What a year 2016 has been.
On a personal level 2016 has easily been my busiest year of work. I’ve been privileged to undertake some really interesting projects including one large commission which next year will launch as a book ,exhibition and an online interactive website. I’ve also been making more video documentary work than ever before and finding it really stimulating and creatively challenging. Hope to show some soon.
Here are some of my more memorable pictures of 2016.
Kingsley the world’s weirdest football mascot
On one of my final nights in Glasgow I shot an assignment from the German football magazine 11 Freunde. I was visiting Patrick Thistle and their unique mascot Kingsley. Patrick lost 2-1 against Aberdeen. Here is the spread they ran in the magazine.
While below are a few of my favourite pictures from the evening.
On October 11th I was visiting a disadvantaged neighborhood on the outskirts of Guadalajara when I heard a peculiarly harsh sound. As we drove along the street we stopped to watch at a crossroads to take in a procession of colourfully dressed Indigenous Mexicans who walked along to the beat of a drum past onlookers. The Marist Brother I was with told me they were beginning their Virgen de Zapopan procession. The unusual loud sound was from the banging and scraping of metal on bitumen which was from the group wearing sheets of metal strapped to their feet creating an incredible audio backdrop to their parade.
The Virgin of Zapopan is also known as Our Lady of Expectation. The history of Zapopan goes back to 1734 when she was proclaimed Patroness against storms and lightning. Every year on October 12th the small 10″ statue of Zapopan is returned to her home church the Basilica of Zapopan. You can read all about the history here on wikipedia.
I was in Mexico continue my work on an exciting project I’ve been commissioned to work on for the Marist Institute in Rome. Staying with a community of Marist Brothers in Guadalajara we had planned to wake at 5am to join the procession but at approximately 3am I was awoken by large cracks which I initially assumed was gunshots. The other strong sound flooding into my ears was the same scraping and clanging metal I had heard the evening before. At 3am the processions had begun and thousands of Indigenous Mexicans were walking through the streets heading towards to the Basilica.
Walking amongst the stream of groups was amazing. The sights and the sounds were overwhelming and swiftly dealt with my early morning poorly caffeinated haze. We walked along with the crowds, moving in and out of the procession groups and others who had stopped for a break.
As sunrise started to break the groups of onlookers also begun to grow. Thousands lined the streets, most bundled up in jumpers, with their own chairs, food and beverages. I enjoyed catching moments of the crowds as we moved along, below are some of my favourite moments.
As we walked towards the Basilica the crowds started to thicken and eventually we came to a total standstill. Taking a traditional Mexican drink (can’t remember the name) we found some shade and waited for the final procession. Quickly our little spot of solace was quickly filled with the crowds and before we knew it the Statue of Zapopan was passing us. The crowd was so thick that we had to bounce on our feet to keep above the crowd and watch the tiny 10 inch statue as it passed.
This final picture is one of my favourite from the day. A little boy sleeping with his Dad after a long morning waiting for the Zapopan statue.
This past August I was on assignment in Malawi as part of a long term commissioned book project I am doing for the Marist Brothers Bicentenary in 2017. The Marist Brothers are a Catholic order of Brothers who have communities in more than 80 countries around the world.
As my taxi drove through the scorched red-earth hills between the airport and Lilongwe I noticed these two colourfully dressed characters bounding between the bushes. I asked my cab driver to stop and when they were moving past the car my driver asked them where they were going and I managed to take this portrait of the Gule Wankulu.
I was totally amazed by what I had seen and as we drove off I asked the driver to tell me all about the Gule Wankulu. It wasn’t until I could get and read up on the Gule Wankulu cult of Malawi. Twice more on my trip I stumbled upon the Gule Wankulu. They were both on dirt roads in central Malawi, an area dominated by the Chewa ethnic group who the Gule Wankulu cult belongs to.
Of my two other interactions, the above nighttime gulewankulu picture was the most fascinating. Driving home around 8pm we slowed down as these two straw made creatures lurched down the road towards us. My driver a Marist Brother from the Chewa group told me they were transporting the Gule’s to the neighbouring village’s cemetery to be used the following day during a funeral ceremony.
When not spotting Gule Wankulu’s I was I was rather busy working in this commissioned bicentenary book project. Unfortunately more info about it will remain under wraps for the coming 6 months at least. In the mean time here are a few more pictures from my time in Malawi. You can see a few pics below.
More than 12 years ago I met a young South Sudanese refugee called Apa Manyang. We grew up in the suburbs of Newcastle and it was in his backyard in 2010 when I took the first photo for my project Stories of the South. You can see a full edit of the work here on my website.
Since finishing school Apa has focused pretty intensely on his music. Spending time with creative mentors as well as studying at some of Australia’s industry leading institutes and now he is out there producing some exciting stuff. Below are some examples and I suggest you follow him on soundcloud to keep connected with what he does next. I am sure it will be exciting!
A year ago in April 2015 I embarked on a wonderful journey through Uzbekistan. Visiting the old Silk Road cities by Soviet train was one of the most enjoyable journeys I have made in some time. I am also really pleased to see the work was featured in a recent edition of The Big Issue. Here are the tearsheets from the spread if you didn’t pick up a copy.
Launching a long-term project (part 1)
As 2016 starts to move into full swing I wanted to share my experience from the past half year of launching my long term project Stories of the South. After more than five years of working on this story about Australia’s South Sudanese community I decided to finally pitch it to editors when I attended the Visa Pour’limage festival in 2015. In mid 2015 I relocated to Glasgow with my partner while she pursues a post-doctorate from a university in Scotland, so home is currently in Europe, a nice change to Sydney.
In August 2015 I had been back in Glasgow just a week after a stint back in Australia and Asia when on a whim I decided to book flights to Perpignan. It was a bonus to hear fellow Australian, the stellar photographer Ben Bohane would be attending the festival to present his work and sign his new book The Black Islands—Spirit and War in Melanesia. For a number of years I had planned on attending Visa Pour’limage but being based in Australia half a world away made this a difficult task. In hindsight I am glad I waited until 2015 to attend because when I go I had serious bodies of work ready to show to editors.
For me the first time I understand what it meant to wait until work is ready was in 2009. In January 2009 I remember sitting in a bar in New Delhi’s Defence Colony, an upmarket neighbourhood popular with journalists, NGO workers and diplomats where I caught up with fellow Australian photographer Adam Ferguson. Adam is an exceptional photographer who has produced significant work in the past decade, he has always been someone I’ve looked up to with myy own work. I remember how many questions I had for Adam, so much I wanted to ask. The one thing I remember well was his advice in regards to approaching editors with my work, “you will know when your work is ready”.
Fast-forward six years to September 2015, arriving at the Visa festival I felt confident that my work was ready yet how wrong I was. While the series of work was good, it was during my meetings with editors that the edit truly came alive. After a number of crucial meetings with great editors I remember scuttling off to readjust the sequence and edit. The work really matured over that week and it took on a much needed international context. By international context I mean I was able to expand the visual narrative to ensure it had wider application beyond Australia.
The numerous edits throughout the week paid off. One of my final meetings was with James Estrin from The New York Times Lens blog . James had hordes of eager photographers wanting their 10 minutes to show him their work. I have deep respect for the energy and commitment Jim gave each person that sat down to show him their work. From observing him while I wait in line he listened and talked honestly yet encouragingly to everyone, in equal measure. The Lens blog is where I wanted my series to launch and I was lucky enough that Jim thought it was worthy. The series launched here on October 5th 2015.
I understand that uprooting and starting again is never easy. As an Australian living in Europe I’ve found this experience more valuable that I could ever have imagined. Coming from somewhere as isolated as Australia, the benefits far outweighing the challenges of starting gain. One aspect of this move that can’t be measured is the broadening of perspective when it comes to considering my Australia work in a global context.
Above is a gallery of the work when it ran in The Guardian online launching on October 16th.
The second part of this blog piece will launch in a week.
It started floating down from the sky at dusk, around 4pm at the moment in Glasgow. 8 year old Yamat was the first to notice and pointed to it through the window as we all sat talking on the couches. Coming from Syria, snow is a familiar thing for the Nasrallah family. So it was me the Australian photographer who found the snow/slush fall most exciting.To be fair, it was less snow and more slush by all accounts and not even enough to cover the ground. When Mohammad opened the large window in the lounge room of the apartment, it felt like we had our own private viewing of the world outside.
Inside the apartment I sat with Mohammad father of seven catching up on the news of the family. I initially met Mohammad when I was commissioned by the British Red Cross last year to document the lives of reunited refugee families living in Scotland. This commissioned project culminated in a very successful exhibition in the Mitchell Library and Kibble Palace green house in the Botanical Gardens of Glasgow. Links to the project are here on BBC and here on Third force news.
The Nasrallah family from Syria have now been reunited in Glasgow for a year this month, January 2016. Among the 7 children the third youngest child is 8 year old Yamat. When rockets damaged the home in Syria it was Yamat who lost her full hearing in one ear and became partially deaf in the other. Soon after the attach the family fled to Egypt. In 2014 Mohamed left his wife and seven children behind to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. Mohamed was then reunited with his family in January 2015 when they joined him in Scotland.
Last week Yamat received a hearing aid. Now she can hear again in her right ear, Mohammad said he has noticed a very big difference, she can hear everything and can talk more normally again.
Over the coming year I am based in Scotland and I will continue to document the new lives of Syrian refugees who now calling Scotland home.
Sitting in Glasgow airport as I wait to fly off for Ireland on my final adventure of 2015, I thought I’d put together a few of my favourite pictures from the year.
I hope 2016 is as productive as the year I’ve just had.