Scans from a damaged Ricoh

Africa, Asia, Film, Travel Photography

For 5 years now I’ve been taking photos from my travels with (mainly) old expired film I’ve acquired, on an old and damaged Ricoh R1 35mm point and shoot film camera. I’ve only recently developed the film, and scanned a few rolls myself (still learning!). Here are some of the results (the orange bands at the side is because the camera lets light in through a crack).

Ricoh004We got stuck for four hours in this mud bath. The driver thought it would be easier than going a different route. Obviously it was an incorrect decision. He got some local guys to dig a lower hole (on the other part of the road) to drain the water to there and then eventually push it out backwards. Kasai-Occidentale, Democratic Republic of Congo 2014

Ricoh013aWhile on the Easter House Party, one of the leaders finds a bath and tries to take it out into the middle of an old moat. Farnham, UK 2013

Ricoh010aMonkeys descending the steps of the Swayambhunath temple. Kathmandu, Nepal 2012

Ricoh014aOne of the temples of Angkor (I can’t for the life of me remember which one). I bought a single roll of Kodak Tri-X specifically for the visit in a very expensive camera shop in Bangkok. Angkor, Cambodia, 2012

Ricoh007aThat guy who does kick ups up a lamp post on Montmartre, overlooking the city. You’ve probably seen him on YouTube. Amazing. He did drop it once though… Paris, France 2013

Ricoh009aI took this out through the window of a bus I was travelling in. Previous to this I had the window open and was photographing out of it with my phone. But then some guy reached in and tried to grab it. So I closed the window. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo 2014

Ricoh011aI think this is the Bagmati river that flows through Kathmandu. Whichever river it is, it’s pretty filthy. Kathmandu, Nepal 2013

So I need to practice my film scanning and patch up my Richoh. Meanwhile, any suggestions on good film scanners to get?


Okegbala portraits

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy, Nigeria

Okegbala, in Nigeria, is a settlement made up of three large hamlets and a leprosy hospital. The residents are there because they, or their parents or grandparents are affected by leprosy – originally moving to be near the leprosy hospital. Here are portraits of three of the residents, all affected by leprosy, the last of whom is blind.


Congolese Mourning in Kingangi

Africa, Documentary, General comment, travel

I stayed in the remote village of Kingangi (in Kasai-Orientale province) in March this year, while photographing part of my Leprosy Eliminated? project. I woke up on the second morning to the sound of singing. The singing itself was uplifting, raw and organic. I went to see what it was all about. Sadly, it turned out that young child of 18 or so months had died unexpectedly the previous evening.


A small crowd of women was gathered, looking inwards, all singing and dancing. But there were no smiles and no laughter. The men sat sombrely to the side. The young father, who was maybe my age came up to me. I asked if it would be ok to photograph. He had said it was no problem. I crouched down and squeezed gently through the crowd of women. The child, less than 12 hours dead was lying on the table.

The dances of the women were rocking up and down, almost like a theatrical wailing. Some of them were crying. The mother sat, clearly numb with disbelief. I took a few photos and put the camera down. I suppose it is tradition of some sort, though I never found out the details as I had a long trek that morning. The cause of the baby’s death was unknown.

The Stores of Nsumbula

Africa, Documentary, street photography, travel


Nsumbula is a remote town in the province of Kasai-Occidentale, not too far from the Angolan border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I was there in March for just a couple of nights photographing (for The Leprosy Mission Canada) those in the area suffering from leprosy. Walking through Nsumbula one afternoon I decided to take just one or two photos of each of the hand-painted stores and dealers that lined the main street. I didn’t think much of it at the time – often I like to just record things for the sake of looking back in 20 years time and saying, “oh right, that’s what it was like then.” But I’m just editing the several thousand photos I took in that month-long trip now, and I rather liked this small sequence of shop scenes. As with most of my favourite images these days, I think there’s significance in the details.

I think I took 26 shots in the 7 minutes it took me to walk down the street and here’s my quick edit of them.

IMG_6088 IMG_6089 IMG_6091 IMG_6092 IMG_6095 IMG_6097 IMG_6101 IMG_6103IMG_6104

The New Chiefs of Kilangulangu

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy, travel


In March I was working in Kasai-Occidentale province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of the most challenging places to work in terms of travel, and out of the 3 weeks I had in Kasai I spent only about 10 of those days shooting. The rest was travel by car, bike and foot.

On this particular day, near the Angolan border, we had to walk for about an hour and half from where the car could go no further to find a man affected by leprosy (well what else would I be photographing?). The long walk there and back under the midday sun was tiring, and we treaded silently, slowly through several small villages. Many of the children froze when they saw me. Foreigners don’t come out to these villages, and most of the children had never seen “Le Blanc“.

One of the villages we came across – I swear it was no more than about 6 houses – had a small gathering underneath a tree. The two men in the centre of the photo (can you tell they’re wearing face and body paint?) shouted over to me to take a picture. The two men stood still and for a second everything fell into place. Afterwards they told me they’d just been made chief of the village. One or both of them, I don’t know. It was a 30 second diversion from a walk where all I could think about was getting back to shade and my crate of water. I realised later it was a pretty unusual thing to witness. I blame the heat…


Strife Blog

Africa, Asia, Documentary, General comment, Leprosy


My long-term project Leprosy Eliminated? and other stories was recently featured on Strife Blog. Alister Wedderburn gives an interesting insight into the project, citing Emmanuel Levinas’ views on the foundation of the ethical relation. Check it out here:

The face of ‘the Other’: A visual reflection on moral obligation in the 21st century.

Epilepsy portraits

Africa, Documentary, Epilepsy

With my commission for MASL two years ago I had to take a number of portraits of people who have epilepsy in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Here are a few of the portraits along with some of the stories behind them. All writing refers to the photograph above it.


Aminata ‘Baby’ Bangura. Her sister-in-law, standing behind her, know what to do when Baby gets an attack. I’d taken a number of shots of Baby’s numerous scars. The entire right side of her face is burnt tissue and you can see edges of her scars on her wrist and arms and shoulder. I decided in this photo to leave the scars in shadow.

Now that she is being helped by the Epilepsy Association her future, though still hard is beginning to look brighter. Until recently her scars have been reminders of what will still happen to her, and not simply relics from the past.


The road into Freetown.


Mohammed Sesay is 8. Near the end of my couple of weeks shooting and filming I was with Max (head of EASL) in his office transcribing the various interviews I’d done. We weren’t even aware that Mohammed and his mother Aisha (holding him) were outside waiting in the clinic.

Suddenly Max’s wife came in and said that there was a boy outside having a fit. Max quickly advised the rather distraught mother what to do and I asked Max to ask if it was ok to photograph. Aisha was not bothered at all, her concern naturally wrapped up in her son. This photo was taken shortly after Mohammed stopped fitting. The man is holding up his shorts because Mohammed wet himself.

The boy was put on phenylbarbitone to control the fits. It worked well, but unfortunately, a few weeks after I’d finished this project, the boy’s community pressured Aisha to take her son off the medication and see a traditional healer. He started getting fits again. It took a  good deal of persuading my Max to get Mohammed back on the medication.


Amara had an epileptic fit while out playing football with his friends. He damaged his back but managed to hobble back inside his house to lie down. However when he tried to get up he couldn’t get up. In fact he couldn’t walk again for another year, bound to a wheelchair.

He managed to start walking again because a visiting health worker discovered him and knew that physiotherapy could help. But you can see from the above photograph that his back is still misshapen. His family simply can’t afford the money to get an operation on his spine. It is clearly going to limit his physical abilities in the future, but no-one I knew at the Epilepsy clinic was an expert on this – they were just making sure that he kept taking his treatment to prevent any more fits.


At one point I found myself in the rather unusual position of being able to photograph a traditional doctor (or herbalist) perform his usual… um, routine (?)… on a young boy with epilepsy. Max knew the herbalist and persuaded, with a fistful of notes, to let me photograph. In this case he understood that it was important to get such images. The boy’s family didn’t have to pay anything.

I told the herbalist to simply go about the routine and I would photograph around them, so this is an unposed portrait. Max spoke to this herbalist after to make sure that epilepsy cases were passed onto the Epilepsy Association. I know that in some cases of leprosy the herbalist gets paid for every correct and undiagnosed case of leprosy they pass on. In the long-run it saves a lot of money, and having traditional doctors on your side is a good thing.


The fear of epilepsy, mainly because it’s seen as demonic, can affect school children who have had fits. One girl at this school was told to leave that school and not come back. Luckily the Epilepsy Association found out and intervened – and as well as speaking to and reassuring the school teachers responsible, organised a series of talks on Epilepsy for the school children. The girl who was ‘rejected’ is now back at school, taking regular drugs and has no epilepsy-related troubles at all.


Ebironkeh (sitting down) has a horrendous story. She was having regular fits, and began to notice that her knickers were pulled down, she was sore, and there was physical evidence that someone had been raping her while she was unconscious, fitting.

She eventually caught the man – someone living in the same house as her – as he was still on top of her. She went to Max of the Epilepsy Association who, along with one of his colleagues, confronted the man. The culprit ‘promised not to do it again’. And the police were never called as it was decided it was a ‘family matter’.

Ebironkeh isn’t sure how many times she’d been raped. She was so ashamed that she moved away from the house to start a new life on the other side of Freetown. Now she runs a store selling manure and cement.


Memuna is blind as well as having leprosy. She is clearly intelligent and speaks excellent English. Her daughter and grandson sit behind her. Here she is at the blind institute where she is learning to read braille.

Memuna still has regular fits – indeed I interviewed her a couple hours after she’d had one. She was still very lethargic and couldn’t speak well, completely opposite to the sharp English tongue she had when I first met her – when I took this photograph. Between her having fits and being blind getting a job to get an income so her, her two daughter and her grandson can live is difficult. She often has to ask friends to give her small amounts of money simply so she could buy her epilepsy medication.


I don’t actually know this man’s name, but here he is hooked up to an EEG machine, which was acquired by Medical Assistance Sierra Leone for usage by Dr Radcliffe Lisk – an expert in epilepsy. It gathers information that can help inform what type of medication a patient needs to be put on, and the severity of the epilepsy.

Epilepsy Sierra Leone

Africa, Documentary, Epilepsy, Video

I shot everything for this a while ago for Medical Assistance Sierra Leone while I was living in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I put together a 20 minute video for them to produce a DVD, but I wanted to produce a shorter version to put online. I’ve finally got round to it. It’s about the Epilepsy Association of Sierra Leone.

On another note this is the view from one of the flats I lived in in Freetown. Recently sold a large print of this, do enquire if you’re interested.

View from my flat

Flami Kapaya

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy, Music

I hadn’t really done much video work at this point in my life; I’d only recorded snippets every now and then. Anyway, I came across a young man fiddling with a homemade guitar outside the house of a leprosy patient I’d been interviewing. I asked him if he minded me recording. He happily complied and launched into a song – his voice was a welcome surprise. I heard this once. I didn’t hear him play anything else.

This is that recording. I tend not to travel with much cash, but paid him about $16 – what I told him I’d pay to download an album of his.

Most of the people in the video have had leprosy. Find out more about some of the individuals and leprosy in general at