Dead Goat Polo
(click on the picture to see more images) Kok Boru is the national sport of Kyrgyzstan. Dead Goat Polo as some refer to it looks more like cavalier rugby with a headless goat as a ball. Two teams of five fearless men on horseback try to score a point by heaving the 20-kilo body into the tai kazan (goal) at either end. The series has received an Award of Excellence at POYI and 1st place in Sports Story at Istanbul Awards
(click on the picture to see more images) The mines in Toretsk (Ukraine) have closed one by one since the 1990s. Since the start of the Donbas conflict in 2014, people have left because the frontline is only 10 kms away. As of mid-February 2020, miners of Centralna Mine had not been paid for four months and rumors of closure are rife. The series has been published in National Geographic Holland-Belgium issue in March 2021
(click on the picture to see more images) By coincidence, I rediscovered the negatives from 5 rolls of Tri-X 400, shot in a café in Brussels, that I thought were lost. The 3 Portes café was located in the neighborhood of Les Marolles on the Place du Jeu de Balle (200m from where I live) in Brussels. It was an everyday meeting place for local people that unfortunately no longer exists. There were a few typical cafés like this around the square where people gathered to socialize, drink, dance and flirt. I scanned the best images of this travel back in time.
Upper East Side Story
(click on the picture to see more images) White glove-buildings, designer boutiques, Museum Mile and ladies who lunch are some of the images associated with Manhattan’s Upper East Side (UES). This series depicts a microcosm of life on the Upper East Side in New York City widely considered New York City’s most affluent neighborhood. Published in National Geographic Holland/Belgium edition.
(click on the picture to see more images) Indonesia’s Sumatran orangutan is under severe threat from the incessant and ongoing depletion and fragmentation of the rainforest. As palm oil and rubber plantations, logging, road construction, mining, hunting continue to proliferate, orangutans are being forced out of their natural rainforest habitat. Some organizations rescue orangutans in difficulty (lost, injured, captive...) while others like the SOCP (Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme) cares for, rehabilitates and resocializes orangutans at their purpose-built medical facility. These pictures shows them in their daily life in the clinic and quarantine center while saving orangutans lives with the final goal to reintroduce them into the wild and to create genetically viable populations in protected forests. . Published in National Geographic Holland/Belgium edition. The series has been awarded two 1st Prize World Press Photo in 2020 in Nature Stories category and in Nature Single category, and 1st Prize single at POYI in Science and Natural History category.
(click on the picture to see more images) Jeju island, known for its basalt volcanic rock, sits off South Korea. It is the home of the Haenyeo or women of the sea who free dive off the black shores of Jeju harvesting delicacies from the sea. Wearing thin rubber suits and old fashioned goggles, this aging group of women (50 and many are well over 70) are celebrated as a national treasure and inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, but the tradition is slowly fading as fewer women choose this hazardous profession.
(click on the picture to see more images) The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is one of the most isolated and secretive nations ruled by the Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. It is a society based on an extreme cult of personality and a lot of propaganda. September 9, 2018, was the 70th anniversary of the creation of DPRK. Surveilled by two official government guides at all times you are told what to do, what to look at or not and what to photograph and there is no choice but to follow the rules. So remember when you look at the images, as Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter, said: This is not North Korea.
(click on the picture to see more images) In Bangladesh, the brick industry employs men, women (sometimes pregnant) and children to work in brickyards in harsh and dangerous conditions. Wearing no protective gear, they work 12-18 hours breathing air filled with toxic particles to produce bricks. Children aged only 5-6 years, are working like slaves for $1 a day. Children who do not have access to education have little choice but to enter the labor market where they are often exploited and unable to escape the cycle of poverty.
Taekwondo North Korea Style
(click on the picture to see more images) Pyongyang, North Korea. Influenced by a combination of historical events in Korea and Japanese traditions, the modern incarnation of Korea’s national martial art Taekwondo ("way of kick and fist") was created in 1955 by General Choi Hong-hi, born in what is now North Korea. Taekwondo is extremely popular in North Korea. It is taught in every school and is part of the daily sports and health routine of all DPRK citizens. After 50 years of existence, the art of kicks has 60 million practitioners in more than 120 countries and Taekwondo became a medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
(click on the picture to see more images) Techirghiol, is a small Romanian town on the Black Sea famous for its therapeutic mud. The thick black mud (highly-concentrated sediment rich in organic matter) found at the bottom of the lake is particularly effective in the treatment of arthritis, musculoskeletal disorders, skin ailments and detoxification, and beneficial for overall well-being. Residents of the region have been coming here their whole lives.
(click on the picture to see more images) Indonesia, Sumbawa Island. Once a game between neighbors to celebrate a good harvest, horse racing in Sumbawa was transformed into a spectator sport by the Dutch in the 20th century to entertain officials and nobility. The unique features of Sumbawa racing, are the notoriously small horses and the fearless child jockeys, aged 5-10, who mount bareback, barefoot and with little protective gear. Today, Maen Jaran takes place during every important festival and holiday throughout the year at racetracks across the island and remains a favorite pastime Sumbawans. The series has been awarded 1st prize at World Press Photo 2018 in the Sports Stories category.
(click on the picture to see more images) The Val Saint Lambert Crystal Works established in 1826 remains the crowning jewel of Belgian heritage. Master craftsmen and crystal among the clearest in the world have brought renowned international acclaim to the glassworks company from the industrial region of Liège that employed up to 5 000 workers by 1900. For centuries, goods primarily moved from East to West along the Silk and Spice routes. By the 19th century, Maharajahs, Nizams, Nawabs, and other members of Indian aristocracy with a taste for opulence, were turning to Europe to procure the most lavish items their disposable incomes could buy. Belgium's Val Saint Lambert, eager to export its savoir-faire, answered the call with panache offering made-to-order crystal chandeliers and other objects which soon adorned palaces, homes, mosques, synagogues and shrines throughout India. This is the exclusive, untold story of a year-long journey in search of VSL crystal across India. Published in National Geographic Holland/Belgium edition.
Living for Death
(click on the picture to see more images) In Toraja, Indonesia, the rituals associated with death are complex and expensive. Therefore, when a person dies, it can take weeks, months even years for the family to organize the funeral. In the region of Pangala, the Ma' Nene, or cleaning of the corpses, ceremony takes place after the rice harvest. Coffins are removed from their burial sites and opened. The mummies are cleaned, dried in the sun and given a change of clothes. Expressions of sadness are mixed with the overall happy atmosphere surrounding these moments of bonding with loved ones and honoring ancestors.
(click on the picture to see more images) Kushti is the traditional form of Indian wrestling. Practiced in an Akhara, the wrestlers, under the supervision of a guru, dedicate their bodies and minds to Kushti on average for 6 to 36 months. It is a way of life and a spartan existence that requires rigorous discipline. Experienced wrestlers set the example and transmit their skills in the pit and in the community to the younger boys (7-8 years old) and new recruits, whereby promoting camaraderie, solidarity and fraternity. Published in National Geographic Traveler France.
Who will save the Rohingyas?
(click on the picture to see more images) The Rohingya Muslim minority of Myanmar, who are subjected to discrimination and human rights violations and have been stripped of all rights including citizenship, are now living in IDP or internally displaced person camps. In June 2012, a cortege led by radical Buddhist monks, civilians and police slaughtered people, burned down homes and mosques and displaced 140,000 Rohingyas forcing them into camps on the outskirts of the city. Now more than 600,000 have fled to Bangladesh. While the country's historic turn towards democracy should be encouraging, the plight of the Rohingya people is far from over and on the ground the prospects for this traumatized minority look rather grim.
(click on the picture to see more images) India. Dreamland. India, people sleeping, day and night, alone or in groups, are an integral part of the Indian landscape, in what we would consider rather unusual places, they find it perfectly normal to curl up in the middle of an intersection, on a stone by a temple, or on a cart.
(click on the picture to see more images) India, Hyderabad. The Day of Ashura is on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks, for Shia Muslims, the climax of the remembrance of the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala (now in Iraq) on 10 th of Muharram in the year 680 CE or AD. The massacre of Husayn with a small group of his companions and family members has ever been remembered with sorrow and passion by Shia Muslims. The Sheikh of the mosque retells the story of the Battle of Karbala to allow the listeners to relive the pain and sorrow endured by Husayn and his family. Participants congregate in public processions for ceremonial chest beating. Certain traditional flagellation rituals use a sword. Other rituals involve the use of a chain with blades. These religious customs show solidarity with Husayn and his family. Through them, people mourn Husayn's death and regret the fact that they were not present at the battle to fight and save Husayn and his family. Some Shias also believe that taking part in Ashura washes away their sins.
(click on the picture to see more images) India. In Jodhpur, Rajasthan, for 3 days the ceremonies of the royal wedding between Param Vijay and Kumari Kamakshi are followed by hundreds of guests of Indian nobility and aristocracy under the patronage of His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Mawar-Jodhpur. Punctuated by sumptuous banquets at lunch and dinner, the crescendo is the Nikasi, ceremony whereby the groom, accompanied by the Baraat, a male-only procession led by drummers and musicians, crosses the city on horseback (elephant in the past) to the wedding venue where his bride awaits. The nuptials begin at midnight and at the precise predetermined, auspicious time, a Brahmin priest presides over a series of rituals to consummate the marriage. Finally, on the third day, the bride removes her veil and the couple receive their guests.
(click on the picture to see more images) Tierra Santa theme park in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the Holy Week of Easter, reenactment of the life and death of Jesus-Christ, the path of the cross
(click on the picture to see more images) L’Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse in Belgium is an historical region that lies in between the Sambre and the Meuse rivers. Separating Germany and France, two fiercely combative nations, the area endured incessant, often devastating passages for centuries. Over time, the locals acquired a taste for the sumptuous uniforms and the pomp and circumstance surrounding the processions that traversed the villages and countryside carrying the relics of saints preserved with great devotion. These processions have existed in the region of l’Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse for centuries. Today’s processions and marches are the continuation of ancestral practices. They owe their enduring popularity not only to faith and historic imitation, but also to the magnificent landscapes of this isolated region where customs and traditions have remained unchanged for centuries. Published in a book : "Procession de Foi", Editions Reporters.
(click on the picture to see more images) Belgium, Walloon Region, Hainaut province, the town of Binche, the Carnival of Binche whose first written records date back to 1394 is recognized as a masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2003. The Carnival of Binche culminates on Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, with the only official, codified outing of the some 1000 Gilles of Binche from thirteen companies following a strict code of dress and tradition.. Published in a book : "Le carnaval de Binche vu par 20 photographes", Editions Reporters.
(click on the picture to see more images) India, Agra, on the Ganges River only a few meters away from the Taj Mahal, one of the most visited monument by foreign tourists, a baby, recently deceased, is thrown into the Ganges by family members. While traditional Hindu funerary rituals call for cremation, babies, children, deaths from serpent bites and ascetics are often buried.
(click on the picture to see more images) Brussels the capital of Europe, is a melting pot of languages and cultures with a constant flow of immigration. Today 30% of the population of Brussels is foreign. This largely mixed character that shapes Brussels identity makes it a unique place open to the world and help people embrace this mosaic of cultures, traditions, languages and beliefs that characterize Europe today.. Published in National Geographic Holland/Belgium edition.