This mysterious photograph of the Calais ‘Jungle’ is the work of 18 year-old Esyas (his name has been changed), an artist from Eritrea. He is taking part in the Displaces photo project set up by Prof. Corinne Squire.
I’ve been working alongside Gideon Mendel, teaching photography and editing the results of a two day workshop. We’ve left cameras with refugees to document their lives in the camp. I’ll post more images as the project progresses.
Esyas’ photograph conveys the atmosphere of this place which is not a place. A landfill site full of people, now partially bulldozed back into the ground. There is a stark simplicity to the landscape which makes it feel like an allegory: the camp, the fence, the road, the police, and the bulldozers. Yet everywhere there is a flickering of different lives and cultures: the scraps of possessions burnt or ploughed into the earth, the Eritrean church, the mosque, the library, the cafes and the figures playing football or just staring at the horizon.
Much architectural photography has an arid and ghostly or post apocalyptic feel. The buildings are presented without people, in creepily perfect weather and light, as though they subsist for and of themselves. We are hard-wired to respond to faces; the moment one appears in a photo the building recedes and becomes the setting for a particular human drama. If and when they do appear, most people in architectural photos are faceless figures performing unremarkable and predictable functions serving the building, rather than vice-versa.
In discussion with Niall we decided to try and photograph the flats with the residents in situ. A housing block is nothing without its inhabitants, and this elegantly low-key, unpretentious building is designed around their lives and needs. Unlike boutique designs for wealthy clients, these flats must adapt themselves to a wide range of cultures, tastes, religions and cuisines. They concentrate on getting the fundamentals right: light, space, movement, air, sleep and so on.
I have tried to show the residents using the depth of the space, sometimes looking out of the frame, to make us consider the rooms’ shapes and limits. I want the viewer to see them as individual people, using and enjoying the architecture rather than just being in it.
Itinerant donkey owners working in Gujarat’s brick kilns spend 24 hours a day with their donkeys. They live, work, play and abide together. The donkeys’ welfare is entirely in the people’s hands. So who are they, and how do they live alongside their animals? I hope these photographs from MA Ambapur kiln near Ahmedabad will help show how these two societies live together.
Seven people go into a room and eight people come out.
Anaesthetists don’t just work with unconscious patients. This expectant mother is being guided through a magic trick. Sitting beside her, the anaesthetist asks questions, tells her what is happening, and what she can expect to feel and hear. His team help bridge the gap between her emotions, and what is happening to her numbed body.
From my own experiences, I’m aware of the intimacy and vulnerability in handing yourself over completely into the care of someone else.
Everyone remembers having a general anaesthetic. They won’t remember the operation; but they’re likely to tell their friends all about the process of slipping into unconsciousness. The anaesthetist is their guide and protector into and out of this netherworld. For the clinicians the process is routine, yet the anaesthetists and nurses I photographed were always aware of the importance of this moment to the patient. They used charm, humour, calmness, eye contact and a genuine interest in the patient to help them navigate what is at the very least a disorienting experience.
Consciousness is a tricky subject, debated by philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years. But anaesthetists turn it on and off and otherwise manipulate it every day. Photographing people losing consciousness is an odd thing. Like a benign and reversible death. One moment they’re there talking as I snap away and the next minute they’re absent, yet still the centre of attention. They are there and not there.
My commission for the Royal College of Anaesthetists took me to hospitals around the country to photograph all aspects of anaesthesia.
I’ll cover other aspects of this extraordinary profession in future posts.
I’m delighted to see a photograph from Unquiet Thames on the cover of Sarah Maguire’s selected poems. Due for publication on Aug. 20th this year; I’ll look forward to reading her tactile, imagist poems again.
Last March this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives, came to London. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from UCLA. This is the ninth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
Each participant produced a sequence of ten images which will be appearing on the project website: http://throughpositiveeyes.org/ Meanwhile, here’s a sample to be going on with.
Itinerant brick kiln workers use WhatsApp to stay in touch.
Donkey owner-drivers working in the brick kilns of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are paid every Friday, but receive a lump sum payment at the end of the brick-making season. This allows them to buy Indian-made smartphones costing about 5,000 Rupees each.
Most donkey owners are itinerant and may be away from their home villages for many months at a time. The phones allow them to stay in touch, both with family members, and friends working in other kilns. They’re also a status symbol for the young. Using WhatsApp is cheap and may be a spur to literacy for a largely unschooled workforce.
Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Virat (13) who likes to be known as ‘Brad’ with his smartphone. He good-naturedly photographs every move the UK photographer makes.
Last December I returned from helping to run the Haiti chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel. This is the eighth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
In the UK animal traction and haulage are things of the past – relegated to the heritage industry. In India draft animals play a key role in the modern economy. Aside from their use in agriculture, donkeys and mules are essential to the construction industry. The livelihoods of many thousands of marginalised families are reliant on the welfare and efficient functioning of their teams of donkeys and mules. These photo stories take a look at this industry.
India is experiencing a building boom to cope with its rapid urbanisation. Thousands of concrete-frame high rise blocks, with brick infill, can be seen rising up around Delhi and Mumbai. Almost every one of the millions of bricks involved has been transported by donkey or mule at the brick kilns where they are made. So how does it work?
Donkeys have a blind spot immediately in front of them, but can see right round to their hind legs – though not behind their head.
Simply mounting a wide angle camera on a donkey’s head won’t tell us how a donkey really ‘sees’ the world. But it can tell us something about its working life. Its movements, its height, the rhythm of its work, how it directs its attention and perhaps how it relates to people and other donkeys.
This donkey shot 2,700 photographs over a 45 minute period as it went about its repetitive work at a brick kiln in Gujarat, India. This selection of its work will tell you as much about what I think makes an interesting photograph as it does about donkey consciousness. But that would apply if I had shot them myself.
This is a male horse with his owner Rohtas. They work in a brick kiln. They both live in a house with plastered and painted walls and electric light.
This is a mule with his owner Vedpas. They also work at the brick kiln. The mule also has a nice bedroom, though not quite as nice as the horse’s bedroom.
This is a buffalo with her owner Annar Devi. The buffalo has a bedroom, though its not painted, has no electric light and is open on one side. She has a sacking blanket to keep her warm.
This is a goat, Somehow it seems to have got a plastered and painted bedroom.
These are donkeys with their owner Harish. They all work in a brick kiln with Harish. They sleep outside in the rain. Harish puts their pack saddles on in the evening to keep them warm, and to stop the crows from pecking at the saddle wounds on their backs.
This is the bedroom of Harish’s older brother Mahender – standing on the left. Mahender made a good marriage with a good dowry. The room is plastered and painted and has electricity.
This is the bedroom at the back of the house where their parents (on the right) and Mahender’s mule sleep. It’s made of brick but it’s not plastered or painted and it doesn’t have electricity.
With thanks to everyone at Khesikala and Madhupur, and to TDS India
Gurgaon, a city outside Delhi, India, is undergoing a boom in construction fuelled by the new Metro link and Delhi’s need for young professionals. Almost every brick in the country has been carried by donkeys during its manufacture. In Gurgaon they also work in lieu of cranes.
The changing culture of the East End seen through the prism of the traditional cockney funeral. Commissioned by The Economist, I photographed two contrasting funerals – a Ghanaian mother and an old school Kray era gangster. Both conducted by traditional funeral directors T Cribb, who are successfully morphing and cross-pollinating their funerals to suit the immigrant populations of the East End. To find out more read the Economist’s feature ‘Buried Like Kings’.