The Cham people of Vietnam descend from refugees of the Kingdom of Champa, which once ruled much of Vietnam between Gao Ha in the north and Bien Hao in the south. The Cham developed under both Hindu and Muslim influence in their early history. The imprint of these two civilizations, although altered by local tradition and superstition, is still evident in the customs, and religious practices of the Cham. Cham adherents of Hinduism and of Islam call themselves Cham Kaphir and Cham Bani respectively. The Vietnamese have historically considered the Cham culturally inferior, backward, and lazy. The Cham themselves prefer to remain separate from the Vietnamese; they strongly believe that only through isolation can they retain their cultural identity.



Hat Economics

In the developed world the conical bamboo leaf hat has become a trite symbol of the rural poor of South East Asia. And yet here in Vietnam these much loved hats are beautifully constructed examples of where form and function intersect.  A group of women working together intensely, can make about one and a half hats a day per person. This earns them about $2 each, which believe it or not is well above the “poverty line”. They are sold to locals not tourists and act as sunshades, umbrellas, fruit baskets and fans.

Thủy (pronounced "Tway")

Thủy lives with her mother in a village in Quảng Trị Province, Central Vietnam. She has never known her father. Their simple two roomed house was built by the government as they are too poor to afford their own.  Her mother hardly ever leaves her bed, probably because she has severe depression. Thuy looks after her gently, cooking, washing and tending to the neighbour’s cows. She made a deal with the neighbour that if she looks after his two cows for free, then she gets to keep the first calves. So she now has two small ones of her own…….   And she wants to become a doctor.   Today, this ambition became a lot more realistic as has just agreed to fund her education. Hopefully, one day she will understand much better what has made her mother so ill.



Thanh Ha

About an hour's walk inland, along the Thu Bon River from the film set, that is Hoi An, you come across a dawn fish market in the village of Thanh Hà. As usual it’s the women doing all the work....bargaining, carrying, gutting, washing....their voices make a sound track to the sunrise. It doesn’t take much, to step off the well beaten Lonley Planet track, and feel a tiny but real connection.


Hanoi In June

“I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze. The river is beautiful. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, something happens, as you knew it would. And nothing can ever be the same again.” 

Graham Greene, The Quiet American


Food and Celebrity

Generally I'm not a big fan of the cult of celebrity when it comes to food.  Something inside me says food should be about tradition, locality and sharing, rather than competition, ratings and winning. But some famous chefs put cooking first and talking second, and these ones I admire.

Thanks Guy Grossi, Nobu Matsuhisa, Heston Blumenthal and Dregory Doyen



The Ruben Centre, Mukuru Slum Nairobi.

It costs about $850,000 a year to run the Ruben Centre in Nairobi's infamous Mukuru slum. This money goes to running a primary school, (2,700 children with 60 teachers, all fed daily), a medical centre, (85,000 treatments a year), a vocational training centre, a special needs unit, a radio station, a sustainable urban market garden and so much more. On Wednesday 16th May one of Ruben's greatest supporters, The 500 Supporters' Group, will hold its annual lunch at the MCG. Its great to be asked to donate a print of an image I made in the maternity clinic last year. Hopefully Melbourne's business community will be tempted to bid big and often!

It costs about $850,000 a year to run the Ruben Centre in Nairobi's infamous Mukuru slum. This money goes to running a primary school, (2,700 children with 60 teachers, all fed daily), a medical centre, (85,000 treatments a year), a vocational training centre, a special needs unit, a radio station, a sustainable urban market garden and so much more. On Wednesday 16th May one of Ruben's greatest supporters, The 500 Supporters' Group, will hold its annual lunch at the MCG. Its great to be asked to donate a print of an image I made in the maternity clinic last year. Hopefully Melbourne's business community will be tempted to bid big and often!

The South Coast Track

It's 85 kilometres from Melaleuca Inlet deep in the South West Corner of Tasmania, to Cockle Creek on the East Coast, two hours south of Hobart. Between the two, is a track famous for its mud, its beauty and the rugged barrier of the Iron Bound Range, which rises almost a kilometre above sea level to bar the way of the ill prepared walker. Sal and I set out in early April to make the nine day trip.... We saw one other human being during the journey. The weather went from OK to terrible, the mud was thick and cold, the hail  stung our faces as each squall spun off the southern ocean and yet the magnificence of this liminal world will effect the way I live my live for years to come. If you're interested in the extended story, including a dramatic surprise ending, visit Sal's blog at

In the meantime here are a few images that might to give you sense of the isolation

Trio Anima Mundi

It was a privilege to be asked by Rochelle Ughetti to take portraits for Melbourne's International award-winning Trio Anima Mundi. But when they asked to be photographed playing "air piano/violin/cello" I realised I was working with artists unafraid of experimentation.  It's a pleasure to have a photography session where the process is a journey rather than a shopping list with items to be ticked off. Thank you!


Bajau Basketballers come to Armadale

Living on a park, we have a basketball half court just outside our front door.  The lucky kids of the area enjoy the flat concrete and proper hoop in leafy surrounds. On a recent trip to the Philippines, for the Edmund Rice Foundation, I was lucky enough to visit an informal settlement of Bajau people or sea gypsies on the island of Leyte. The boys love their basketball and play in  rain and mud for hours on end with a bent length of steel reinforcing as a hoop and  a bundle of rags as a ball.  The contrast was irresistible.  On my return to Melbourne I had this image enlarged and stuck it on the side of the house opposite the half court.  Response so far has been 100% positive!


Nili kotoka Lightning Set Up

We got access to the Brisbane City Hall at 9am.  The first School group arrived at 1200 but we were ready to go at 1157 thanks to the amazing planning and hard work from the team at the Edmund Rice Foundation

Fiji Airways

Sitting in a R44 helicopter at 3000ft with the doors removed somewhere over the Fijian Yasawa islands, waiting for the newly branded A330 to appear from some where over my left shoulder at about 400 knots, I thought...."I love my job!"....Some background.....
Air Pacific was struggling to be recognized as the national airline of the Fiji Islands in the heart of the South Pacific. In fierce competition with other Pacific carriers, the airline reported a loss of FJ$91.8 million in 2009-2010. The brief was to rebrand a struggling airline with a regional remit and name and return it to the people of Fiji. FutureBrand created a symbol and livery that would stand out at some of the world’s busiest international airports. Mark Chew was engaged to create the photographic elements that went into the new brand identity. This included creating a suite of imagery from around Fiji show casing the unique environment and the people who live there. In addition the new A330 planes were photographed both on the ground and in the air along with the cabin interiors with staff and livery. A key success measure was increased awareness of the name ‘Fiji Airways’ emerging markets and greater alignment with the destination. Searches for ‘Fiji Airways’ in key markets increased 235% with an overall 20% increase in airline search volume reported in the month following the rebrand. 

Gannon and Benjamin at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

The rain slanted across the deck of the ugly little car ferry as it surged out of Woods Hole harbour, across Vineyard Sound. May had just begun, but the icy cold and 25 knot north-westerly was telling me that spring had not yet arrived.  As the horn on the ferry sounded the Cory’s Shearwaters passed the bows with wings fixed solid. I stood alone on the steel foredeck, and stared into the greyness wondering how this uninspiring land on the horizon could possibly be the famous Martha’s Vineyard, playground of the rich and famous. But I wasn’t here to visit them.

As the ferry swung into the open bay at Vineyard Haven on my right behind a short breakwater a selection of interesting wooden boats tugged at their moorings in the chop, but on my left a schooner stood out proudly away from the others, looking confident and comfortable just off the end of fragile pier coming off the beach.  On her masthead pennant was the single word JUNO, and I knew I had come to the right place.I got off the ferry and walked the hundred yards up the beachfront street to a wooden building. There was no name board or sign but the rack of varnished masts and the singing of a bandsaw inside showed me the way and I slid open a barn door and the smell of cedar and oak and the warmth of a pot bellied stove greeted me. The first part of the shed was only small, big enough to hold an upturned dinghy a few bench tools and rows of draws clearly labelled. You couldn’t call it tidy but everything belonged, and the mood was one of quiet but focussed intent. No radio was playing….the sounds of the tools and the sea only thirty yards away filled the silence. Beyond this first area I could see the hulls two boats in a second larger shed even closer to the water….but more of these later. A young shipwright invited me in to stand by the stove and said Nat would be here shortly.  I few minutes later the door slid open again and the room lit up as an unassuming bearded man in a dusty cable knit jumper walked towards me. He moved through the shed, feet wide as if crossing a moving deck, held his hand out and with a beaming smile and a soft Hudson Valley lilt said, “Mark? I’m Nat…a pleasure to meet you”

In 2002 I read a small book called simply “Wooden Boats” by Michael Ruhlman. It’s the story of the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway in Martha’s Vineyard and it is also the best explanation I have yet read of the fascination of making and owning timber sailing boats. Having cherished and re-read the text for the last fourteen years I was a little nervous to meet the men who create such majestic vessels, but that nervousness soon vanished as Nat showed me round his sheds and yards, talking to his colleagues about details of their work and taking a genuine interest in my limited knowledge and the state of wooden boat sailing in Australia.   The temptation to romanticise the yard is strong. The methods are strictly traditional not out of any obligation or purist fervour but because this works best. Its progeny are some of the most beautiful craft sailing the oceans, and the restoration projects are usually on boats from the most elite of designers.  Stephens, Rhodes, Herreshoff and yet there is an underlying practicality to what they do that makes the place remarkably normal. And although he is best known for the three larger schooners that have sailed the world, Juno, Rebecca and Charlotte, of his 86 designs to date, most are small, unassuming but perfectly formed gems.


ERFA in the Philippines

Tellurian at Heathcote

It's 5am in the morning and I'm driving down the red dirt roads north of Heathcote in Vctoria's prime Shiraz region. Eventually I find the gate to Tellurian Wines where I'm met by Daniel Hopkins son of owner Ian. Its still dark but we hurry to set up for the first set of images of the winery just as purple clouds begin to roll across the vast pre dawn sky.

Love Italy

The idea a five week European marathon in a mini-van with Australia's leading Italian chef, his ebullient publisher, his daughter, and Italian fixer cum driver, seemed like could be a lot of fun, but there was also considerable potential for upset. But 5000 Italian kilometres later, we emerged as life long friends, inspired by the country and the  people whose work we had been recording. "Love Italy" won the ‘Best Designed Cookbook’ and ‘Designers’ Choice Book of the Year’ at the 62nd Australian Book Design Awards.

Blue Dragon in Hanoi

Having spent ten days travelling through six Asian capitals, working on a commercial project for a major ASX company I found myself in Hanoi with some time to kill. I had heard about Blue Dragon via a radio interview on Radio National and they sounded like a great organisation so I got in touch and offered my photographic services. Since small beginnings in 2003, Blue Dragon has become a powerful force for change on the streets of Vietnam, both in the bustling cities and in rural areas where poverty is widespread. Blue Dragon offers children and families in crisis the chance to turn their lives around, providing practical solutions to the daily problems that are keeping poverty alive.