Recently, I had a long – and hopefully fruitful – chat with Chris King on his podcast, Documentary Storytellers about my past, my work and where I’m going next… and quite a lot of other stuff as well. Have a listen on either – Spotify or Apple Podcast.
Here’s a recent commission – images and words – from Thai Airways magazine about Delhi’s burgeoning street art scene. A million thanks to ST+Art India, Anpu Varkey and Harsh Raman. A really interesting and colourful piece to photograph – and write.
On Saturday I gave a lecture about my work at the Photographers Gallery to a group of talented young photographers. I was delighted that one student, Melissa Fund encapsulated those couple of hours in an excellent diagram with my portrait at its centre. I thought I’d share that here.
Thanks to her and the excellent Lottie Davies for the opportunity.
I’m delighted that my writing about London’s eel and pie tradition is included in the new UnCommon London book.
UnCommon is a compendium of guide and travel writing “and is more of a ‘companion’ for the traveller before, during and after the journey.” UnCommon London joins editions on Malta, Stockholm and Dubai.
Commissioned by my old friend Mike Fordham, my words are illustrated by May Van Millingen.
In 2013, I made a story about the now sleepy town of Chandannagar on the banks of the Hooghly River near Kolkata.
Chandannagar (or Chandernagore) was first established as a French colony in 1673 when the Nawab of Bengal gave permission to establish a trading mission. By 1730 when Joseph Francois Dupleix was appointed governor, Chandannagar had more than two thousand brick built houses and was the main European entry to the subcontinent. The British East India Company inconveniently flattened a good deal of it during its capture in 1756 but returned it to French rule in 1816. It was governed as part of France until 1950 when the inhabitants voted to join with the newly independent India.
As part of my story, I wandered into the Institut de Chandernagar, now a museum that was the original governor’s palace. Inside, amongst Colonial French artifacts, I found a mystery – and one that I found very moving and upsetting.
Here is what I wrote:
“In another dusty room a harpsichord gently decays, its keys like broken teeth, watched over by a small bust of a stern Napoleon. In a case, the last French flag, dirty and a little tattered. Dupleix’s own bed is enormous but deeply uncomfortable looking. Time has stopped here and moulders in the sticky, wet heat. Perhaps saddest of all, the shattered spectacles of Dr J N Sen MB MRCS Private West Yorkshire Regiment and a son of Chandannagar, killed in action on the night of 22/23rd of May 1916 in France. His, the dubious honour of being the first Bengali to do so. Why he was fighting for a British regiment is a mystery but how sad to die so far from the verdant splendour of the steamy jungle and the smell of jasmine oil in a woman’s hair.”
I had quite forgotten about this until this morning when I heard a short piece on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Today (if you listen it’s at 02:53:51) where Santanu Das (a reader in English at King’s College London) explains why Dr Sen was there. There is also a piece here from BBC Leeds published a few days ago that reports the story.
I remember standing there in the heat of the room feeling so utterly moved by the spectacles that I didn’t take a photograph but just jotted some words down and had to leave.
Here are some images from the story. The last frame shows the talented musician Umesh Mishra, playing his sarangi during a practice session for a concert he was giving that night in the town.
Perhaps that might be a fitting visual requiem for Sen.
Here’s a recent tearsheet from the German Magazine Brand Eins Neuland. They commissioned me to interview three former alumni of Jacobs University for a special edition on the city of Bremen. I travelled to Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and Bangladesh (Dhaka) to write the story and made a brief city reportage as well as the portraits.
Some weeks ago I was invited by the Dart Centre, an extraordinary resource for journalists who cover trauma in their work, to participate in a long weekend retreat in peaceful hotel the English countryside. The Dart Centre is a project of the Columbia University Graduate School Programme and seeks to promote best practice in the fields of reporting and understanding of trauma, human rights and conflict world wide. I was accompanied by a lovely group of very experienced journalists from amongst others, the BBC, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, The Sunday Times and The Associated Press. It was an honour to be part of this and my thanks to Dart for inviting me on such an informative and helpful weekend.
My special thanks to my colleague Lefteris Pitarakis who kindly provided an image of me during my presentation talk.