behind the page vi :: mud is thicker than water

I’m currently travelling in Bangladesh, so here’s a ‘behind the page’ from an earlier visit.

This is from 1994, and I was travelling for Tearfund with my uberboss Stephen, a most excellent travelling companion.

The purpose of the trip was to visit local producers making clay nativity sets for Tearfund’s ‘Traidcraft’ fair-trade arm.  We travelled down-river from Dhaka through the night and stepped down a gang-plank into the mud in total darkness, followed by a precarious 20-minute pedal rickshaw ride along the dikes separating rice fields before sharing a bed in our hosts front room. It was one of those slightly strange days you can get when you’re travelling, when no-one quite knows why you’re there, or what’s happening next, and we seemed to spend large parts of the day just waiting for something to happen. However, we did finally get taken to the place the clay comes from, just another of the thousands of little creeks that make up much of  Bangladesh’s river banks, and the men digging and carrying the clay up from the river made this photo:


Nativity Clay :: copyright Tearfund

I love their total physical immersion in their work, the texture of muscle and clay, and the effort that’s so clearly shown. The picture made a double-page opening spread in Tear Times, and contrasted very nicely with the very pristine pack shot of the nativity set itself which ran in a corner of the page. It helped to tie in the real link between the things we buy and where they come from.

This is my only scan of the image, from a very scratched tranny, that I think was damaged when it went to repro for the magazine. Something I so don’t miss about film… And all that cost of drum scanning. At least now, if the client loses/corrupts your image, there’s a pretty decent chance (if you’ve got a good back up regime anyway), that you’ll be able to get it back out to them.

Tied together with this picture is another clay Bangladesh shot, which was taken a couple of years later, again for Tearcraft.  It’s a lot gentler, but still contains that tactile sense of the material:


Hands of clay :: copyright Tearfund

There’s a lovely delicacy about this. It also ran as an opening spread in Tear Times.