The children go down under

Karunai Mahara Gallery Display_A4

The children’s work goes on display in New Zealand.  Mani’s barbershop film gets a public audience for the first time.  Lots of activities and stories of the Illam accompany the exhibition.

The Creeping Border

_DSF2673-2“Do you know that Russia is moving the border a few metres at a time into Georgia?” asked a Georgian artist.  We met at an exhibition in London where we both had work showing.  I was showing an image from one of my earlier border trips.  “No, I replied, tell me more.”

A year later I’m on a plane to Georgia on a one way ticket to meet strangers who will show me just what is happening.  Unlike previous borders I have explored and recorded, this involves a police escort, having my details recorded with the government and travelling in a four wheel vehicle across dirt roads.

Away from the eyes of the international media Russia is moving the border ever further into Georgia.  Russia is in violation of the peace deal of 2008 brokered by the French president at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy.  Nearly a decade later Russia continues to refuse  to move troops back to the pre-war borders and to allow international observers into the area.

I witnessed where villages are divided in half by razor wire fences that appear overnight.  Large green signs written in English and Russian declaring the start of a “state border” will suddenly appear within Georgian territory.  Observation posts, security camera, and movement sensors monitor activity along the defacto border.

 

 

Double the Fences

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Nearly eighteen months since I started photographing the razor wire fences being erected around Europe, we are now seeing a permanency in the structure of the fences.  No longer reels of wire laying across the ground.  These new structures are erected between steel poles and are electrified.  A second fence has been installed, also electrified, with a road between the two wide enough for a vehicle to travel quickly around the border.  In addition to the second fence there are sentry posts and cameras placed at regular intervals along the fence.  Free travel in this Schengen area has most definitely taken on a new meaning.

An intense two weeks

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London Wall, (remnants of the old wall and the new barriers)

Phew just completed an intense two weeks at the International Urban Summer School (iupss) at Goldsmiths University.  We were an incredibly diverse group from around the world making for an even more exciting and stimulating  learning environment.  Taking a concept, listening to other practitioners and then spending a few hours photographing and editing for a presentation to the group by the next morning meant we had no time for resting or being idle. There were times I was operating outside my comfort zone, but that is what I had signed up for.  My final project was not the “greasy spoon” work I had planned before I started, but instead changed to barriers and security that have been installed in and around London following the London Bridge attack.

The weather wasn’t what I would have ordered, but hey this was not supposed to be a push over.  Just when I wanted high contrast I got grey dull and rain.  C’est la vie.

However in the end I was reasonably happy with my set images.  There is much I gained from this couple of weeks that I can apply to my borders project that I will be working on again later this month.

Following Crossrail

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I’m taking part in a Royal Photographic Society (RPS) project looking at life near and around where the new cross rail tracks will be.  Armed with the cross rail interactive map I’m trekking the city above ground capturing a wee glimpse of London life on the edge of where this new infrastructure project is currently creating chaos with large building sites and restricted roads.  It will be fun to look back on these images in a few years when the new train routes is just part of every day London life.

This snatch of life is at Moorgate, the workers taking a coffee break inside Nero cafe and a couple of passersby who agreed to be part of the picture.

India

_dsf4922Wire fences are on hold for now while I work on a project in India. I welcome the opportunity to work on something positive for a change.  My journey here was because of chocolate, something I adore.  I ventured into the most divine chocolate shop in the suburb of Berhampore in Wellington, New Zealand to buy a gift for the friends I was staying with, and of course to indulge myself.  That was how I met Jo, one of the trustees of the charity behind the DHAN Karunai Illam in South India.  That was a couple of years ago now.  One thing led to another, as they do, and now here I am in a small village in the south of India working with a bunch of fabulous kids to get them to tell their stories through photography.

I’ve set up another blog to document the project.  So pop over take a look and follow us.