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.
I love to photograph people. I really do. This gorgeous pair were married early last year and came to the coast to help me celebrate my 30th in the middle of winter. We had the most wonderful weekend of sunshine, mountain climbing, backyard fires and swimming in the clear calm ocean. Their happy and relaxed expressions are proof of that.
I can’t help myself when I see people looking beautiful during a perfect beach sunset. I have to stop and snap a photo! Instincts? Check.
A beautiful friend of mine got married on the weekend. Here she is, we aren’t fourteen any more. I was the new kid at a big urban school. Somehow she found me, decided she liked me and never let me go. I’d never had someone do that before. Her friendship got me through a few rough years. She is surely my oldest and most loyal friend. How could I possibly refuse the opportunity to photograph her wedding?
She got ready in my bathroom at the big luxury home they hired out for the weekend. I love that she designated the second master suite to me. I took a bath in that gorgeous tub the following morning as the rain gently fell through the view of eucalyptus trees. More photos soon.
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.
Wandered down to the beach this morning before sunrise. Kicked off my shoes and rolled up the bottom of my cotton pyjama pants. The puffy clouds reflected in the glassy mirror of the dark freshwater river that lives in the sand dunes. The ocean was soft, gentle and made me catch my breath. I sat in the cold grainy sand, watched and waited. The clouds changed colour first, from grey to hot pink, then everything came to life. There was no one else on the beach. Just me and a big pink star that rose up out of a clear green ocean.
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.
Meet my good friends Christie and Geoff and their gorgeous baby. Billy forced himself into the world while his parents were frantically driving along the freeway to the hospital last October, about the same time I was boarding a plane to London. He just didn’t want to wait. But I had to wait a couple weeks to meet him. There was a bit of confusion about what location to write on his birth certificate.. “um.. the M4?” It’s strange when your close friends suddenly have a baby. Their world changes and you try to keep up. For the most part, I’m glad it is them and not me, but I enjoy seeing them happy and watching the baby grow.
Last Easter I was visiting them in Sydney and as the warm afternoon sun streamed in the kitchen window Billy took a bath on the kitchen bench. He was very happy about it as you can see! I couldn’t help myself and grabbed my trusty little Olympus PEN (EPL2) from my handbag and grabbed a few shots of this simple family moment. These shots almost could be set up, but they aren’t. It’s beautiful to see mum and dad both enjoying caring for their new baby. Billy loved the water, splashing around in delight, and I love that they bathe him in the kitchen. Small houses bring people together.