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Paolo Patrizi March 28, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.
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Junior Sumo wrestlers circle the ring. Tokyo, 2009.

Paolo Patrizi (b.1965, Italy) began his career in London working as a photo assistant. While doing freelance assignments for British magazines and design groups he started to develop individual projects of his own. His photographs have been published in The Observer Magazine, Stern, Panorama, Corriere della Sera, GQ, Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Geo among others. Paolo has won several awards with the Association of Photographers of London, The John Kobal Portrait Award, World Press Photo, The Sony World Photography Awards, The Anthropographia Award for Human Rights and POYi. His photographs are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

About the Photograph:

“Watching these big men tossing each other around the dohyo it is difficult to see that the mental and spiritual side of the sport are more important than the body. It takes enormous mental strength to maintain a winning edge. If they can’t get in the right frame of mind, they can’t win. Training is a vital part of the lives of wrestlers. This starts early in the morning, around six with the lowest rank supervised by slightly senior wrestlers. The regular form – ‘Moshiai-Geiko’- is that of a succession of bouts, with the winner staying in the ring and choosing his next opponent. It follows that a good wrestler gets more training.”

“When the time allotted is almost up, seniors get into the ring one at a time and give individual Bustukari-Geiko, which consists of the juniors charging from outside the ring and trying to push the senior right across the other side. The sport-ritual of Sumo is dear to the Japanese because it reflects in microcosm many of the values that Japan holds dear. Japanese society places enormous importance  on rank and hierarchy and the world of Sumo does the same. Japan is a nation that cherishes rules and respects authority, and in sumo too this tradition is unyielding. Sumo is one of the most ancient expressions of Japanese culture inspired by the Samurai code of honor with champions regarded as national heroes. The Rishiki, with their 17th century Samurai-style hairdos, are expected to show stoicism. Winners in Sumo never feel or express self-satisfaction and losers never complain. At the end of a bout the Rishiki bow respectfully to each other and step silently down from the ring.”

Geoffrey Hiller on the Recent Violence in Myanmar March 25, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Burma, Myanmar.
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Editor’s note: In light of last week’s tragic events in Meiktila, Myanmar I’m posting a report from my visit there last month. All photographs by Geoffrey Hiller.


College graduates leaving a beauty salon. Meiktila


About the Photographs:

Last month while in Myanmar I spent a few days in the town of Meiktila, in the center of the country between Naypyidaw and Mandalay. The bus from Taungoo was packed with people and chickens and bales of bamboo, and stopped every couple minutes to pick up more passengers.  The distance was 150 miles but the trip took eight hours. I had called the day before to reserve a room at the main hotel but was told it was fully booked. I didn’t want to return to Yangon or go on to Mandalay, so I went to Meiktila any way. Sure enough, plenty of rooms were available.

The bus dropped me off in the Muslim part of town near a large mosque, across from a tea shop where a man was baking nan in a fiery clay oven. I took a motorcycle-taxi to the hotel, had dinner and walked around the neighborhood to get oriented my first night. After the bustle of Yangon, the small-town atmosphere was welcoming. Shop owners relaxed outside on tree-lined streets, chatting with each other.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her former husband Michael Aris visited Meiktila on their honeymoon in 1972. It’s a pleasant town on a lake as big as Inle Lake. An English-style clock tower looms over the center of town. In my three days there the only other foreigner I met was a middle-aged man from Russia who spoke to me in Spanish.

The next day I visited one of the mosques on the other side of the railway tracks near my hotel. It was Friday afternoon, the Muslim sabbath, and was filled with men attending early afternoon Namaz service. After prayers they met in the front hall to socialize. One of them offered me bananas. Down the street there was an Indian grocery store run by Sikhs who had immigrated to Burma after the British left. I couldn’t help but notice the brisk business they were doing with a diversity of customers, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim.

I began my day at the Golden Rain Tea Shop, which was on a leafy street alongside three other large cafes. I noticed a brightly lit shop that turned out to be a beauty salon. It was graduation season and everywhere in Meiktila exquisitely dressed young women were getting ready for their commencement ceremonies. Photo studios were doing a brisk business. The graduates had majored in subjects such as electrical engineering and botany. It was doubtful that they would find work in those fields, but they were still hopeful.

In one salon owned by a group of gay men from Mandalay, a bride had just had her hair styled and was waiting for the groom to arrive.

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Later in the day I photographed young girls breaking rocks by hand and paving the road. This was the norm for most, who had to leave school after a few years to do manual labor or housework or sell vegetables at the market. It reminded me of how little things have changed in Burma for centuries.

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Buddhist monk collecting donations

One month after I left, the media reported that fighting erupted after an argument between a Buddhist couple and Muslim owners of a gold shop. After my experience in this peaceful town, the news reports about the fighting and killing and burning of homes is unbelievable to me. I had talked with dozens of residents of Meiktila, both Buddhists and Muslims, and I never would have guessed such violence would erupt. On my last day in Meiktila I waited for the night bus to Yangon at the Asia World stop, at a Shophouse where an extended Muslim family lived. The bus from Mandalay was two hours late but the father invited me in and offered me grapes. He showed me the rows of family photographs that covered the walls. As I follow the news, I fear for him and all his family who treated a stranger with such kindness.

An eery thing that I noticed after the bus picked me up was that an elderly monk who was sitting in the front got angry and started banging his plastic water bottle on the seat. The man next to me said that the bus had broken down before and the monk was frustrated because of the delay. This scene was uncharacteristic for the Burmese, and particularly a Buddhist monk. Now I wonder if it foreshadowed the shocking events to come.

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Dave Anderson March 21, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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BBQ Queen”, from the project Rough Beauty, Vidor, Texas, 2004

Dave Anderson (b. 1970, United States) has been recognized as “one of the shooting stars of the American photo scene” by Germany’s fotoMAGAZIN and named a “Rising Star” by PDN. His project Rough Beauty was the winner of the 2005 National Project Competition from the Santa Fe Center for Photography and became the focus of his first book, which was published in three languages. His latest monograph, One Block: A New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilds, was published in 2010 by Aperture Books and featured in the New York Times and Time as well as on Good Morning America and CNN. Dave is a former MTV producer and currently producing a video series called So Lost created for the Oxford American Magazine as well as a project for NPR called Southword.

About the Photograph:

“This photo was taken as part of a project I did called Rough Beauty. All the photographs were taken in and around the town of Vidor, Texas. One of the biggest events of the year is homecoming parade. The parade is bigger then their 4th of July celebration. There’s also an associated beauty pageant to name a “Miss Barbecue.” The key thing to remember is that there’s not just one Miss Barbecue for girls of most ages. By my memory, there’s Miss BBQ, Junior Miss BBQ, Little Miss BBQ, Mini Miss BBQ and Tiny Miss BBQ. Even Tiny Miss got her own car in the parade —even if she was just six months of age.”

“I found this girl standing around waiting for her car to be parade-ready. She was very pretty in her white dress but she was trying to hide her embarrassing black sneakers. She said, rather plaintively, “Please don’t show my shoes…” While I wasn’t able to honor that request, I did try to burn down (darken in the dark room) her shoes a bit. So the moment with her as well as the general awkwardness of the situation was quite resonant. But the other thing that I think really makes the photo is the absolute boredom of her brother, who stands sullenly off to the the side — just waiting for it all to be over.”

Srinivas Kuruganti March 18, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in India.
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Toxic site, Hyderabad, India 2008

Srinivas Kuruganti  (b.1967, United States) is a photographer of Indian origin. He has have photographed the daily lives of manual laborers, from the ship-breaking yards of Bombay to the coal mining villages of Dhanbad. His most recent project looks at mining in the forests and fertile lands of Orissa. Srinivas was awarded a South Asian Journalist Association fellowship in 2008 for his work on industrial pollution in Gujarat and Andhra. He is also a founding member of ASA Collective that curates monthly slideshow projections of emerging photographers in London.

About the Photograph:

“Patacheru is in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. It’s a major industrial hub where hundreds of factories manufacturing bulk drugs, pesticides, dyes and fertilizers dump their effluents into the streams. The streams here are considered one of the most toxic in the world. I was near a site where a steel rolling mill dumps their waste in and around communities that live in the industrial estates. The people in these communities scavenge for the iron shavings in the waste using massive magnets which they roll over the waste. They separate the shavings and small pieces of metal by size and resell back to the steel mills. The boy and his sister were standing in front of a truck that had just arrived and were in the process of dumping their waste when this photo was taken.”

Uwe H. Martin March 14, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Kazakhstan.
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Two men decorate the place of honor prior to a wedding in Bogun, Kazakhstan 2011

Uwe H. Martin (b. 1973, Germany) is a visual storyteller and multimedia producer at the Bombay Flying Club. He documented the daily life in Bangladesh since 2000 and the struggle of people suffering from Narcolepsy in 2005. Uwe is currently working on a set of multimedia documentaries about the global commons water, seed and land. White Gold investigates the social and environmental effects of global cotton production, while his new visual research project Landrush analyzes the impact of large-scale agro-investments on rural economies and land-rights around the world. He teaches photography and multimedia storytelling at various institutions in Germany. Uwe studied photojournalism in Hanover, Germany and with the support of a Fulbright grant at the Missouri School of Journalism. In 2010 he founded Aggreys Dream, a project supporting a school in a slum in Mombasa, Kenya.

About the Photograph:

“Two fishermen decorate the place of honor prior a wedding in Bogun, Kazakhstan. Following an old tradition they are using cotton – the very fibre that destroyed their life and future. Bogun was an important seaport at the Aral Sea, with casinos, hotels and a population of around 9000 families. When the Aral Sea started to shrink in the 1960s due to excessive irrigation of cotton fields, Bogun was left dry in a chemical polluted salt desert. The fishing industry was destroyed, most people moved away and Bogun became a small village swallowed by a regional dust bowl.”

“The picture is part of my White Gold project that investigates the social and environmental effects of global cotton production. For me it reflects the ambiguity I feel about cotton. Cotton is the fabric of our life. We wear its fibers on our skin and pay for our cotton-filtered coffee with cotton-made paper money. We ingest its pressed seeds in potato chips and salad dressing, while cotton linters helps to paint our nails, recorded history on film and thickens the ice cream we eat during our first cinema date. Yet the darker side of this fabric spins another tale: Millions of Africans were abducted to work on the fields in the American south; Billion Dollar subsidies distort the global market and ruin millions of peasants in Western Africa and a fertile paradise turned into a chemical polluted desert in Central Asia while 200,000 Indian farmers committed suicide during the last decade after they became dependent on corporate seed supply.”

Ton Koene March 11, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Turkey.
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Istanbul, 2012

Ton Koene (b. 1963, Netherlands) holds a degree in Humanitarian practice from Oxford University. After graduation, he worked for sixteen years (1989-2006) for Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), primarily as Head of Mission in twelve conflict areas including Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Angola and Sudan. In 2006, he resigned from MSF and began working as a freelance photojournalist. He has covered prostitution in Nigeria, coal mining in Bulgaria, malnutrition in Somalia, Genocide in Darfur, the Inuits of the North Pole and police training in Afghanistan. Ton has produced five photo books and one textbook. He is based in Afghanistan and freelances with De Volkskrant. In 2012 he won the World Press Photo award for his Afghan police portraits.

About the Photograph:

“I was on assignment for the travel magazine TRVL to shoot a photo documentary on Istanbul. Each neighborhood has its own character. There is the eastern and more boring site across the Bosporus. There is the touristic center where you can photograph the diversity of people hanging around, all buying the same useless souvenirs.  But there are also many local areas across the city where tourists don’t go because they feel uncomfortable with these unknown areas. They are scared to leave their safe touristic habitat. These are the living quarters of average Turkish families. In the evening, when the sun goes down and the city cools down, families gather outside in front of their houses to chat, smoke and laugh. This picture was taken in one of these neighborhoods. A mother is playing a ball game with her kids, the mullah was praying in the mosque which you can see in the background, people relax in front of the houses and share the latest urban gossip. There wasn’t much light beside the yellow streetlight but it was enough. This is the real Istanbul when you go off the well know path and let yourself be surprised with the unknown.”

Shannon Taggart March 7, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Haiti, United States.
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Haitian Vodou Ceremony, Brooklyn, New York 2009

Shannon Taggart (b.1975, USA) is a photographer based in Brooklyn. Her images have appeared in publications including Blind Spot, Time, Tokion, New York Times Magazine and Newsweek. Shannon’s work has been recognized by the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography, the International Photography Awards, Photo District News and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, among others. Her photographs have been shown at Photoworks in Brighton, England, The Photographic Resource Center in Boston, Redux Pictures in New York, the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles and the New Gallery in Houston.

About the Photograph:

“This photograph is part of a long term project about Haitian Vodou ceremonies that happen in a basement Hounfor (temple) in Brooklyn, NY. The host is Rose Marie Pierre, a third generation Mambo originally from Haiti. It was the first night that I witnessed a possession, the centerpiece of Vodou ritual. Possession may look frightening but it is actually a meaningful, sought after experience. The purpose of possession is to allow a personal interaction with the Loa, a pantheon of gods that are archetypal representatives of natural/moral principles. Possession is not an opportunity for self-expression, it is a blessing and a reward for service. It is also a gift one gives of themselves to their community so that others may consult the Loa for intercession, guidance and healing. The analogy used for possession is as if one’s body is being mounted like a horse, with the Loa as the rider. One cannot be man and god at once, so the individual needs to surrender their ego to the experience. A temporary amnesia then takes place and the events that occur remain a mystery to the person possessed.”

Chris Harrison March 4, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in England.
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River Don, Jarrow, England 2011

Chris Harrison (b. 1967, England) received his Masters from The Royal College of Art in London in 1999. His first exhibition was based on his junior school class photo (1978), where he traced everybody including his best friend in jail for murder. His personal work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe. Highlights include “Under the Hood” being selected to represent British photography at Arles and his work on WW1 Memorials in Britain “Sites of Memory” that was part of the show “How we are” at the Tate in London. His monograph I Belong Jarrow was recently published by Schilt Publishing in Amsterdam. Chris is currently the National Media Museums Bradford Fellow in Photography doing a project about the machine his father worked with in his factory job.

About the Photograph:

“This image is from my book I belong Jarrow. I have forgotten the language of my fathers and not yet learned the language of my children. I was born and brought up in Jarrow, a tough industrial town in the south bank of the river Tyne. It’s where I call home. I have lived abroad for more years than I care to admit. My Mother and Father are getting old and moving out of Jarrow, cutting me adrift with now way back. Finally, I have been forced to think about who I am and where I belong. I never wanted to leave Jarrow. I always imagined that one day I would make it my home. I realize now that I can never return. Somehow I traded knowledge of the outside world for some vital piece of me. With this realization, I have returned home in order to try to establish how much of where I am from determines who I am, and to begin to understand why I can’t seem to let go.”

“This shot is of the River Don which flows quietly and when I was younger toxically through Jarrow. When I was a kid the only thing that was ever fished out of the river were bikes and shopping trollies. Now since we are in a postindustrial age we have small fish, Kingfishers, Otter and even Salmon. I find myself struggling with my nostalgia for a harsher time and place. Hopefully, by photographing the places I know intimately I can show something we all instinctively recognize; that, as L.P. Hartley said so eloquently “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.“

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