Greece 2016 - It is difficult to describe the overwhelming inquisitiveness, bordering on assault, of the children in the refugee camps in northern Greece. Absolutely anything within reach is grabbed and whisked away, leading to long periods of delicate negotiation if you ever wish to see the item again.
Add that to the familiarity with cameras and you end up on full 360º alert at all times. But, with your camera slung over your shoulder for much of the time, there's always one...
I had caught him with the finger of one hand wedged down on the shutter, whilst the other held a pot of pasta. However, it was only when reviewing photos at the end of the day that I saw what an enlightening series of images it was. I think it captures his spirit perfectly.
UPDATE: After ten days of successfully dodging small fingers, I then found the following photos, taken in a different camp, that I had not even realised were being taken. Here, they really took their time.
I am currently working in Northern Greece with Clowns Without Borders UK as they tour the refugee camps performing for children from 0-99+
Project leader and clown, Annabel Morgan, talks about the huge variety of different audiences the clowns performed to.
Project Ekta, India 2015
Video by Edward Morgan
Soundtrack: "Movin' On Up" by Poddington Bear
Dan Lees talks about his experience on his first Clowns Without Borders tour.
Project Ekta, India 2015
Video by Edward Morgan
Soundtrack: "Movin' On Up" by Poddington Bear
Marion Duggan talks about how the children respond to seeing "silly adults" and how that one hour of clowning allows them to temporarily forget the struggles in their lives.
Project Ekta, India 2015
Video: Edward Morgan
Audio: "Movin' On Up" by Poddinton Bear
I witnessed the test run of a recently unpackaged drone yesterday, I forget the model - pricey enough though.
As I watched the drone soar up into the sky, uncomfortably high into the sky, and then saw the images it was producing, I found myself feeling a mix of awe and dread. Awe at the potential of these things, for photography and almost every other field of art and science; and dread at the unstoppable surge of technology we find ourselves facing/riding/drowning in.
For example, this particular drone had been bought to use primarily at weddings. That's right, people are wanting drone footage at weddings now. It still seems pretty incredible the lengths, and costs, that people will go to for photos at their weddings, but now they're getting aerial shots like it was some kind of filmset. I guess that's what it is for many.
Speaking of filmsets, drones and apocalyptic scenes. I recently watched this video (see below) of the destruction of Homs, Syria. Again, another strange mix of feelings. I was impressed and shocked by the scale of the destruction and by this new form of viewing what are effectively battlegrounds, but I also found myself taking a sort of voyeuristic pleasure from the beautiful Hollywood-style sweeping shot of this carnage, similar to how I felt watching the twin towers fall or the tsunami hit. It's that strange "it feels like a movie" feeling.
The jury's still out on drones but whether I accept them or not, they're here to stay.
Ah the selfie. No more shall we surrender control of our photogenicity to others. We can shoot to our heart's content, or until we get an acceptably fabulous picture of our naturally beautiful selves.
But what are we missing? As we switch to front camera, what's going on elsewhere? Are we really the most interesting thing in our space today?
I am not a great selfie taker. I always end up squinting or looking angry (although, admittedly that could just be my face). So I decided to play around with the idea and show both the selfie (yes, my ugly mug) and what was going on on the other side of the camera at the time.
Work in progress.
2015 has taken me from Lesotho to Nepal and from clowns to Eurozone crises, so, as much for myself as for anyone else, I've identified several of the year's highlights.
Paleng Children's Centre is barely a year old. The only thing that betrays that fact is their unstable facility situation - the tiny office/library is on loan from the school and their bad weather option, the school hall, is often unavailable to them.
The mission is to improve literacy (importantly, mother tongue literacy) and general child well-being through stories and play.
Already they are a test site for a pilot scheme by the African Storybook Project, have already published and printed several storybooks, and are on the verge of launching a health storybook campaign.
As always with such small projects, the struggle for funds is constant. You can find more information at www.paleng.weebly.com
Cheshire Homes, Swaziland
Cheshire Homes is the only centre in Swaziland providing rehabilitative care for adults and children; services that include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, assistive devices, education & information on disability and HIV/AIDS & TB.
Tasked with creating a video that would be used both for raising public awareness of the services and for raising funds, I spent a month visiting the centre, getting to know the patients and staff.
The principal theme of the video is the principal philosophy of CHESWA, small successes. There is no promise of miracle cures, simply that through hard work, dedication and support, mental and physical well-being will improve and patients can learn to live with their condition.
More info on their Facebook page.
Left with an empty space in my calendar after a job in South Sudan fell through (security), I was on the lookout for another exciting project. Then the Greek ruling party Syriza decided to call a referendum on whether to accept bailout conditions imposed on them by the ECB, EU and IMF. The framework of the European Union seemed under threat. I felt that this was one of those "living History" moments and not an opportunity one gets too often, especially when you're available. With no specific project planned, I left for Athens.
Upon arriving, I was struck by the huge contrast between what we were hearing in the media and what was happening on the ground. The country was, and still is, enveloped in grave social and economic issues. However, we were being sold a story of Armageddon-like proportions. It was, effectively, the end of the world as we knew it.
So why did it seem like a lot of people were simply getting on with their lives?
The idea for the 2Photographers project came out of this desire to show two societies, Athens and Berlin, that were currently the focus of huge amounts of attention for very specific reasons. So, instead of showing protest and hardship, myself and Berlin-based photographer Ben Chislett had a go at widening our field of vision a little.
You can see the results on the 2Photographers website.
Clowns without Borders UK, India
People need to eat. But they also need to laugh.
Which one takes priority is not usually the subject of any serious debate. Until you watch the clowns.
I worked with Clowns without Borders South Africa back in 2010 but this time it was the UK chapter that took me to India for their first solo tour since their foundation last year.
The response of children and adults alike, often in very different ways, is magical. But magical in the sense that you think to yourself "If the magic from the fairytales doesn't exist, this is probably the next closest thing."
Over two weeks, the clowns performed to thousands of children, with audiences ranging from 1200 to 12. They put on shows for schoolchildren, orphans, refugees, children rescued from human trafficking (often not mutually exclusive categories) and the joyous response was universal.
Don't take it for a joke, however. These clowns are professionals and making people smile is serious business.
Taking advantage of my proximity, I nipped over to Nepal from India once the CWBUK tour finished. It was the same interest that had taken me to Athens earlier in the year. Nepal was six months on from a huge earthquake that had, as far as I was concerned, razed the country to the ground.
It turns out that for the most part it had. Although I was still fascinated by the overwhelming bias towards scenes of destruction and misery in international media. What I found was a place full of community initiatives, many involving young people, that had seemingly done far more to bring the country out of disaster than the Nepali government and international aid agencies had. I confess, this is a very superficial judgement of a complex issue but there was undoubtedly a strong sense of community and solidarity among the Nepalese I met.
Unfortunately, Nepal was now in the grip of a fuel crisis due to a border blockade due to a constitutional disagreement with India. The most obvious result being that fuel was five times the price. That being if you could get hold of it at all.
For me, this meant being more or less restricted to Kathmandu. However, events in Paris made me consider a second 2Photographers project, Aftermath: Paris & Kathmandu
Du Sa Makha, Nepal
And last, but not least, a return to the Azulejo Art series. This time, in Patan, Nepal. A spur of the moment street art collaboration with local artists Aayush Bajracharya and Pranav Joshi.
Du Sa Makha (There is but you do not see)
There was an earthquake this morning. It measured five point something on the Richter scale. It doesn't matter because I didn't even feel it.
I had my earthquake drill ready as well. I'd made a mental note to check it out a few hours before stepping on the plane for Nepal. The conversation in the taxi had taken a slightly awkward turn as someone mentioned that it had been almost universally accepted amongst international seismologists that the April/May earthquakes in Nepal were simply small warm ups to an enormous and very imminent panhimalayan quake that, by the sounds of it, would flatten the Earth.
In fairness to him, he did me a favour. I hadn't even considered the possibility of another earthquake while I was actually IN Nepal. That just wasn't on the cards. I was there to look at the effects of the last earthquake, not experience a new one.
So, having used up 44 of my 45 free minutes of airport wifi on absolutely nothing (really, nothing), I managed to squeeze out a webpage on earthquake drill. What did I learn? That everything I thought I knew, namely stand in a doorway, get outside, was wrong. Like, fifty years out of date wrong. As with so much in life, you're left wondering why you ever bother paying attention to pretty much anything at all. Everything we're told ends up being either wrong or exactly the opposite, then eventually wrong - red meat is now definitely (definitely) as carcinogenic as smoking, fat is actually good for you, and the new silent killer is inactivity.
Well, a week on the sofa sounds like a pretty reasonable way to go compared to being crushed by three floors of concrete. They're certainly nothing silent about them. (Earthquake Advice #1: If you're in bed, stay in bed).
As I walk through the tight little rumble-jumble alleys of central Kathmandu, the lights are out and the prospect of an earthquake now is a little unnerving. Large beams crisscross the streets, supporting the semi-collapsed buildings on either side. I can touch both sides of some of these streets with my the tips of my outstretched hands so there's very little room to avoid falling debris should the hosues start shaking it down on me. (Earthquake Advice #2: Most of the injuries suffered in an earthquake are from falling items and smashed glass). The juvenile game of "What if?" leaps back into my consciousness as I try to consider every eventuality. I walk past a sketchy two-metre-high wall. It's bulging in the middle. Two metres to my right is a chaotic moving mass of traffic that would most likely veer catastrophically out of control as the road crumbled beneath. There is literally nowhere to go should the wall come a-tumbling down. (Earthquake Advice #3: Don't bother running. It's likely you won't be able to).
I think back to an earlier conversation with two young Kathmandu residents. The earthquake that killed over 9,000 people and reduced almost entire towns to rubble lasted a full minute. What? It takes me longer to work out which way round my shoes are in the morning.
I walk on.
And in fact, that is what I see most people doing - simply getting on with life. Yes, they spent two months sleeping in the streets for fear of more aftershocks. Yes, they know another quake is likely. But they're really more concerned about the current fuel crisis, a result of dodgy politics, and where they will find enough fuel to heat their homes and cook their food as winter creeps in.
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