Tuesday, September 17

To Serve A Nation update

To Serve a Nation photofilm is on a bit of a tour in Laos at the moment thanks to Tessa Bunney. She went back to Phonsavan to share the film with the women we worked with and other members of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and will be giving a talk in Vientiane on 17th September. 
It's such a brilliant feeling to show photofilms to the people who have given so much to make these stories possible and I'm really happy Tessa was able to go to do this - I wish I could have been there too!

Thursday, September 12

The women of UCT6

After leaving Lao last November I faced a new set of challenges when putting together the material Tessa and I had recorded. It was the first time I had worked in a language other than my own and this was a steep learning curve. But after many weeks of wrestling with story lines, final cut pro, translations and different time zones the film was finally finished. 
To Serve A Nation explores the lives of UCT6, an all female UXO clearance team working for The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) in Lao PDR, the most bombed country, per capita, in the world. The full article with Tessa Bunney's images and text, including extracts from my interviews was published in the Financial Times Weekend magazine. You can see a copy of the article here and the film online on the Financial Times website here.
It was a pleasure to work with someone as established as Tessa and to be play a small part in wider work in Lao. It was also a proud moment for me to see our work and the stories of the women published in a context where so many people could access it. 

To Serva A Nation from rebecca harley on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 22

Crawling inside the mouth of a laughing Buddha and feeling the love

I do love a big Bhuddha.
Goodbye lovely Lao PDR and thank you Tessa Bunney for believing in me and for taking me on part of your journey. 

Monday, November 19

Along the Mekong River

After an intense 10 days in Xieng Khouang Province in the North East of Lao PDR where I have been working with Tessa Bunney documenting the effects of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), we have returned safely to Vientiane.  We've spent a lot of time interviewing, photographing, listening, eating, crying, laughing and drinking a little bit of Beer Lao. It's been an experience and I'm incredibly happy to have been asked by Tessa to accompany her on this assignment and to be part of her story.

We arrived back in the capital Vientiane after a dusty hot journey through mountainous landscape, relieved to be able to bring back the stories we collected and to walk on safer ground. From the people we met along the way and from our outstanding translator Long, I now have a much greater understanding about one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world. I'm leaving here in a day to go back to the UK to work with the material we have gathered and to put it all together, which will be a challenge - albeit a good one.

So today I decided to borrow Tessa's bike and head out for a cycle along the Mekong River. As I biked along I felt extremely happy to have had the opportunity to visit this country and meet some of the people who live here. It's hot and there wasn't much breeze, but I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and freedom to be riding it down the dusty track with the river on my left and Thailand on the opposite bank. My friend Jamie is right, it's so brilliant to call out "Sabaidee" (Hello) to everyone you see and hear them call back "Sabaidee" - and then you both start laughing. It just makes you smile, it's such a beautiful singsong word.

So my challenge to myself is to wake up when I am back in cold and frosty England and say to myself Sabaideeeeeeeee! - surely this will keep me smiling through the Winter. 

Thursday, November 8

Summer of love #1

This summer three couples got married. I was Maid of Honour at my beautiful sister Amanda's wedding, a guest with official portrait and pink pasta making duties at Oli Scarff's wedding (Getty Images man about town), and hired as the professional wedding photographer at another. 

These weddings reminded me of all the love that really is out there and the importance of friends and family. That it is indeed worth trekking up to the top of a hill for a Wuthering Heights type of picture, and it is a very odd decision to make beetroot pasta from scratch on the morning of the wedding as my chosen dish to bring with me. Especially since half an hour earlier I had found myself in my pyjama's, locked outside my accommodation, with my camera gear and dress inside  - having to then scale a 'borrowed' ladder to get back in the bathroom window and try to get myself together. A seriously Bridget Jones moment.

Oli and Moira 
Amanda and James, copyright Mike Lusmore
Elanor and Richard

Saturday, October 20

Looking back and moving forward

I've been in a bit of hibernation this summer and I've had a break in doing any blogging so this post comes some time after our last workshop. 

So, Brenda Ann Kenneally came to stay at the yurts. Brenda + a yurt + the cold + Rufus and a load of photographers staying on a farm for a week. It was inspiring, stressful, tiring, but ultimately as always a fantastic experience. Brenda was a bright spark at a difficult time and I hope I know her for a very long time to come.

We also met some other very nice photographers who made it all the way down to Devon, including David Hurn from Magnum, Matt Cardy from Getty and Jocelyn Bain Hogg from VII. David Hurn had the best end to a talk I have ever heard, was extremely cool AND I got a cuddle from him.

Lessons have been learnt from organising The Hinterlands over the past two years. We've made mistakes, had fun, learnt a lot, grown up a bit and became a team when it mattered most - despite our difficulties and differences.

Thanks to everyone who came to the Hinterlands this summer and supported the workshops online and in person, making each week a unique experience.

Old Cob Wall by C.Fox Smith

I popped in to see John Tizehurst the other day (he plays the accordion in my photofilm Memories of a house). I wanted to show him the pictures of him lighting the Jubilee Beacon from back in June. He's not been so well lately and I thought they might cheer him up. We had a lovely chat about this and that and as I was leaving he gave me a copy of this poem. Spoken in the old Devon way it sounds really lovely.

Old cob wall
    Have fell at last:
Us knowed he might
    A good while past.

Great-grandad he
   Built thicky wall
With maiden earth
   And oaten strawl

He built en in
   The good old way.
And there he've stood
   Until today

But wind and rain
   And frost and snow
Have all combined
   To lay en low.

Us propped en up
   With stones and 'ood
Us done our best,
  But tweren't no good.

He gived a bit
  And then a lot,
And at the finish
  Down he squat.

And now, since barns
  Has got to be,
Us'll build another
'Stead of he.

But not the same
  He was afore,
'Cos no one builds
  Cob walls no more.