Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category
Way back in April 2012 I wrote about Ali Khousrof, the country’s judo champion who had been wounded in the Arab spring. Ali had taken to the streets to protest against the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh despite his training schedule for the London 2012 Olympics and been shot in the hip, ruining years of conditioning, training and costing him any hope of a medal. When I met him, he had pretty much recovered from his wounds and had just started training again. It was a wonderful story about hope, struggle and determination. Yet in reality his coaches confided in me that they didn’t actually think that Ali would qualify for the games thanks to the amount of time out he had spent out, (although this is something that I omitted from my original story in the Guardian!) Personally I felt that there was something in Ali which made me believe and for me that was enough.
Over the last few weeks i’ve had a few people tweeting in my direction, asking why I live in Yemen.
It’s an honest question, yet my honest answer is that I don’t know and its something i’ve thought about for a long time. The world’s media doesn’t care hugely about the country. An interest exists in terrorism and security related stories stemming from the Arabian Peninsula, but its very difficult to actually offer any real reportage on events involving Al Qaeda. In fact I could probably offer as much of an educated opinion on events in the badlands of Yemen as a determined observer sat in London.
The vast majority of Yemen stories sadly break from Washington, leaked by embassies, diplomats and spooks to journalists on “defence desks” of the world’s great newspapers. Arab officialdom’s obsession with the power of television, has also vastly limited the amount of camera gear I can haul into the country which means my video work has suffered terribly; the vague lingering thought that I might be subject to deportation at any moment also menaces my mind during lulls in the day.
On top of that, the security situation isn’t great (A trip to the cash machine has begun to feel vaguely like a game of kidnapping Russian Roulette), I complain bitterly about my plumbing, my electricity, the speed of the internet and the food. I’ve lost very good friends to my determination to make a base here and on trips home often promise the rest of my beleaguered friends that I just need to make “one more trip” to tidy some loose ends. Then i’ll be home with them and be more responsible. Sometimes I even find myself bitching a little too bitterly about some of the eccentricities which make Yemeni people so kind and endearing.
Then last night, with a cheek stuffed full of Qat I sat on top of a friends roof. A rare silence hung over the Old City and I enjoyed a fifteen minutes of quiet ecstasy. I had one of the moments which reminded me why I wasn’t sat under a set of fluorescent tubes somewhere in Farringdon, watching the rain pitter patter on the office window whilst eating yet another fucking pret-a-manger sandwich. I was probably slightly flying from the mushy green wad of amphetamine in my cheeks, but it didn’t matter all the same.
So yes @lennon8t2 I am always looking over my shoulder and no to the others I’m not a lunatic or on a mission to be martyred. But hopefully, the above will serve as some explanation.
I’ve just come back from a trip to Fortaleza shooting creative video footage for Vita Coco. It was my first creative job abroad and was a huge learning curve for me; I haven’t seen much in the way of anything but news work for a while now, and it took me back to the couple of jobs I worked on with Stamp Films as a second camera/b-roll operator where 2 minutes of footage often took a full 14 hour day to get right. I’ll come out of it with some key lesson’s learnt:
This project has polarized a lot of my friends, who have questioned why I’m spending time chasing traffic wardens round London on my motorcycle. It’s been a little bit of an eye opener in real terms actually, because I spent a full two hours in Westminster on a busy Thursday, driving round and round in circles without finding a single warden. Sods law? I don’t know, but on Thursday London wasn’t the hornet’s nest of ticketing men I think of it as.
The project started out as a piece of social documentary. There is something quite grand about the way each London borough dresses its parking attendants, as if they were some kind of quasi-police. I like the way in the rain, wardens pull little elasticated splash hoods over their caps and some dress in floor length waterproof trench coats; there’s something archaic about it. I thought it would be easy to spin round town, snapping a warden in each of the city’s boroughs and getTING a story from each of the wardens in the process.
This is Ali from Karachi in Pakistan. He’s been living in Kilburn in the borough of Camden for some time. He was one of the few wardens who didn’t need persuading to be photographed (out of the 20 or so traffic wardens i approached, few were willing to be photographed; some even had little bits of paper on them with scribbles prescribing that they would face disciplinary action if they voluntarily talked to the “press” without seeking permission). He told me didn’t mind his job because he liked walking, although he was tired of people shouting at him. He couldn’t really offer me much of a story from Pakistan, but I think the portrait is telling enough.
In 2008 Canon released its 5D mkii camera and almost by accident turned a new page in photo-journalism. The mkii turned photographers into film makers overnight, enabling photojournalists to produce cinema quality content in full HD for a reasonable price. The 5D has now spawned a hundred different imitators with similar HD features and the proportion of journalists with the physical capability to produce a regular stream of captivating “multimedia” has sky rocketed.
The trend hasn’t gone unnoticed and this year the World Press Photo awards recognised the global shift away from still photography’s visual dominance in newspapers. The Amsterdam based organisation created new categories for two multimedia prizes, one for traditional linear productions and secondly an award for non-linear interactive multimedia productions.
Short video put together at the Tullett Prebon London International Boat Show returns at the ExCel centre. I managed to grab two minutes with Dragons Den’s Theo Paphitis whilst he was looking round his new Sunseeker floating palace.
…is my new assumed disguise. It’s much easier to pull off than the lesser spotted motorcyclist, and so after a breif soujourn in Delhi, I set off along off for the Spiti and Lahaul valleys with my new companion Micaela (a girl, not a bike). It is worth noting at this point that Delhi airport is the only airport in the world, not only requiring an entry ticket, but with a series of kinks made in the arrivals lounge so that anyone who does not wish to pay the extortionate sixty rupee ticket is forced to bear the wrath of the people they are meeting, when they are forced to sit aimlessly waiting for their collection which will never come in the lounge. There is no sign alerting people in the lounge. I flash my British passport, mutter something about my father being the viceroy and storm the lounge without a ticket, a small blonde package arrives for me shortly courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.
Bianca (the motorcycle) is temporarily mothballed in the warehouse of a terribly friendly sikh man, who is allowing me to store her there for the bargainous price of five hundred rupees; no wonder he was so friendly to me, if foreigners gave me their money so willingly, i would also be terribly friendly to everyone i met.
It was good to be away from the hordes of Israelis, their constant marijuana smoking, miserable expression and colourful clothes and back in another Tibeten enclave; Spiti. I find myself longing to evade backpacker centres like Manali after a month or so in India, due to their bland samey food, lack of any charector and a plethora of beggars, sadhus and other religious maniacs including enclaves of Jewish black hatted fundementalists, who sensing my semetic vibrations, approach me constantly in order to make claim donations to various right wing causes and projects. Arriving in Kibber (Spiti) it’s clear that i’m back in the land of Lama and am cheerfully informed by a weather beaten looking chap that in these parts they secretly eat cows (they pretend they are Yaks). They tend to perform their criminal acts in the winter time, when the roads are closed and the noisy Hindus can’t disturb them; it’s unfortunate because i rather fancy a good rare steak. I have already nearly been lynched for the cow horns that were attached to the front screen of my bike, and revenge is always best with HP sauce.
The nice thing about Spiti valley is that all the nutters and eccentrics come out of the woodwork, and i soon realise that i feel at home with them. I think i may have inherited it from my dear old father; Bing Sheffer, who has the unquestionable skill of scouting out a lunatic from a crowd in about four seconds. I’m not tallking about the Swiss chap of Manali, who walks round with nothing more than an orange turban on his head and a dirty pair of y-fronts on; he in only a dull and uninspiring cliche. I’m talking about Bertram Cuntclaw from Doofing on the Weir, who spends copious amounts of time camped in the nether regions of the Shetland Islands watching birds, with nothing more than a raincoat, a trangia stove, some binoculars and if he’s feeling extravagant a packet of pork scratchings. It dawns on me that these people are not only terribly interesting, but that being a geek is actually terribly hip. I therefore conclude that it is, important to start to plan out a life of eccentricism in a small black notebook; it was not long ago that i noticed that all genuine lunatics carry around a small black book and pencil, as if they were Darwin himself to note down mad thoughts and ideas. In my act of emulation, without too much effort, mine is nearly full. It’s full of good ideas, recipes, places to visit, business ideas and quotes. Another traveler (although this seems to imply that you carry a wooden flute and have hemp underpants; mine are cotton and from Harrods of Knightsbridge) from Holland has the most magnificent pair of Oxford brogues for his travels, a pair of wooden Dr. Pippin glasses and the best collection of mad white hair i have ever seen in my life. All of them are totally unsuitable of his pursuits in the hills, but all add some valuable charactor to the inquisitive and roaming little man. What sort of reception do you expect at a rural hill village without a good pair of brogues, a Billingham’s camera bag, and prehaps a few expired copies of the Daily Telegraph, along with your black notebook?
The journey to Kathmandu will resume shortly.