting approach, since photographing in a group didn't work.

I exerted much efforts to engage people and show respect, but despite my fluency in Arabic (somewhat different for the local idiom), I wasn't terribly successful in persuading them to be photographed. However, I did manage to establish moments of genuine kinship, such as with the owner of Africa Music in Essaouira who spoke at length about Gnawa music, but it did not translate into being open to photography. It will be included however in my planned multimedia piece on the Gnawa.

The other frustrating issue is that in impoverished Morocco, and because its high unemployment rate amongst its youth, there's a sense that tourists ought to pay for every little service, whether needed or not. I found this to be particularly true in Marrakech and Ouazazate, but less so in Essaouira. For instance, the self-appointed guides at the Ait Benhaddou Kasbah in Ouarzazate are spectacularly venal, and some even threatening. It's a shame since the site is UNESCO-listed, and ought to be supervised instead of being left to a bunch of hooligans.

Before I turn to the sublime aspect of the photo-expedition, here are a few other random thoughts. In the grand scheme of things, Ouarzazate was a dud from a photographic standpoint. Unless one is willing to photograph the Kasbahs (there are two of them), nothing else attracted my attention. I'd give Marrakech a passing mark for photography because of its Jemaa el-Fna square, and that's about it. Again, all this is said based on my sort of travel documentary photography, and is certainly not applicable to other disciplines. The infrastructural component of the expedition went well. Hotels were generally fine, but the Riad Mimouna in Essaouira stands out a certainly being a jewel. Our bus was expertly and safely driven by the jovial Abdel Hakeem, and was extremely comfortable. However, the drive from Marrakech to Ouarzazate was uncomfortable for those who suffered from motion sickness because of the road's switchbacks.

As for the guides: I didn't find them particularly good nor flexible enough to earn the description of "fixers", with the exception of Hassan E'Chater in Essaouira, who displayed occasional flashes of ingenuity. Guides are badly paid in Morocco, so have to rely for income on herding tourists to stores and restaurants.

The sublime aspect of the photo expedition was found in Essaouira, so in the unlikely event that I repeat this trip, it would only take place during the 4-5 days of the Gnawa Festival, and not more. Although it's still difficult to photograph people in this little town, the medina itself is remarkably photogenic, and since its streets are normally crowded, candid photography is frequently easy. Personally, I found the event to be initially somewhat ill-organized but it got better as the days progressed. Our hotel, Riad Mimouna, was a few steps away from the small Zaouia Sidi Bilal where many of the nightly Gnawa performances were held. Most of my documentary photography and audio recording of the Gnawa was done there. The Zaouia family of caretakers included Rokeyah and her two young nieces Khadija and Ibtisam who, despite their being less than 8 years old, attended the performances well into the wee hours of the night. Khadija greeted some of us with hugs; a display of affection indicative of the Moroccans' hospitality.

The Gnawa performances at the zaouia were breathtaking. I managed to thwart the administrators efforts, and photographed almost as much as I wanted. Rather bizarrely, photography was allowed at some performances, and prohibited at others. Since the area is quite small, a fast wide angle lens is recommended. Since the Gnawa music is extremely percussive (the qerqabs are really noisy!), I've experienced some distortion in my recordings which perhaps I can fix using either Garageband or Audacity. Another great aural experience was the Berber women singers at the La Recontre restaurant near the zaouia.

One of the highlights of the trip was photographing the Gnawa procession which, in effect, inaugurates the festival. It started at Bab Doukala, and winded its way to one of the main arteries leading to Bab Marrakech. The various Gnawa bands performed for the public, and competed with one another to achieve the highest decibel level. One of the bands included a female Gnawa, who is quite famous in their circles.

Gnawa music has a new fan. I bought a few CDs of a couple of Maalems, such as Mahmoud Guinea and Hamid El-Kessari. And fans of grilled sardines will find Essaouira to be the place for them.

Finally, the above photograph was made during a Gnawa performance, when a young local woman suddenly stood and dances to its rhythms. Within a few moments, she had gone into a deep trance by violently throwing her head about. I had seen women going into trances here before, but they were much older and were larger.

Other non-photo sublime moments:

Witnessing an elderly fisherman choose a plump fish from his catch, cutting it to manageable bits and feeding two ravenous scrawny cats. Noticing they seemed thirsty, he found a discarded plastic bottle, cut its bottom to use as a plate and poured water for them.

Sensing the tremendous energy in the audience of young people when Babani Kone of Mali made her entrance on stage, and when Cheb Khaled, the king of Rai, sang his hits on the Essaouira beach.

Returning to my hotel at 3 am from the Essaouira beach after the Rai concert and realizing that, despite the late hour, there was as many people walking about as there would be during the day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM


The strawberry plants have produced a bumper crop this year. I picked 2kg in one day and today picked another basket full, that's besides all the strawberries picked on previous days. I have my very own PYO at the bottom of the garden this year!


The squirrel is quite partial to strawberries and so they have to be covered up with netting which makes picking them quite difficult.

As well as making strawberry jam, I have now made a couple of tubs of ice cream. One ice cream was custard based and the other is a very simple ice cream made with double cream and a few other ingredients. It's best if you have an ice cream making machine because it makes life much simpler.

Next week it will be more jam making, rhubarb and strawberry crumble, Eaton mess, more ice cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate, strawberry cupcakes, strawberries on their own and anything else I can think of to use them up!

FRESHLY CHURNED ICE CREAM


The book from which the recipe is taken has a useful section at the beginning regarding ingredients, finer points of ice cream making and rippling, scooping and serving. Lots of wonderful recipes to whet the appetite such as extra-rich vanilla, strawberry and kiwi fruit, gunpowder, mango, triple berry just to name a few. Also there is a chapter on sauces to serve with your freshly made ice cream.

Rosemary Moon, the author of this book, is a Waitrose consultant and also a food writer.

The following recipe was the best strawberry ice cream I have ever tasted, it's non-custard based and is light and creamy.

ICE CREAM MACHINE BOOK - Rosemary Moon

ISBN 1845430999 - Page 36

(Slightly adapted)

You will need: 450g hulled strawberries, juice of half a lemon or to taste, 150g-200g sieved icing sugar to taste (I used 150g), 300ml double cream (I used whipping cream)

1. Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor, then turn them into a bowl and add the lemon juice and sugar to taste.
2. Stir in the cream.
3. Freeze-churn until the ice cream is ready to serve or pop the ice cream into a tub and freeze for later.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Essaouira Report: Zaouia Sidi Bilal

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Within a few steps from my lovely Essaouira hotel (Riad Mimouna) is the zaouia of Sidi Bilal, who was the first muezzin in Islam, and is the patron saint of the Gnawa order.

It is there that most of my photographs of the Gnawa performers are made. The backdrop of the zaouia is of traditional islamic zellige, and is just perfect. I've witnessed three Gnawa performance at the zaouia so far. The first was of the Gnawa Maalem Allal Soudani, the second was of the Tunisian Sidi Ali Lasmar Stambali, and the third of the magnificent Ganga de Zagora. The first two performances were of the Gnawa Maalems on the traditional guembri (a three stringed instrument), while the rest of the group provide the repetitive percussive accompaniment with the also traditional qarqab, which are the hand-held cymbals. The end of each session was particularly interesting as local women would join in the furious hand-clapping, add a special stone to the incense burner and eventually go into a trance.

The third Gnawa performance was of the Ganga de Zagora, which did not involve other than the qarqabs and drums known locally as t'abl.

The final performance tonight will be of the famous Maalem Ahmed Baalil, which will start at midnight and will probably end at 3 am.

While it's a tad premature, but I must say that the report card for the Gnawa Festival Photo Expedition is mixed. The reluctance and refusal of many Moroccans to be photographed is a considerable obstacle for people photography, and the harshness of the sun/light also makes it very challenging. Street photography in the medinas is possible, however the light conditions are not ideal. On the other hand, photographing the Gnawas has been a cinch (with one minor exception), and they are extremely photogenic and attractive. The music is remarkable, and its rhythm is impossible to resist. I'm girding myself for a longthy editing process once I'm back in New York to create a Gnawa multimedia slideshow, accompanied by ambient sound recorded during the performances.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Essaouira Report: Gnawa Festival

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

The 2009 Gnawa (or Gnaoua) Festival in Essaouira officially started yesterday at 6:00 pm, when all the participating groups congregated at the medina's Bab El-Doukala for its inaugural procession through its narrow streets.

The various Gnawa bands were amply represented in the square just outside the Doukala Gate, and were being interviewed by the local press. Gnawa music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber, and Arabic religious songs and rhythms, and they displayed their talents while walking in the medina's streets. The procession was viewed by a large number of spectators, both local and tourists, although I noticed that some of the Essaouirites were irritated at having to wait until the processions passed through to go along their business.

I thought the best vantage point for photography was under the arches of Bab El-Doukala, where there were no spectators on the either sides to intrude in my shots. With one exception, I was the only photographer there and was left alone by the police who were shooing people away from the center of the alley.

Later on at midnight, we attended a "lila" in a nearby zaouia, a Maghrebi Islamic religious monastery, where the Maalem Al-Soudani and his group was performing for a small audience. The opportunities for photography were somewhat restricted by the administrators who initially claimed that it would interfere with the sanctity of the performance, then changed their tune to admit it was because they didn't want unofficial photographers to "commercialize" the events (ie only photographers approved by the Festival organizers were allowed to photograph).

I wish the organizers could have been candid and up front with the real reason, rather than using a religious or spiritual excuse, and confusing spectators.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Essaouira Report: Gnawa Musicians

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

I've just been able to photograph and audio record a couple of rehearsals of musical bands and dancers in the medina of Essaouira through the persistent assistant of our fixer, Hassan. Normally, attending and photographing these rehearsals require special permits and press passes.

The first rehearsal was at a riad (small typical hotel) in the center of the medina, where I photographed the amazing Brazilian dance trio Afoxe Loni, along with the legendary Gnawa Maalem Mahmood Guinea.

The second rehearsal was at an arts center, also in the medina, where I photographed the incredibly talented Maalem Abdel Rehim Ben Thami, accompanied by the Trio Amrat, Hussein and Foulani.

What I saw augurs well for the quality of the talent which will be seen by the public at the Gnawa Festival tomorrow night.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Work: The Tanners of Marrakech

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

As readers of this blog know, I'm leading a photo expedition in Morocco whose principal destination is Essaouira where we will be photographing the Gnawa Music Festival in a few days' time. The 9 photographers on this expedition are now in Ouarzazate, an ancient city south east of Marrakech and described as the gateway to Africa, and where we are photographing the various casbahs dating from the 11th century. I suspect that it's hardly the remote area it's hyped as, since the hotel here has an incredibly fast (and free) WiFi in its rooms.

We stayed in Marrakech for a couple of days, and the above photograph is of Mejid, a worker laboring in its famed medieval tanneries. The stench of the tanneries here puts off many visitors, but it hardly matters to workers like Mejid and his colleagues who toil for long hours in difficult work conditions. Visitors are handed mint leaves to place in their nostrils to filter the odor, but I declined and found that one gets used to it after a few moments.

Morocco, as expected, is a difficult country to photograph because of two main reasons: the harshness of its sun, and the general unwillingness of its people to be photographed. However, we are soldiering on and making the most of the experience.

Tomorrow, we make our way to Essaouira (a 7 hours drive) on the Atlantic coast and to attend the festival which lasts until month-end.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SUNBURST ROLLS


These may not be 'trendy' but I love pulling this bread apart to reveal the fluffiness! Also, I find the poppy seeds and sesame seeds irresistible.......


The dough was made in my Panasonic bread maker and then each piece of dough shaped into a ball. When I attended college, I was taught by a baker how to make perfect dough balls. Firstly, remove your watch and rings, these harbour bacteria! Make sure that your hands are free of any perfume or hand lotion otherwise this will transfer onto the dough. Take the piece of dough and place under the palm of your hand, then grasp the dough ball lightly with spread out fingers and make round movements on the work surface. You should now have a dough ball without any creases underneath!

Below the recipe are a couple of photographs of bread baked in the bread maker. Speedy Sesame Bread and Light Seeded Wholemeal Bread, these recipes came from Bread Machine Easy, also from Sara Lewis.



Another useful book for baking bread by hand or using the bread machine is Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno.

I came across this very interesting blog which concentrates on bread, called The Knead for Bread, so why not hop over to this website for some wonderful photography and bread recipes.

THE BREAD BOOK - Sara Lewis

ISBN 0600607909 - Page 97

You will need: 475g strong white flour (I always use Waitrose Canadian Strong Flour), 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon caster sugar, 1¼ teaspoons fast-action dried yeast, 275ml water

For the glaze and topping:
1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1. Pop the dough ingredients into the bread pan in the order given for your make of bread maker.
2. Set for the dough option. Press start.
3. At the end of the programme, tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface, knead well and then cut into 16 equal pieces and shape each one into a ball. Arrange the dough balls in 2 rings inside a well buttered 25cm spring form tin. Put 10 rolls in the outer ring, 5 in the second ring and the last remaining roll in the centre.
4.Cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until the rolls are well risen and touching.
5. Remove the clingfilm, brush with the egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water and sprinkle the outer ring and central roll with sesame seeds and the second ring with poppy seeds.
6. Bake in a preheated oven 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 - I cooked mine on Fan 180°C - for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped with the fingertips. Check after 15 minutes and cover with foil if over browning.
7. Loosen the edges of the rolls with a palette knife and then turn them out on to a wire rack or large plate, then turn again onto a wire rack so that the tops of the rolls are uppermost. Leave to cool completely.

National Geographic: Angkor Wat

Photo © National Geographic

The National Geographic online is featuring a 3D innovative look at the Khmer Empire, which includes Angkor Wat and life as it must have been in the 13th century.

In fact, this animation will provide a sliver of solace to those who heeded the National Geographic's advice of not going to visit the complex. A few months ago, the National Geographic's Intelligent Travel advised people not to go to Siem Reap and to the Angkor complex, and to postpone their visits. It seems the sheer volume of tourists has taken a toll on the Angkor monuments and temples, and that several of the important temples are being restored. Some have unsightly scaffolding with areas just cordoned off. The central section of Angkor Wat is closed to visitors until 2010 at the earliest.


Robot posted as I'm in Morocco

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blind Boys Magazine


Blind Boys Magazine describes itself as being bold, new and South Asian. I'm unsure whether these photographers form a collective, or are just a group of photographers who seek an avenue to expose their diverse work to the outside world.

Aditya Kapoor's photographs reveal the lighter side of the often misunderstood Muslim community, Kapil Das' photo essay covers one of the last surviving traveling theater groups of Gujarat, while Akshay Mahajan explores the lives and uncertainties of a old couple in New Delhi’s new urban scape. Ishan Tankha photographs in a camp in Sri Lanka where 94 former child soldiers live with their supervisors, Surya Sen's photographs show us the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, and finally Ruhani Kaur finds Sophie Ashraf, a 21-year-old Muslim girl who raps.

posted "robotically" as I'm in Marrakech

Friday, June 19, 2009

Candace Feit: West African Wrestling

Photo © Candace Feit -All Rights Reserved

Tyson and 50 Cent are the names of the biggest stars in West African wrestling, which according to photojournalist Candace Feit, has become a huge business for wrestlers and sponsors alike. Instead of wrestling to win a bag of rice or a goat, the current monetary prizes are now in excess of $300,000. For many young men in Senegal, it can drag them out of a crippling poverty.

Candace has been featured on many occasions on the pages of The Travel Photographer blog, and her photographs of West Africa appeared in the The New York Times, Le Monde, Le Figaro, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and Time magazine, among others. She was based in Dakar, Senegal and now is living in Delhi, India, from where she will most certainly equally produce wonderful photo reportages such as this one and the others which are found on her website.

Other posts on Candace can be found here.

posted "robotically" as I'm in Marrakech

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Gear For The Gnawa Photo~Expedition

Having received questions as to what I normally pack on my photo~expeditions, I thought thought I'd list what I loaded my Domke F-3X Canvas bag with for my Gnawa Photo~Expedition which starts in a few days. In a departure from my usual packing style, I decided this time that I'd go minimalist (sort of) in terms of camera gear, and leave my Canon Mark II (and all its heavy paraphernalia) at home.

The contents of my bag:

* Canon EOS 5D Mark II
* Canon G10 (ideal for unobtrusive street photography)
* Canon 17-40mm f4.0
* Canon 28-70mm f 2.8
* Canon 24mm f1.4
* Marantz PMD 620 Audio Recorder
* Acer Aspire One 8.9-inch Mini Laptop (w/LR2 and SoundSlides)
* A 250gb G-Tech Mini G-Drive External Hard Drive
* Blackberry & an iTouch

and in a separate (but connected to the Domke), a Lowepro lens case with a Canon 70-200mm f 2.8.

I don't intend to carry all this while photographing in the field, as I'll just choose what lens I need (I normally use 1 or at most 2 lenses while working), but I'll report back on what worked and what didn't. Chargers and other stuff will be packed in a see-thru zippered bag in my checked luggage.

posted "robotically" in between London and Casablanca

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Think Tank Wired Collection


Think Tank has announced that it will begin shipping a line of bags aimed at editorial photographers whose work includes capturing audio along with still photos, plus photographers who are acquiring the new breed of digital SLRs capable of capturing high-quality video.

The line of bags is called the Multimedia Wired Up Collection consists of 4 belt-mountable pouches and two beltpacks.

I never used Think Tank products, but I am impressed that it's bringing a line of products specifically aimed at multimedia photographers, which means the company keeps its ear to the ground (as it ought to) and reacts to our needs. I'm sure its competitors are also readying new products. I always thought that the Think Tank products were too "boxy", but these new ones are soft-sided and very attractive.

It's always a clever idea to promote a product showing a real life working photographer using the products, and the Think Tank promotional video is one of those, plus it's partially shown in black & white! Can't be more professional than that!

My thanks to Larry Larsen who suggested the link.

For further product pictures and details, visit Rob Galbraith website.

posted from London en route to Morocco

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tyler Hicks: The Battle For Pakistan

Photo © Tyler Hicks/NYTimes-All Rights Reserved

A superb photojournalism feature published by The New York Times of photographs by Tyler Hicks appeared on its website late last night.

The title of the multimedia feature is The Battle For Pakistan; a title which I find rather exaggerated, as it really is about South Waziristan. Having said that, the area which may well be the toughest challenge for the Pakistani military in its war against an insurgency.

South Waziristan is home to Baitullah Mehsud, who -according to the accompanying article, leads the Taliban in the area and has engineered many suicide bombings in recent years.

The article by Sabrina Tavernise (and Ismail Khan) ends with an ominous quote by a top bureaucrat for the tribal areas, who says: “Militancy is like a monster. Even if only the tail is left, it will grow again from there.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Michael Kamber: Hard Lessons in Somalia


"It is also important to keep a low profile when you’re moving through dangerous areas where kidnapping risks are high. Try to find vehicles with tinted windows. Long sleeves, beards, hats and local dress all help. Don’t be embarrassed to wrap a scarf around your head or put on local garb. From a distance, this makes you less visible. It may save your life."-Michael Kamber (from LENS-New York Times)

Michael Kamber is a well-known photojournalist, and is currently working on a book on photojournalism and war photography. He was nominated three times for the Pulitzer prize. He has covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire, Sudan, Somalia, Haiti, Israel, the Congo and various others.

He shares some of the hard lessons he learned while working in Somalia on The New York Times LENS blog.

posted from London en route to Morocco

Book: Within The Frame: David duChemin

If there's one book on photography I must have with me if I'm ever marooned on a desert island, it'd be David duChemin's Within The Frame.

If there's one photography book I'd recommend to all the photographers of varying levels of proficiency who join my photo~expeditions, it's David du Chemin's Within The Frame.

If there's one photography manual I'd have with me when teaching my photography courses to emerging photographers and photojournalists, it'd be David's Within The frame.

Yes, it's that good.

Within The Frame is David's opus...a 'from the heart and soul' of a travel photographer who genuinely likes his craft and is justifiably proud of his work. It's a book of color, of light, of exotic locations, of people, of humanity and of valuable recommendations.

Here's David in his own voice:

"Anyone can take a picture of poverty; it's easy to focus on the dirt and hurt of the poor. It's much harder -and much more needful- to pry under that dirt and reveal the beauty and dignity of people that, but for their birth into a place and circumstance different from our own, are just like ourselves. I want my images to tell the story of those people and to move us beyond pity to justice and mercy".
Is there a better way to say what many photographers believe and live by?

Another brilliant photographer, SebastiĆ£o Salgado, said as much: "If you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things."

Within The Frame is well worth adding to one's library of photography books; almost 250 pages of sound advice and suggestions as to how to improve your photographic vision, along with scores of David's lovely photographs. I recently heard that David wondered if creative vision can be taught. If it can, then this book is one of its manuals.

Within The Frame is available from Amazon or B&N. David duChemin's photographic vision can be seen on his website here.

posted from London en route to Morocco

Sunday, June 14, 2009

En Route: The Gnawa Photo Expedition


I'm on my way to Morocco to lead the Photo~Expedition: The Gnawa Festival In Essaouira, which begins in Casablanca on June 19.

In Casablanca, I will be meeting (all for the first time) the 8 photographers who are joining me on this exciting adventure, exploring the souks of Marrakech, the fabled city of Ouarzazate and the famous port city of Essaouira, where the Gnawa music festival is to take place.

During the coming 12 days or so, my postings may not be as frequent as usual but I've set up some robot posts, and hope to be able to upload a couple of posts from Morocco during the photo~expedition itself. It all depends on time availability and accessibility of the internet.

CHICKEN, PAK CHOI AND ALMOND STIR-FRY


Xanthe Clay has brought out a wonderful book for the busy cook. The title says it all - 10 Minutes to Table.

Speedy recipes are all well and good, provided they pack a punch on taste. This recipe had plenty of punch but I think the 10 minutes to table was pushing it somewhat. The cookery book market has been saturated with speedy, quick, in minutes, so on and so on.......

This recipe came from a taster of the book, in Sainsbury's July Magazine 2009. Crisp fish with minted mushy peas look wonderful, although if I just served this up to my husband, I think I might be in line for the sack.....Tomato, soft cheese and sesame tart looks promising as does a salad of asparagus with buffalo mozzarella, pine nuts, peas and new potatoes. All of these recipes are to serve two people.

You will need: 2 nests of medium egg or rice noodles, 1 tablespoon oil, 2 peeled cloves of garlic, a handful of blanched almonds, 1 skinless chicken (I used more), 1 head of pak choi, 4 spring onions trimmed, 1 medium red chilli (optional), toasted sesame oil.
For the sauce: 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons dry sherry or Chinese rice wine, 1 teaspoon cornflour.

1. Put the kettle on to boil. Put the noodles in a pan, pour over the boiling water, cover and keep to one side. Mix the sauce ingredients together with 4 tablespoons water.
2. Heat a wok or large frying pan, add the oil and heat until almost smoking. slice the garlic, cook until golden, then scoop it out and discard.
3. Add the almonds, cook until pale gold, then remove and keep to one side. Thinly slice the chicken across the grain. Spread it out in the wok, allow to sizzle for a few seconds, then toss until lightly coloured and cooked through, then scoop it out.
4. Slice the pak choi. Slice the spring onions diagonally and the chilli, if using, into thin rings and add both to the wok, with more oil if needed. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then tip in the pak choi and stir for another minute, until just cooked.
5. Return the cooked chicken and almonds to the wok. Add the sauce and heat through, stir-frying everything together, adding a little more water if necessary.
6. Drain the noodles and toss with a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Serve with the stir-fry.

Khaled Hasan: The Stone Crushers


Khaled Hasan was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and joined Pathshala (the South Asian Institute of Photography) and completed a workshop in Chobimela IV (2006). He was inspired by Shahidul Alam and Reza Deghati. He worked as a freelancer for several daily newspapers in Bangladesh and for the photo agency Majorityworld. His photographs have been published in the Sunday Times Magazine, American Photo, National Geographic, Better Photography, Saudi Aramco World and The New Internationalist.

The Stone Crushers of Bangladesh also appeared on GlobalPost, the excellent online news organization, and documents the working community of Jaflong in the northeastern part of Bangladesh. The Piyain River, which flows from India through Bangladesh, washes rocks and pebbles from India into the Jaflong area, where thousands of laborers collect the stones and crush them. The crushed stones are then sold for making roads and at construction sites. A backbreaking job for little pay and no security.

Gritty documentary work by yet another talented photographer/photojournalist from Bangladesh!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pakistani Cinema: Zackary Canepari

Photo © Zackary Canepari -All Rights Reserved

TIME Magazine features a photo essay by Zackary Canepari titled The Last Days of Pakistani Cinema.

It's a welcome change from the current run of the mill photojournalism which we normally see in the mainstream media. I've had enough of seeing photographs of frightfully scary Islamic mullahs, with black beards and betel-stained teeth, which seem to delight photo editors, and are standard fare in our newspapers. So I cheer when I see diverse photo reports such as this one.

It seems that in its heyday years, during the 1970s, the movie studios of Pakistan churned out around 200 movies a year, but that has dwindled to a fraction because of the growing accessibility of Hollywood and Bollywood films. It is also threatened by the increasing potency of the Taliban in the northern parts of the country.

Zackary Canepari's toned photographs are always interesting, and he has done it again with this collection. I found some of the actors' photographs hilarious.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Purge: The Travel Photographer's Newsletters



I've sent out my June newsletter yesterday, and realized that it was about time to purge my ever-growing mailing list of subscribers that no longer open my newsletters with regularity. Through my email marketing service, I get an update as to which emails do not open my newsletters, and I've already started to remove them from my list.

The criteria is simple. Subscribers who haven't opened any of my four newsletters of 2009 are either not interested any more, or have moved their email addresses or haven't opened them in that length of time. Consequently, they are being removed from the list.

What triggered this review and purge is an expanding list which costs me money to send, and I have no intention of keep sending newsletters to recipients who no longer open them. Because of the number of subscribers, this purge is a laborious task which I may not complete before I travel to Morocco in a few days, but it'll be done.

I use Campaign Monitor for my newsletters, and it's a pay as you send system. I found them to super dependable, responsive and they don't tolerate spammers.

By the way, if any recipients no longer wish to receive my newsletters, all they they have to do is click on an unsubscribe link in each newsletter. I prefer you unsubscribe than not read them.

My 2010 Photo~Expeditions: Update


As posted a few days ago, a newsletter with details of two of my 2010 Photo~Expeditions was emailed yesterday morning to subscribers. These subscribers have either joined my previous trips, or are photographers who emailed directly expressing interest in them or are people who joined my mailing list by completing the mailing list on this blog's right column.

The responses to the two photo~expeditions (especially the Nomads of Rajasthan & Gujarat in early 2010) have exceeded my expectations, and it appears that registration may be closed soon.

On my return from leading the Gnawa Festival Photo~Expedition to Morocco (in two weeks or so), I will post these two 2010 Photo Expeditions on my website The Travel Photographer and on this blog.

My Work: Kathakali Actor

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

Kathakali is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama well-known for its attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and body movements. It's prevalent india's southern state of Kerala where it also originated.

It was photographed at the reputed Kathakali Kalatharangini school in Thrissur, during he Theyyams of Malabar 2009 Photo~Expedition.

The make up used in Kathakali performances is made from various mineral ores and pigments, which are ground on a stone and mixed with coconut oil before being applied on the actors' faces. Interestingly, the character shown in the above photograph placed a "chundanga" seed under his lower eyelids to turn the white of his eyes red.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sankar Sridhar: Zanskar


Sankar Sridhar spent his early years in Calcutta, subsequently trekking and guiding tourists on trails in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kashmir, then worked as an outdoor survival instructor in a Delhi-based adventure company.

He eventually worked as a journalist, with many of his articles appearing in Le Courrier France and Le Courrier International Japon, Geo Magazine, Financial Times, The Telegraph, The Statesman, The Times of India, DNA, India Today Travel Plus, Outlook Traveller, Swagat and DiscoverIndia. His photography was exhibited, published and awarded in national and international salons and contests. His Chasing Nyima, a work of non-fiction, has found a distinctive place in Penguin’s third edition of First Proof, an anthology of New Indian Writing.

Have a look at his Zanskar portfolio. I think these are wonderful (albeit smallish) photographs of this inhospitable region of India.

A nod of thanks to Eric Beecroft for the suggestion.

Niki Taxidis: Nepal & Tibet


Here's the work of Niki Taxidis, an Australian-born freelance photographer who worked in remote areas of Australia in health care and forensic sciences for over 12 years. She spent two years as a crime-scene examiner and photographer and has volunteered in health care, education and photographic projects both overseas and within Australia.

Don't skip the entry page of her website, which opens up with a lovely piece of Tibetan music.