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)
I'm looking for a photographer in Paris who would be interested in a collaborative photographic project between Kathmandu and Paris asap. Please share, or even better, be that photographer!
I am currently in Kathmandu, Nepal and over the next two weeks I will be exploring various social and development projects concerned with post-earthquake rebuilding. In addition, as a follow-up to the successful 2Photographers project in July between Athens and Berlin, I am looking to develop a similar collaborative project looking at the two cities, Kathmandu and Paris, in the aftermath of disaster, the earthquake six months ago in Nepal and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
The idea of 2Photogaphers is to create a visual "conversation" between two photographers in two different locations around the world within the same time period. For a look at the first 2Photographers project, A Tale of Two Cities: Athens & Berlin, please follow this link.
My stay in Nepal is relatively short so time is of the essence.
You can contact me via Facebook ( https://facebook.com/EdwardMorganPhotographer ), ecmorgan [at] ymail.com or here on my website.
The public transport in Athens has been free for the last two weeks due to the economic, political and social crisis.
So I decided to ride the trains.
The idea was to carve out a trail of interesting observations as I zoomed across the city in various modes of transport. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked with another issue. But that didn't stop me spotting a few really strange little scenes that I thought I'd share.
There's an interesting project by Spanish artist ELTONO that involves walking, observing and creating art with what you find. Check it out here http://www.eltono.com/es/projects/promenades/
Today I launched a new project called 2 photographers. The idea is a visual "conversation" between two photographers in two different locations around the world within the same time period. The aim is to play off one another and hopefully create a dialogue of images that are influenced by their counterparts but entirely separate at the same time.
Along with Berlin-based photographer Ben Chislett (www.benchislett.de), we started the first series today, A Tale of Two Cities: Athens & Berlin. We've chosen Athens and Berlin because of the current situation involving Greece and it's place in the Eurozone. At the moment Germany and Greece find themselves as polar opposites in terms of economic stability and much has been made of the differences between the two. Germany, as the European powerhouse is seen by many to represent the unwelcome austerity measure being forced upon the Greeks for the last few years. Greeks, on the other hand are being blamed for dragging their country into this position through irresponsible spending and corruption. It's a clash of the stereotypes: German efficiency and fondness of rules vs Greek apathy and fondness for ignoring them.
Can a conversation between two photographers shed any more light on the matter?
We have decided to use black and white for consistency and style. Other than that, the aesthetics will evolve as we progress.
You can keep up to date with all the latest images via https://www.facebook.com/twophotographersproject and I hope to set up a website for it shortly. Just might not be this week!
I suspect a bit of calm will be crucial over the next few weeks.
No matter how much of a routine you have; batteries charged, memory cards empty, mic on, (lens cap off), there's always going to come a time when something fails, with varying degrees of disaster factor. I think the difference is in how you handle it. How do you handle it? There's always the fear that other photographers simply do not make these mistakes, the classic "schoolboy error". This is when the panic sets in and the internal dialogue goes something like this,
Are people going to see you for the fraud you really are?
Are you a fraud?
Oh God, you probably are.
Yet it's an inevitable part of the job. Certainly, the most rigorous checks I carry out now are a direct consequence of a silly oversight in the past. Like the time I tripped on my tripod whilst filming the only chance I had for catching a plane taking off in Niger. Or, again in Niger, when I forgot to drop the ISO back down once outside the darkness of the plane. That is, once I stepped out into the blinding Nigerien sun. I didn't even realise until I got back home and could see the grainy noise in all one thousand images I'd taken.
Yes, it was most definitely a schoolboy error. I should have realised something was wrong immediately (I was having to pump up the shutter speed something ridiculous). But I didn't and there was no turning back. I had photographs to produce and made the best of a bad job. In every other aspect, the images were satisfactory so I bit the bullet and got the job done.
And that's all it is, biting the bullet. Even the worst-case scenario of no working camera available can usually be overcome. Use your phone, borrow someone else's. It's not going to be the result you planned for (or didn't plan for!) but it's better than nothing. Once you've accepted your situation you can begin to act and given the fact that you're a working photographer, or anything else for that matter, you're capable of finding a solution.
Street Soundtracks is a project I've just started that looks at taking street music and using it as a soundtrack to images from the very street it's being played on.
It's mobile phone recording of course, but it seems to work. Here I've included the first three videos made on a visit to the UK. You'll see how they develop from the first to the third.
Every Sunday a crowd gathers on the riverbank in Arcos de Valdevez, Portugal, to play music and dance. Nothing more: no alcohol needed, no pro dancers or musicians brought in to entertain. Just the neighbours - young and old (although mostly old) getting together for a shindig.
Recorded on a mobile phone (not gonna tell you which one)
the first in a series of posts about the beauty of mobile phone photography
You wouldn't need to go back even a year to have found me swearing I would never be writing this post. I certainly wouldn't have expected to be not only writing it but writing it on a mobile.
Of course, it was all out of ignorance, and a little bit of hard-headedness. My only exposure to Instagram was witnessing the inevitable death of creativity as it succumbed to retro-style filters and selfies and photos of feet on beaches. The idea of owning a smart phone almost literally made me vomit. Why were people paying large amounts of money to effectively isolate themselves from the world around them? (note: in many ways, this point still stands)
Having said all this, there had always been a sticking point for me; I had quickly got tired of carrying my chunky DSLR camera around everywhere and was therefore frustrated that I never had it on me. I'm not talking about going on safari. I'm talking about popping down the shops for bread and spotting something interesting about the peeling paint on the florists' walls.
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