My desktop icons are floating in this deep green sea, while my reminders and sticky notes are swimming in bright umbrellas. I have set this image as the desktop background on my oversized photo-editing monitor and it makes me feel like I’m at the beach and not home in my office. I get a little spark of joy each time I close a window and think about plunging into that cool water.
I’ll let you in on a secret. This isn’t a summer scene. This is a beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the middle of the winter. But any day is a beach day in Rio.
I used to think that Australians invented the beach lifestyle. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast all my friends would compare tanlines, salt hairstyles and surfing injuries each Monday after spending as much time as possible at the beach on the weekend.
But even Sunny Coast locals are no comparison to the residents of Rio. They treat the beach like a backyard. Its a playground full of volleyball nets, soccer games, street food vendors and flying frisbees. The beach is a free for all. Soaking up sun in a skimpy bikini, drinking, relaxing, playing sport, swimming, eating – Brazilians take beach life to a whole new level.
Wandering among the ping pong tables, sweaty skin, flying soccer balls and frolicking teenagers is a memory I’ll never forget. But I enjoyed Ipanema in a laid back Australian way. After a busy day of sightseeing, I bought a fresh hot churros pumped full of chocolate sauce, sat on the sand and watched the sunset over the mountains. Rio won me over.
Travelling to remote parts of the world is just one of the things I love about my work as a photojournalist for an international NGO. I crave new sights, new images. But what I treasure most is the people I meet when I get there. Let me introduce you to Dorival and his wife Estela. They welcomed my impromptu visit to their home outside Dourados in western Brazil. Indigenous to this part of the world, they are Kaiwá, the second largest indigenous nation in Brazil. Dorival works as a pastor, travelling all over, his days concerned with the welfare of his people. In spite of the difficulties of this life Dorival’s face is bright and joyous. I was moved by his passionate interview in Portuguese and found it hard to tear myself away from their beautiful rustic ranch. Here is just a handful of images to serve as a portrait of Dorival, Estela and their humble home.
Photographers adore cliques It’s true. A real living clique is like a stumbling on a movie set, or a dream crossing into reality. Majestic swans gliding on glassy mountain lakes, red flowers growing on windowsills, old skis stored above doorways, whimsical red balloons floating about for no reason – I never thought such things existed. At least, not all in the same place. Let me introduce you to Hallstatt, Austria, a ridiculously picturesque village in the Austrian Alps.
Photography is often a quest to find order and harmony in the mis-matched mess of the real world. We strive for a carefully framed perspective with one central idea. But Hallstatt takes away all the hard word of avoiding gaudy billboards and neon signs. For a lover of classic European architecture, it is, more or less, visual perfection.
This place so won the heart of a Chinese businessman that he sent a group with measuring tapes and the charge to completely recreate this town in China. Believe it. And they’ve done incredibly well. But as with all Chinese knock-offs, it isn’t quite as good as the original. They can’t recreate the theatrical backdrop of alpine cliffs, the nearby salt mine and the very real history and culture of the people who are indigenous to this unique part of the world.
Needless to say, I loved Hallstatt, but I couldn’t help thinking.. is this place for real? Is this where cliques are born?
Enjoy these images and trust me, no photoshop tricks necessary.
Aren’t these the most beautiful wildflowers you’ve ever seen? One cold foggy Friday last December I visited the Cape Point National Park, at the south-western tip of Africa not far out of Cape Town. The rugged terrain of the cape was covered in these gorgeous white paper daisies marking the beginning of summer. I had also visited the weekend before for a hike and took plenty of photos of their everlasting beauty under a shimmering blue sky. So I was shocked to see them all bundled up for a rainy day. So tightly closed for business, I wouldn’t have believed that these beauties had yet bloomed if I hadn’t seen the fields filled with open flowers with my own eyes less than a week before.
I spied the scene of this windswept tree giving way to the misty mountains on our drive down to the beach and asked to stop right here on our way back. Myself and a few other photographers with the WNN team spent quite a while here, captivated by the gentle light and magic of the mist. I’ve set this first image as my desktop background and I delight in the bright speckles of wildflowers, the purple haze and the memory of this beautiful place.
Meet Salvador. He is from the Kaiwa people indigenous to western Brazil. The Kaiwa are the second largest indigenous group in Brazil and yet one of the most marginalised. Unlike other indigenous groups (they call themselves ‘Indians’) the Kaiwa don’t live in a round village with a central house, but everyone has their own house and yard – just like Salvador. Salvador’s house is especially nice and his neighbours consider him to be rich. He works full time as a night watchman at the local school – that’s how he can afford a nice brick house.
Like Salvador, the Kaiwa are a peaceful people and will avoid conflict at all costs, even if it means that they kill themselves instead. All too often, this is the case. Because they don’t take a stand for themselves, other indigenous groups just walk all over them, don’t invite them to important political meetings and mis-represent them to the government. They are truly a people without a voice.
Brazil is the only nation in the world that treats their indigenous groups as ‘wards of the state’. This can have advantages but means that they do not have rights as citizens but are like children who must be told what is good for them. The government wants indigenous groups to learn Portuguese but otherwise to maintain a traditional way of life. They don’t want them to change their religion or other practices.
Not too long ago an anthropologist came to Salvador’s community to study their practice of suicides. After the anthropologist left more than half of the 50 people she interviewed committed suicide. Some people believe that this anthropologist, in bringing up information about past practices, was almost suggesting suicide as an appropriate social norm.
Doesn’t this image just make you want to sink back in your chair and daydream? I love the soft collection of blues, like a stylist set it out ‘just so’ for a magazine shoot. I love the delicious textures of the thatched roof houses, like nature, both unique and uniform. I love the way the ocean quickly softens in the background while the focus is only where you want to look. I love the three small children who spend all their days in a small canoe treating the vast blue ocean as their play-thing. I don’t consider it vain to enjoy my own image. I didn’t make this scene, I merely noticed it.
In July I was on my way back to the capital after spending a few days on the island of Malaita collecting stories on an ethnoarts workshop. I was half asleep when the small river-cat arrived in this small harbour after a tumultuous four hour journey a few days before, so I had my camera ready for our departure. Wielding a massive Canon 70-200 f/2.8 II with hood attached I decided to conduct an experiment.
To someone living in the small English town of Bath this would surely be the most ordinary scene. Even tourists visiting this fascinating historical place don’t come to photograph these very ordinary houses. But I love this image. It is all the simple and wondrous things about my mother land. Despite visiting in the cold grey drizzle of late October last year, I was enchanted by England. The ever-present bicycles, the small houses built together like co-joined twins, the colourful doors and the chimney stacks. Almost every time I saw those pretty little stacks all sitting in a row I would stop and take a photograph and thoughts of Mary Poppins filled my mind. During my 6 days in England I never stopped marvelling that all the cliques about England were real. People really live in these tiny houses with a fireplace in each room, drink tea constantly and pay taxes to the Queen.
To me, England is all the stories I ever heard as a child. Fairytales and Christmas stockings and where people lived before they were sent to Australia for stealing bread. It’s where Robin Hood lived, biscuits were invented and not to mention the language that I love to use – English. Australia is a young nation, and we don’t have a strong sense of national identity. We don’t really have our own traditions yet, no fables or children’s stories, and we celebrate Christmas right in the middle of summer with a seafood barbeque. Visiting England was like peeking behind the curtain of our disjointed culture and seeing where all those stories and traditions made sense. I never stopped being enchanted by the sight of all those cute little chimney stacks.
I always find religious statues a bit creepy and this one is certainly no exception. A colossal 40 metre high concrete depiction of a man who lived during the Roman Empire, died, came back to life and now many people worship as God should be creepy, I guess. What should be human emotional eyes are giant concrete balls several metres away from a ridiculously pointy chin. He isn’t human or God… he’s completely inert. I’m in awe of the architectural feat, but also unsettled by the crowds of people mimicking it in trashy summer outfits and taking endless photos on their smart phones. Why are people swarming to this statue each day? Do they like the idea of him, despise him or just want to say ‘I’ve been there’ when watching sweeping helicopter footage of it on Race Around the World or An Idiot Abroad? When I occasionally visit religious sites in Asia, do I flick my hair and cheekily mimic the statue for a photo to post on facebook? Ahem.. yes.. actually.. I do. Shame. I guess that just shows how much I don’t understand the statue’s meaning, and that is the impression I get from this crowd. Surely religious landmarks of any kind should be solemn and contemplative. You should have to remove your shoes and read a sign in various languages about the significance the local people attribute to it.