Liberia – Meet Harris

•August 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

A couple of days before Christmas in 2005, photojournalist Scott Harrison was driving through a small fishing town on the Eastern coast of Liberia called Buchanon. Stopping at a small shop to buy rice for a welcome home party for Joseph, a patient of the Mercy Ship who was returning home after surgery, he overheard a couple of people talking of the man by the sea who had a large facial tumor. Scott asked to be taken to the man and a small boy took him down to the beach were Harris was preparing for another night out at sea. Harris’s tumor has started as a toothache 13 years previously and had grown slowly over the years into a ten-pound monster forcing him not only into isolation but seriously threatening his life.

Harris like 3.5 million other Liberians, could not access any medical help, there simply wasn’t any. Years of civil unrest and waring has destroyed most of the medical infrastructure and qualified doctors are but a few dozen for the entire population. Conditions that in the West are minor, and easily treated, in Liberia are left to take hold, ravaging peoples lives.

Luckily help is at hand. At the request of Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa Mercy, a floating hospital ship has come back to Monrovia. Partnering with the Ministry of Health, local churches and the hospitals which are slowly rising out of the ashes, the Mercy Ship has come to meet the urgent needs of the populations. With six operating theaters, an intensive care unit, CT scans and a fully developed laboratory, the ship provides first world health care to the people most in need.

For my major project I will be joining the Mercy Ship in Monrovia. The project I will be working on, in conjunction with the Mercy Ship media team, is called Project Transformation. We are aiming to go and meet the patients whose lives have been transformed through their life saving operations on the Mercy Ship and to hear their stories and the course their lives have taken since the operation…. what has happened to them since and how have their lives changed. Hopefully we will meet Harris, who successfully recovered from his operation now three years ago as well as meeting others.

The challenge for this project is primarily in the research. With little infrastructure in the country it is difficult to locate people. Many people have been internally displaced and tracking them down will be hard although we will try as best possible through the Mercy Ship network …the project will also focus on telling the day to day story of the Ship….on the people who leave their lives in the West to travel and give their services to those in need in Liberia….and also on the stories of those who come to the ship seeking medical help.

I think this piece would be ideally suited to a multimedia approach and therefore sound as well as images will be crucial. I am waiting to find out if a friend, a sound man, will be able to join me and am very much hoping he will….I also need to persuade Jackson to lend me a the Sony camera (apparently its an insurance issue). Other than that I will be shooting 35m digital and taking the rollei for scenics. Much of the images taken on the ship will obviously be indoors with strip lighting and I will be spending time in the operating theatres so lighting will be a challenge. I am thinking of taking a couple of studio lights (I have 50kg luggage allowance!!?) and setting those up for a portrait series of both the key workers and some of the patients pre op.

As soon as I return from Liberia middle of September the plan is then to travel to Switzerland where Mercy Ships have their European design centre. I will spend approx 10 day working with the team there to produce a body of work that can be used for Mercy Ships 30th anniversary celebrations on the 5th October. This may or may not be in line with what I will want to be working on for our final show but I am sure it will be an interesting experience and will hopefully support the work I will be doing in the weeks leading up to December.

Any feedback very welcome….and any bodies of work focusing on this kind of medical setup would also be very interesting to look at (Paul where can I get access to your Eye Hospital portfolio?).

And then I’ll try update this from Liberia…..

Ambulance

•July 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This project has been really interesting. I am following an ambulance lady called Lysa Walder who works down in East Croyden. Lysa is actually an ECP (Emergency Care Practitioner). The difference between her and a normal ambulance is that she works in a car and works alone and is basically a first response team. She does an amazing job arriving by herself at any situation not knowing what will present itself. Last week (one day when unfortunately I wasn’t with her) she arrived at a house to what had been a call signaling an unconscious man to be met at the door by his wife saying she had managed to get the machete off him….he had been threatening to kill his 9 year old granddaughter! Lysa has written a book called 999 which is coming out in August – accounts of all her incredible stories!

I have now spent three really interesting days out with Lysa and it amazing to see first hand what a phenomenal job the Ambulance service do and just how lucky we are to have such a public service here in the UK. Some calls are very minor and can be treated on the spot, a little girl who had fractured her arm falling from a climbng frame in the park, another little girl who cut her head jumping on the sofa whilst her mom was been treated in the dentist….all very easy nice cases….others have been a little more ‘intersting’.

(Photo has been removed)

This case was something and I would really appreciate some feedback on your thoughts on this. We got a call through “17 year olf girl, pregnant, assaulted”…when we turned up the police had already arrived and had handcuffed the lad. His gilfriend was in the back of her Nan’s car in hysterics having been beaten and scratched and was very upset verging on hysterical. I started taking a few pictures including the one above and a few wider shots. Then it all started going crazy. People where turning up from all sides….the lad’s mom arrived screaming abuse at the girl calling her a liar….the poor girl completely lost it and was absolutely hysterical….her uncle then started hurling abuse at the lad’s mom…the girls dad arrived and was understandably properly upset…the lad was screaming trying to talk to Liane who had just found out she was pregnant with his child…. and then it all kicked off with everyone hurling abuse at everyone….the police told us to get out of there so we all piled into the Nan’s car and drove off away from the unravelling scene.

Now my question is when it all started escalating I stopped taking pictures, I had a 17-55 lens on and was standing right next to the girls family…I guess the emotion was so high and I was so close to it I was pretty sure they could have very easily have snapped and I would have been in for it…whether it was because I can’t run at the moment and would have been buggered if they had had a go at me or whether because of the sensitivity of the situation I felt it wasn’t appropriate to invade I am not sure…I know I didn’t want to take pictures of the girl….primarily because she was sitting in the back of the car and I was in the front so I would literally have had the camera right in her face and given what had happened I thought i wouldn’t be right – also her dad and her nan who where sitting there were pretty scarry people. I did use the sound recorder though and justified my non photo taking by the fact that this piece of work is actually for the sound piece rather than for just images. And the other thing am I OK putting this picture and all this rabbeting on my blog – is that ethically correct, I obviously didn’t get any consent forms signed by the lad, so in this context am I free to use his picture? Any thoughts/comments gratefully received….

So the day carried on…next incident comes through ’14 year old boy impaled on metal pole’ luckily he wasn’t impaled but did have a huge nasty and deep gash in his arm from falling on a metal post….he and his mates had been running away from another group of lads who wanted to beat them up.

So we took him to hospital and whilst Lysa was busy checking him in I went back to the car and outside A&E it all kicked off again…a group of lads going at a boy with a cricket bat – 5pm on a Tuesday afternoon right outside A&E in front of 20 people. It was unbelievable. This time I figured there were enough people screaming and ‘involved’ i rushed back to the car to get the 80-200 and by the time I got back they had all run off down an alleyway…they were all ok, the lads all ran off – hoods on – and the poor boy getting thumped cycled off on his bike!! So all in all it was interesting day….not good but certainly an eye opener on what is going on for youngsters out and about in town.

Below are a few ‘fluffier’ pictures…but really what an interesting job the ambulance guys do – everything, everywhere to anybody….and the job is done so well, so professionally and with such warmth, humor and care! I am really looking forward to my next days out and hopefully working on this longer term.

Pauline Goulter, 93, profuse bleeding of left leg following a varicose vein scab been removed. Pauline telling Lysa about her four marriage proposals!

x

Eva, 1 year old, drank bleach left out by her grandmother whislt cleaning. Eva was taken to hospital for observation.

Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell

•July 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Jamaican sprinter, Asafa Powell, Commonwealth 100m champion and second fastest of all time over 100m and Usain Bolt, World 100m champion and third fastest of all time over 100m at the O2 Arena. Photocall ahead of The Aviva London Grand Prix. 24/07/2008.

The Artois Championships – Nadal wins

•July 1, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Summer Projects

•July 1, 2008 • 1 Comment

MERCY SHIP, LIBERIA – http://www.mercyships.org/home

I first came across the Mercy ships through Charity Water. Scott Harrison had spent 8 months working as a photojournalist on the ships before being moved to set up his own charity building wells, firstly in Liberia and now globally. Last year we had discussed my going out to Liberia to photograph their work with the wells but for one reason and another it wasn’t possible at that time. I then then came across the Mercy Ships again a month or so ago when I met John Major at a lunch and it turned out he is the patron of the ships. He promised he would help me get in touch with the right people when if I wanted to do a project with them. I wrote to him immediately and am still waiting to here back….in the mean time I have contacted them directly and am also waiting to hear.

Mercy Ships are the largest hospital ships in the world. Africa Mercy which is based in Monrovia, Liberia has 6 operating theaters and wards that can house up to 500 patients. Its function is three fold, firstly they provide medical care and operative procedure to thousands of people who don’t have access to any medical facilities. Tumors, accidents, clef pallets, cataracts, the list is long. The volunteers on the ship go out to the local communities and assess those with the most pressing needs. The ships also provides training to local medical care practitioners and they work with the local communities to provide improved sanitation and clean water facilities.

Ideally I would spent up to a month on the ship, I have two friends, one a writer the other a sound guy who are both really interested in this project so maybe there will be a chance of collaborating….I would see this ideally as a multmedia piece – interviewing the surgeons and other volenteers about their motivations, following patients from their operations back to their communities and spending some time in the villages. This would also tie in really well with the wells (a large proportion of the people on the ship are there due to water born disesases, parasites etc) which I could do as a shoot off or as a second chapter later on. In the mean time I need to get access so will carry on working towards that.

PLAN B – LONDON AMBULANCE SERVICE

I made contact with an Emergency Care Practioner (ECP – they drive the ambulance cars rather than the ambulances and are like a rapid response unit – they also work individually rather than in teams) in the first term to photograph her for our work assignments. It took a while to get access and the permissions and then I hurt my leg so I only finally met up with her yesterday for the first time. I am now penned in to spend 6 days with her out in the vehicle and I also have access to the ambulance HQ. I think there is definitly potential here to make this into a major project should I don’t get the required access to make Plan A work….however I think that getting access to other aspects of the service would also be important…..the ambulance vehicles (they also have ambulance choppers), A&E etc….my main concern about this project is how to make it visually as interesting as possible….its going to be very reactionary and I don’t just want it to be a sequence of images of Lysa holding patients hands sitting on their sofa….I am out with her next Wednesday for a 12 hours shift so once I have done 1 day I think I will have a better idea of the visual potential. I will definitely be taking a voice recorder and interviewing her/recording her there is always the option to use this work either for my 2nd term assignment or the sound assignment. I am guessing getting everyone to sign model release is a good idea as well?

OTHER PLANS

PARALYMPIC SWIMMERS – I started out looking to photograph the paralympic swimmers in the run up to the Beijing Games in September. Unfortunately I think I needed to have started this process six months ago. The deadline for press passes for Games is long gone and getting access to the athletes at this short notice has been really hard and I havent’ been able to get beyond the press officers. I was really interested in doing some underwater photography a la Adam Pretty! Now he is good!

WALTHAMSTOW DOGS – the Racing Stadium has been sold to developers and the track will be closed middle of August. This could be interesting in that apparently (i haven’t been there yet) but it is an Art deco building which visually is supposed to be very arresting…it has some action – I love shots of dogs racing, and there should be some good stories of people who have spent many years working there – and then of course they will be demolishing it in August and building houses – a medium term project but is it what I wont to do for my major project?

MOUNTAIN RESCUE – the summer version…might save it for winter next year!

In the mean time I have a Final Cut Pro bolt on to do and I have hopefully organised work experience at Getty Reportage (just waiting dates to be confirmed) so I have to focus on these things whilst I work on making progress with major project….

Any feedback on these ideas VERY welcome! Thanks!

•July 1, 2008 • 2 Comments

This is were it ends for now ;-(( back in in 2 months!!

•April 11, 2008 • 1 Comment