Music on a rainy afternoon


Here’s another image from a recent Conde Nast Traveller story in Sao Tome and Principe. It shows singer Guilherme de Caravlho playing at home in Sao Tome. Outside the heavens had just opened and a rain storm was passing overhead. Behind the curtain his daughter danced to the music.

I’ve written before about music from former Portuguese colonies: the melancholy, the saudade. Here was a perfect moment to illustrate it. I hope that I did his song justice…



Sao Tome and Principe - Sao Tome - Singer Guilherme de Caravalho plays guitar at home
Sao Tome and Principe – Sao Tome – Singer Guilherme de Caravalho plays guitar at home

You dancin’?


Here’s the first in an occasional series of unpublished images from a recent Conde Nast Traveller piece on Sao Tome and Principe.

I’d just finished a portrait down the road when I heard some music and drifted into a bar (as you do). I found a sound system and a few people swaying to the music between the tables. This elegant woman was dancing the afternoon away.

A thousand stories.



Sao Tome and Principe - Airport - Paula, a local woman dances at the White House bar near the airport, Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe – Airport – Paula, a local woman dances at the White House bar

Verve Photo

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.”


Just take five…

Some good news from Pakistan. The BBC reported today on the success of Sachal Orchestra in Lahore that is thriving by reinterpreting classic jazz standards – like Brubeck’s Take Five – and giving them a South Asian twist. Pakistani musicians have seen their livelihoods collapse in recent years: musical tastes, instability and a growth of religious criticism have all impacted on them.

Their Indian cousins have also to a lesser extent seen their craft disappear and it’s from them that I find a picture in my archive taken on an Old Delhi roof.


India - Delhi - Traditional musicians play on a roof top in Chandni Mahal, Old Delhi, India. Once patronised by the Mughal rulers many now scrape a living playing weddings and social functions. Violinist Afzaal Zahoor leads Zeeshan Ahmad, a singer, Shankat Qureshi (tabla) and Shakeel Ahmad (Harmonia).

The most expensive of cities…

For the second year in a row, The Mercer Group has confirmed that the world’s most expensive city to live in is Luanda in Angola. What the report didn’t make clear was that the city was also one of the most savagely segregated cities in terms of wealth: a tiny native elite and foreign nationals working in oil, sitting atop a mountain of desperate poverty.

I’ve worked in Angola a couple of times and was always shocked at the disparity.  I had, until I looked back at these images, forgotten spending an hour watching Dasilio and his mate fruitlessly begging rich Luandans for small change. I had forgotten the smell inside the tent of Bule’s eye, hanging by a thread, rotten and useless in his head. I had forgotten Engracia sitting in the ruins of her home, destroyed illegally by property developers. I had forgotten the harsh light and the long shadows. Shame on me for forgetting.

My few good memories come, as they often do, by listening to the music on the streets. A decade ago I discovered the delightfully named Bonga via a very talkative taxi driver in the city. That led me in search of saudade – a very difficult Portuguese word that translates roughly as a longing for something lost: a melancholy. You can hear it in the husky Morna of Cesária Évora and you can certainly hear it in the Fado of Carlos do Carmo. You can hear it on the breaking Atlantic waves whispering along the shore of the Marginal where both the rich and poor promenade – but for different reasons…

Here are some images.


Angola - Luanda - A street boy stands in front of a poster of Agostinho Neto, a hero of the Angolan revolution


Angola - Luanda - Two friends, Bule Manuel (r) from Uige and Joachim from Huambo live together in a tented camp for Internally displaced persons (IDP's) just outside of Luanda, in Viana. Both have lost their sight due to the war and Bule's eye is rotten in it's socket. The two men care for each other as best they can


Angola - Luanda - Engracia Lourenco in the ruins of her home in a middle-class suburb known as Golfe 2. In December 2002, men, presumably from the government forcibly demolished privately owned homes on this land. The land titles legally held by the occupants were ignored.


Angola - Luanda - A man walks through a shaft of sunlight on a Luandan street

Angola - Luanda - A woman works herself to a religious frenzy during an evangelical service in the Prenda slum



Angola - Luanda - Dasilio and his friend, both injured during the Civil War, beg from wealthy Luandans


Angola - Luanda - Wealthy Luandans dance the night away at Xavaroti's nightclub in the Vila Alice area of Luanda.


The Word

It’s amazing what you find in the ‘papers these days. I opened the Grauniad this morning and found a cover feature on The Word.

The Word was a ground breaking (in terms of taste and errr… editorial judgement) British ‘yoof’ television show that showcased music and heralded the ‘reality’ concept that you find everywhere on television nowadays.

I was assigned by the Times Magazine to do a feature about the show in the mid-nineties. I stumbled upon the trannies (or most of them) a couple of years ago and managed to scan perhaps a dozen. I put them onto my archive. And them forgot about them. Until this morning. Now, I suppose the hard working busy picture desk on G2 could have searched for them but instead, they simply ran an entire feature with screengrabs…

Here’s a bit of a selection…

UK - London - Terry Christian in rehearsals for the cult British Television show, "The Word"

UK - London - A stage hand raises signage before transmission of the cult British TV show, "The Word"
UK - London - Members of the audience prepare to dance on the cult British television show, "The Word"
UK - London - Mark Lammar lights a cigarette in his dressing room before an edition of the cult British television show, "The Word"
UK - London - Audience members before transmission of the cult TV show "The Word"
UK - London - Mark Lammar in rehearsals for the cult British Television show, "The Word"

Michael Clark – a blast from the past…

So, last Friday I went to see Michael Clark’s new work, ‘Come, been and gone‘ at the Barbican – his tribute the the 1970’s music of Lou Reed and David Bowie. Shockingly good if only for seeing Kate Coyne stuck all over with syringes… (you had to be there). Anyway, I remembered that I’d recently scanned an old set of trannys of Clarke in rehearsal for ‘Mmm’ years ago. All shot on 320 Tungsten film pushed one or two stops… you had to hold your breath and hope the shadows wouldn’t block completely. With the advent of digital, that seems such a long time ago…

Anyway, here’s some images from that set…

UK - London - Ballet dancer Michael Clark in rehersals for his ballet "Mmm"
UK - London - Ballet dancer Michael Clark in rehersals for his ballet "Mmm"

Ballet dancer Michael Clark in rehersals for his ballet "Mmm"
UK - London - Ballet dancer Michael Clark in rehersals for his ballet "Mmm"
UK - London - Ballet dancer Michael Clark in rehersals for his ballet "Mmm"
UK - London - Ballet dancer Michael Clark in rehersals for his ballet "Mmm"