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Rickshaw pullers

It´s been a while since I last had a chance to update my blog, but here we are this time coming from India, that´s right I´m back in India and what an incredible place this is, despite my numerous trips here it still fascinates me in so many ways. I flew into Calcutta during the monsoon season, with the humidity hovering around the 90% mark, I was hoping to do a story on the rickshaw pullers that opperate here. These folks have facinated me since day one, they lead an incredibly tough life, making their living by litterally pulling people around the city in wooden carts, as far as I´m aware it´s the only place in the world that still opperate such a brutal form of transport. The government are under heavy pressure threatening to end their livelihoods, the harsh reality is that if that were to happen it would mearly force these hard working men in to extreme poverty, with no means of making a living – it really doesn´t seem fair for me to made a judgement call.

I was somewhat surprised by the lack of rain when I arrived I was expecting rain all day every day with flooded roads, but it seemed limited to the occasion shower, I really hope this doesn´t cause problems with the local farmers later in the year. Never the less I continued with my planned shoot and headed to the streets, here´s a handful of shots I took, without the monsson rains they´re not as dramatic as I´d hoped, but there are somethings that are just out of my hands.

 

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    The Artisans of Penang, Malaysia.
    Traditional wood carver. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Penang has a very rich culture, full of life from all over Asia with these cultures come there various traditions and arts. The Penang Heritage Trust was formed some 25 years ago and was instrumental when Georgtown received its world heritage status 3 years ago. For the last month I´ve been working closely with the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) on a project to promote and seek apprentices for some of the traditional artisans that are slowly disappearing as the aging masters struggle to find appropriate students to pass their skills on to.

    For the project 6 artisans have been chosen, it could easily have been a lot more, mostly Chinese for some reason. My role is to document their craft showing the skills, techniques and tools they use to create their completed work. The artisans include a rattan weaver, a shoe maker, a wood carver, bead weaver and a lantern maker.

    The ultimate goal is to promote these products and turn these crafts into viable career opportunities for the young, thus keeping the skills alive for future generations, what better incentive.

    The fine people at PHT have kindly allowed me to share these images prior to them being printed on posters and in brochures.

    I´ll be here for another 10 days or so to finish up this project before heading to Bangkok to arrange visas and then its back to India, while I´ve really enjoyed my time here in Penang I´m getting itchy feet and can´t wait to be on the move again.

     

    Rattan weaver. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Rattan weaver. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

     

    Rattan weaver. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Rattan weaver. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Tools of a shoe maker. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Tools of a shoe maker. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Shoe maker. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

    Shoe maker. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

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      Georgetown Festival

      I’ve had a busy couple of weeks here in Penang firstly shooting for the fine folk at the Penang Heritage Trust and secondly Georgetown festival kicked off at the beginning of the month – with much in the way of live music, theatre and arts.

      Once I´ve got the all clear, I´ll be telling you in full about the work I´m currently shooting until then enjoy a couple of images from the festival.

      Japanese violin prodigy Nanaco has been performing on the streets is a fine example of  just one of the many free events that have been going on everyday this month. Other events include danced, exhibitions and Chinese theatre.

       

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        Lamalera Fishermen

        I´ve recently returned from some far off hidden paradises where electricity is a luxury and the Internet, well that´s some far off dream of the crazies. I love places like this the peace and tranquility, living in harmony with nature, farming in ways that have remained unchanged in centuries.

        One of those places is the small coastal village of Lamalera on the island of Lembatta in Eastern Indonesia. Here the whole village relies heavily on the fishermen, as they have done for as long as anyone can remember. Fishing here however is more extreme that in other places of the world, here they´re not happy with their catch unless they´ve caught something big, and by big I mean really BIG. Tuna is the stable fish and while these can grow to some impressive sizes they appear mere small fry in comparison to the village preference, what they really want to catch is whale. Yes whale, sperm whale to be exact although legend has it that once they caught a blue whale too. Exempt from the international whaling ban these sea hunters rely on whale meat for there survival. But when whale meat is hard to come by they rely on other large sea creatures like sharks, dolphins and who knows what else. Lamalera, for obvious reasons, is now facing tough opposition to this form of fishing.

        I´m going to keep my personal views on this subject away from my blog post, but I have made the decision to not include images that may cause distress to the viewer.

        This is my last day here in Indonesia, on what has been a very memorable trip, I´ve met some generous and extremely friendly people and it´s just a matter of time before I return. For now it´s back to Malaysia.

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          KAWAH IJEN

          - I’ve been trying to get this uploaded for weeks now, it’s been pretty frustrating, it was actually written a couple of weeks ago and it´s taken me this long to process the images and find a suitable internet connection to upload everything, its pretty image heavy but I think it´ll be worth the wait.

          In the last 10 days I´ve climbed 3 different volcanoes the last of which, Ijen, I climbed 5 times. Why? Keep reading to find out.

          At the crater of the volcano lay vents that pour out sulfuric gases and drip burning hot sulfur onto the floor below. The sulfur hardens and becomes a sold bright yellow rock, which is broken up by the minors loaded into wicker baskets and carried 1km up out of the crater and then 4km down the steep volcanic path, where they weigh there load and load it onto a truck to be taken to a nearby village for processing before ending up being used in the cosmetic industry.

          Some minor carry up to 100kg each trip, most of them made 2 trips a day for 15 continuous days before having a day off, starting work in pitch black at 3am to avoid the heat.

           

          Sulfur miner on Ijen. Copyright TomBourdon.co.uk

          Sulfur miner in Ijen. Copyright TomBourdon.co.uk

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            clan jetties penang malaysia

            Unbeknown to myself, Georgetown (on the island of Penang, off the East coast of Malaysia) is home to a population of Chinese clans who actually live on the sea just off the coast of this fascinating city. There wooden houses are raised above the waters on concrete and wooden stilts. There are currently 6 different jetties that house an estimated 1000 Chinese immigrants who have been based here for over 100 years.

            Clan jetties, Malaysia. Copyright Tom Bourdon

             

            There used to be more jetties but fire is an evil enemy when you live in a wooden village, and has destroyed many homes. In the past these have not been rebuilt due to the financial costs and the powers of local developers, however the recently gained World Heritage status means any property destroyed will have to rebuild in the same style, this should ensure the safeguard of the population for some time.

            Clan jetties, Malaysia. Copyright Tom Bourdon

            Traditionally the residents where fishermen who traded there catch at the local market, while fishing still continues things have modernised somewhat overtime and you can now find an array of shops and home-stays. My research leads me to believe that many others work elsewhere in the city but due to the fact they don’t actually live on the land they pay no taxes, this seems a bizarre legal loophole if it is actually true.

            Clan jetties, Malaysia. Copyright Tom Bourdon

            Each house now has it mains water and electricity supply, in fact they all seemed to have satellite tv too, although the lack of any kind of sewage system was concerning.

            Clan jetties, Malaysia. Copyright Tom Bourdon

            As with everywhere in Malaysia the residents are a jolly bunch and happy to share a few smiles.

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