Ruom Collective
A MULTIMEDIA COLLECTIVE BASED IN ASIA
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JOURNAL

A collective of journalists based Asia

Year In Focus – Our Most Memorable Images from 2015

Ruom Photographers look back on the images they made in 2015, sharing moments that stood out during the year - from documenting polygamous marriages, to photographing human trafficking at sea. 

NICOLAS AXELROD

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This is one of the first pictures I took this year. I had gone to Yemen for Christmas and New Year, and visited the island of Socotra. It was one of the most amazing experiences - both challenging and full of joy. This remote island is unique in both its lifestyle and nature. Trees, birds and plants that can only be found in Socotra make its landscape particularly beautiful. The people I met that call this harsh environment home opened their hearts and homes and welcomed me, though not always my camera. It was the first time in a couple years that I had photographed out of South Asia and Southeast Asia, and it brought on a whole new challenge to negotiate permission to take images.

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This year saw the publication of ‘Transitioning Cambodia', my first photography book. I collaborated with fellow Ruom member Denise Hruby who wrote the text to produce a book looking at development and the changing landscape of Cambodia over the last 7 years. It was no easy feat to put together a book, and have it printed but it came together very nicely. We are happy that it is distributed in various book shops in Thailand and Cambodia as well as online

This image is part of the more recent pictures I have taken, and that was published in the book. I visited many of the newly opened roof top bars in Phnom Penh and I feel that this image really sums up the modernity, and development boom. The fact that there is the shell of a building that has been in construction for six years in the back ground as well as three high society khmers enjoying cocktails explains in one image the changes that are happening in the country.

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Oxfam Australia had asked me to visit the North of Cambodia where a dam is being built across a tributary of the Mekong. One of the more remote areas of the country, only accessible after many hours on bad roads and bumpy dirt tracks, this region is a special place both environmentally and spiritually. The ancient forest that once covered the area and the mighty Sesan River that crosses it was once a place of great beauty and wilderness. As the dam gets built and the landscape changes, so do the lives of the people that call this place home.

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I went to Myanmar a few weeks before the elections to spend some time in Mandalay and with the people I had worked with and photographed in 2013. Revisiting this project was both necessary and enriching, it was a important to see and meet the people I had photographed in the past and see how their lives had changed and evolved. It was necessary in the sense that it is a story that needs to be told and shared, the general feeling within the Muslim community in Mandalay is one of fear and repression by the majority Buddhist nation. Personally it is a big challenge to try to tell this story through images, mainly because it is very difficult to get permission from the people I want to photograph. These slow, and patient stories bring a lot to me on a psychological level and challenge my approach to images.

 March 03, 2015 - Kampot, Cambodia. Salt fields. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

March 03, 2015 - Kampot, Cambodia. Salt fields. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

In March I visited the salt fields on the outskirts of Kampot, in the south of Cambodia. It's one of those places I always wanted to photograph in the seven years I spent in Cambodia, but I never got round to it. For a few days I enjoyed riding out in the early mornings and late afternoons to follow the men and women who work the fields during the few months of dry hot weather.

 See more of Nicolas Axelrod's work at www.nicolasaxelrod.com , and follow him on instagram, @nickaxelrod


ANTOINE RAAB

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RAA_airports

I had the pleasure of working with Native Studio on a series of images for Cambodia Airports. Through this assignment I learnt and discovered the inner workings of airports. One of the many perks of being a photographer is the access we get to places we would not normally see. For four months, I photographed and walked through all the areas that make up the inner workings of an international airport. It was fascinating to discover the secrets of what went on behind the scenes of airports.

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DSC09044

This year, I signed a long-term agreement to be one of UNICEF's photographers. This photograph was taken in Batambang in an integrated school. It's in these little moments that I find myself taking the simpler images that are often the most heart-warming.

 Theary Seng journey

Theary Seng journey

 In March this year, I worked with the Financial Times and followed Theary Seng, a human rights activist, as she retraced her family’s journey out of the capital during the evacuation of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge 40 years prior. We went from Phnom Penh out towards Svay Rieng near the Vietnamese border and revisited some of Cambodia’s dark history.

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These images are part of a larger project I worked on over the last few months with two fellow members of the collective, Clotilde and Thomas. The work was accomplished thanks to a grant that we received from Internews. For this series I wanted to break from standard photojournalism and work with posed portraits and lighting, so I carried my equipment to these remote jungle locations.

See more of Antoine Raab's work at www.antoineraab.com and follow him on instagram, @antoineraab


THOMAS CRISTOFOLETTI

 Myanmar's historic polls leave Muslims facing an uncertain futur

Myanmar's historic polls leave Muslims facing an uncertain futur

It was a strange feeling to come back to Wirathu’s monastery. We visited it twice 2 years before, while covering the birth of the 969 movement (now called Ma Ba Tha). Paintings and photographs of the monk now cover an entire wall of the small office and a team of 4 assistants meticulously recorded our movements and activity. At some point I decided to leave the office in which we were interviewing Wirathu and I stopped outside, where young monks were lighting candles for the Thadinguy festival. It was such a beautiful and serene scene and for a moment I forgot about the political and religious upheavals that brought me there in the first place.

 Polygamy incorporated

Polygamy incorporated

This picture is part of a story I realised in January together with Marta Kasztelan. It is part of a long-term investigation on different interpretations of religion. It was without a doubt one of the most interesting - and probably weird - stories I had the chance to cover. It’s not so common to meet a person married with 4 wives and 27 children.

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The photo is part of a series of portraits I made in the valley of Nobles in Luxor. It was like traveling back in time - like being a part of an Indiana Jones’ movie. Villagers living in this area were evicted some years ago by Egyptian authorities because their houses have sat atop some of the world’s most ancient tombs for centuries. Most of the villagers were working with tourists and once they lost their houses and shops, they found themselves unemployed.

The situation got even worse after the revolution in 2011, when the country suffered a huge decline in tourist presence. USAID started a program employing locals to dig the land, to clear the ruins and restore the tombs.

 Maggio di Accettura 2015

Maggio di Accettura 2015

This image is Filomena Bartilucci, transporting a "centa", a traditional headdress made of candles and flowers, as she pays homage to Saint Julian. I’ve been living out of my home country, Italy, for the last 8 years. Lack of work opportunities and my thirst for travel brought me to live far away from home and now I can visit Italy just once in year. I just recently started to (re)discover my own country - exploring places and traveling to regions I wasn’t familiar with, but finding that incredible hospitality, familiarity and closeness that sometimes I struggle to find away from home.

 Kevin’s Story: Finding Peace in Ilobasco

Kevin’s Story: Finding Peace in Ilobasco

In 2015 I had the opportunity to travel back to Latin America - a region I’m really attached to, and that I wasn’t able to visit since 2009. In February I worked in El Salvador and Colombia (with a really short visit to some friends in Dominican Republic) and in July in Honduras. Latin America is a reality so different from what I’m used to in Southeast Asia, a reality of violence but also great humanity and closeness. I chose this picture because it represents my first experience covering a story in a community devastated by gang violence but also where I found inspiring people who are willing to put their lives at risk in order to change the status quo.

 See more of Thomas Cristofoletti's work at www.thomascristofoletti.com, and follow him on instagram, @thomas_cristofoletti


HANNAH REYES

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hannah reyes-1

This image was taken in the beaches of Juhu Choupati, home of the Bombay mixture. I found myself there during an assignment this year, where I was tasked to work with only a phone camera. It was a long and lonely assignment, but I learned so much from working with a smaller tool. I made this image as I was taking a short rest, thinking about how different this beach was compared to the sunny blue waters we have at home in the Philippines. I left India shortly after Juhu Choupati, where the sea and skies are grey but the colors were everywhere.

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These two images were taken while I was working on a chapter about Filipino seafarers for Ian Urbina's Outlaw Ocean series in

the New York Times

. We reported aboard a fishing boat and I filmed and photographed inside a jail. We found a small village filled with stories about trafficking, the stories beginning with men leaving home with hopes for a better future, and ending with abuse at sea. We followed the story of Eril Andrade, whose body returned home inside a metal box, missing one eye and organs. We found that box just laying in the yard of his now decrepit home. It was a heartbreaking story - but one that would shape my year.

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This image is from my personal work, 'Alaga,' which documents the complex work of domestic workers. I photographed this moment between my goddaughter Ava, and her caretaker Millie, as Millie comforted her. I was really moved by how she treated Ava as if she were her own child. I have always found the relationship between nanny and child complex, but in this moment I also saw how pure it could be.

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I photographed these girls from the Kreung minority in Rattanakiri Cambodia, for a story on

'Love Huts'

, for the Cambodia Daily. It's a very simple moment, but one that made me fall in love again with Cambodia.

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 [box size="large" border="full"]See more of Hannah Reyes' work at

www.hannah.ph

, and follow her on instagram,

@hannahrey

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For more images from Ruom photographers, follow us on instagram

@RuomCollective

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Hannah Reyes