India | Outtakes from Kerala

This is how it usually happens in India. I get sent there on an assignment and I stack a few extra days on either end to explore a bit more of the countryside. I take thousands of photographs and dig myself into corners and poke my nose where it does and doesn’t belong, and in the end the magazine publishes around 10-15 final pictures and I’m left with more outtakes than I know what to do with. Photographs that I love, that I remember taking, that bring back very real and visceral experiences for me. The smell of a curry and the way a light flared down a side alley. A cat jumping from crate to crate at the fishing docks. A rickety river bridge and a boy floating in the water below. Sweet street side masala chai. A talkative guesthouse owner. A barber. A painter. A sweets shop employee.

Oftentimes the outtakes become my favorites. They’re the more memorable photographs, the imperfect ones, the ones that didn’t quite fit into the original story’s narrative arc. They become the underdogs. They’re simple images of meals and streets and people I’ve met along the way. They’re inconsequential and they’re numerous and they’re the reason I take on these assignments, knowing I’ll come home with stacks of treasures and memories. So here are some treasures and memories from the state of Kerala in southern India. One of the softer and more accessible points in the country, but no less magical for it.

Sri Lanka | Finding Eelam

The landscape burns out and flattens the farther north you travel. The rolling hills of lower tea country turn to shallow wetlands and the ancient cities crumble into nothingness as the train travels on its long slow route out and away from Colombo. The sun shines golden and harsh. The trees are a pale green.

On the Jaffna Peninsula the light refracts off the dusty streets and shallow blue waters, scattering and illuminating. It’s a strange land, far removed from the more touristed corners of Sri Lanka. The civil war that raged between the military and the Tamil Tigers for over 25 years decimated the economy and the population and the countrysides and for decades Jaffna was little more than the forgotten homeland of the few. Buildings crumbled. Time passed. Life found its way.

This trip was little more than a research mission wedged between a vacation in tea country and a job in southern India. I wanted to see what the landscape looked like 10 years after the end of the war. Earlier, our train ride to Ella was packed with backpackers with little room to stand or sit. The ride to Jaffna was comparatively empty and had no more than a handful of westerners on board at any given time. It felt like traveling to the edge of the known world. In a way it was.

I saw the fabled Elephant Pass and Hindu temples built on the sandy shores of small islands, their caretakers stewing lentils in large pots as the waves crashed behind them. I met worshippers at Nallur Kandaswamy temple, fishermen steering their boats home in Palk Bay. Musicians and families and friendly old men in Point Pedro. Shopkeepers and cricket players in the town center. Lovers and soldiers haunting the more shadowed corners of the fort. The ocean-fed waters of Keerimalai Springs.

The whole of the Jaffna Peninsula is a magical place. Still recovering from a generation of carnage, but like all places that have seen terrible years and terrible rulers and terrible saviors, the air there is of optimism and peace, not of war’s wreckage and exhaustion. It’s a flat and sunburnt land and its golden and harsh light does shine brightest. Thus.

In the Hills of Sri Lanka

From the verdant hillsides and rolling tea plantations of Ella and beyond to the temples and lakes and busy streets of Kandy, there isn’t much about this part of Sri Lanka that hasn’t been written about before. I was lucky enough to have some time for a quick stopover earlier this year on my way to an assignment in southern India. These tourist trails are well-worn and at times a bit worse for wear, but the overall sensation of being in the mountains is still overwhelmingly positive. The air is cooler in tea country and the sun just a bit more golden in the early hours when it crests over the distant horizon. It’s almost enough to make you forget about the 8-10 hour standing room only train ride up from Colombo.

This isn’t much of a narrative post. There are plenty of other blogs that can tell you about how to travel in Kandy and Sri Lanka. It’s an incredible country, but one that defies easy description, even in its most innocuous and traveler friendly form. So in lieu of any grand statements or ponderous observations, I’ll leave you few viewers with a few photographs from the trip. The world is a beautiful place, and I’ve always had an easier time of showing than describing it.

Travels in Japan

I’m starting this year slowly, considering things a bit more. It’s a nice place to be in life, being able to pause like this. Next month things will get hectic again, but for now there’s a kind of calm. And I’ve learned to embrace that when it comes along. To that end, I bridged 2017/2018 with a trip to Japan and limited myself to shooting one roll of film per day. Twelve frames out of my old Rolleiflex camera. It was meant to slow me down and make me look at what I was photographing a bit more.

We spent Christmas day in Kyoto after a few nights in Osaka, walking through crowded streets and markets and temples and bamboo groves in the early mornings before the crowds descended. Then a few days in Kurashiki where we saw a young baseball team practicing drills and exercises at a temple in the town center. Onto the strange suburban sprawl of Nagahama and finally into Tokyo for New Year’s Eve in a small bar with an amiable bartender singing songs and pouring whiskies. There were other places and moments as there always are, but I’m going to keep this nice and simple and leave off with some selects from those film rolls. I missed more frames than I caught, but I guess that’s always the way. Alas.










Travels in Chiang Mai

A few months back, I traveled to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to work on a story about betterment and meditation and health for Lufthansa Magazin. I spent three days walking the old town, visiting temples and eating delicious food and meeting a large cast of characters–both teachers and students–responsible for giving the town its new claim to fame as a healthy, hip, nomadic travel destination.

From Muay Thai to meditation, from massage to manic displays of freeform dancing, I tried to document as much of this alternative travel culture as possible. Vegan restaurants, energy harnessing workshops, and transcendental meditation classes were everywhere it seemed. Yoga retreats miles and miles away from anything. Dreaded men hula-hooping on quiet streets at dawn. And it’s easy to get down on western travelers coming to Asia to find a part of themselves or to capture some kind of fleeting bliss in a holy house on a mountaintop somewhere, but there’s another part of it that’s kind of endearing and completely without cynicism.

It was a pleasure meeting all of the people I photographed for the story. They believed in what they were doing, and they believed in Chiang Mai. Whether they had grown up there, been in the region for years, or just arrived, they were passionate and thinking about the future, for themselves and for those that showed up on their doorsteps, day after day, inquiring within. And in the end, what more is there?












Things in Hong Kong


As an addendum to my Things in Japan post, here’s another small little photo essay from Hong Kong. I’ve been enjoying walking around more in the cities I travel to. I used to do nothing but walk, but I’ve lived in Asia for 10 years now and things start to normalize after a while. You lose your sense of wonder and become detached. You watch more television and instead of going and exploring, you sit in front of your computer and answer emails and worry about your income over the next three months. The small things that gave you pause now feel simple and routine. These aren’t good ways to be. So there’s always this push and pull with creativity. You’re always battling yourself and your own worst impulses. So in Hong Kong I walked. Sometimes I would end up in familiar neighborhoods, and at other times I would find myself in a completely new area of the city. I tried not to check my phone. I tried to just wander, with the thought that if I found what I was looking for, then great. If not, then great. So here are a few quick images. Simple things. I was looking at patterns and density with small glimpses of respite within. Nothing much more.