Tag Archives: Unexploded Ordnance

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 Also tagged , , |

Unexploded Ordnance Survivor Video

Last year I created a video for World Education (WE) in Laos. It’s a short documentary fundraiser for the War Victims Medical Fund (WVMF). When I was approached with the idea by one of the team members from WE’s Victims’ Assistance Support Team (VAST), I knew I had to do it—although, it wasn’t an easy video to make. I feel very strongly about the people still being affected by United States’ Vietnam-era munitions, and at times was overcome by the pointlessness of the violence happening to them.

If you cannot see the video above, click here.

My only disappointment about the project was that I didn’t get to travel to Teuy’s remote village when VAST did a checkup trip. When the team gathered in Teuy’s home, as is usual, many of the neighbors came by to see what was going on. When they saw him opening bottles of water and bags of chips, they were amazed. When they commented on it, Teuy said “And I can do a lot more!”

That would have made an amazing end to the video, but knowing it happened was enough.

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Haam Jap! (Don’t Touch)

This was a great project I worked on in Laos last year. The kids learned filmmaking skills, had a good time, and got to go to the capital (most had never been there). The twelve hour bus ride was a bit of an ordeal, but it was worth it.

Here is the info about the project:

Conceived, written and produced by the students of Lone Buffalo, the short film ‘Haam Jap’ is a Public Awareness Video designed to alert children in Laos (and worldwide) of the continued danger of Unexploded Ordnance.

The film was shown at the 2015 Vientianale International Film Festival.

The students wrote three scenarios in which bombies can maim or kill. They used props available in the classroom and local market to produce special effects, and shot the film on location in and around Phonsavan.

On Vimeo:

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

Film Director Teng Vue Fai Dang (18) said he wanted to create a film that would remind both children and adults that bombies are sadly both metaphorically and physically “in our roots” and will pose a danger for many years to come, especially in Xieng Khouang, the world’s most heavily bombed province.

The only shots not taken by the students were of the defused munitions, since it was deemed inappropriate for them to be near or handle actual UXO, even though it was all FFE (Free From Explosives).

On YouTube:

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

The film was Executively Directed by Jon Witsell and James Thomas. This film was produced for and funded by the US State Department.

Lone Buffalo is an free English Language project in Phonsavan, North East Laos. The students who produced this film live in Xieng Khouang Province.

Posted in Humanitarian Photography, Travel, Videos Also tagged , , |

Unexploded Ordnance: Don’t Touch!

This is a poster that is at the Phonsavan, Laos, office of UXO-Lao, the national demining organization. As you might expect, more boys than girls are maimed/killed by the Vietnam-era unexploded ordnance left over from the Secret War, in which the United States played a major role (those are all munitions manufactured/deployed by the United States pictured in the poster).

Photo Unexploded Ordnance Haam Jap!

The red text in the upper left states Haam Jap! (roughly translated: Don’t Touch!). I’ll have a follow up post about a very cool film project done with the Lone Buffalo school’s students soon. Stay tuned!

Posted in Humanitarian Photography, Travel Also tagged , |

Thinking About: Composition, #3

As  a general rule, I don’t tend to crop photos very often. I tend to like to stick to a certain format or ratio for an entire project and prefer to use what I’ve captured in camera. But, I’m starting to rethink this. The following photo, for example:

Photo Thinking About Composition #1

3:2 Ratio

3:2 is the in-camera format the image was originally capture in, and I liked it. But after spending some time editing the image,  Read More»

Posted in Black and White Photography, Thinking About... Also tagged , |

Raining Cluster Bombs

This is a time-lapse of the cluster bomb display at the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) in Vientiane, Laos.

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

Below is a picture of half the Chronos Light time-lapse rig used to shoot the image sequence—there is another tripod below, securing the other end of the rail.

Photo Raining Cluster Bombs

Posted in Timelapse, Travel, Videos Also 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 Also 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:

Read More»

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Don’t Touch

I’m working on a new project with the kids at the Lone Buffalo Foundation in Phonsavan, Laos. I’ll have an announcement coming soon… the title? It’s in the poster below…

Photo of don't touch!

Don’t touch!

Posted in Humanitarian Photography, New Project Also tagged |

Welcome To Laos: Me, Myself, And A Few Cluster Bomb Casings

Truck-ferry-shuttle bus-plane-plane-plane-truck-overnight bus-minivan. About 50 hours total of travel.

I’ve just arrived in Phonsavan, Laos, a small city on the Plain of Jars. I had gotten my bags out of the minivan and got set up in my guesthouse of choice, the Nam Chai. I decided to wander a bit, which, in the afternoons, usually takes me to the Hmong food market. I grabbed my camera and my audio recorder and set off.

I hadn’t even gone 45 paces (yes, I went back and counted them, I’m odd like that) and came across a pile of American cluster bomb casings, courtesy of my country during the Secret War from 1964-1973.

Cluster Bomb Laos

Me, My Shadow, And Some Cluster Bomb Casings

Even with three trips to Laos now under my belt, I’m still surprised at my reaction when I come across the staggering amount of war detritus—much of it Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)—that remains in this country. A country with roughly the same land area as the US State of Utah.*

As an old friend might say You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting UXO in Laos. Of course, you would be wise to, one, not swing things at UXO if you wish to live a long and fruitful life, and, two, leave dead cats alone.

*About 4,000,000,000 pounds dropped on 91,429 sq miles—about 43,750 pounds for each square mile. Of course it wasn’t distributed evenly, but your mental image should be clear.

Welcome To Laos: Me, Myself, And A Few Cluster Bomb Casings

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