It was April 2011, just after dusk, and we made our way to a restaurant in central Baghdad along Abu Nawas Street by the River Tigris. This area is well known for serving Iraq’s favourite fish dish; the “mazgouf”.
The restaurant, although having a roof, is open to the elements and was filled with many customers; obviously a popular place.
Having selected our live carp (allegedly from the adjacent Tigris but more probably from a fish farm), the cook removed the fish from the tank and then stunned them with a stick, gutted them by cutting along the back, applied some seasoning, and then impaled them to be slow-grilled next to an open fire of burning fruit tree branches such as from lemon trees and orange trees. What we didn’t realise was that it takes about an hour or so to cook the fish, so we had a lot of time to chat!
Carp are bottom feeders and if they were from the Tigris around Baghdad then I’m not sure that I’d have too many fish dinners; there’s just been too much dumped in the river. Once I’d got past wondering where the fish came from, I did enjoy the meal.
But the mazgouf is an important dish to the Iraqis and the Iraqi diaspora, and it helps to unite them through social gatherings and reinforce their identity and uniqueness; something that’s very much needed in these trying times.
During the Ananda Pagoda Festival at the Ananda Temple in Bagan, Myanmar, the region becomes extremely busy with pilgrims arriving from all over the country. This is one of many Buddhist monks at the temple. Photo taken in January 2014.
After a long day in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, it was time to return to the lodge. Venturing back, we were greeted by this wonderful view of Mt Kilimanjaro, the clouds ablaze in the colours of sunset. Photo taken in May 2017.
There we were, travelling along the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. A journey through mountain passes and dry valleys, along dried river-beds and empty places on lonely roads, with nothing more than dust-devils keeping us company. Low temperatures and the glare of the sun added to the harshness of the landscape.
However, it was a challenge that I enthusiastically seized in my quest to reach the fabled Minaret of Jam, a place that only a few travellers reach. But here, in the middle of nowhere, there was human activity; a rest-stop for truck drivers hauling their goods across the country, a place to stretch the legs and take shelter from the elements.
Although it was August, the place was cold, and I couldn’t imagine what this place would be like in winter. A hardy landscape creates a hardy people. This man tendered to our needs with chai and food, his face betraying the challenges of the environment.
I was here to experience the Karen New Year festivities in a rural village a few miles from Hpa An, Myanmar (Burma). During the day, much work was being undertaken by the villagers in preparation of the festival, and I went for a walk around the village and soak up the atmosphere.
Everyone seemed to be enjoying their tasks, including this man cooking the rice . The celebrations continued long into the night and, with the music, you can forget about sleeping! Photo taken in December 2014.
When I first took up photography as a hobby, it was important to me that photos be taken in full-manual mode as I thought that doing so would give me insight on exposure settings. I’m not entirely sure how successful that method was, but it sure did make me a slow photographer! I now shoot almost invariably in aperture-priority mode. A piece of nostalgia for me, here is a photo from my manual exposure period, of a scene in Antarctica with extreme light and dark.
Setting out on the Yangon Circular Railway, sometimes you just have to put your feet up and relax. This young man certainly did. Photo taken in January 2014.
Two young men of the El Molo tribe at the Lake Turkana Festival in northern Kenya. The El Molo is the smallest tribe in Kenya with only a few members left. Photo taken in May 2017.
Chin State in Myanmar provided much welcome relief from the heat of the plains. Remote, mountainous, and forested, the region has allowed the people to develop and retain their own unique customs. A surprise can be found in every village. Here, in a small hut, an old man enjoys a cup of tea whilst allowing corn to dry over the heat of the fire.
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.