Isolation

‘Man's greatest actions are performed in minor struggles. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment and poverty are battlefields which have their heroes - obscure heroes who are at times greater than illustrious heroes.’ Victor Hugo

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Sculpture at Elgee Park

It’s a strange business photographing sculpture; to constantly remind yourself that you are there to record authentically, not interpret and certainly not attempt to enhance. The light, the environment, the weather and the seasons are your only tools. If a reader leafs through the book and thinks only of the sculptures and never the imagery then the photographer has been successful. The Third Edition of “Sculpture at Elgee Park” has just been published. It’s been a privilege to record and admire this incredible collection over the sixteen years since the first publication in 2004.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

“That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”

Michael Pollan from “Food Rules”

The End, The Beginning

Being proud of the achievements of your offspring is a tricky business. Objectivity tends to leave the room…..

But two days on the set of “The End, the Beginning” has been a bracing antidote to any cynicism I might have ever had about the 20 something generation. If the world ends up in these people’s hands then things just might be alright! Congratulations Alicia Easaw-Mamutil (Producer), Samuel Herriman (Writer) and Archie Chew (Director) and the 40 other members of the amazing crew!

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Cultural Expectations for the Lunar New Year from a Hotel Lobby Somewhere in Asia.

Amy Chua was in a restaurant, celebrating her birthday with her husband and daughters, Sophia, seven, and Lulu, four. "Lulu handed me her 'surprise', which turned out to be a card," writes Chua in her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. "More accurately, it was a piece of paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front. Inside, 'Happy Birthday, Mummy! Love, Lulu' was scrawled in crayon above another happy face. I gave the card back to Lulu. 'I don't want this,' I said. 'I want a better one – one that you've put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can't go in there.' I grabbed the card again and flipped it over. I pulled out a pen and scrawled 'Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!' I added a big sour face. … 'I reject this.'"

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PM2.5

From BBC News today….

“Thailand's capital city is experiencing some of its worst-ever air pollution levels, caused by ultra-fine dust particles known as PM2.5. Traffic exhaust, construction works, burning crops and pollution from factories are blamed for the haze. Specialist respirator masks to filter the particles have quickly sold out. The government has tried seeding rain clouds, reducing traffic, and hosing down streets, with little impact. Those celebrating the Lunar New Year holidays next week have been asked not to burn incense or light fireworks.”

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Layering

Three young Vietnamese girls are transformed into an Indian Kushti wrestler.

New photograph by Archie Chew

Timor Leste

Sometimes it all seems a bit hopeless.  In one small valley, in one province of one small developing country, children play in the dust without wiping the snot from their noses.

A scene repeated all over the world. The shining goals of education, healthcare and human rights, sparkle a little less brightly when seen from inside of a cinder block, windowless home, buzzed by dengue carrying mosquitoes, where the little cash you might earn from selling an excess crop goes on topping up a 1990’s mobile phone, or buying antiseptic cream to hopefully stop the infected cut becoming an amputation.

But that’s not a reason to stop trying.

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Oro and Rabaul

“Everyone has the right to life. Hurting or killing someone because you think they are a sorcerer or a witch is against the law.”

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Yuasa

The concrete fighter plane has lost the fight as the children now play on the padded climbing frames across the harbour.

The warehouses have become the colour of a soy sauce stain, ironically, as this is where soy sauce was invented.….. and the Chuo factory is closed….although no one seems to know what used to be made there.

I don’t think Cosmo sells diesel anymore.

The train from Osaka stops less often, but the sushi rice still grows nicely beside the tracks.

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Cellar Bar

Some books I’m more proud of than others…. This one is up there with my favourites. It’s a privilege to work with with this family. Guy, Loredana, Carlo and Liz are the hardest working, most generous, most creative, most trusting clients around. Thank you to them and the extended team at Grossi Restaurants. And if you ever need the best book designer in the business….have a chat with Daniel New. It’s published by Penguin/ Lantern and out in October.

Sông Hậu

Crossing the Hậu River, the Mekong Delta.
Red broth-like water flows strongly under the flat-bottomed barge.
Did the river rust the barge or did the rust colour the river?
The water comes from the Tibetan Plateau, 2000 miles away
or Laos
or Thailand
or Cambodia
or Vietnam
or from the thick damp clouds that burst overhead.
Every afternoon. Like an outpouring of grief.
The Buddha will prevent a car crash.
The father will love his daughter for ever.
The clear plastic cape will keep the rain off.
The thing you dread may never happen.
And of course, you will win the lottery.

 

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"An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow" by Les Murray

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There's a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly - yet the dignity of his weeping

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit - 
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea -
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.

Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street. 

Les Murray

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Formosa

In 2016 Vietnam suffered its worst maritime pollution disaster when over 100 tonnes of fish carcasses washed up on the beaches in Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế provinces.  Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a steel plant built by the Taiwanese corporation Formosa Plastics, discharged toxic industrial waste illegally into the ocean through drainage pipes.  After denying responsibility for months, Formosa accepted responsibility for the fish deaths on June 30, 2016.

The disaster disrupted the livelihood of fishermen in four provinces in the central coast of Vietnam. On 4th May 2016, the Vietnamese government announced a ban of processing and selling seafood caught within 20 nautical miles of the central Vietnam provinces, just one day after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had claimed that the seafood in the region met safety standards.

According to the local government of Quảng Bình, the fishermen of this province had already lost $5.2 million; in addition, the disaster also heavily impacted the tourism industry as nearly 30% of tourists cancelled their planned tours to the affected provinces for the national holiday season starting on 30th April.

The Vietnamese government has cracked down on peaceful protests and civic action from affected fishermen, including arresting Nguyễn Văn Hoá, a citizen journalist who covered the Formosa protests. He was charged for "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code and sentenced to seven years prison.  Lê Đình Lượng, another environmental activist who campaigned for just compensation for affected fishermen was arrested for "activities attempting to overthrow the state" in July 2017.

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Hòa

About 20 years ago Trần Văn Hòa built this single class room on his own land in a small fishing village, in Thừa Thiên-Huế Province, Vietnam. He runs two classes at the same time, with the Grade 1 and 2 pupils facing east and the Grade 3 and 4 pupils facing west. For the last 15 years his small salary has been funded by Hands for Hope, allowing him to continue his vocation, changing the lives of the village children. Many of the pupils who have attended this school over the years have also received scholarships from Hands for Hope. Recently, two of them completed their bachelor degrees, having been sponsored since Grade 2. Small stories that make a huge difference to individual lives.

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Bru Vân Kiều

Three girls from Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. They are Bru Vân Kiều, a small underprivileged ethnic minority.
Their village is very poor. Dirt floor and sharing beds poor.
The chance of them climbing out of this grinding rural poverty is small. 
Their image now, for a few weeks, looks across the green grass and wintery trees of Union Street Park, in the affluent Melbourne suburb of Armadale.
The BMWs will park in front of the mural, the drivers mostly inconsiderate of the accident of their privileged births.
But perhaps one or two will look up and reflect.  Progress!    
www.handsforhope.org.au

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Đầm Chuồn

Thuy and her family live on a small boat on the Đầm Chuồn Lagoon just north of the city of Hue in Vietnam.
Her mother and father fish for food and if they are lucky they might catch a little extra to sell at the market. Thuy is an excellent student but living on the water in cramped conditions, especially during the wet season makes studying hard. Supported in her education by www.handsforhope.org.au the hope is that one day she will return as a teacher to her community to help others escape the hardships of subsistence living.

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People

In ten years time when I look back on three hot weeks in Vietnam I will remember the smells, the sounds, the sweat and the scenery, but I also want to remember the faces of the people who enriched the journey.  Some of these faces won't be around anymore....some of of the school kids will be doctors and teachers, and some of the babies will be earnest students. Life IS just a journey not a destination. www.handsforhope.org.au

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