Venturing around the mountainous region of Chin State in Myanmar, sometimes on foot, sometimes on vehicle, we came across small towns and villages nestled on mountain sides or hidden in remote valleys.
Especially in the more remote regions, villagers have tended to tattoo their faces, and adorn their buildings with the skulls of mithuns, an ox-like animal that is found throughout the region. Here, a young girl, sporting the traditional thanaka decoration on her face, poses outside one of these buildings.
I’d spent a couple of days at the Lake Turkana Festival in Kenya, and the days had been hot and humid. Our last night there, dusk had arrived, and with it a fall in temperatures, allowing me to join in with the tribal dances. Pictured are members of the Samburu tribe singing and dancing well into the evening. It was a great night out.
This lady was hard at work in a refuse dump out in the country, several miles from the nearest town. Some of the refuse had been set ablaze and, as I ventured further in, my throat and nose became the first casualties in the onslaught brought on by the thick acrid smoke. There were two benefits though; where there was an abundance of smoke, there was a scarcity of flies, and the rotting stink from the refuse was masked. You pick your poison.
The heat of the sun, coupled with the heat of the fires, did not help. The lady worked on, moving piles of refuse from one area to another, sorting out those that should be burnt, those that should be buried, and those that could be scavenged. This was a hell to me. But these people suffer and endure. She looked over to us, and smiled.
This young girl became curious and came over to us strangers at a site being prepared for the Karen New Year festivities in a rural village. The celebrations continued long into the night. This was a few miles from Hpa An, Myanmar (Burma). Photo taken in December 2014.
In southern Iraq, just a few miles from the Iranian border. It was another hot day, and I was standing outside the structure called Ezra’s Tomb. Nearby, three kids were peeking through a doorway, their faces in obvious delight at the interest being shown to them by my camera. But the countless horrors of people killing other people will touch their lives in countless ways, and I wonder if they still smile. But I have hope.
I took this photo way back in January 2014 but other projects prevented me from putting this online until only recently. This young girl, with her bright smile, was selling trinkets near the Mingun Pahtodawgyi pagoda in Myanmar.
Iraq, not too long ago. I was heading out on foot across the desert, battling through a sandstorm, to reach the ruins of Uruk, that ancient city famous for its part in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Not too far from here, alone and remote, a small village eke out a living. The sandstorm had imparted a reddish-yellow colour to the entire scene but I was recently able to correct for this and, in the process, recover this engaging image of a young girl near the village edge.
A trip to the ancient ruins near the village of Indein in Myanmar required a pre-dawn boat ride to ensure we got there early and make the best use of available light. It was cold on that boat ride, and I was wearing layers of clothing to keep warm, but I knew in a few hours it would be stifling hot. You make do. It was already warm by the time we arrived at Indein, and the locals were preparing for the day. This was still just the start of the journey to the ruins, but I made sure that I stocked up on liquids from the local stalls before setting off from the village. Here, a young girl was selling various cloth, happy to interact with us.
It took a while to get there, but we eventually arrived at a remote Padaung village in Kayah State, Myanmar. Here, a woman who has clearly experienced life, was proudly displaying her coin necklace. She was a real character, and enjoyed the limelight.
Chin State in Myanmar is mountainous, and that means long winding roads carved into the forested mountain sides. It gets quite cold here in the winter, and villages have a hard life surviving off the land, but friendliness is abundant. In one of these villages, a young girl takes note of the new visitors; I suspect we met with her approval!
Young girl in Chin State