A New Beginning for Cluster Bomb Survivor

Ta Chomaly


My good friend Mike Boddington MBE is working on a project in Laos that is near and dear to my heart. Please donate to help bring financial security to Ta Chomaly and his family!

From the GoFundMe campaign:

Ta’s Story: In 2001, Ta Chomaly was a farmer and fisherman in a rural village in Laos before an unexploded cluster bomb accident changed his life forever. Ta lost his lower left arm, his right hand, and the vision in one eye, while his other eye was badly damaged. He was 28 years old with a wife and seven children. The US illegally dropped more than 270 million cluster munitions (known in Laos as “bombies”) along with other ordnance on Laos during the Vietnam War. Up to 30 percent, or about 80 million of the cluster bombs did not detonate and remain buried in the land over vast parts of Laos. Ta is among the more than 20,000 innocent Lao civilians killed or maimed by unexploded ordnance, primarily cluster munitions, since the war ended almost 50 years ago.

Ta and his wife and one of his seven children

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Faces of the Red Cross: Andrea

Portrait Andrea Fuller American Red Cross

I met Andrea while volunteering at an American Red Cross Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP) during the Valley wildfire. She is a volunteer Public Information Officer. Her role at the TEP was keeping the public informed about the Red Cross’ efforts in providing relief to the evacuees of the disaster.

We had decided to shoot a new headshot for her and were getting near the end of the session and just playing around. I was tweaking something on the camera and fired a shot from the waist. Sometimes the most interesting images just happen…

Please donate to the American Red Cross here.

Posted in Color Photography, Humanitarian Photography, Portraiture Tagged |

Campaign Signs and an Imagined Talk with Daido Moriyama

I recently rewatched Near Equal, the documentary on Daido Moriyama—one of my all time favorite photographers. In this, he mentions the concept of are, bure, boke, which roughly translates to rough, blurred, out of focus. This was a photographic style he and other photographers embraced, shown in the Japanese art magazine Provoke.

So, I went for a walk the other night and noticed the election-year infection of campaign signs littering the streets. And, since I wanted to play around a bit with my Fuji Xpro-3’s Acros film simulation, I thought they would be a good subject. I wasn’t interested in capturing what the signs read, but more what their shape/form and lighting/shadows would look like.

I had recently read the post She Breathed Quietly, In Rich Black Ink by the Canadian photographer Patrick LaRoque about his Acros-based simulation preset Moriyama—which with a new Xpro-3, he renamed DAIDO. I had a brief email with Patrick and thought I should try it out.

The Fuji Acros film simulation (back in my film days, Fuji Neopan 1600 exposed at 3200 ISO and developed in Ilford DD-X was my favorite combo) is unique in the camera as the Grain Effect function increases as the camera’s ISO is increased. Just like what would happen to film that was underexposed and push processed in developing. The other film simulations don’t behave that way and rely on independent settings of Roughness: Strong/Weak and Size: Large/Small.

This is a fascinating development by Fuji, they are really catering to people that used to shoot black and white film, and I’m very impressed with their ability to pull this off. I’ve been waiting for a long time for a digital camera that can give me similar results to shooting the Neopan 1600/Ilford DD-X combo. I think I might have found it.

Posted in Black and White Photographers, Black and White Photography, Technical Tagged , , |

Writing to a Photograph: The Coin

Another edition of my Writing To A Photograph project:

The Coin

I’m heading out, going for an early morning walk. Too early for the tourists and worker bees, and the sad people that can’t stand the rain. Looking back, I see her rolled in the sheets and blankets, a tornado gone horizontal, a sure sign of fitful sleep. 

Padding out the door, I turn and walk down the hallway, an enclosed alley minus the smell of the garbage cans, the piss. That’s awaiting me below—and I like it. Look forward to it. Haunting alleys is a compulsion of mine—the urban geographer, the detritus hunter. Our culture, the bits better not displayed. Our decisions: things kept, things discarded.

I duck out of the alley, I’ve seen enough for today.

There is a coin in the middle of the street, its features softened by a thousand hands. A car has ground it against the rocks in the asphalt leaving tiny gouges, ending in burrs. I can feel them against the pad of my thumb as I wipe the water off. I rub against the coin, again and again, the burrs tugging at my finger prints. If they were wire, would my fingerprints vibrate—make sounds? 

Slipping into the apartment, I stand motionless for a moment. From where I’m standing, I can see into the kitchen. The faucet is dripping, a reliable indicator of the slow decline of the place. The water is landing on a plate, but it isn’t ringing—a ting ting ting one might expect—the plate has a crack, ruining the harmonics. The sound doesn’t fit my ear, the drops overlapping into a middling thrum; clipped, truncated, a stilted version of what could be. 

I scan back and see her still on the bed, but she’s rolled onto her back. She’s nude from just above mid-hip. Her left arm cocked acutely with her hand just above a hip bone, pushing up through the skin. Her hand is bent like an A-frame house, the finger tips applying pressure. Her right hand has a grip on the sheet, the folds of material between her fingers spreading out like an alluvial fan.

I notice the same thing I notice every time I see her sleep: her eyes are ever so slightly open, a slight split. A gap. And as usual, I’m unnerved. I slide over a chair and get close, peering intently, always expecting to see the pupils move, dart at me, locate me in space—either accuse me of watching a private moment or pinch closed to shut me out… But they don’t. They just rest there, unseeing, occluded and fixed.

Posted in Flash Fiction, Writing To A Photograph Tagged |

Faces of the Red Cross: Gary

Red Cross: Gary

I met Gary while volunteering for the Red Cross during the latest wildfires in Southern California. He was working with the RC’s Feeding Services that was delivering meals to some 400 individuals evacuated during the El Dorado fire.

Please donate to the American Red Cross here.

Posted in Color Photography, Humanitarian Photography, Portraiture Tagged |

Tuey and Phongsavath

Tuey and Phongsavath
Tuey and Phongsavath, in Vientiane, Laos.

Came across this screen grab from a video the other day. Two really brave guys, both Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) survivors—both blind and missing both hands. They were part of a peer-to-peer project I filmed in Laos way back in 2015. Check it out here.

Posted in Color Photography, Humanitarian Photography Tagged , , , |

Mayday #8

Mayday #8
Posted in Color Photography, Equine Photography Tagged |

New Portfolio: Hmong Grandmother

Hmong Grandmother

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

Posted in Black and White Photography, Humanitarian Photography, Portraiture, Travel, Videos Tagged |

Mayday #1

Mayday #1
Mayday #1
Posted in Color Photography, Equine Photography Tagged |

Hmong Grandmother: Hand

Hmong Grandmother
Posted in Black and White Photography, Humanitarian Photography, Portraiture, Travel Tagged |