Sunday, 31 August 2014

POV: The 'Unbearable' Lightness of Fuji X Series

Well, time does fly and I'm preparing to leave for Hanoi to start my The People of Tây Bắc Photo Expedition-Workshop in a few days.

This trip is something of an important chapter in my timeline as a travel photographer, as it'll be the first time that I leave my heavyweight DSLRs home. I've traveled before with just a Leica M9 and the Fuji X Pro-1 (as to Guatemala last month), but this is the first photo expedition-workshop that sees me DSLR-less.

I've tested the Fuji X-T1, the new addition to this group of non DSLR tools, in the streets of New York City and over the past two weeks, found it reliable and responsive, and I believe it'll perform well in replacing my aging Canon 5 Mark II. The Fuji X-T1 has its drawbacks and quirks, but from my past experience with the X Pro-1, these are mostly caused by my being unfamiliar with its minor idiosyncrasies.

What will accompany me to Vietnam is this: (from the top left) Marantz PMD 620 audio recorder,  a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 (Leica mount), Leica M9, Fuji X Pro-1, a Fujinon 18mm 2.0, a Fuji external flash EF-X8 (for fill-in if needed), a XF18-135mm f3.5-5.6 and the Fuji X-T1 with a Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8.

I roughly calculated that the combined weight of all these is a little over 6 lbs. or 3.0 kilograms at most. Feather weight in comparison to what I used to schlep before. All of which will fit very comfortably in my small Domke F-8 shoulder bag, along with two 2TB hard drives...and other paraphernalia.

So it'll be an rangefinder (M9) for portraiture, a hybrid (or pseudo) rangefinder (X Pro-1) for street photography, and the mini DSLR (X-T1) for travel-documentary photography. 

For the X-Series cameras, I'm bringing along 5 batteries (3 back-ups/spares) which will be charged every night.

On my return, I'll be in a better position to relay my impressions and experiences with the Fuji X-1 and the various lenses.

PS. Yes, I cover the brand names of my cameras with black gaffer tape.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Monsoon | Sturla Gunnarsson

I saw this trailer posted on Facebook the other day, and thoroughly enjoyed the few minutes it took to tell the story of the monsoon in India. Most time lapses I've seen are irritating, but here they're relevant and well-done.

Cherrapunji in the Indian state of Meghalaya is credited as being the wettest place on Earth. According to records, it received 366 inches of rain in July 1861 and a whopping 1,041.75 in between 1 August 1860 and 31 July 1861. In comparison, Seattle got a record of 16.25 inches of rain in December 1917.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Fuji's Full Frame VS "Full Size" APS-C

"It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument." -Eve Arnold

The internet lit up (well, almost) the other day when eagle-eyed Fuji aficionados and others read the Fuji Press Release for Photokina 2014 to read this:

"We will be unveiling our latest lineup of X-series digital cameras along with interchangeable lenses and peripheral accessories at this year's Photokina. At the Touch and Try Corner of the Fujifilm booth, visitors will be able to experience the outstandingly high image quality with a full size sensor and high resolution images taken with the new lineup of cameras that feature FUJINON XF interchangeable lenses."

Reading the words "a full size sensor" led many to believe that Fuji would be announcing a new full frame sensor in a couple of weeks. Not reading it carefully left me, having just acquired the new X-T1 and the 18-135mm lens, with the taste of sawdust in my mouth, and using the English equivalent of "merde!", I started calculating the costs (if any) of returning the X-T1 and the lens to the retailer I bought it from...cursing the day I decided to buy it in the first place...less than week or so.

On my Facebook page, I expressed my view that I didn't think the difference between a full frame and a cropped one was of such critical importance with technological advances in the APS-C sensors. There's certainly differences, but as many other photographers attested to, these differences have to balanced against the many positives of using an excellent mirrorless system such as Fuji X-Series.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved (XT-1/Fujinon 18mm)

I also expressed my surprise that Fuji would go full frame (or full size) as it had no lens line-up that would work with a full frame camera. It actually referred to its existing XF interchangeable lens system. 

So somewhat relieved...I concluded -after reading the paragraph in question- that it had to be a copy writer error, and that I didn't have to return my X-T1 after all. This was confirmed a day or two later when Fuji re-issued its Press Release and corrected it to say "the emphasis will be on the high resolution of the APS-C sensor, which rivals that of a full frame sensor.”

My initial knee-jerk reaction was a silly one. The X-T1 is an exceptionally good tool, and while I've discovered over the past few days that it has some quirks (and I will probably find more), it's certainly a worthy replacement for my aging (and super heavy) Canon 5DII and the 7D...along with their back-breaking glass.

I'm not a tech-head and I'm not saying (or even thinking) that APS-C is as good as a full frame. Bigger is better in this case...but the difference is smaller than what many photographer think...but sometimes, we are wedded to notions that are past their prime, and with the technological advancements in sensor manufacturing, this is no longer the case.

My view is simply this: I am delighted to be able to rely on a smaller and lighter system than what I used for the past 14 years. I'm not yet ready to get rid of my DSLRs just yet, but I'll have to decide really soon. In the meantime, Vietnam beckons and leaving my DSLRs behind will be the real test.

Fuji X-T1/Zeiss Touit 12mm/Grip

Speaking of Vietnam, the X-Pro1 served me extremely well during my Photo Expedition-Workshop of 2012. I used it for street/candid photography and although it's auto-focus capabilities weren't ideal, it allowed me to photograph discreetly in situations where my Canon 5D Mark II would've been too intimidating, and the quality of its images were up to my expectations. The new Fuji X-T1 will hopefully surpass my expectations that it will generally outperform (or perform as well as) my DSLRs.

Monday, 25 August 2014

35 Cows And A Kalashnikov | An African Journey

"No boy soldiers. No hunger. No safaris."

Here's a beautifully produced trailer of a movie titled 35 Cows And A Kalshasnikov by Oswald Von Reicththoven.

It's in three parts: a tribute to the stick-fighting Surma tribe of Southern Ethiopia, the dandy movement of Brazzaville and the voodoo wrestlers in Kinshasa.

Stick fighting is a sport and ritual the Surma people take extremely seriously. In most cases, stick fighting is done so young men can find wives, and is a way for young men to prove themselves to the eligible young women.

The "dandy" movement of Brazzaville involves young men who love to wear meticulously in sartorially fashionable dress, and these are known as "sapeurs". Pastel-colored three-piece suits in designer labels are a staple of the Sapeurs' fastidiously assembled ensembles. They stand out among the widespread poverty, strutting the streets like walking works of art.

In the Congo, wrestling is extremely popular, but the main difference between the way it's practiced here is that the Congolese like to introduce a mystical, magical “voodoo” element to the theatrics. So apart from the obvious play-acting, there are also “magical traditions” involving powders, spells and zombie-like transformations of wrestlers.

Oswald von Richthofen is a producer and director, known for 10000 BC (2008), 35 Cows and a Kalashnikov (2014) and Franzmann (1979).

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Christian Werner | Chained In Paradise

Mental sickness, lack of psychiatric hospitals and traditional healers...all come together in a compelling and disturbing documentary on the mentally sick who are chained, caged or tied up by their families,  on the "paradise" island of Bali.

As is common with other nations of the world, Indonesia is unable to provide adequate mental health facilities to those who are in dire need of them, and it's reported that there are 40,000 Indonesians who are afflicted with mental illnesses, and are treated inhumanly. In Bali alone, it's reported that there are 350 cases who are chained like animals...for fear they will wander off, or that they'll hurt someone or themselves. The Balinese call them "pasung"... or "in chains" and consider them to have been 'punished' by the gods..

With the lack of mental health facilities, families refer those mentally sick to traditional healers; the balians, as they're called, number about 8,000 in Bali. There are about four times as many balians as doctors. The balians are traditional healers who play an important part in Bali’s culture by treating physical and mental illness, removing spells and channeling information from the ancestors.

I photographed balians during one of my photo expeditions in Bali, and found them to be a mix of witch doctors and chiropractors, mixing mumbo-jumbo with massage and manipulation. Most of those I've seen had waiting rooms with many patients.

Chained in Paradise still photographs can be viewed on Christian Werner website.

Christian Werner is a freelance multimedia/photojournalist based in Nordstemmen, Germany. H graduated from the photojournalism & documentary photography course at the University of Applied Sciences in Hannover. His interests are social diversity and global political issues. He worked in various countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America, and he's represented by the agency Laif.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cedric Arnold | Yantra: The Sacred Ink

I'm quite chuffed to have found a preview of Cedric Arnold's Yantra: The Sacred Ink documentary film which features the rituals and ceremonial processes accompanying the application of tattoos in Thailand.

Having photographed the application of tattooing Wat Bang Phra, a Buddhist temple about half an hour's drive from Bangkok, I know the utmost reverence with which Thais regard their sacred tattoos, which are applied by the monastery's monks. It is here at Wat Bang Phra that every March 30 thousands of Thais and foreigners gather to watch or participate in the 'Sak Yant' festival. Sak means "tap tattoo" while Yant translates into "sacred design".

The short documentary preview uses footage shot between 2008 and 2014, which shows the tattooing process and ceremonies attached to the tradition, as well as the state of trance, or “Khong Khuen”, tattooed devotees enter when “possessed” by the spirit of their tattoos.

Cedric's writes that "For centuries, Thai men have covered their bodies with protective tattoos. Old temple murals show epic scenes of swords breaking apart when hitting a tattooed soldier’s skin. The tradition was handed down by generations of both monks and laymen who create the talismanic, protective tattoos and empower them with prayers."

The sacred tattoos in Thailand are much more than just an art form, and with a culture deeply rooted in superstition and spirituality, such tattoos are believed to have magical and healing powers. Thai men and also women have their sacred tattoos done at many Buddhist temples, for protection against evil spirits, and as good luck charms.

Cedric Arnold is a photographer specializing in portraiture, travel, documentary & corporate photography, as well as movie stills. With over 15 years experience shooting all formats from 35mm digital to 4×5 large format film, he is equally at ease working alone in remote areas or with a team of creatives and a lighting crew. In his personal work, he is often drawn towards exploring the markings of time, this can be in the subject matter itself or expressed with the medium he uses: out of date film, old instant film, or even through chemically altering prints and emulsion.

This is the third time that I feature Cedric Arnold's work on this blog. Previous posts can be found here.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Stan Raucher | The New Israelites

Photo © Stan Raucher-All Rights Reserved

Over five decades ago, Ezequiel Gamonal, a humble Peruvian cobbler founded an evangelical sect called Asociación Evangélica de la Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal, and declared he had been chosen by God to build a new Israel in the Amazon wilderness, and many people answered his call and formed this sect.

The members of Ezequiel's followers strictly observe the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath and, imitating the ancient Israelite "look", the men grow out their hair and beards while women keep their hair covered with kerchiefs...a sort of Israelite hijab. The cult founder is said to have been an admirer of  Cecil B. DeMille’s work, and based his belief system on these biblical movie epics.

During weekdays, the men wear regular clothes and baseball caps as they go about farming and farming. The women teach in the local school and care for children. However when Saturday arrives, the cult members meet for elaborate, day-long festivities with bible readings, singing of hymns to the tune of a brass band and a feast.

Stan Raucher's Los Israelitas features 15 gorgeous monochromatic photographs of members of this sect, made as he traveled down the Amazon River by boat with several members of this Peruvian evangelical sect.

The UK's Daily Mail newspaper also featured a whole spread of Mr Raucher's photographs, along with interesting captions.

Stan Raucher, now based in Seattle, was born and raised in Minnesota during the age of black and white television, and LIFE magazine photo documentaries. Although he did not begin to do photography seriously until 2003, these early influences are reflected in his work. His work was widely exhibited, with three recent shows: the 2013 Newspace Juried Exhibition, in Portland, The Decisive Moment, Black Box Gallery, Portland, and 2013 B+W Exhibition, Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins. After 36 years as a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington, he retired in 2011 and now devotes his time to photography, travel and outdoor activities.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest | Extension

I announced The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest mid June, and I'm extending the deadline for submissions from August 31 to the week following September 30, 2014.

Two reasons for the extension: the number of submissions hasn't reached my expectations to make the contest really competitive, and I'll be traveling to Viet Nam by September 2 and I won't have the time to properly curate the submissions.

The street photography contest is open to any professional, student, or amateur photographer at least eighteen (18) years of age. The contest is restricted to residents of the contiguous United States.*

The contest's main theme is daily life in any city, town or village (anywhere in the world), captured through street photography: real, instant images, that grab moments, people, faces, streets, buildings and other elements capable of telling stories.

The sole prize is the handcrafted WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001 which I reviewed earlier here. It's an ideal camera bag for street photography, it's low-profile and is made of very high quality leather.

The requirements and rules are simple:

1. Entrants can submit up to three (3) photographs, color or monochrome.

2. Each photograph must be a jpg 1000x667 pixels at 72 dpi.

3. Each photograph must include your name and a sequential number if submitting more than one (ie JohnDoe_001.jpg, etc.)

4. Each photograph must indicate where it was made (New York City, San Francisco, London, Delhi, Tokyo, etc). 4. Entrants warrant that their submissions are all their original work.

5. The contest is closed for submissions on September 30, 2014.

6. Entrants are to send their submissions to: tes(at) The email must also include entrants' full name.

7. There are no fees, or any costs to the entrants. This contest is essentially a competitive giveaway, and has received the blessing of WotanCraft Atelier.

Judging: I shall be judging the submissions, and will announce the three top best photographs. These three photographs will be posted on this blog, and public voting will be opened to choose the prize winner. This will now occur during the week following September 30, 2014 deadline.

* Regrettably, shipping to destinations other than in the contiguous United States is not only costly, but also involves an amount of paperwork, as well as potential hefty custom duties to be paid by the eventual recipient, especially with such an expensive camera bag. That is the reason for restricting the contest as I did. My apologies to the multitude of very talented non US-based photographers who may have been interested in entering the contest.

WotanCraft Atelier's website has full information and details on the WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fabrice Monteiro | Signares

Photo © Fabrice Monteiro-All Rights Reserved
I'm always interested in the intersection of fashion and travel photography. Exotic and beautiful women in exotic dress...what's not to like? One of my modules during my photo expedition to Vietnam will include a model shoot in Hoi An....and I really look forward to it.

In that vein, I feature the lovely fashion-travel-cultural work of Fabrice Monteiro, which showcases gorgeous women taking the roles of Signares. According to Wikipedia, Signares was the name for the French-African women of the island of Gorée in French Senegal during the 18th and 19th centuries.

These women held some power in a patriarchal system throughout the Atlantic Slave Trade, and over time amassed considerable power in trade and wealth. Some owned land as well as slaves. European merchants and traders, such as the Portuguese, settled on the African coastal societies inhabited by Signares and would marry them in order to benefit from their connections and wealth.

Fabrice Monteiro, living and working in Dakar, is a Belgian-Benin photographer who, while an industrial engineer by training, adopts the style of photo-reportage and fashion photography. He specializes in Africa, and being of a cultural mix himself, favors subject matters that provide the same mix.

Monday, 11 August 2014

POV: In Praise of The Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (Again)

Photo © Adriana Zehbrauskas
As this blog's followers and readers know, I attended the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in La Antigua Guatemala just over two weeks ago. It was my sixth workshop as a faculty member; having missed Sarajevo out of the workshops held in Mexico City, Manali, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai and now La Antigua,

Once again, while it is the students and instructors who are in the limelight during the workshop, it's the unsung heroes of the Foundry's staff,  its administrators and the local volunteers who consistently make them such wonderful successes. This particular workshop in La Antigua was particularly challenging in view of its venue (the conference rooms at the Casa Santo Domingo) being so dreadfully expensive to rent.

As always, Eric Beecroft, as the visionary force behind the Foundry Workshops, deserves singular praise. He had the  idea of creating such a workshop some 7 or 8 years ago, and made it a reality despite enormous obstacles. Eric, the staff and local volunteers worked around the clock, and deserve enormous credit for the success of yet again another wonderful Foundry.

I've often suggested to my class participants that attending a Foundry workshop is not only about enhancing their craft with advice of some of the best (and certainly selfless) photographers/photojournalists in the business, or about the class they've chosen or even about their own stories and image-making, but it's also about rubbing shoulders with other participants, whether these are peers, or just starting their photography careers, or veterans, and with all sorts of other styles of's about augmenting their exposure to different worlds, about exposing themselves to divergent thought processes, to varying points of view, and in doing so...grow as human beings (and yes, as photographers too).

In my previous POV post, I refer to my personal photographic evolution...and there's little doubt in my mind that my involvement in the Foundry since 2008, meeting and viewing the work of my fellow instructors, as well as that of the students, has inspired a shift in my travel photography trajectory...and caused an evolutionary progress in my way of seeing...from the narrow focus on stock travel photography to a more documentary type of travel photography.

I'm quite certain of this, and I'm equally certain that many students, and possibly other instructors, have had their their own photographic evolution influenced by the osmotic phenomenon of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshops.

So when the next Foundry Photojournalism Workshop is announced (either Indonesia or East Africa...maybe), grab the opportunity and register.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

POV: Style Evolution

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Having just returned from Guatemala, I thought of revisiting the photographs I had made during an earlier trip to La Antigua (and some other towns and villages) during the 2002 Semana Santa, and comparing these to my most recent photo gallery Between The Three Volcanoes.

I rarely -if ever- photographed in monochrome at that time, relying on color (whether digital or film), using a 70-200 zoom lens for most of my shots, and essentially shooting for stock and the top photograph (with space for text on either side of the subject) clearly is for. Storytelling or street photography wasn't part of my DNA at that time, and although I was mindful of Costa Mano's advice to shoot more complex images, I was still enamored with simple travel portraits.

Over the years, I witnessed the slow and progressive shift in my aesthetic vision (vision as in seeing rather than its more abstract meaning), and a desire of telling more in one image. Whether I succeed in "complicating" every photograph I make or not is open for debate, but I do try my best in achieving this in the lower photograph from my latest effort in La Antigua during a festive day.

It is only natural that one's craft should evolve over time, and hopefully improve with practice. But these two are different sides of the same coin. My style could've remain static, and I could've kept shooting for stock and simple travel portraits for all these years, and with time, I might have become really good at it.

Alternatively, I am much happier that my style has evolved to being a hybrid of travel-documentary photography, or as someone told me a style where "travel photography meets photojournalism". I still shoot travel portraiture on occasion, as I would shoot street portraiture, but my heart and visual acuity is now much more attuned to the 'complexity' of the lower photograph.

I may not be able to tell a story with every photograph or set of photographs, but the intent is there...bubbling under the surface, and sometimes the photographs fit together like a jigsaw puzzle...and a story is told.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Cameron Karsten | The Vodou Trail

Photo © Cameron Karsten-All Rights Reserved
"The Engungun spirit enters the body and becomes a direct translation of God".

Readers of this blog will know of my interest in documenting vodou or voodoo for quite a while, and until I'm able to finalize my research, and allocate some time to do so, I have to content myself with the work of others...often magnificent work...about this age-old, and misunderstood,  religious practice.

Both Cameron Karsten and Constantine Savvides produced a multimedia project that documents the origins of this belief system in West Africa to the shores of the New World. Cameron's website has a ton of still images of vodou practitioners in West Africa.

Voodoo, or Orisha, as it is practiced today, originated many hundred years ago among the Yoruba people who live in the region of modern-day Togo, Benin and parts of Nigeria. Followers of voodoo believe in an unapproachable god and an array of spirits who serve as intermediaries. Slaves, forced to leave Benin's sandy shores in their millions, took such beliefs to the U.S. and the islands of the West Indies, where they spread and formed the basis of religions like Candomblé, Macumba, Santería and Umbanda.

The Vodou Trail is the dedicated website for Cameron's and Constantine's documentary work on vodou, exploring the misconceptions about the practice, and about its clandestine aspects.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

John Rowe | The Donga

Photo © John Rowe-All Rights Reserved

For a complete change of pace, here's an Ethiopian feature.

The Donga  (also called Saginay) is the stick-fight practiced by the Suri, a tribe in the Omo Valley. The Suri  adopt stick fighting - which is a traditional way for young men to impress girls. The often bloody fight is a demonstration of bravery, and underscores the men's desire to become cattle warriors.

Generally, stick fighting is practiced so young men can find wives. The ideal time to stick fight is just after it rains, and involves various Suri villages. With 20 to 30 people on each side, the stick fights can be extremely dangerous despite having referees to make sure that rules are followed. It's said that the fights have recently led to fights with guns, in which people have been wounded.

Sometimes when a young man has a dispute over a woman, he challenges his rival to a stick fight. His village joins him by starting the age-old ritual by singing, and carrying their fighting sticks that are carved in the shapes of penises (of course).

The Donga
is a gallery of incredibly compelling monochrome photographs of this ritualistic fight by photographer John Rowe.

John Rowe is a photographer and film maker who first trained at the US Navy School of Photography when he was 18 years old. He's also a successful businessman who has founded and managed companies which develop software and digital media for the entertainment industry.

He has also devoted a tremendous amount of time, energy and financial assistance to humanitarian work in Africa. He is also helping to save babies born in the Omo Valley from the brutal tradition of Mingi. Mingi is a tradition practiced for many generations by tribes of the Omo Valley like the Kara, labels certain children as “cursed.”

For more on John's efforts on this worthwhile cause, drop by PetaPixel's post on the subject.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Between The Three Volcanoes | Tewfic El-Sawy

(click on image)

During the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in La Antigua last week, I managed to squeeze in a few hours of street photography.

Using my Leica M9 and a Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 (and occasionally a Fuji X Pro-1 with a Fujinon 28mm f2.8), I walked the quaint cobblestones streets of La Antigua, not straying too far from its epicenter, Parque Central.

I titled this gallery as Between The Three Volcanoes, since La Antigua is cradled by three volcanoes; Acatenango, Volcán de Agua and the Volcán de Fuego.

Many of the photographs in this monochromatic gallery were made surreptitiously, using the shooting from hip technique I work with in the streets of New York City...aka shooting blindly (sort of). I don't see it as a furtive method, but simply as a way to capture the candid expressions of people in the public eye and in the streets.

Furtive or not, I seldom photograph (or show) pictures of the homeless or the handicapped wherever I go. In La Antigua, I photographed a person in a wheelchair being pushed by a woman who had the most interesting of expressions...but despite that, I decided against including it in this gallery.

I decided early on that I'd photograph in monochrome, and resist being seduced by the colors of Guatemala...whether the colors of the indigenous people's dress, or La Antigua's walls of red, mustard-yellow and orange. The Leica M9 has a setting with which my photographs were monochrome in jpg and color in I had the best of both worlds.

Some 10 years ago, I photographed in La Antigua (and some parts of Guatemala) during its spectacular Semana Santa, and comparing my photographs now and then, I am amazed by the difference and by the gradual evolution in my style. My photography used to be more for stock at that time, and now it's pure documentary-travel photojournalism.

I've chosen to feature this gallery on Medium, which allows photographs to be viewed is 1400 pixels on the long side.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Philip Montgomery | The Masjid

Photo © Philip Montgomery - All Rights Reserved

I had planned to feature an Islamic-themed photo essay a few days ago on the occasion of Eid el-Fitr, but I was in Guatemala for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, so couldn't find the time to do so.

The Masjid, or the mosque, is the place of worship for Muslims. These places of worship range from the simplest to the most elaborate architectural structures (the most beautiful, in my view, are those in Istanbul and were either built or influenced by the great Ottoman architect Koca Mi'mâr Sinân Âğâ, who was either an Armenian, or a Greek).

The smaller places of worship are technically not mosques, but are called 'mussaleya" or some derivative thereof.

"...a person kneeling towards Mecca is not a stranger, but a brother or sister in faith."
The Masjid is the work of Philip Montgomery, and is a photo essay on the places of worships for the
the immigrant Muslim communities within New York City. Philip writes that for these new immigrants, the Masjid acts as an incubator, a neutral space, providing refuge from the outside world.

He found an incredible diversity of cultures and practices; whether in Harlem, Jamaica, Brooklyn or Queens...practices divergent from one origin to the other, whether West African Muslims, Egyptians, Palestinians, Indonesians...all bringing their rituals and characteristics to New York City's melting pot, and keeping their individual traditions intact but united under Islam, despite the slight nuances of each.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay-Area, Philip Montgomery is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the Photojournalism and Documentary Program at the International Center of Photography and is a recipient of the 2009-2010 ICP Directors Scholarship.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

La Antigua | The 'Multimedia For Photographers' Class of 2014

Photos © Cheryl Nemazie-All Rights Reserved
Well, the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop 2014 ended last Saturday, after a week long of grueling work from instructors, assistants and class participants (aka students).

I'm not getting into the daily details of what the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop was all about in La Antigua, but I will certainly say is that this class exerted their very utmost to produce individual projects that included still imagery, text and ambient audio over the course of what is in reality only 4 full working days.

The above collection of "mug shots" was the brainchild of Cheryl Nemazie. She thought our group photograph should consist of individual mug shots, wearing my eyeglasses, a Cambodian krama scarf and holding a Leica M9...creating a Tewfic "tribe" or "team".

Despite the well publicized travel warnings about La Antigua, none of my class participants experienced any difficulties or issues (at least that I'm aware of) during the Foundry week-long event. The classes were held at one of the town's most prestigious hotel, with conference rooms allocated to each class, and the venue generally worked very well.

The Multimedia for Photographers Class 2014 Hard at Work

The class projects included an intimate look at Guatemala's chocolate-making process, Pollo Loco (the 'chicken' buses of Guatemala), two stories on traditional Mayan-Indian weavers, the art of making typical Guatemalan bread, a teacher of reading/literacy for Mayan Indian women, and a light hearted canine love story. Except for one, all the stories were in color.

Monday, 21 July 2014

La Antigua | First Class Day | Foundry Photojournalism Workshop

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

The first day of class for the Multimedia For Photographers course was completed, and the class participants (pictured above) are already on their way to gather photographs and audio for their multimedia projects.

There are a number of project ideas popping on individuals' radar screens, and we'll have to wait to see if these materialize or not. The advice given is to always have a couple of optional projects just in case the one chosen doesn't pan out.

Parque Central in the center of La Antigua is rife with interesting characters, and hopefully participants will be able to craft visual and aural stories as quickly as possible, as one week is really too short to create an in depth story with a multimedia component.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

The eco-system that exists and gathers around the Parque Central, whilst touristy, is fascinating. The woman trying to sell some dubious looking liquor must have had luck selling it in the open in such a fashion. There was nothing furtive about her, and she brandished the bottle, offering it to me with no compunction.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

La Antigua | La Fotografia De La Calle

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Although this morning was totally consumed by exchanging US dollars to Quetzals, getting a Claro SIM card (getting two for the price of one...un regalo, as I was told), and changing hotels, I did manage to wander about La Antigua, especially around the Parque Central.

I concluded that this little town is made for street photography. I have yet to unpack my gear...relying on my iPhone to grab some casual shots of whatever interests me...especially those with human interest in them.

Under the cloisters of San Jose Cathedral, I watched a photographer setting up a shoot for a Quinceañera celebrating her fifteenth birthday in a satin dress, while the assistant with the reflector is fiddling with his phone.

Street photography here is probably going to be like shooting fish in a barrel...I hope. I regret not having unpacked my cameras, but first things had to come first.

Oh, and by the way...I had a fantastic avocado gazpacho (courtesy of the house), and great penne with salmon at a nearby restaurant. Losing weight won't be an option here in La Antigua.

Can I find the restaurant again? Probably not.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

La Antigua | Foundry Photojournalism Workshop

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Well, tomorrow I'll be flying off to Guatemala to join the rest of the faculty of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop. I'll be spending most of the week-long workshop teaching the fundamentals of multimedia and storytelling, but I'll try to fit some street photography.

Having been to La Antigua a few years ago, I remember its streets offered strong contrast between shadows and sunlit corners, and hopefully I'll be able to do some interesting work with that.

I have a small class...which is what I always ask for and much prefer, since there's a substantial amount of one-on-one coaching in the audio editing module of the class. Having a larger class would be unmanageable, and would diminish its benefits.

I'll try to post while I'm in La Antigua, and keep my readers appraised about what I'm up to there....whether it's about the Foundry itself, my street photography, excellent coffee hang-outs or restaurants.

Keep tuned.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Bijoyeta Das | The Last Aryans (Al Jazeera)

Photo © Bijoyeta Das-Courtesy Al Jazeera
"Now we charge $5 from tourists to pose for photos and more to wear traditional clothes and a lot more if you want to shoot videos"- Thinely Aryan, a Brogpa.
The Brogpas (also known as Drogpas) live in Ladakh, as well as in India-administered Kashmir. They claim to be the last of the Aryans. Out of the 5 Brogpa villages in India, two have are open to foreign tourism.  The villages of Dha and Biama are entirely populated by last remaining remnants of the Dards who are considered as last race of Aryans confined to Indus Valley. The Dards practice an ancient pre-Buddhist religion known as Bon-Cho, and have remained in total isolation for over 2000 years until 1947. 

Al Jazeera In Pictures features a gallery of photographs of Brogpas by Bijoyeta Das.

While no one knows for certain if the Brogpas' claim of belonging to an Aryan race have any merit, and whether their origins are true, the tourism industry is endeavoring to capitalize on these claims, and bring tourists to the area. These villages are about 170 km from Leh, so it is a hardy tourist that goes there...but it seems that it's picking up.

According to entries in Wikipedia: In the 19th century, the speakers of the Indo-Persian or Indo-European languages came to be called the "Aryan race", to differentiate them from what came to be called the "Semitic race". By the late 19th century, the notions of an "Aryan race" became closely linked to Nordicism, which meant Northern European racial superiority over all other peoples. 

Bijoyeta Das is a journalist and photographer. She has reported from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, South Korea and USA and holds a masters degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, USA and a photojournalism postgraduate diploma from Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Chris McGrath | The Vanishing Dokar

Photo © Chris McGrath-All Rights Reserved

What's a "dokar" you ask?

Well, it's a two-wheeled horse-drawn cart found throughout Indonesia, usually decorated with colorful motifs and bells. Its small horses or ponies often have long tassels attached to their bridle. Typical dokars have bench seating on either side, which can comfortably fit three or four persons...and luggage (and huge bags of rice).

Regretfully, the dokars are on their way to extinction due to other more efficient and modern ways of transport. More than 200 dokars were working in Indonesia's Denpasar region, but only a handful remain these days. Denpasar -as in other large cities- experiences an uncontrolled population causing chronic traffic jams that make it difficult for the dokar to work effectively. Cheaper motorcycles have also made the dokar obsolete.

Chris McGrath has documented these last remaining vehicles in his The Vanishing Dokar in lovely monochrome tones, along with copious information about the photographs as captions.

Chris McGrath is an Australian photographer with Getty Images, specializing in editorial and commercial assignments. He has photographed, four Olympic games, the Paralympics, Commonwealth games, the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, the MLB World Series, the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, US Open Golf, numerous US Open and Australian Open Grand Slams, the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the election of Barack Obama and the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan and the London 2012 Olympics.

He has worked for clients such as Nike, NFL, Coca-Cola, the LPGA, NASCAR and the New York Times, and his images appeared in Stern, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated, The Independent, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, ESPN the magazine, The Guardian, L'Equipe and on daily news and sport websites worldwide.

He currently works in Tokyo, Japan.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Going Minimalist | Guatemala Foundry Photojournalism Workshop

In just over a week, I'll be traveling to La Antigua in Guatemala to join the rest of the faculty of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop.

Since I'll be spending most of the week-long workshop teaching the fundamentals of multimedia, I won't have much time to work on any personal projects, so will probably only do some street photography.

It'll be an opportunity (and a joy) to leave behind the heavy DSLRs, and travel with a minimalist gear which, as shown in the above photograph, may consist of a Fuji X Pro-1 with a Fujinon 18mm and a Zeiss Touit 12mm, a Leica M9 with an Elmarit 28mm and a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 as well. And just in case I need to record some audio, I'll pack a Marantz PMD 620, much smaller than my Tascam DR-40 that I use on my photo expeditions.

In the last Foundry Photojournalism I attended (Chiang Mai), I relied on these two "rangefinders", and it was a relief to be carrying one or even two of these comparative light tools instead of my two Canon DSLRs.

It's not my first time to Guatemala or La Antigua. I was there some years ago during its famous Semana Santa. Some of my photographs are on Las Tierras de Popol Vuh.

For those who don't know, The Foundry's goal is to help emerging photojournalists and documentary photographers to hone their skills, to have a chance to work with some of the world’s best shooters in the field, on real reportage projects, to create multimedia, to see some of the best work being done today, to collaborate, to make contact, plan future projects, develop your own vision and leave the workshop energized, and more committed then ever to concerned photography, storytelling and to documenting the world through the lens.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Truyen Than: The Art of Conveying The Soul

(click on image)

With my photo expedition-workshop to Vietnam looming, I revisited some of imagery made during my earlier visit to Hanoi in 2012, and decided to rejig some of the photographs which had appeared on a gallery I had titled The Portraitist Of Pho Hang Ngang onto Medium, a blogging platform.

The portraitist is Nguyen Bao Nguyen, and he works as a “Truyền Thần” artist. The art aims at conveying the soul of a person from a photograph to a drawing-painting.

Speaking of Medium, I'm a fan of these new platforms; noting that some are free while others are not, since they provide an easy way to feature one's work, whether prose, photographs or both...and these promise to widen the reach of such "publications".

Apart from Vietnam being on my mind, the other prompt for uploading Truyen Than is the recent photo essay appearing in The New York Times titled To Be A Russian, which follows the same design characteristics as Medium...large photographs filling the whole viewing real estate on one's monitor (if one chose the photographs to do that), sparse prose (but to the point) interspersing these images.

I recall some years ago various POV posts encouraging fellow photographers to go big...that the era of small dinky photographs on websites didn't cut it any more. One of these POV posts is dated April 2009, some 5 years ago...and since then, we've seen a proliferation of large photographs on websites.

But back to Nguyen Bao Nguyen...I read somewhere that he had passed away, but I believe that the information is wrong since it pre-dates the dates (September 2012) when I met with him in Hanoi. I hope I find him well and healthy when I'm back in Hanoi in a couple of months.

I'd like him to see this photo essay.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Marylise Vigneau | Havana I & II

Photo © Marylise Vigneau-All Rights Reserved
"I do not pretend, I don’t explain. Those who look at my photographs can invent their own story. I pass by, ask questions, wonder at things. And the little click of the shutter is no more than a reverence. And that is all that really matters." --Marylise Vigneau
Havana! Amongst the best cities in the world for street photography, and where my fondness for this style was born more almost 14 years ago. Life in Havana happens outside of its dilapidated buildings, and I don't have to tell my readers that its people are incredibly photogenic;  the mix of African, Carib Indian, and European has created a melting pot of handsome people, endowed with wonderful hospitality, remarkable musical talent and exuberance.

So it was with great pleasure that I saw that Marylise Vigneau uploaded photographs of Havana on her website. In fact, there are two galleries; Havana I (color photographs) and Havana II (monochrome photographs which competed for my attention...and I decided to show both in this post.

Photo © Marylise Vigneau-All Rights Reserved
I honestly don't know which I prefer from these two; the young man showing off his biceps to the photographer while around the corner, another man and his dog are unaware of this unfolding story...or the monochrome photograph of three young girls making dance moves in a street.

Marylise Vigneau is a French photographer and has traveled quite extensively, as her galleries attest. These include work from Cambodia to Uzbekistan, from Mongolia to Myanmar, from China to Sarajevo including powerful and compelling images made at a mental hospital in Lahore.

In an interview she tells us "I walk and wait to be surprised, intrigued, moved or amused." Perhaps she does that...but her work transcends this simple philosophy.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Andrea Orioli | Thaipusam

Photo © Andrea Orioli-All Rights Reserved

The Thaipusam ritualistic event occurs 13 kilometres outside the Malaysian capital city, Kuala Lumpur in a sacred Hindu shrine called the Batu Caves.

The festival of Thaipusam was brought to Malaysia in the 1800s, when Indian immigrants started to work on the Malaysian rubber estates and the government offices. The festival is celebrated mostly by the Tamil community, and commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a spear to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadam.

On the day of the festival, devotees shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of heavy burdens, while others may carry out acts of self mortification by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with skewers and sharp hooks.  The devotees perform “Kavadi”, an act of faith where they suffer the pain of dozens of hooks and spears piercing their body during the 272 steps that bring them to the cave temple.

Andrea Orioli photographed Thaipusam, and provides us with yet another view of these not-for-the-faint-of-heart rituals. He is  a biologist working in Switzerland, and has had the good fortune of traveling widely and making photographs. Far more interested in people and cultures than anything else, he's passionate about documenting endangered cultures before they disappear.

He also has featured interesting galleries on his website, including one in Sumba (Indonesia) and another in Kyrgyzstan.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Viviana Peretti | Happy Pride

Photo © Viviana Peretti-All Rights Reserved

I was out of town so this was the second time in a row that I've missed photographing the annual New York City's Gay Pride parade. The neighborhood I live in witnesses the end of the parade, and the cornucopia of characters who participate in it, as well as those who come to watch it, provide incredible images to those photographers who prefer to shun the parade itself, and congregate in the West Village for more close and personal street I did in 2012.

That said, I'm glad to have seen Viviana Peretti's Happy Pride iPhone photographs of the event, which are much more personal than those I've seen so far of the event.

For those who don't know, June was chosen as LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Inn riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world. The Stonewall is a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street in New York City, and is traditionally where the parade comes to its end.

Viviana Peretti is an Italian freelance photographer based in New York where in 2010 she graduated in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism from the International Center of Photography (ICP).

In 2000, after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Anthropology from the University of Rome, she moved to Colombia where she specialized in photojournalism and spent nine years working as a freelance photographer.

Viviana has received fellowships and awards from the International Center of Photography, the Joannie M. Chen Fund in New York, CNN, the Fondation Bruni-Sarkozy in France, FotoVisura, the University of Salamanca, the Spanish Embassy in Colombia, the Photo Museum in Bogota, and the Colombian Ministry of Culture. In 2010 she has been selected for the Eddie Adams Workshop, Barnstorm XXIII. In 2013-2014 Viviana has been an Artist-in-Residence at L’École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie (ENSP) in Arles, France.

Her work has been published in a number of international media outlets including The New York Times, Newsweek, BBC, CNN, L'Oeil de la Photographie, New York Magazine, Le Journal de la Photographie, and L'Espresso.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Masks of Dwo | Aitor Lara

The masks of Dwo from José Bautista on Vimeo.

To start off the week, here's a really unusual dance ritual performed by the Bwa people of Burkino Faso.

According to Wikipedia, the Bwa people are an ethnic group indigenous to central Burkina Faso and Mali. Their population is approximately 300,000 and they are known for their use of elaborate masks, made from leaves or wood, used in rituals.

While 5% of the Bwa are Muslim, and 10% are Christian, the remaining 85% are animists. The latter worship a creator god called Wuro, whose son was Dwo, the god of new life and rebirth. The Bwa use leaf masks more than wooden ones, and these leaf masks frequently represent Dwo in religious ceremonies. The masks also represent the bush spirits including serpents, monkeys, buffalo and hawks. These performances generally take place in the dry season between February and May.

Aitor Lara is a Spanish photographer/videographer who worked in different countries bringing to light the anthropological dimensions of social minorities such as indigenous peoples, and sex workers. He showed his work in international photography fairs such as ARCO and ParisPhoto. He received a number of research grants, including one that allowed him to carry out a project in Uzbekistan. He published a number of books, including Maestranza, a photographic report about the bullring of Seville. He has published in magazines such as NewsWeek, Financial Times, Ojo de Pez orVokrug Sveta. In 2012, he published the book Ronda Goyesca edited by La Fábrica. He was a nominee of the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund Grant in 2012.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

First Results: Zeiss Touit 12mm | Fuiji X-Pro 1

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Here are two examples of what I intend to do with my newly acquired Zeiss Touit 12mm for my Fuji X Pro-1.

The top image is un-cropped, and was made by shooting from-the-hip at a distance of about 2 feet from the couple who were having a rather intense conversation. They were so engrossed in their conversation that they barely noticed me.

The lower image is cropped, and also made by shooting from-the-hip at a similar distance. The tattoo artist was also too busy talking to a colleague to really notice me.

The only irritant in the Touit 12mm is that the aperture ring moves too easily and, especially that I'm shooting from the hip, I have to frequently make certain that the aperture is set on my chosen f-stop. I may consider using a small piece of gaffer tape fixing it at either f4 or f5.6 (which is probably the lens' sweet spots), but Zeiss engineers/designers ought to have come with a firmer aperture ring.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am fond of wide angle photography, and have used the 17-40mm (mostly at the 17-24mm setting) on my Canon 5D Mark II most of the time during my recent photo expeditions in India and Vietnam. While perhaps not optimally ideal for street photography, the Touit 12mm (18mm equivalent on a full frame) gives me a viable alternative to the Fujinon 18mm (27mm equivalent on a full frame) pancake lens I used in the past.

My investment in new gear is a slow and steady one....I'm waiting for the right time and mindset to acquire for the Fuji X-T1. It'll come soon...the real question is whether it'll be part of my Vietnam Photo Expedition in September or not. And whether I move away from the DSLR system completely in favor of the X Series or not.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Zeiss Touit 12mm | Fuiji X-Pro 1

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Well, I succumbed.

I've been think about another prime lens for my Fuji X-Pro1 for quite some time, and having the XF 18mm f2.0 "pancake", I just couldn't make up my mind between the XF 35mm f1.4, the XF 23mm f1.4
or the XF 27mm f2.8.

I tossed around the pros and cons of various Fujifilm X Mount Lenses, and finally decided on the Zeiss 12mm f2.8 Touit.  It’s a solid, all glass lens that feels well made, and while it's manufactured in Japan (as if that is a downside), it feels 'German Zeiss'. It's essentially an 18mm f2.8 equivalent on the Fuji X-Pro1 1.5x crop sensor. And it's hand-built.

The decision was made based on my heavy reliance on my Canon 17-40mm f 4.0 lens during the past 2-3 years. I went back to my images from the Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition, the Vietnam: North of the 16th Parallel Photo-Expedition/Workshop, The Sufi Saints of Rajasthan & Kashmir Photo Expedition-Workshop, The Sacred Cities: Varanasi & Vrindavan Photo Expedition-Workshop and remembered my lens usage statistics, which confirmed my preference of using my wide angle zoom and get really close to the subjects I'm photographing.

To underscore the point; most of my photographs on The Birth of Color photo essay were made with the Canon 17-40mm, at its wider the following photograph demonstrates.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Canon 17-40mm f4.0
While the Zeiss Touit's 12mm wide angle is perfectly suited for landscape and architectural photography, I'm certain it'll suit my style of photography whether for environmental portraiture, or street photography.

It'd be superfluous for me to to review this lens in any depth as there are many more qualified photographers who have already done so. For an eminently readable and succinct review of the lens, take a look at The Phoblographer

As for street photography, I've snapped a couple of 'from-the-hip' photographs yesterday, and although it's a little too early, I was pleased with the results. One of these photographs (below) was made in front of the Papaya King on Sixth Avenue, and there are a few more on The Leica File.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Fuji X Pro-1/Zeiss Touit 12mm.
The Zeiss Tuit has smooth rubber for the focusing and aperture ring, and while this doesn't bother me, I did find the aperture ring moves easily, and I had to make certain that the aperture was set on my chosen f-stop. The lack of a depth of field and distance scales are also disconcerting, but I managed to get by. It'll take some practice to get used to it, as most of my street photography is by shooting from the hip.

As I said, it's a little too early, but my gut feel is that this lens -while having marvelous optics- is better suited for environmental and documentary photography. I'll keep using it on my wanderings in New York City for some time, and see if I will change my mind.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Café Dao, A Vietnamese Love Story | Medium


“No one in our village was as beautiful as she was…we liked each other since we were 12 years old…”
And so explained 92 year-old Thai Truang Dao explained why he married his wife, Thai Mo Ba.

Both welcomed graciously me and Maika Elan in his small home in Hoi An, and allowed me to photograph wherever and whatever I wanted.

Thai Truang Dao started a small coffee-shop in his home town during the mid forties and with some leap of imagination, could be considered as the Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO) of Hoi An.

Readers of my blog have seen that I'm trying out the various new storytelling platforms, and Medium is one those. It's a blog publishing platform, founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone a couple of years ago. It has evolved into a hybrid of non-professional contributions and professional, paid contributions, an example of social journalism.

I'm glad to be returning to Hoi An, where I hope I'll be able to revisit the couple, and give them prints of these photographs.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Travel Photographer's Street Photo Contest

The Travel Photographer's Street Photography Contest is open to any professional, student, or amateur photographer at least eighteen (18) years of age. The contest is restricted to residents of the contiguous United States.*

The contest's main theme is daily life in any city, town or village (anywhere in the world), captured through street photography: real, instant images, that grab moments, people, faces, streets, buildings and other elements capable of telling stories.

The sole prize is the handcrafted WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001 which I reviewed earlier here. It's an ideal camera bag for street photography, it's low-profile and is made of very high quality leather.

The requirements and rules are simple: 

1. Entrants can submit up to three (3) photographs, color or monochrome.

2. Each photograph must be a jpg 1000x667 pixels at 72 dpi.

3. Each photograph must include your name and a sequential number if submitting more than one (ie JohnDoe_001.jpg, etc.)

5. Each photograph must indicate where it was made (New York City, San Francisco, London, Delhi, Tokyo, etc).

4. Entrants warrant that their submissions are all their original work.

5. The contest is closed for submissions on August 31, 2014.

6. Entrants are to send their submissions to: tes(at) The email must also include entrants' full name.

7. There are no fees, or any costs to the entrants. This contest is essentially a competitive giveaway, and has received the blessing of WotanCraft Atelier. 


I shall be judging the submissions, and will announce the three top best photographs. These three photographs will be posted on this blog, and public voting will be opened to choose the prize winner. This will occur during the week following August 31, 2014 deadline. 

* Regrettably, shipping to destinations other than in the contiguous United States is not only costly, but also involves an amount of paperwork, as well as potential hefty custom duties to be paid by the eventual recipient, especially with such an expensive camera bag. That is the reason for restricting the contest as I did. My apologies to the multitude of very talented non US-based photographers who may have been interested in entering the contest. 

WotanCraft Atelier's website has full information and details on the WotanCraft Ryker Urban Classic 001.

Photo Courtesy WotanCraft Atelier

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Oracles of Kerala | Medium

The Oracles of Kerala

I've played around with Medium, which describes itself as "a place where people share ideas and stories, designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world, and is used by everyone from professional journalists to amateur cooks". It also claims that it's simple, beautiful, collaborative, and helps you find the right audience for whatever you have to say.

I suspect that the photo story I chose isn't going to make anyone's day any better, nor will it change the world....but I can attest that it's an easy and beautiful platform to use. I have the feeling it's more adapted to text...articles, essays and such, although the uploading of edge-to-edge images is simple, and quick. Medium recently introduced an app for the iPad.

As to whether it helps me to find the right audience will be tested over the course of the comings days and weeks.

Take a look at my first effort; The Oracles of Kerala.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Les Stone | Pelerinaj Voudou

Photo Les Stone-All Rights Reserved
I'm of the view that when properly used, Facebook is an extremely useful tool for photographers and others...and my introduction to Les Stone is proof of that.

And yes, this is my second post on the religious tradition of Haitian voudou in a row. I'm interested in syncretic religious traditions, and voudou is certainly that. The practices of contemporary vodou are descended from, and closely related to, West African Vodun, and incorporates elements and symbolism from other African peoples including the Yorùbá and Bakongo; as well as Taíno religious beliefs, and European spirituality including Roman Catholic Christianity, European mysticism, Freemasonry, and other influences. So uber syncretism if you like.

But back to Les Stone. He directed me to his phenomenal work titled Pelerinaj Voudou (pelerinaj is the Haitian word derived from the French pèlerinage, or pilgrimage. It's a multimedia photo-book of his many photographs of Haitian practitioners of voudou accompanied by a chilling pulsating sound track, presumably recorded on site. Turn on your computer's loudspeakers, find a comfortable chair, and brace yourself for an incredible audio-visual experience. You won't regret it.

This wonderful work further reinforced my objective of photographing voudou during 2015. As I said in my previous post, it'll most certainly happen.

Les Stone is a New York City born photographer who worked in corporate and fashion photography. He has been photographing in Haiti since 1987, and traveled over 150 times to Haiti to cover Voudou ceremonies. He also photographed the assault on the Vice President-elect of Panama Guillermo Ford by members of the Batallón Dignidad, a paramilitary group employed by Generalissimo Manuel Noriega. He was one of only two American photographers to capture the attack on camera. Asked by Sygma to work with them for the next 11 years. He subsequently traveled extensively throughout the world, covering conflict in the Middle East, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Kurdistan.

Les' photographs have appeared in the National Geographic, the cover of Time, Life, Paris Match, Stern, Fortune, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Smithsonian Magazine,Newsweek, Mother Jones, Panorama, GEO, TV Guide, and US News and World Report. He chronicled conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Kosovo, Liberia, Cambodia and Haiti.

Yes, that kind of a heavyweight.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Troi Anderson | Songs of the Spirits

Photo © Troi Anderson-All Rights Reserved
I'm fascinated by the rituals of voodoo ( or voudou), and lament the fact that I haven't been able (yet) to document this interesting religious tradition either in Haiti or the Dominican Republic. Readers that know my style of blogging will have noticed the added (yet) in the previous sentence, which means that something is being thought of or is under discussion.

According to Wikipedia, Haitian Vodou, also written as Voodoo, is a syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Practitioners are called "vodouists" or "servants of the spirits".
Voodoo was created by African slaves brought to Haiti in the 16th century who, when forced by their enslavers to adopt the Christian religion, still followed their traditional beliefs by merging them with the beliefs and practices associated with Roman Catholic Christianity. It was declared the official religion of Haiti in 2003.

Troi Anderson's Songs of the Spirits is a gallery of compelling color photographs of the Haitian religious tradition including some that were made in Saut d'Eau; waterfalls in Haiti that hold special significance to both Catholics and Voudou practitioners, as it is believed that the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel appeared on a palm tree there in the nineteenth century.

Troi Anderson is a fine art, documentary and commercial photographer based in Portland, Oregon. His career started in film working for Magnolia Pictures, and later as a merchant marine sailing throughout Asia and the South Pacific. He is the author of two books, Shadows of Time and Decay (Mark Batty Publishers) along with numerous photographic essays. His work has been published in Geo France, The Oregonian, Communication Arts, Eyemazing, as well as being profiled and featured twice in Black and White Magazine. His commercial clients include Apple, Nike, HP, and T-Mobile. He worked for the humanitarian organization CARE in Haiti.

Monday, 9 June 2014

WotanCraft Ryker (Urban Classic 001) Review

Image Courtesy Wotancraft Atelier
I seldom review products that I don't use or haven't used myself...but one of the very few (possibly the only one) I did review in that fashion almost two years ago was the Urban Classic 005 Safari camera bag manufactured and sold by Wotancraft Atelier.

This time, the Taiwan-based manufacturer of high-quality camera bags (amongst other leather luxury products) sent me two bags to test and review: the Urban Classic 001 Ryker (pictured above), and the City Explorer 006 Scout (which I reviewed in India).

On my way for a bit of street photography in New York City with the
Urban Classic 001 Ryker camera bag and a Leica M9
The two camera bags were delivered by Fedex to my front door, and the first thing I noticed when unpacking the large box was that each were in their own individual cotton bag. Clearly, there's an ethos of quality in making sure that the bags were well wrapped during their shipment. The second thing I noticed while untying the strings, was the whiff of real leather!

It's the same sensory sensation one gets when sliding into the seats of a luxury car...the smell of quality leather and its tactility. Soft and pliable...everything with this camera bag screams "well-made and detail attentive. I tried hard, but failed to find a single errant strand of stitching, a knot or anything that seemed out of place. It's extremely well-made, and quality control at Wotancraft must be handled by an eagle-eyed individual(s), with no tolerance for any defect, no matter how insignificant.

Crammed the Ryker with my street photography equipment: a Leica M9, a Fuji X Pro-1,
a Voigtlander 40mm lens and a Tascam DR40 audio recorder

It's size is initially appeared small to me, but I managed to cram a Leica M9 with an Elmarit 28mm, a Fuji X Pro-1 with a Fujinon 18mm, a Voigtlander 40mm lens and the Tascam DR40 audio recorder with no difficulty. Schlepping it with all this gear on my street photography walk in New York City last Saturday, I kept the M9 dangling from my neck as I usually do, and had easy access to the rest of the rest of my gear. I could have carried my iPad Mini in the bag's integrated pocket if I wished to, but I never take it on my street photography routes.

This particular model of the Ryker is made of black and brown leather, which makes it virtually invisible when wearing dark colored clothes as I mostly do, so it doesn't stand out at all. Its purple microfiber inner lining is soft, and safeguards the finish of the stowed equipment, which is a very smart idea. Both of my cameras show some wear and the softness of the inner compartment is probably superfluous in my case, but will surely be appreciated by photographers with new cameras and lenses.

The bag is stylish, and feels very comfortable. It easily holds my Leica or my Fuji X Pro-1, and 2-3 lenses as well as my iPad mini. . It feels secure across the shoulder, and its inner compartment is well padded. It's made of soft leather which every time I used it, smelled like the interior of a brand new Jaguar or Bentley.

Image Courtesy Wotancraft Atelier
There are no Velcro fasteners on this bag...not one. Instead there are invisible magnetic snaps in its main flap, which is a nice touch since these make opening the bag totally silent. The inner compartment has removable pads to divide it into sections for the cameras and lenses....and these pads are affixed to the walls of the inner compartment with Velcro.

The curved removable shoulder strap is comfortable, with a non-slip shoulder pad. Since the Ryker was laden with my heavy gear, it stubbornly remained on my shoulder with no slippage. I don't know if that would be the case if it had been lighter. The strap's buckles are heavy duty, and feel well made and solid.

So who is the Ryker for? First off, it's not at all for DSLR-totting photographers because of its size limitations, but it's ideal for those who work with rangefinders, whether Leicas or similar rangefinders (or rangefinder-like cameras such as the Fuji X Pro-1, X-100, X-100S et al.) As I mentioned earlier, its low profile is perfect for the street photographer with a need for a camera bag whilst walking around.

On the way to the subway with the Ryker in tow.
I imagine that the Ryker's design, aesthetic and its price point of US$379, make it an interesting accessory to Leica (of Fuji X Series) aficionados. It's a camera bag well suited for photography in urban centers such as New York City, Paris, London, Hong Kong etc., but it was not designed for, nor would it be suitable for, photographic expeditions, treks and adventures in non urban centers or in unsavory neighborhoods...and that's why its name is Urban Classic.

I must also mention that Wotancraft Atelier generously made a City Explorer 006 Scout available as a contest prize during my The Sacred Cities Photo Expedition-Workshop in India in March. It was won by Charlotte Rush Bailey, and you can read all about it in this post.