Thinking About: Composition, #2

I think my favorite aspect of crafting a photograph is the composition. Something about perfecting the geometry—all the elements in a faithful order, or finding a very specific balance is supremely satisfying. It’s one of those odd visual things: You don’t really notice it if it’s done well.

This photograph was taken in a health care center in very remote area of Laos. Land Cruiser required for an NGO staff visit in the dry season, all but unreachable by vehicle in the wet.

Photo: Thinking About Composition #2

I like that you can draw an imaginary line from the upper left corner to the lower right and that line would cross a number of rectangles:

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Posted in Black and White Photography, New Project, Thinking About... Tagged , |

Swords Into Plowshares?

How about artillery shells in anvils instead? The only problem with the swords into plowshares analogy is that swords don’t kill or maim you when you hit them with a hammer.

Swords Into Plowshares #1

This is the seventh US 105mm howitzer shell I’ve found in Laos used in this manner. They are used by the village blacksmiths as anvils to make farming implements and other tools. Probably the most utilitarian usage of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) that I’ve found.

Swords Into Plowshares #2Special thanks to Philip for photographing me—it’s his father’s anvil…


Posted in Humanitarian Photography, Travel Tagged , |

Symbolism in Tom Waits’ Hell Broke Luce

I recently taught a filmmaking class to a group of students at the Lone Buffalo Foundation in Phonsavan, Laos. Since Laos is the, per capita, most heavily bombed country on the globe, I thought that Tom Waits’ Hell Broke Luce might be a good, if difficult, choice to show the concept of symbolism.

If you can’t see the video above, click here.

Well, I was right on that last count. Not only was it difficult, it was downright incomprehensible to the students. It’s an oddly uncomfortable feeling to be standing up in front of a class after showing a video that you are excited about and feel is a perfect example for a certain aspect of your lesson plan, and have the entire class look at you as if you, and the video, are from another planet. I wasn’t sure why Hell Broke Luce had flopped as an example, but the class was nearing its end so we wrapped things up for the day.

However, a few weeks later, I realized I wanted to give it another go. Symbolism is, when used well, an incredibly effective means of telling a story without the direct use of language. When effectively combined with language (in this case lyrics), it can then be even more powerful. It was worth giving it another try.

So, I spent some time thinking about the reasons why the students hadn’t connected with the video. I came up with four:

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Posted in Humanitarian Photography, Travel, Videos Tagged , , , |

Production Photos: Lone Buffalo Film Crew!

With all the excitement of the our film being shown at the Vientianale Film Festival (a group of Lone Buffalo students made an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) awareness film for youngsters) I had been remiss in posting some of the photos of the crew and production.

(For photos of the students at the film festival, see here.)

I’ll make up for that now:

That’s me to the left and the wonderful James Thomas to the right. James is a journalist and volunteered to help produce the film; his wife Jackie was a volunteer English teacher at Lone Buffalo.

Lone Buffalo Vientianale 01

That’s Ms. Pa on the floor next to me. We were exploring the concept of using a low camera angle to make a subject seem larger or more powerful.

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Posted in Travel, Videos Tagged , , |

Travel and Travail in Laos

Or should I have titled this post Travel is Travail in Laos? I’m doing a video shoot for an NGO and one of the field staff and I were headed north from Vientiane to Phonsavan—the first leg of a six leg trip. And the worst leg: ten hours of getting battered around in what was in its previous life an airport shuttle, now converted into an off-road, long-haul, urm… marvel of transportation efficiency. That is until it isn’t. Until it is driven into a ditch and you start to roll over…

Travel and Travail in Laos

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Posted in Travel Tagged |