Tag: Mekong

My 2017

After a couple of years in which I completely skip it, this year I decided to finally spend some time preparing a selection of some of the most important pieces of work I did during this 2017. Enjoy it!


A glimpse of China

My 2017 started in China (my first time there), precisely in Shanghai, in company of some really good friends.

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Taoist Monks Find New Role as Environmentalists (MULTIMEDIA)

The trip was also the chance to collaborate with the online Chinese publication SixthTone where my friend Denise Hruby works as Head of features. Together we visited the birthplace of Taoism, deep in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, to report on how Taoist monks are quietly trying to become role models for green practices in China.

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Phnom Penh’s infamous “Shit Canal”

In February my friend and colleague Erin Hale asked me to shoot one of the most “celebrated” spot of Phnom Penh (especially among the expat community), the infamous “Shit Canal”.
You can read Erin’s article on CityLab by The Atlantic and watch my video below.

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Cambodian Airports

In February I also had the privilege to work inside the airports of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap shooting for Vinci – the society that manages the 3 Cambodian airports.


BACK TO CHINA

In March I had the chance to travel back to China – in Yunnan this time – to work on 3 different stories again for SixthTone together with Denise Hruby.

China’s Drug Addicts Call for Divine Intervention (MULTIMEDIA)

Drug use is increasing in China, especially on the southern border, where the vast majority of heroin, opium and meth are trafficked from Myanmar. The state’s compulsory rehab centers, however, are run like labor camps, and so addicts in southern Yunnan are now turning to voluntary, faith-based rehab centers.

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Bloodlines and Borderlines: War-Torn Kachin Find Refuge in China

We then travelled to the China-Myanmar border to report on the Kachin refugees who’ve walked across the border into Yunnan, hoping that they’d find some peace and stability.

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On Shaky Ground (MULTIMEDIA)

We finally hiked through the mountains of a remote area of Yunnan for six hours to see how mining has impacted a tiny community.
Over the course of many interviews, they got a picture of how terrified the villagers are that their houses will one day collapse or be swallowed by a landslide – all because a mine has been digging for ever more coal in the mountain they live on.

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Demining in Ratanakiri

In May I travelled to Ratanakiri province in the north Cambodia to document the country’s only all-female demining team together with my colleague and friend Erin Hale. These incredible women are working to remove some of the last remnants of the Vietnam war: millions of unexploded ordnances (UXO).


LAOS

I then moved north entering Laos, where I spent 3 weeks working on different stories.

Phi Pob – Lao spirit exorcism

Together with Erin Hale we witnessed what can be described as a” group spirit exorcism” in the Four Thousand Islands on the banks of the Mekong. All of the participants – over 30 – are accused of hosting the phi pob – a spirit responsible for causing the death of livestock, children, and other rural calamities. They’ve all be exiled from across the country and sent to one part of the Four Thousand Islands to be exorcised. The entire process takes three years and a total of six ceremonies involving the help of local spirit mediums. This event has been going on since at least the 1930s.

The reportage was then published on The Southern China Morning Post Magazine.

May 1st, 2017 – Nakasang (Laos). Villagers prepare their offerings of candles, flowers, and eggs at the biannual spirit ceremony. Animist spirits in Laos can cause illness or other problems if they are not appeased. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
May 1st, 2017 – Nakasang (Laos). The group of phi bob take off running through the pond, where they must cover themselves in mud, before continuing to the banks of the Mekong, where they will swim and bathe. Phoueyxan Kheuang can be seen in the left corner. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

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Anthony Bourdain’s Explore Parts Unknown

After the work in the south of Laos I flew to Luang Prabang where I met my friend and colleague Claire Knox. Together we worked on different travel stories for several magazines and online publications.
Among them we collaborated with the new website for Anthony Bourdain’s Explore Parts Unknown producing two stories about the effects of American UXO (Unexploded Ordnances) on the local population.

We also produced a series of travel stories for The Southeast Asia Globe, Destinasian and SilkWind.

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Rocket Festival

While in Laos I also had the chance to photograph the Boun Bang Fai, or Rocket Festival. It’s a spectacular, wild and raucous three-day Buddhist celebration of music, dancing, fireworks and the competitive firing of elaborate, homemade rockets. Long tubes of bamboo and PVC piping are crammed with charcoal, bat excrement, sulfur and gunpowder before being loaded on to bamboo scaffolding where they are lit up and shoot into the sky. Typically held on the tail end of Laos’ arid, searingly hot dry season (May), the festival’s raison d’etre is to bring the rains so that farmers can begin their rice planting. The biggest is held in Muang Nan, about 70km southwest of Luang Prabang.


It’s drone time!

I started flying drones a little more than 2 years ago. I first owned a DJI Phantom 3 PRO and I’m now very delight with the Mavic Pro. In May I put together a reel with some of my favorite shots I made in Cambodia, China, Italy, California, The Philippines and Laos.


Zica in Dominican Republic

In June I flew to Santo Domingo to document the efforts of USAID and its local partners to eradicate the Zika virus and help the families who were victim of this terrible disease. Unfortunately the videos and pictures I shot are still not publicly available.


Watergrabbing

In July I was busy organizing my first multimedia exhibition called “Mekong – the giant in chains” at the MUSE (Museum of Science) in Trento (Italy). The exhibition included photos and videos shot by my buddy Nicolas Axelrod and myself together with maps, infographics and texts prepared by the team of the Water Grabbing project Emanuele Bompan, Marirosa Iannelli, Federica Frangipane and Riccardo Pravettoni.

Thanks to the team of the Water Grabbing project, some of the pictures from my long-term project about the effects of the construction of dams on the Mekong were published in several international outlets such as: El Pais, Al Jazeera, La Stampa, Die Welt, and exhibited together with the reportage from Fausto Podavini and Gianluca Cecere at The Festival della Fotografia Etica in Lodi (Italy).


Indian Himalaya

In October I helped my friend Marta Kasztelan with her personal project in Tokyo, I shot another multimedia project for USAID in Georgia and then I travelled to Uttarakhand – north east of India – where I spent 10 days trekking and shooting a feature for Travel & Leisure Asia. During the trip we documented the efforts of Village Ways, an organization that works directly with locals to conduct village-to-village walking holidays in the Kumaon region. The pictures will be published in the February’s issue together with an article wrote by my friend Rachna Sachasinh (thanks again for bringing me with you on this adventure).


Back to Cambodia

After India, I travelled back to Cambodia where I’ve been spending the last days of the year and started shooting a super interesting new project that will be published in 2018.

Below a selection of my favorite shots from the last couple of months.

Phnom Penh Water Festival 2016

As the rainy season came to an end and the flow of the Tonle Sap river slowly starts to reverse, Cambodians celebrate the “Bon Om Touk” – the annual water festival.

For three days, thousands of people flocked into the capital Phnom Penh to watch the 259 boats race against each others in front of King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Almost every town and village across Cambodia takes part in the festival, with the biggest and most important competitions held in the waters off the capital’s riverside.

The festival is a very popular Cambodian tradition that can be traced back centuries.

November 12, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People watch the training session of a boat one day before the beginning of the annual water festival. The festival takes place in November along the river side of Phnom Penh and marks a reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 12, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People watch the training session of a boat one day before the beginning of the annual water festival. The festival takes place in November along the river side of Phnom Penh and marks a reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A boat crew moves aboard its racing boat, warming up for the first day of racing of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A boat crew moves aboard its racing boat, warming up for the first day of racing of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A coach encourages his team ahead of the first day of racing of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A coach encourages his team ahead of the first day of racing of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People hang out in front of the Royal Palace, waiting for the fireworks show. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People hang out in front of the Royal Palace, waiting for the fireworks show. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Top officials watch the opening ceremony from the main VIP tent. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Top officials watch the opening ceremony from the main VIP tent. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Balloon sellers on the riverside. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Balloon sellers on the riverside. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni arrives at the opening ceremony of the festival, followed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni arrives at the opening ceremony of the festival, followed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people flocked to the riverside to assist the festival causing traffic congestion around the river side's area. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people flocked to the riverside to assist the festival causing traffic congestion around the river side’s area. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People are gathered in front of the Royal Palace to enjoy a fireworks show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People are gathered in front of the Royal Palace to enjoy a fireworks show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A team of racers has a moment of rest between competitions. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A team of racers has a moment of rest between competitions. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the riverside of Phnom Penh. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 13, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the riverside of Phnom Penh. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People follow the races through the screens of their smartphones. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). People follow the races through the screens of their smartphones. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Racing teams rest beneath the Japanese and Chinese bridges. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Racing teams rest beneath the Japanese and Chinese bridges. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Onlookers watch the racing boats from beneath the Japanese and Chinese bridges. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Onlookers watch the racing boats from beneath the Japanese and Chinese bridges. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of a boat racing team walk towards the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of a boat racing team walk towards the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A boat crew watches the races on a TV installed in one of the camp site used by the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A boat crew watches the races on a TV installed in one of the camp site used by the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A guy massages a friend inside the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 14, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). A guy massages a friend inside the tent camp built by the authorities for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Balloon sellers on the riverside. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Balloon sellers on the riverside. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of a racing team celebrate with dances and beers the end of the competitions. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of a racing team celebrate with dances and beers the end of the competitions. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of the security watch the VIP's main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Members of the security watch the VIP’s main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people watch the beginning of the competitions from the banks of the Tonle Sap. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). View of the VIP's main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). View of the VIP’s main tent, where King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top officials are watching the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people gather on the river banks to enjoy a firework show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Thousands of people gather on the river banks to enjoy a firework show for the closing ceremony of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 - Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Actors wait to start their performance in the backstage of one of the stages installed in the biggest tent camp built for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom
November 15, 2016 – Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Actors wait to start their performance in the backstage of one of the stages installed in the biggest tent camp built for the participants of the festival. © Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom

Khmer Krom – The Nowhere People

First used as spies by the CIA during the Vietnam War and later targeted for elimination by Pol Pot’s genocidal regime, Khmer Krom are still victims of numerous human rights violations today. The ones living in Vietnam are being acculturated by Hanoi´s intimidating policies, while others have been forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands in the Mekong Delta and pushed to Cambodia where they are not recognized as full citizens. With no place on either side of the border, the Khmer Krom have become the “nowhere people.” 

This is their story.

I started this project in July 2012, when I spent a week as a tourist visiting some of the Khmer Krom communities and Pagodas in the Mekong Delta. At that point, my aim was just to discover and understand a bit better their ways of life, as well as to visit some of Vietnam’s most iconic sites.

As my first contact with the Khmer Krom communities, my encounter with the reality of their lives was only brief and did not leave me enough time to properly investigate the matter, especially how the restrictions applied by the Vietnamese Government affect the Khmer Krom’s life itineraries.

Therefore, I am planning to go back to the area with the support of several international organisations and NGOs..

It is, of course, an ongoing project.

[button align=”center” link=”http://www.fotovisura.com/user/thomascristofoletti/view/khmer-krom-the-nowhere-people” margin=”20″]See the full project proposal on FotoVisura.com[/button]

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Vietnam’s Tra Vinh Province in the heart of the Mekong Delta hosts one of the largest populations of ethnic Khmer in the country. The province has more the 140 Temples and Pagodas.
A Khmer Krom monk in Sam Bua Pagoda, just a few kilometers outside Tra Vinh.
Nuns and monks praying in the Hang Pagoda, just outside Tra Vinh (Vietnam).
Buddhist shrine with portrait of Ho Chi Minh in the Hang Pagoda (Tra Vinh). Khmer Krom monks are required to study Ho Chi Minh’s biography and teach Vietnamese history, with many pagodas maintaining shrines to Ho Chi Minh and displaying Communist Party posters on pagoda walls.
A monk studying in the Koskeoseray Pagoda (Tra Vinh – Vietnam). On the wall a picture of Avalokiteśvaras, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. Portrayed in different cultures as either male or female, Avalokiteśvara is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism, as well as unofficially in Theravada Buddhism.
Young Khmer Krom monks smoking in Sam Bua Pagoda, just a few kilometers outside Tra Vinh.
Vien Minh Pagoda, Ben Tre (Vietnam). An interesting feature of pagoda is the large white statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat (Goddess of Mercy). The pagoda belongs to Mahayana Buddhism, the most important branch in Vietnam.
Interior of a Catholic Church in Can Tho (Vietnam).
Khmer Krom’s members preparing the Wat Mahatup Pagoda for a ceremony.
A monk smoking in the Trá Sat Pagoda nearby Tra Vinh (Vietnam).
Khmer Krom’s members preparing the Wat Mahatup Pagoda for a ceremony.
Khmer Krom’s members during a ceremony in the Wat Mahatup Pagoda, nearby Soc Trang (Vietnam).
Khmer Krom’s members during a ceremony in the Wat Mahatup Pagoda, nearby Soc Trang (Vietnam).
Board with khmer and vietnamese words in the Chanrangsey Pagoda in central Saigon (Vietnam).
The Chinese Ong Pagoda in Can Tho (Vietnam).
Members of the Cham’s community of Chau Doc (Vietnam), preparing food in the last day of the Ramadam.
The Cham’s mosk of Chau Doc (Vietnam).
A Cham’s cemetery in Chau Doc (Vietnam).

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