Leprosy Exhibition in London

Documentary, Leprosy, Photojournalism

Very excited to announce that I’m going to have an exhibition of the leprosy project at the Art Gallery in St Paul’s School in London on 30th September. If you’re able, I’d love you to come and see how six years work looks on the wall of a gallery. Some of the stuff you will have seen on the blog and my website (www.tom-bradley.com) and some has been newly shot this year.

Do RSVP (info@tom-bradley.com) if you’d like to make it. Many thanks

Here is the Press Release…

Tom Bradley Leprosy SPS Exhibition Press Release-page-001

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The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Africa, Documentary, Mercy Ships

I did a post of dental work in Togo last year, stressing the importance of the work Mercy Ships do in this area. The dental clinic is located at the ‘Hope Centre’, the name given to the venue a short walk from the port where many long-term patients recover after their operations on the ship. The amount of people the dental team see each day is huge. On average they get through 120 patients. Last week alone they pulled out around 1100 teeth. I spent just over an hour at the clinic observing and photographing their usual routine. They are a close team with excellent management and organisation – a well-oiled machine. It is refreshing to watch such good work done with such efficiency.

Above: The lazy atmosphere at the entrance to the clinic is deceiving.

Above and below: Waiting patients are instructed by Comfort Yeboah, a long term resident on the ship as to the best way to look after their teeth. Basic routines like brushing your teeth twice a day is news to many of them.

Above: This mother turned up at the dental clinic with her severely cleft-lipped daughter. She was moved onto the ship 10 minutes walk down the road at lunchtime for surgery due later in the week.

Above and below: patients wait in the main hall to be called in to be seen by the dentist.

Above: A patient waits in the chair while the dentist finishes an procedure.

Above: A patient waits for five minutes for the dentist to return after receiving an injection in his mouth.

Bob reaches for a tool while working on a patients mouth. He is an incredibly fast worker, and seemed to be operating on three to four patients at once – a bit like watching a master playing several games of chess at the same time.

Above: A woman waits for the anaesthetic to take effect. She then has a rotten tooth removed later (below)

Above and below: Alistair extracts a number of teeth which come with a few inevitable drops of blood…

Above: A day volunteer has a quick rest from assisting the dentists.

Above: Jesse, a Mercy Ships cook volunteering for the day holds a patients hand as the dentist pulls out a tooth.

Above: A day volunteer briefly assesses a patients mouth before the dentist comes over.

Above: A patient waits for the dentist to come over.

Above: Alistair explains to a patient why he cannot pull the teeth out that are giving him pain.

Above: Dusti, one of the dental hygienists cleans up a few teeth.

Above: Bob operates on a patient.

Above and below: Alistair examines and explains a procedure to a patient amid the businesses of the clinic.

Above: Mona, one of the dentists a work.

A patient waits anxiously for her name to be called.

Screening (and an eye screening)

Africa, Documentary, Mercy Ships

Death is a fact of life, necessary for nature’s cycle to continue and for humankind to carry on evolving.

The first day of screening happened on Monday 7th of March and unfortunately it didn’t go to plan. Due to the overwhelming amount of people that needed care (as well as a series of unfortunate circumstances and events) pressure built up at the gate and when it burst open from the weight of the crowd several people were injured and taken to hospital. Sadly one man died. Screening was cancelled just after midday and all staff had left the premises by the end of lunch.

Mercy Ships released an official statement and their report can be found here, so the previous and following words and opinions are very much my own as a witness.

A small number of people were successfully screened before the aforementioned incident occurred. I took a great deal of photographs before and after it of the crowds that had gathered as well as photographs of the few that were seen in early morning. However management has decided that for the moment we cannot show anything. I wasn’t actually present when the gate burst so I never had any photographs of that and the crush. I can understand why any that were taken of this incident are not being shown. Sometimes pictures are necessary and sometimes they are not. Showing photos of the man that died is not necessary – however I do believe that showing photographs of the crowds, the clear need and desperation present, and the few patients that were admitted is necessary.

Despite the fact that we are expecting to do another screening very soon the fact that that day happened should not be ignored and not showing photographs indicates that there is something to hide. So I disagree with that decision. Photographs can lend a good deal of understanding and in my opinion that is rarely negative.

Mercy Ships has nothing to hide. They have a vast experience since the early nineties of dealing with large screening days in African countries. They could not have predicted that this particular crowd would get out of hand. I don’t want to dwell on this. A number of factors led to the gate bursting – one of which is that a number of boys in the crowd my age seemed to enjoy the distress. I spent a good deal of my first two hours in the crowd initially taking photographs, but then trying to persuade people to gradually shuffle back to relieve pressure at the front – the safety of of those at the front of the crowd was of course precedent on everyone’s minds. While the majority of people in the crowd shared my concern a few laughed at my attempts in way that shocked me. I thought at the time that perhaps they were laughing at the futility of my commands rather than at the fact they were deliberately trying to exacerbate the situation. Speaking to others after, many reckoned that there was an element of maliciousness however. I don’t know – I can’t say that for certain.

The crowd was due to be directed through the pool entrance (so that they could slowly filter through into the stadium for pre-screening). However instead of one line forming around the stadium as in previous screenings people had already formed several queues. I think that because no queue had priority people were slowly edging forward to get seen. They didn’t want people in the queue next to them getting seen before them, probably out of fear they may not be screened themselves. Over several hours from early morning queueing this lead to the huge pressure that built up at the gate. Unfortunately my photographs illustrate my point much better.

What happened happened. I just wish I could show you photographs to lend a better understanding. Perhaps in time Mercy Ships will allow them to be shown. Meanwhile spare a thought for the many Mercy Ships staff and Freetown citizens that witnessed a man’s death on a day where hope was supposed to be realised for a great many Sierra Leoneans.

After a week of reorganising a much smaller eye screening was organised the following Monday at the Kissy Eye Clinic. I have photographs of that. Life is starting to get busier again.

Above: People wanting to be seen after the cancelled screening crowd outside the gate. Everyone is reassured that there will be an announcement of a second screening.

Above: People queue outside the Kissy eye clinic.

Above: Woody pre-screens patients before they enter the clinic building for screening.

Above: Local police help resolve any potentially tricky situations.

Above and below: Bill Donovan screens a patient.

Above: A young patient has his eyes tested by a day volunteer.

Above and below: Potential patients wait patiently outside to be pre-screened. Everyone will be seen.

Leprosy Eliminated? nominated for BJP Nikon Project Assistance Award

Documentary

Well I’m very happy today as my leprosy documentary has been longlisted for the British Journal of Photography’s £5000 grant. I am realistic about actually getting as, there is some very tough competition out there, however it’s good to know that the photographs have been recognized on some level.

 I entered 12 photographs and 4 have got published on the website and in the magazine. The others are in the slideshow below. I don’t know for certain as I only briefly spoke with them over the phone to confirm my email and number, but I reckon the one they like most was this bold image:

Travels in Nepal…

travel

Here’s a few photos from Nepal that aren’t part of the leprosy documentary I did out there.

Boy with sewing machine

The portraits above and below were taken in Loharpatti, about an hours drive from the leprosy hospital I stayed at.

Woman from a Terai village

Woman, Kathmandu

I like this photo in the neighbourhood of where I stayed. I guess it’s middle class Kathmandu; cheap (relatively to the west) but large houses, graffiti-covered walls and everyone dressed in a typically western style.

Kathmandu city street

This street, near Patan square is more typical of the old Kathmandu.

Kathmandu

These photos (above and below) were taken in the backstreets of the Patan area. This market was clearly designed for resident Nepali’s and not tourists and everyone seemed slightly bemused to see me taking such an interest.

Kathmandu market

Student protestors, Kathmandu

This shot was taken from a taxi. We passed several of these ‘buses’ filled to the brim with students on their way to support the various student political parties. Student politics is taken very seriously in Nepal, and in the votes leading up to the Student Union presidential elections there were a lot of violent clashes between the differing student bodies. In the past this has been fatal.

In a taxi, Kathmandu

This was also taken from a taxi. Navigating traffic in Kathmandu is a fine art, best done on motorcycle it seems.

Woman, Kathmandu

This was taken near the Pashupatinath Hindu temple. This area where the woman was appeared to be some sort of care home for sick, disabled or elderly hindu’s.

Overlooking the bodhnath, Kathmandu

This is one of the many rooftop cafes overlooking the Bodhnath temple, one of the holiest buddhist spots in Nepal. It is one of Kathmandu’s prime tourist destinations.

Temple in Kathmandu

There are hundreds of small temples and shrines hidden among the streets of the ancient parts of Kathmandu.

Bag maker, Kathmandu

I bought a couple of sling bags from this vendor near the Thamil area of Kathmandu. They make a lot of them out of old rice bags.

Kathmandu at night

I wish I’d done more shots like these. At about 10pm the mains electricity in central Kathmandu is cut out leaving only those with generators and motorbikes to light the streets. Because of the low light I was forced to use long exposures, but the effect is eery and wonderful I think. When I see it I think of the sound of generators everywhere with various motorbike and car horns singing in the ear.

Himalayan prayer flags, Annapurna region

After Lalgadh leprosy hospital I went to Pokhara for three weeks to do a 10 day trek to the Annapurna sanctuary. You often come across shrines like this covered in prayer flags.

Porters smoking, Annapurna region

On these treks you often pass tourists that have all the latest gear; sticks, mountaineering gloves and extreme lightweight clothes. Yet these are the guys that carry up to 70kilos on their back, having a smoke while their clients stop to catch their breath. One group of trekkers I met said they’d passed a porter carrying a double LG fridge on his back.

Underground cave, Pokhara

This was taken in the Gupteshwor Cave at the end of Devi’s Falls in Pokhara. Hindu’s come here to wash in the water.

Boys, Pokhara

Fewa Taal, the huge lake by Pokhara narrows into the Seti gorge. Walking along it I came across these three boys playing in the gardens behind the houses. They immediately gathered for a photo.

Lakeside, Pokhara

This was taken by lakeside, the tourist hotspot of Pokhara. This son of one of the boaters was having fun moving between the boats.

Blurry Photos

General comment

When I speak to people about photography a lot of them ask me ‘what makes a good photo?’. Well I suppose you could talk forever about what makes a good photo theoretically; interesting lighting, composition, subject, the ‘moment captured’ etc… it’s all subjective anyway. However it does annoy me when people look at a photo that is blurred or slightly off-focus and dismiss it immediately as a bad photo. A photo does not need to be sharp to convey a moment in time or the personality of an individual or atmosphere of a place. In fact that blurred affect can portray the subject more accurately in many cases. And I’m not just talking about movement in sport or wildlife (though I have included a couple of those examples below). Here’s a few examples I’ve taken over the past couple of years that illustrate to an extent what I’m trying to say. If you want to look at a master of blurred images have a look at Antoine D’Agata’s (Magnum) portfolio.

Gabriel Latchin

This is a portrait I did the other week of Gabriel Latchin, a jazz pianist studying at the Guildhall. I shot a few portraits outside then went in to a practise room inside the Guildhall. You can see other photos here. The room was pretty plain, small and dull, but had a nice old Steinway. His music (which you can hear here) is mainly trio jazz. It has that post Miles-Davis feel about it and I felt a simple blurred shot of him playing his own compositions suited nicely.

Bakerloo Line

This was taken in the Underground at Waterloo (I think). For me it captures that feeling of hurrying through tube connection tunnels when you’re listening to your iTunes or have something on your mind. You know the route so well you don’t really notice things and don’t really have a specific memory of walking from one line to another.

Dog Racing

This above one was taken at the Sunderland greyhound racetrack. It was definitely helped by the weather. The flood lights highlight the streaks of rain and reflect off the surface all adding to the atmosphere. That the dog isn’t pin sharp doesn’t matterm the strain is still evident in it’s face and body.

Blesbok, Mankwe - South Africa

This photo of running blesbok in South Africa wasn’t taken by accident, but I had little choice. I was on the maximum ISO (1600) and widest aperture of my camera at the time so a slow shutter speed was all I had to work with. Tracking the blesbok as they run (same with the greyhound above) is what conveys the running motion so effectively.

Fighting Vervet's, South Africa

Like the blesbok these fighting vervet monkeys’ movement is shown on a still by tracking them.

Cheerleaders

The above photo isn’t hugely blurred, but it’s not sharp and it does make me laugh. Even though it’s a perfectly acceptable situation… a cheerleading spectacle, you can’t help but think what the face or feelings of the girl being lifted are like… having her rear and thighs gripped and elevated by two cheerleaders and guy who’s strained face is looking straight into her crotch.

Fishing at Dusk in Loch Tay

Maybe I like this photo because it reminds me of a great weekend I took with some mates of mine after we completed our University Finals in Loch Tay in Scotland. We spent about 6 hours down by the perfectly clear but freezing lake building a fire, drinking beer and burning sausages. Naturally despite the sun having gone down and the temperature dropping these two still insisted on wading out for a fish and a swim.

Leprosy in Nigeria, 2009

Documentary

Woman who's just been told she has leprosy.

I walked into this room in Okegbala Hospital, Kwara State, Nigeria and the light coming through the one window was so clear I thought I’d stay here for a little while, photographing the doctor examining his patients. This woman was the first patient. She had a few light skin lesions on her arms and the doctor looked them over. I took this photo as he told her what I believe she probably knew already: all the signs pointed to her having leprosy. Later lab tests confirmed this. It takes 7-10 years for the leprosy bacterium to reveal itself in a body through symptoms such as skin lesions and areas of numbness, so even if she hadn’t been around people directly infect with leprosy in the last 7 years, it may well have been contracted well before then.

 

On the way to market

Mohammed Damargo kindly invited me into his yard to listen to his story and photograph him before his son took him to market on a trailer so he could spend all day begging. He was 16 when he was diagnosed with a disease some 40 years ago by a native doctor. He took the prescribed treatment which was a mixture of pounded leaves and dirty water left to infuse together for 7 days. After 10 years of taking this medecine but without improvement a European man came along who immediately diagnosed the disease as leprosy and came back the next day with drugs to take. He took the medecine for 1 and a half years before moving to Kuta, the current area he’s in which used to have a clinic nearby. He’s lived here for the past 30 years. In that time, due to skin lesions and damaged nerves  parts of his body have become infected and he has lost one lower arm, most of his hand on the other arm, all his toes and much of his face has sunken in making his words hard to distinguish. He finds hard to eat anything except a bowl of dried maize off the cob. Each day his son takes him to work in the wheelbarrow (shown) where he begs. It is impossible for him to do any other work and he gets no benefits as we might in this country.

Lalgadh Leprosy Centre, Nepal 2009

Documentary

Man with leprosy

I have chosen two photographs to put in this blog. You can see a few more and read more about my experience in leprosy-affected areas at www.tom-bradley.com. For many of the photographs I took out there I wrote down a bit about the people… name, age, location and a few notes on the way getting it changed their life. Here I was called by one of the physicians to photograph a man who had noteable skin lesions on the side of his head, but this man was sitting to the side, waiting his turn to be seen. The simpleness of the frame struck me and I took two quick pictures before hurrying inside the physicians room. I’m not sure exactly what attracts me to it; it could very well be the simpleness of the image, the wall in two colours, with this old man’s head sitting atop a poor, frail body, one eye blind from leprosy. But then again maybe it’s because, unlike most of the patients I photographed this man I saw for less than 10 seconds and his identity is a mystery to me.

Ram Ishwor

One of the things that I really need to improve upon in my photographs is relationships. I came back from Nepal and picking out my favourite photographs I realised most of them were portraits. Though there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, it’s the relationships in photographs (usually) between human beings that can really tell the story. This photo for me sums up what I saw of Lalgadh Leprosy Services Centre. Ram Ishwor was only 14 when this was taken. His body had been reacting to the Multi-Drug Therapy that kills the leprosy bacterium hence the very swollen cheeks. As a result he was also incredibly weak and confined to a bed for a few weeks. He is one of LLSC’s long-term residents and just three weeks previously he had been bouncing around the place with a giant grin, continually poking me to take ‘just one snap’ of him. Dr. Graeme Clugston is the man reaching over touching his head (the nurse touching his leg is Graeme’s wife, Meena). He’s in fact not one of the resident doctors, but instead works in the administrative section of LLSC. However none of the other doctors were available for rounds that day so he stepped in place. I think the staff’s fondness for Ram shows through in the photo and certainly reflects the feelings I had about Ram in the few weeks I’d got used to him.

St. Chad’s Day 2008

Documentary

Chase on Chad's Day

This is one of my favourites of the photos I took at University. St. Chad’s Day is the annual college day of activities and merriment where everyone dresses up in green (the college colour). It start usually quite early in the day (wake-up at 7.30 has been known) with a pimms reception. Part of the morning activities include college invasions where by tradition the majority of Chadsians assemble outside other colleges (Hatfield, Castle, St. Johns and Cuths) and demand entrance which is immediately denied by the college president. This naturally prompts the green mass of students to burst through the uncooperative colleges gates and invade it in order to make it known that today is the feast of St. Chad. Unsurpringly with students this often gets out of hand, and this particular moment captures a rebellious Hatfielder (still wearing his DJ from the previous nights Hatfield Day celebrations) who stole a Chadsians bucket (helmet – part of his green Knight costume) being chased by a Chadsman in a green caveman get-up. It was one of those times where you have a split-second to react but instantly know you’ve caught the moment.