I’m delighted to be the subject of a post at the rather excellent Verve Photo that features my work on capoeira in Brazil.
I must admit I was a little surprised to be included in such a blog that prides itself on showcasing ‘the new breed of documentary photographers’ as I seem (or feel) like I have already been around the block more than once, but no matter. Geoffrey Hiller was utterly charming and I was very pleased that he chose an image from a series that showcases work that isn’t necessarily dark and serious.
Many thanks to Geoffrey and I reproduce the short interview below.
“The story was on Capoeira, the martial art/dance once the (banned) preserve of African slaves, now a national symbol of Brazil. It was shot on assignment for a car magazine – Lexus – with whom I’ve photographed and written travel pieces on and off for nearly a decade. My fixer had arranged for five models – all expert Capoeiristas, and the idea was that in addition to photographing some Capoeira classes in the city, we’d make the main images on Copacabana and Leblon beaches. I remember it rained for a couple of days so I had to shoot the beach twice before I was happy. Initially I shot with two portable strobes but that felt too ‘fashioney’ so I went back to a much simpler set-up – shooting at dusk with available light and couple of fixed lenses: a much more traditional reportage feel. I’d worked in Brazil only once before in 1999 as part of a five country reportage about the Politics of Hunger. I’d shot a piece with the Landless Peasant’s Union (the MST) on squatted land in the far north: the Capoeira story was far removed from that and some of the images have formed the basis of a lifestyle folio that sees me work on ‘lighter’ stories away from pieces in Africa and Asia that I am perhaps more known for. A good balance, I think.”
The French news magazine L’Express have just published an assignment I made for them in February on Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, the seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama in Sarnath, northern India. The Karmapa is head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and predates the Dalai Lama’s lineage. This particular incarnation is disputed however and another candidate, Trinley Thaye Dorje has also been proclaimed and enthroned in another part of India. There’s a reasonable discussion on the succession issues here.
In any case, the assignment gave me a three-fold opportunity.
Firstly, I had the pleasure of meeting the Karmapa, a shy and I thought rather melancholy figure – a bird in a gilded cage if ever there was one – whose keen interest in photography was restricted to photographing the outside world from his window. The child of nomads, he ‘escaped’ from his Chinese hosts first to Nepal and then to India from where he was supposed to conduct a european tour this summer only to be thwarted by the refusal of the Indian authorities to grant him an exit visa. Which has of course nothing to do with Chinese pressure.
Secondly, I had the chance to go back to one of my favourite cities, Varanasi – one of its many names – I think the most intriguing of all north Indian cities.
Thirdly, I had the pleasure to work with Marc Epstein, the charming Foreign Editor of L’Express with whom I managed to put the world to rights over long walks along the ghats of a city we both hadn’t visited for a couple of years. I managed to explain the relative intricacies of cricket to a Frenchman who was curious of all the sporting activity along the river and made him an honoury Tottenham Hotspur fan for his trouble. For this of course, I apologised in advance: an inevitable entrée to a world of pain and disappointment…