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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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The road into Freetown.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 isleprosyeliminated.com.

Three communities

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy

I’ve just posted a new series of photographs on Leprosy Eliminated? and other stories. It’s, as this title suggests, about three communities: Enyindakurom – the ‘leprosy village’, Ankaful hospital, and St Clare’s – the care home for those severely handicapped by leprosy. Theoretically there’s a linear relationship between the three; one gets leprosy and goes to the hospital; they then get placed in the nearby leprosy settlement (naturally, with improvements on social welfare and human rights, this doesn’t happen any more); then after they become too frail, or infirmed, they get moved to the care home.

It’s a crude direction. It is, no doubt reflected in the lives a few individuals at the care-home, perhaps even lives to come in the leprosy community.

Yaa Dede

Yaa Dede, 55, got leprosy age 31 and has 6 children. She says of her future: ‘I don’t have any aims. I relied on my farming. Now my leg’s amputated I have nothing to do. I can’t go and work in the farm again.’ Ankaful Hospital 2012

 

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Kwaku Ananko’s fingers, feet and eyes are severely damaged by leprosy. He’s in his 40s, a musician, usually on his bicycle and seems to be in a perpetual state of delirious happiness. Enyindakurom 2012

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Maame Esi lies in her bed. Above it hangs a certificate of thanks from the Franciscans given to her just seven years ago for all her hard work. St Clare’s 2012

You can view the whole series of photographs here. If you would like to receive occasional updates on new additions to the project please fill out your name and email here.

Which photo?

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy

Sometimes it can be difficult to choose between two images that in most ways are very similar. I’m currently having such a dilemma.

These two are of a man who’s living in Enyindakrom, a community in Ankaful, Ghana that used to be and in many ways still is, a leprosy community. All of it’s inhabitants either used to have leprosy or are related to people who used to have leprosy. The story (part of my Leprosy Eliminated? and other stories project) is very much a positive one – there is no stigma against them or the community any more and though there is still a great amount of physical impairment (some might say disability) there is a great amount of dignity still.

The following photograph I feel, sums this up quite well:

First photo

The next photograph was taken seconds later, but I simply stood up:

Second photo

Many of the details that convey information are present in both photographs – the fact he had a leg amputated, his lack of fingers and toes, a problem with his eye/eyes, the presence of the wheelchair, the bare bed and poor room, even the small white cross hanging off his bed.

Personally, I like the composition on both of them, though perhaps I like the second slightly more. If it’s supposed to be a photograph showing dignity in the face of the situation then I think the first is the best candidate. It works well with the story of the community.

However, individually the man, whose name is John, really can do very little and needs constant care from his friends and financial help and donations, usually from the local missionary nuns. Whenever I went to see him he was on his porch, or just outside his house and always seemed to be alone, waiting. In that respect, from the two weeks I lived next to the community, I feel that second photo sums him more.

So which photo should I choose? Well I haven’t decided yet. If you have any thoughts on the matter, then please comment below. Otherwise you’ll see the final result when you click on ‘Ghana’ on the website.

Weija – Accra

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy

Weija is on the outskirts of Accra in Ghana. It is a current leprosarium – a designated area for those who are physically affected by leprosy originally because they were shunned from society.

In the present day, most of the families and individuals living in Weija have good relations with families, but here a local charity helps them with food and supplies, making it an attractive destination for those who struggle to earn a daily wage.

A food handout in Weija leprosarium.

There have been movements in the past towards income generation projects here… soap-making etc. But they’ve failed and residence have ended up bickering, usually because of lack of understanding about gross and net profit. The idea of ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for the rest of his life’ has not been welcomed. Here the ‘give a man a fish and every day after that…’ is preferable.

But then the majority are way past retirement age, disabled with leprosy and have a lifetime of physical and social discomfort behind them. Who can blame them?

Women affected by leprosy in Weija look to buy some jewellery with their monthly allowance.

Two men, One mamba

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy

You may have noticed that I’ve been pretty lax recently in terms of posting up here. You get other things on your mind. You prioritise and tell yourself you’ll get round to it. But you don’t.

For a while. Perhaps for lack of having something deep and complex and current prepared.

I thought something’s better than nothing. I’m going to post a photograph I took back in June in Cote d’Ivoire as part of my Leprosy Eliminated? project. You may ask what relevance this has to leprosy being eliminated. Well it was taken in a village set up by people affected by leprosy and sometimes I just like to document what I see. Take strong images.

These are two former leprosy patients pretending to eat a headless black mamba. Which the left one caught and is going to have for dinner. It’s taken outside one of the village drinking establishments.

Two more years of leprosy please…

Africa, Documentary, Leprosy

I’m now back in West Africa and the moment I stepped off the plane and I felt that hot humidity set around my skin, I relaxed and felt at home. I’d had a strange feeling of apprehension as I set off on the plane (I don’t think the numbing, icy AC helped either); I wasn’t getting that tingling of excitement I usually got when heading back to my favourite part of the world. Now I’m here however, there is an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction of just being, well, IN Africa. The noises, the temperature, the faces, the shouting in the street, the colourful clothes, the goats standing on top of buses, naked toddlers crying by the road, a family of five on a motorbike, the urinal cakes in the sink (ok that’s a new one), the, well…. the Africanness. I think I’ll just call it that.

So that Africanness has wiped away my apprehension, and is letting me focus on what I’m here to do, the probable source of my apprehension in the first place.

Family in a leprosy community. Kwara state, Nigeria 2009

Since 2009 I’ve been (on and off) photographing leprosy. It’s all part of a project called Leprosy Eliminated?, which is intended to record the story and stories of leprosy in the world today. As well as being interesting, it will hopefully raise awareness and bring about understanding as to the nature of this disease.

Woman who’s just been told she has leprosy. Kwara state, Nigeria 2009

One mans determination to be included in his muslim community is evident outside of the Mosque. He leaves his prosthetic on the doorstep. Koloware, Togo 2010

American Leprosy Missions have kindly offered to help me complete this project over the next two years. Apart from a short stint in the USA where I gathered a bit more information and visited the ALM headquarters, this is the start of those two years.

I suppose the apprehension stemmed from this daunting task ahead of me. After all, people from around the world are letting me into their lives. I never make any promises, but nevertheless by just being there, I have, and feel, a responsibility towards those I’m photographing and the actions I’m taking. But like I say, simply having this Africanness around me has eased me. Though the task ahead is still of paramount importance, I’m welcoming the challenge from my comfort zone.

So I’ve arrived in Ghana. And I bloody love it. Until the end of July I’m going to be searching out and photographing leprosy in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia. At some point the stories from all the countries I visit will go up on a brand new website. Meanwhile, you’ll have to stay tuned to this blog to follow me on this adventure…