Posts Tagged ‘goats’

The type of things I like to look at

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

December 16 was Victory Day in Bangladesh, which is a pretty huge deal. It celebrates the same day in 1971 on which the Pakistani army surrendered, finally granting Bangladesh their hard fought independence. AUW students put on a huge parade around our neighborhood, but I’m leaving photos of that to another post. After the parade, I spent some time with my camera meandering around the neighborhood. I didn’t think it possible, but I was actually even more popular with Bangladeshis that day than usual, due no doubt to my Bengali face paint that one of the students had been nice enough to do for me in the morning.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)

Photo taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on December 16, 2009.

There wasn’t anything especially spectacular going on outside, but (as is always the case in Bangladesh) there was plenty to see, begging to be made into images. I suppose the title of this post could serve as a (rather lame) subtitle for my entire blog… I’ve just noticed that while I was in South Asia, I predominantly took a large number of just a few types of photos, and I think the sampling in this post is a rather representative slice. I like Bangladeshi men who quietly revel in giving the camera solid inexpressive faces, and I like kids who ask for pictures and then carry on the tradition by imitating those men. I like people at work. I like dogs, and shadows, and I love splashes of bright color.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Dec 16, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on December 16, 2009.

Sacrifice

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Before I write or show anything more from Eid al-Adha, otherwise known as the “Festival of Sacrifice”, I want to give a strong (fair third) warning that this post will most certainly contain a good deal of violent imagery that I could easily imagine disturbing some people. If you’d like a lighter version of the holiday, you can check out either of the two previous posts about our early morning exploration of the neighborhood and the adorned animals when they were still alive.

I think I should start with a simple account of how things unfolded as the morning progressed. Around 9:00 AM there started to be a lot of activity around the local mosque as men rushed to attend a special prayer. Once that ended it seemed that the sacrifices could begin. Denise, Catie, and I were on the outskirts of the neighborhood at that point and as we turned onto a shady road we could see a hundred feet away or so a group of men tying up a cow and laying it down on its side. We were going to stay there and watch but I asked if we could move because the light wasn’t very good on that street.

So we walked back to one of the main roads where we had seen a lot of animals earlier that morning, and, simply enough, those animals were indeed steadily falling victim to their day’s fate. We walked down the street to watch the closest one which had actually just begun. The men there were tying and bringing down a cow just as we had seen from afar a few minutes earlier. The process was a lot more dramatic up close, as they’d basically bind the cow’s legs while it was standing upright and then tip the cow over onto its side. The thud of giant cow on concrete was loud and already a bit unsettling, but we didn’t have much time to think about that as a minute later the men were holding the cow steady and exposing its neck as another man in special dress approached with a very long sword.

The weight and intensity of the moment that followed deserves a poem, or probably several poems, and to give anything less certainly feels cheap. But I am not a talented (or at least not dedicated) enough writer to do such things right, so I’m left with simple recount. Said plainly, the man bent over the cow, lowered the long sword and cut right into the animal’s neck, and immediately a great deal of blood began to rush out. (The jugular is cut in this process, and as a result the animal is supposed to lose consciousness almost immediately and feel very little pain as it dies.)

You may wonder how close we actually were while this was happening, and I can’t think of a better way to answer that question than to say that at one point when blood spurted out across the concrete towards us (a little too near our feet for comfort), we jumped back in alarm, only to quickly spin around and realize that we had almost backed into a pool of blood that was rapidly forming from another sacrifice that had begun on the other side of the street. I think it was around that point when Denise and Catie started to feel claustrophobic and the need to retreat. They went farther back towards the entrance to the street where they could keep as much distance between themselves and the closest sacrifice as they liked. I was rather overwhelmed myself but I at least had the shielding filter of my camera (which was particularly effective as I had set it to display images on the LCD screen in black and white).

Denise and Catie ended up heading back to the apartment soon after, and I spent the rest of the morning (another couple hours) wandering the streets on my own, watching the various stages of killing and skinning the animals and then separating the meat from the carcass. All the men I met were quite pleased to see me and talk a while, and they seemed happy that I had an interest in the holiday and that I wasn’t just horrified by the sacrifice. Nobody had any problem at all with my taking photographs; on the contrary they would encourage me to photograph their cow as it was worked on. (It was a rather affluent neighborhood, and it appeared that most of the men involved in the actual slaughter and butchery of the animals were hired hands for the day, although some resident younger men and even boys helped in the process here and there.) I had a good time talking with everyone and got pretty well acquainted with a few people. One man whose house I spent a particularly long time outside of invited me to come back that night for the feast with his entire extended family. We exchanged numbers and I told him I’d ask “my wife” and try to make it back, but unfortunately the feast was both at 2AM and also naturally to consist of beef from the day’s sacrifice. Catie and I weren’t really feeling up to face either of these factors after the emotionally tiring day, so we declined as graciously as possible. I was touched by the invitation, and it was just another of the countless examples of how nice Bengali people truly are.

The day was trying at times, but I’m glad I went out and experienced the holiday full on, and to be honest it was one of my favorite days in Bangladesh – photographically but also just generally as I had a lot of opportunities to talk with people and have a meaningful exchange, learning a bit about them as well as their culture. (On the note of culture, if you’d like a more sociological perspective on the holiday I strongly urge you to read Catie’s post about the day.)

I wondered at times throughout the morning whether there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t more troubled by what I was witnessing (and photographing with a telephoto lens). I’m not sure why it didn’t get to me really. Maybe it was the distance provided by my camera, or the overpowering fascination by something so drastically foreign to my normal life, or the positive social experience with friendly local people. Or maybe I am just a bit disturbed to start off with. (Oh well.) In any case, I am only somewhat ashamed to say that I am still planning on going to Five Napkin Burger one of my first days back in NYC.

Some of the following images could easily be described as difficult, and I won’t be offended if you have to refrain from viewing them. I will say though that I tried to shoot and select photos that were actually beautiful or interesting, and not ones that were simply the most gratuitous or shocking. I hope at least that (some) people will find (some) value in the images I’ve chosen to show here, whether visual or cultural.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on November 28, 2009.

When the animals were still alive

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

As I mentioned in my previous post, Denise Catie and I headed out early on the morning of Eid al-Adha to admire the many cows, goats, and sheep in all their decorated splendor before the sacrifices began. Once we stumbled into a residential neighborhood we had plenty of opportunity to do just that, and our mission was aided by friendly kids who were more than happy to lead us to all the biggest and most impressive cows.

It was hard to look into the animals’ faces knowing that they were all going to be killed in just a couple of hours time. They amounted to such a great volume of life filling the empty streets, and I couldn’t get over the fact that all that energy, that vital mass, and quite literally that organic material was about to be spilt, drained, and finished. It was a heavy notion to say the least. I’m sure my tendencies of projection and anthropomorphism were on overdrive given the charged circumstances, but at times it felt like you could could see in the animals’ eyes an understanding of why they were there and what was about to happen. One cow in particular certainly appeared to have no misconception about the day’s plans as it stubbornly resisted the efforts of a whole group of men to move it down the street to its final resting place.

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)

Photo taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on November 28, 2009.

Perhaps it was inspired by the texture of the cows’ hides or the striking contrast of their deep dark eyes, and maybe it helped me to emotionally distance myself from my subjects, but for one reason or another I shot mostly in black and white early that morning. As the day went on and the sacrifices began, I continued to shoot and view my images that way (although I had my camera record duplicate copies in color as well). I think it made the day easier for me to handle as it happened. Blood is not nearly as affecting when it appears as a mild shade of gray on an LCD screen, after all. (Consider this your second fair warning of some imminent violent imagery to come…)

Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)
Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 28, 2009)

Photos taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh on November 28, 2009.

Tiger Hill lookout

Friday, November 13th, 2009

The most arduous trek of the weekend was on our second day when we made the steep climb from our resort up to the lookout at Tiger Hill. Denise had the ingenious idea of wearing the same clothes that had gotten so disgusting with sweat from the day before. We all followed suit and were thankful we had, since a fourth of the way to the peak that was our destination I’m pretty sure we were all once again drenched in our own perspiration.

Once we reached the lookout that sits atop Tiger Hill, I had to take a few minutes to catch my breath and drink as much water as I could justify rationing myself right then (considering a good deal more trekking we had planned for the day). The view in all directions was spectacular, but true to my usual form I only took a few photos of it and didn’t really like any of them. I was more interested in the plateau itself: the local people who ran a small shop or two and were making lunch, the goat that wandered about, resting in the shade and eating bits of grass from time to time, the colorful swing that Catie found, and most photographically alluring of all – the men who were working on the foundation for a new structure next to the existing lookout.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 31, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 31, 2009.

Walking around Bandarban

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

On the first day, after our trek through the jungle and the river boat ride, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the large town in Bandarban and on through what I might call the “suburbs” to a Buddhist temple. This was a fun pedestrian journey as the town provided a lot to look at – including people, goods and shops, and general ‘bustle’ – and in the more rural area there were countless children excited to see a white man with a camera, not to mention beautiful green fields and livestock.

One amusing moment occurred when I was photographing a small group of boys on the side of the road. It was clear from their body language that they were gunning for a photograph, and I was happy to comply. When I lifted my camera to my face they got pretty giggly and started goofing around, continuously trying to push one another into the background and make themselves the front-and-center star of the composition.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photo taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

I took a few like that and then I heard a man nearby on their side of the road tell the kids “Hey! Get in a line!”, at which point the boys quickly got their act together and maturely stood in a single row so that everyone could be clearly seen.

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photo taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.

My personal preference would be for the first ‘style’, but I like both photos and in this particular case I actually think the composition worked out better in the orderly line image. The experience though was just another funny installment in the ongoing game of “What do Bangladeshi men want in pictures of kids?”. Clearly the answer this time favors simple unobstructed visibility over spontaneous fun or candid moments. To each his own!

Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)
Bandarban, Bangladesh (Oct 30, 2009)

Photos taken in Bandarban, Bangladesh on October 30, 2009.