I was surprised to see information about an attempted Ecuadorian coup making headlines today.

I was only back from Ecuador two months ago. Photos from this journey are still to be shared , stories yet to be told. The memories are still very fresh.

I remember endless discussions with Ecuadorians about the government of Raphael Correa. Despite its populism and leftist tendencies, in the country (and continent) where political stability is a fragile concept, most saw Correa as an acceptable, long term compromise.

I would like to share an image from a change of guards – a ceremony that takes place every Monday on the main square in Colonial Quito. This tradition is marked by the strong presence of military and looks rather pompous. Correa was there on the day addressing crowds from the balcony of the Presidential Palace.


We travelled to meet Riki in a small town near Osaka in March 2009. Riki, a nephew of our good Japanese friend, turned 18 at the time and had just joined heya – a sumo stable.

Heyas are normally not open to outside visitors so this visit became for us a rare opportunity to get a glimpse into lives of Japanese rikishis – sumo wrestlers.

We expected to see a large, modern training facility and were struck by how small the building was: a mere two storey shed, 10m x 30m wide, built of chipboard panels and corrugated iron. At the ground level was an open space with the training ring, kitchen and tatami mats used for gatherings and for eating. The top floor was occupied by a dormitory. Outside we saw a portable toilet and a tiny shed that served as an office and the boss’s bedroom… and that was it, a true hermit’s nest that accommodated a group of 15 large, young men, who lived and worked there every day.

Life for sumo wrestlers is subject to strictly regimented schedule: rise early, train, cook, eat, sleep, serve, cook, eat & sleep… They form a closely knit, self sufficient family, where the hierarchy defines a social order and govern daily activities. Few holidays, no privacy, no free time, meagre salary and limited contact with the outside world are all compensated for by being part of intimate community and a 1500 years old ritual that is more than just a sporting discipline. It is a philosophy and a way of living that is, despite all modern controversies, venerated all over Japan. But it is also a difficult choice entailing daily sacrifices, emotional battle and self denial.

Riki has become a first ever rikishi from his hometown, a small enclave near Tokyo. He has contemplated joining the police force until the day he was spotted by a sumo patron and invited to join fellow ranks. Several weeks and family reunions later Riki signed a complex contract emphasising duties of a rikishi. He made a serious commitment and took the first step towards a transformation of an overweight, shy teenager who never quite fitted in, into a local hero who stands to gain wide respect.

Fast forward to 2010 and Riki has participated in national tournaments, has won and lost, gained more body weight, his curly hair has finally grown long enough to be tied in the traditional topknot style. We recall an episode during which he briefly escaped home when the pressure of adulthood and tradition too heavy a weight to bear. The story that follows is the one of a return and further silent struggle towards perfection.

We were hoping to visit Riki every now and then to follow his courageous journey. In June 2010 a message came from Japan. Unfortunately, Riki suffered an injury during his training session and remained for several weeks in hospital. He has since recovered but is still uncertain about his return to sumo.

Ganbatte Riki! We hope to see you again in good health and high spirits!


This is a portrait of Istanbul taken in October 2008.

The city is defined as much by water as it is by its urban tissue. The sea rolls in the most dramatic clouds; you can smell its aroma and feel its breeze at every corner.

Our images seem to be “drawn” with a sharp pen in steel blue ink. Somehow these photographs confirm our own sense of the place – the way we saw it for the first time and the way we want it to stay with us until the next encounter.


Whenever we think of our favourite photographs, the images from India always come to mind. We love particularly the ones we chose for the series ‘Parallel Stories’. Two of the images really are special amongst the selection. Taken in Rajasthan, these two spontaneous portraits embody the deep beauty of the Indian people.

He spends his days amongst palaces; she is a local teacher in a small, rural hamlet. They’ve probably never met each other. Our paths crossed by chance. There was no time for studied portraits. Just a fast click of the camera and we had to move on. We had no idea that these two images would become so treasured.

The King and Queen of India.


India. Travelling to India was on our minds for awhile. Perhaps since the time we became close, so somewhere during summer of 2002. I remember my surprise when I first learned that Les was born in Madras, his family having decided to relocate to Australia when he was five years old and that neither he nor his parents and siblings returned thereafter.

What would his life have been had he stayed? We weave myriad threads, scribble many drafts but live only one scenario. And, often, even in moments of fulfilment, we can be filled with sadness for not being able to pursue alternatives. This trip seemed like a promise of parallel, if not alternative, stories.

When we started to discuss it, it turned out that the idea of rediscovering India was at the back of Les’s mind. He knew he would make this yatra one day for himself and for his parents. The thought was maturing at its own pace, waiting for the right time and, perhaps, for my enthusiasm and encouragement. We had various professional commitments for many years and this meant not being able to travel often. And so we waited. Finally, in September 2008 we could take a break and go anywhere we wanted for almost as long as we wanted. There were other brief ideas and tempting destinations but none of them meant more to us than India. And so we set off with open minds and certain expectations.

In the preceding months I had read countless books by contemporary Indian authors the likes of Mistry, Kunzru, Dasgupta, Adiga, Roy, Desai, Rushdie, Seth and other fellow travellers. They filled me deep inside with fiction far from any idealistic notions, gave me a sense of place and built anticipation. I wanted to believe that I was emotionally ready. And yet, it turned out that first day in Mumbai, I was wrong. India held an enormous capacity to surprise and contrast. Layering of impressions went on and on for five weeks: from kindness to anger, from being touched to sheer ignorance, from plain admiration of all things visual to repulsion, from enthusiasm to tiredness… Yet I was still grateful to my books for awakening a special kind of sensitivity which made me notice people rather than the nation. In a country so vast and overpopulous like India, it is too easy to be overwhelmed by masses and forget individuals, reduce complexity to a set of clichés and too hastily put things into frames. We were blessed to experience brief encounters with humans who were at the same time courageous & desperate, enduring & frail and always amazingly beautiful. Not surprisingly, human stories from this journey are amongst my favourite images.

It is puzzling how this trip differs from all the others we have ever taken. It did not finish when we boarded the plane to fly back. It buds inside us and something changes slowly. Now, when we relive our photographs once again, we think that one day we may return.

 D  O  R  O  T  A

Journey, procession, pilgrimage. These words broadly, clumsily define a ‘Yatra’. More insightful though is the explanatory use of the word in texts from where Yatra draws its origins:

Whenever a person experiences, by self-realisation, that both the gross and the subtle bodies have nothing to do with the pure self, at that time he sees himself…(Vedas SB 1.3.33).

And so, we journeyed, Dorota and I, to India, the land of my birth and that of two generations before me. A Yatra of sorts, we disengaged our minds from the gross and subtle bodies of a comfortable life built up by my parents in Australia over a period of more than thirty years. We went in search of places, those important, physical places so undeniably formative in my parents and grandparents being, so intertwined with every breath and with every thought of theirs. We were looking for identity, for their pure selves in the faint hope of one day more clearly seeing ourselves.

Will you never perceive what you are, or for what you were born, or for what purpose you are admitted to behold this spectacle? (Epictetus).

My late childhood years and beyond may well have been framed in a suburban Australian context, but India and its myriad complexities, the manifestations of its culture, the very way of life was ever present each day. This was the soul of my upbringing and that of my siblings. This was the soul of my immigrant parents, their brothers and sisters – their generation – as well as that of my grandparents; a soul which was subconsciously tempered, tethered as each year passed in our new home, an increasingly surrendered but inextinguishable soul.

It is not for show that our soul must enact its part; it is at home, within us, where no eyes penetrate but our own. (Michel Montaigne).

Our five week Yatra had a higher, more personal, almost untouchable purpose for ourselves, but we knew that finding the pure self, the soul of previous generations in India would involve all the crudity and imprecision of merely experiencing, observing, smelling, listening, tasting and so on of the daily chaos that is life in India. No doubt, we would accumulate anecdotes as surely as the sun would rise, but we could never be privy to the insights, the footnotes, to two generations – seventy years – of memory amassed by other hearts and minds.

The only physical remains of our pilgrimage would be a series of images captured on camera; stilled images each representing mere fractions of a second but possessive of the ability for bridges to be made across what must surely seem an ocean of time for the two generations before me, images that would rekindle memory, evoke emotions and ensure the calmed, continued journey of familial soul.

May such calm of soul be mine, so as to meet the force of circumstances. (Aeschylus).

L  E  S

SHOW HIDE 5 comments


Just a few images of places that we travelled to in India in 2008: busy cityscapes and vast, open spaces, from Cochin to Darjeeling.


We landed in Siem Reap on Christmas day in 2007. The fact that it was Christmas did not matter much in this Buddhist country and we welcomed the absence of the commercial reality of Western festivities. The timing was ideal: after the mid year rainy season and just before the hot, dry spells that settle in the area in March.

It is hard for many visitors to look at Cambodia without acknowledging its tragic, tumultuous past but we tried to take Siem Reap for what it was at this point in time: a city in transition with a sense of change filling the space and transforming landscapes daily.

Some journeys are best enjoyed post factum. In other places you feel immediately at ease. Cambodia was for us the latter: warm, gentle and open. The light was filtered through the brown-orange dust and suave. If this sounds too idyllic, it definitely was not. The poverty was at times confronting but more often seemed simply like a way of living back to basics and never bordered desperation. People had timid smiles on their faces. Those whom we met more closely worked hard, owned little, at times complained of corruption, often battled serious health problems but were strangely content.

We had a strong sense of belonging in Cambodia from the very beginning.

B L O G   D E T A I L S