Sri Lanka, ‘The Wonder of Asia’ is well known for its tropical climate, beautiful landscapes and rich culture. Less well know is the bloody civil war that ravaged for decades due to ethnic tensions between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Despite it’s huge tourist appeal, there is a very dark side to this paradise.
Contrasting to the south, the North has many war damaged buildings and a heavy military presence. Even though war ended in 2009 and the government evicted NGO’s, those I met didn’t speak of the recovery one might expect to find from a place no longer receiving assistance. People were terrified to speak for dread of repercussions they had faced and witnessed.
Civilians are the worst affected. Those pictured in this series did not join forces and bear arms; they ran from their homes, leaving death and anything they couldn’t carry behind. Many I spoke to were displaced during the war and still live within resettlement camps, their existence the government denies. Men of my age were born in these camps and have spent their entire lives there.
It was hard to ascertain where the boundaries from bombing and shelling were, or if they even existed at all.
Compared to the number of those who need help the charities cannot cope, designing, building and manufacturing their own prosthetics. Patients cannot pay and the government provides just £1.50 for every disabled patient who is under the poverty line of £30 a month. Limbs need to be changed annually and more frequently for children. The need for prosthetics is on going and the demand is not decreasing.
Both physical and mental injuries have left civilians disabled. One young girl had witnessed a father and daughter blown apart on the beach in front of her during a shell attack, she was suffering from undiagnosed post traumatic stress, could not speak and had not left her home for twelve years. When I entered the room she screamed in terror.
Men, women and children have been caught in the crossfire of this conflict. Missing limbs, eyes, the ability to provide for their families and most profoundly a reassurance that their lives will improve. After intimidation and arrest by the military police for “investigating the war crimes” I had to leave the country. The war has ended but the pain and fear of those left behind is still very real.
When Harry Met Darren
Heroin has been an obsession of mine since I was old enough to understand my brother was a user. The drug has an overwhelming power to destroy and leave people devoid of dignity. The concept of family, relationships and health seems to vanish.
This photo essay documents the lives of two men called Darren. Both men come from different backgrounds with completely separate upbringings but they share the same name and the same addiction.
Both Darren’s held me witness to the risks and thrills, the lies, the brutal truth, the highs the lows, the tenner’s the fivers and everything in between.
There is an old Hindu proverb that says 'you are not a man untill you father dies.'
Beginning to photograph, I felt myself in a state of acceptance towards cancer.
My mission was to make a project that mattered, that could be shared, and truly, one for my Dad. The images did not reflect the tears and the anger that were still keeping the family in a state of limbo. No scans, no masks, and no shocking insinuations of imminent death.
As I researched prostate cancer with the rest of my family, I realised the commonality among sufferers to live for five years or more after being diagnosed. At that moment the true story became about one man living with the knowledge that his life was coming to an end.
Religion can become an important crutch for humans in times of suffering – this is a strong part of my Dads life now. He is becoming a teacher of Buddhism and has a wholehearted, devote belief in something bigger than us, and him. He is not scared of death, and I have had to come to understand this and never to question someone’s faith.
The hope for a cure, or a state of complete acceptance was probably most relevant to my mum, as it was and has been the reason she continues. Her sheer disbelief and refusal to accept the cancer has meant we have all been digging for dandelion roots in untreated fields for the second year now, with no more detectable spreading of cells since. Again I have been constantly reminded to never, ever question someone’s faith.
Putting the pieces together has helped me to understand the changing trials of coping that my dad has undergone. As we have spoken and conversed, visiting where he grew up and the changes during his lifetime, we have often touched upon the same topics. It is only upon listening again that you can see how his feelings of acceptance, sadness and anger manifest in his words.
Finding out my father was dying, just as I reached the age of a man at 21 has been the most painful experience of my life, yet there is so much more to come. It has been too hard to look to the future right now, using my camera as a tool has enabled me to look deeper at the present. It has forced me to stop and realise where I will miss seeing him, hearing his whistles, his laugh and feeling the pat on the back as he walks through the room...