TED fellow Monika Bulaj‘s photos of rarely seen sights of Afghanistan, are featured in a recent Ted talk below alongside her warm0warming and inspiring accounts of her travels.
Monika Bulaj is a photographer and writer who explores — in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe — the dim areas of monotheism, where the sacred can transcend borders: Bonfires, dances, cults of the dead, possession rites. She describes outskirts and deserts, frontiers and megalopolis. And the world of the last ones: nomads, farmers, immigrants, outcasts, untouchables and impure. (excerpt from Ted’s bio)
Invisible Photographer recently ran an interview with noted photo curator, Yumi Goto. An advocate for photojournalism, she has made the scene in Asia a whole lot more exciting in the last few years. In this in dept interview, she shares her startling entry into photojournalism – during the civil war in Cambodia in the 90s, her insight on the photo documentary scene in Asia and advice for budding photojournalists.
In her role as curator and editor, she has guided and nurtured many photojournalists to produce outstanding work.
The photographers I’ve collaborated with are taking risks at different levels to capture moments. Although I appreciate and respect their passion and energy, the question I often ask them is: “Why are you so committed to the subject matter of your photographs?” My question is always expecting an answer – there must be a personal connection to the subject matter. Being so intimate to the subject, what is the secret behind the images? Why do the images have to be brought to the public? Sometimes, they are too personal to share with the public or are even considered taboo.
During the much anticipated Angkor Photo Festival 2010 in November, the first ever Asian Women Photographers’ Showcase was held. 15 of Asia’s most promising women photographers in the field of photojournalism, documentary and investigative visual story-telling, displayed compelling images of life through their lens.
Curator of the showcase, Yumi Goto, proposed to do it because “in Asia this kind of work being produced by female photographers is still not very recognised and I think it is important for us to do such a showcase.”
What is most interesting to me is that if you only looked at the images, you can’t really tell if men or women produced them. Originally, I had expected to see work that appeared feminine, but in the end, I really didn’t feel any influence by gender at all. Perhaps, this means that it really doesn’t matter if the person taking the photo is a man or woman.
Below are the works from each photographer with a summary of their project.
Just as the women of their family have done for generations, the two sisters in Burcu Göknar’s story have worked as belly dancers in Istanbul nightclubs since they were eleven years old. To bring home enough money to support their family, they perform in five or six different venues every night, returning home with the sunrise. Gradually, their lives have diverged; one is now a celebrity who dances on TV, while the other continues to dance in nightclubs.
Thousands of pilgrims from across the world flock to Jerusalem to retrace the last steps of Jesus, walking the Via Dolorosa that ends at the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Jesus is believed to have been buried and resurrected. A kaleidoscope of colors and shapes, Gali Tibbon’s photographs offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the church, home to six ethnic Christian denominations.
Born in 1964 in Iran, Isabelle Eshraghi and her family immigrated to France when she was three, and did not return until 1996. Regular trips to Iran since then have allowed to her to compile a long-term project, and in this essay, she examines what has changed there in the last ten years through the daily lives of these women. Her intention is to show through their faces and gestures the essence of their femininity. Although some behaviour has changed along with a new way of consumption, the future is still uncertain.
After being treated as pariahs for decades, some elderly women have begun speaking out about their experiences as prostitutes in camp towns constructed around American military bases in South Korea. Through their testimonies, it has emerged that “Comfort Women” were not just provided to the Japanese Imperial Army as sexual slaves, but also to American military servicemen from the 1960s to 1980s. Part of the lowest social strata, these retired, semi-enslaved prostitutes now live alone in shanty houses, surviving on government welfare checks and collecting recycling.
Since 2005, Mariam Amurvelashvili has been documenting the conditions in Georgian prisons. Ortachala prison was notorious for its poor living conditions, housing ten times more prisoners than it was built to contain. In 2006, it was destroyed and replaced by a new facility where each prisoner has a bed, good food and hygiene, medical care, a library, and visiting hours. These improvements ensure that the prisoners, no matter what their crime, retain their human dignity.
The life of a peasant in Armenia is a hard road, unchanged for decades. They have no power, no choice, and no hope of securing a better station in life as the months and years pass. Their faces reflect ancient memories, filled with fatigue and exhaustion. The soil is as tired as the farmers, and they merge together into one arduous life.
Up until recently, a typical household in Singapore had several generations living under the same roof. Huiying Ore grew up with a hundred extended kin living and working together on a farm. Rapid industrialization and the resulting rural-urban shift has since changed that lifestyle, and now, most Singaporeans live in compact high-rise apartments which house on average four people. Her family fought to stay together, relocating their farming business and re-establishing it. Currently, three generations continue to work on the farm – a vanishing way of life in Singapore. This project documents the struggle as they toil on the land, and explores their hopes and dreams.
In September 2009, India’s first ever group of female soldiers in The Border Security Armed Force were deployed on the infamous India-Pakistan border. Poulomi Basu spent time with these young women at boot camp, in their homes, and on their journey to the border, documenting their transformation from woman to soldier. By following women from different parts of the country, castes and social backgrounds, she brings to life not only the challenges and struggles of ordinary Indian women, but also how these women face the reality of being a soldier.
In Azerbaijan, Soviet-era industrialization programs and the economy’s heavy dependence on the oil sector have attracted people to the capital, Baku, in search of work. Nearly four million people, half of the country’s population, now live in Baku, which is imploding through overpopulation and urban decay. Communities in the city and the suburbs – called Oil Village – live dangerously in makeshift homes, abandoned factories, and oil fields. Living in inhumane conditions for two decades, the air they breathe, the water they drink, and even the playgrounds where their children play are contaminated and hostile. And yet, life goes on.
Saori Ninomiya has long wanted to join the cause of raising awareness about the suffering of rape victims – in part because she was raped herself, but also because she felt a deep need to do so. She believes that healing takes place during the process of photographing.
Once a thriving day laborer’s town in Osaka, Kamagasaki today is home to about twenty-five thousand people, mainly men, of whom about 1,300 are homeless. This “welfare town” is considered a dumping ground of old men. Alcoholism, poverty, street death, suicide, TB and most of all, loneliness prevail here. They have no family ties, and live and die alone as outcasts from the mainstream “salary man” culture. Japan’s economy, once the world’s second largest, is deteriorating rapidly; it is now difficult if not impossible for the greying men of the construction industry to find work.
Suruchi Dumpawar’s body of work documents the sites of a series of bomb blasts that shook Ahmedabad in Gujurat, India, on 26 July, 2008, killing forty-nine people and injuring more than 150. She explores the tenacious link between landscape and memory through the medium of photography and text derived from newspaper reports of the blast. Her work is a reflection on a horrifying past seen in the rather ordinary landscape of the present, thus commenting on the banality of terror itself.
The per capita consumption of alcohol in Russia is among the top ten highest in the world, and the problem continues to grow. The Balashov Narcological Clinic in the Saratov region is one of many clinics scattered all over Russia that treats alcoholics. Many patients have already experienced the terrible torture of delirium tremens but cannot stop drinking, as very often, entire families drink habitually, from generation to generation.
Growing up under the one child policy amidst the recent frenzy of economic growth in China, the new generation has different values on life, wealth, and their future. At the same time, faced with an ever-changing environment, they also feel confused and solitary. Wenjing Wang photographs each person standing and lying down to represent the contradiction between what society demands of the youth and their own self-awareness.
In a rapidly modernizing China, the rural heartland and its inhabitants are often overlooked. A skewed demographic of mostly the very old and very young in villages contrasts with the city-centres’ ever-growing populations of unemployed youths. Like communities who have lost their young men to war, this toothless and infant-dominated population is left to fend for itself amidst a swathe of cross-provincial issues like climate change, water pollution, and the rising cost of land. Ying Ang photographed her family’s homestead on Hainan Island, where seven generations of blood relatives live and continue to do so.
If you would to exhibit The Asian Women Photographers’ Showcase, you may contact the curator Yumi Goto: g.youme[at]gmail[dot]com.