Photographers' Blog

No Man Is An Island

By Cathal McNaughton

For almost 20 years Barry Edgar Pilcher has lived alone on the island of Inishfree.

He is the sole permanent inhabitant of the tiny windswept island off the coast of Co Donegal in Ireland where he writes poetry and plays music. Once a week – weather permitting – Barry, 69, makes the 15 minute boat journey to Burtonport, where he does his weekly shopping in a petrol station. He posts letters and picks up the modest provisions he will need for the week and then it’s back to his ramshackle cottage where he lives and works in a single room.

Without basic sanitation, running water or a telephone and with a leaky roof and problems with dampness, Barry’s cottage is without any modern comforts. He has a peat-burning stove to provide warmth but he has to be frugal as any fuel has to be carried back from the mainland.

Barry spends his days corresponding by mail with other artists across the world – he is part of a mail art group whose members send each other drawings and pictures in the post. When the weather is warm he likes to ramble around the beautiful island playing his music – when I visit it’s a mild spring day and he takes me on a tour, stopping to play his saxophone on the beach. He tells me he takes inspiration from nature:  “I’m playing a symphony to the shells today,” he says. His music is amazing and I am privileged to be at this exclusive concert for one.

Originally from south London, Barry moved to Inishfree in 1993 to ‘get away from the rat race.’ He bought this cottage from a member of a cult-like pagan group known locally as The Screamers, who had made Inishfree their base for several years. In his garden there is a stone circle left behind by the group who he tells me worshipped outdoors, screaming to release energy.

Privileged witness to the start of life

By Vivek Prakash

It’s an experience I will never forget. I have no children of my own, but when the day does come, maybe I’ll be just a little bit more prepared for it.

I had come a long, long way from my usual cosmopolitan stomping ground of Mumbai, to a place just about as far interior as you can go in India. I was about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Rajasthan border in the state of Madhya Pradesh, in a village of about 700 people. This is very, very small by Indian standards. There were dusty roads that a car could barely fit down, mud houses, a scorching heat during the day which turned to a deep chill at night.

I had many ideas in my head and many questions too – what kind of emotions was I going to experience and witness? Should I be excited, or should I feel like an intruder, given the subject matter I was here to shoot? I had come a long way to shoot this, but now, standing in this little rural community health center with my camera, I felt conflicted.

Passing seven billion

By Jorge Silva

It was during my eternal search for unique moments to capture that I was witness to the most spectacular and magical event – the arrival of a new life.

The United Nations announced the pending birth of the planet’s inhabitant number 7,000,000 for October 31, and that gave me the chance to work on a series of photos that became the most emotional and satisfying of my career.

The moment a baby is born is doubtless one of the most intimate and special in the life of a woman and her family, and sharing that intimacy as a privileged observer was sensational. To live that experience without having become a father yet was even more moving.

Jugderdem’s backyard

By Carlos Barria

Two-year-old Jugderdem Myagmarsuren opens the door of his tent to play with his plastic scooter in the backyard. He is accompanied by sheep and cows. This is not an ordinary backyard. It’s the Mongolian steppe, and his closest friends might live more than two kms (1.2 miles) away.

While the world’s population reached 7 billion on October 31st, 2011, Mongolia remains the least densely populated country on the planet, with 2.7 million people spread across an area three times the size of France. Two-fifths of Mongolians live in rural areas spread over wind swept steppes.

According to the National Population Center census of 2010, Mongolia’s population density increased by only 0.2 percentage points– to 1.7 persons per square kilometer—from the last census in 2000.

A village of eternal bachelors

By Vivek Prakash

With the world’s population set to hit 7 billion on October 31, photographers in India have been on the move to tell stories that talk about what those numbers really mean in a country as large as India – with 1.2 billion people and counting, this is supposed to be the world’s largest democracy.

When you take a closer look at the statistics, you find some surprising and scary figures – the ratio of female children to males born actually declined here over the last 10 years – from 933 females for every thousand males in the 2001 census, to just 914 in 2011. The combination of cheap portable ultrasound technology and a decades-old preference for male babies — who are seen as breadwinners — has enabled sex-selective abortions and made worse female infanticide. In a place as wide and as vast as India, these are things that are hard to control, no matter how illegal.

We had been trying to find ways to illustrate this for some time without much success – getting access to tell this story had been taking some time. Late last month, a story about a small village in Gujarat was brought to my attention.

Labor pains and flashbacks

It was a hot and humid Wednesday morning when I finally received much sought after permission to document childbirth at the government-run Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital.

I suited up with excitement. I put on a hospital gown together with a mask and cap that I bought inside the hospital. I entered a two-door room filled with doctors and nurses. I walked around and found the labor room on the left side. It had six beds but all were occupied. There was a patient on the first bed who was uneasy, fear flashed in her eyes. Medical staff stood next to the bed to counsel her. Next to her was a doctor conducting an internal exam on a mother, I could see her pain while waiting to be fully dilated. In no time they transferred her into the delivery room.

I couldn’t help but notice the pain in every contraction as the mothers lay in bed. They were dressed in white dusters and their body shifted from one side to another. As moans echoed from every corner, a familiar feeling flashed back; my first birthing experience two years ago. I could somehow feel again what they were going through, the only difference was I was able to watch and capture the pain this time with my cameras.