brentstirton brentstirton

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Brent Stirton 

I've had the pleasure of driving across Mongolia a couple of times, always in a hurry but still a great experience. These #camels took myself and a journalist from @geomagazin for a ride to Mongolia's highest dunes. The Khongor sand #dunes are also known as the singing dunes because you can hear the movement of the fine sand as the wind blows across the desert. It's kind of magical, especially if you are lucky enough to be alone up there at the highest point of 800 meters. I had to climb up and take a snap but before that I liked this strange composition. #Mongolia is still a place of vast empty spaces, unlike most of the world today. #singingdunes #outthere #natgeo #travel #nomad #desert

I was fortunate to see Lion #Dancers from the #Sakuma tribe perform the story of their lion killing outside a village in rural Tanzania. #Liondancers are men who have killed a lion in defense of their cattle or their village. Once they have proved themselves, they can then be hired to perform this service for others and this is where things get complicated for conservation. They are a deeply superstitious people who believe that once they have killed a lion they have to become a lion dancer for 3 to 5 years to avoid going mad. They spend a year or longer preparing with the local witchdoctor and then go from village to village seeing their relatives and dancing while collecting tribute for their bravery. In a time when lion are very scarce in the region, this practice is actively discouraged by conservation organizations and it is slowly dying out. When the dancers appear in the villages, they are often praised and given money, goats and even sometimes a small cow. #killedlion #tradition #tanzania #natgeo #dancers

The Democratic Republic of Congo: As this new year dawns, I’m wishing all those who #guard our #wildspaces the safety and security they deserve. I’d like to hope that more people will come to understand and appreciate the #sacrifices these men and women make on behalf of all of us. They do this to safeguard our global #wildlifeheritage but ironically, they do it without global support and remain under-paid, under-appreciated and under-protected. Improving on this should be a simply and logical progression, easy to understand and universally embraced. May this #newyear move us closer to that.
#wildlifeconservation #globalwildlife #virunga


MIDDLE SEPIK, PAPUA NEW GUINEA: In my work I often see things that are the result of #ceremony that I wish I could have witnessed first hand. This is one of them. The #Chambri tribes are Middle Sepik river dwellers from #PapuaNewGuinea; they have a challenging #tradition that is a ritual rite of passage for young men where their bodies are #scarred to look like crocodiles. In recent years, young women also take part in this #ritual. The people of this #tribe believe that men evolved from crocodiles so they hold this ritual to honor their ancestors - the crocodile. They believe that crocodiles turned into men and lived on the #Sepik River and that’s how men came to exist in this remote area. The initiates are taken to a spirit house where elders use bamboo slivers to cut into their skin, hundreds of cuts down the length of the back. During this time, they are held down without any pain relief. Once the cuts are done, they lie close to a fire, smoke is blown over the the scars and then clay and tree oil are applied to make the skin raised and appear scale-like when it heals. Once the initiates emerge from the ceremony, the #crocodile #spirit now dwells within them.
#scarredbody #tribalritual #scarification #sepiktribes

#Virunga is Africa’s oldest and most biologically diverse protected area. It’s a #UNESCO World Heritage Site but despite its status and incredible #bio-diversity, it remains one of the most difficult places in the world to practice conservation. The Park management has done an amazing job with #sustainable development and #hydroelectricity but the pressure of elections, politics and an aggressive oil lobby that wants to exploit the park have created very difficult conditions to work in. The presence of multiple #rebel groups as well as the deployment of the #Congolesearmy only make this job more dangerous. Over 180 Ranger deaths in the last decade is testament to this. Despite these conditions, some of the most #dedicated people in the #conservation world continue to dedicate their lives to saving Virunga for a more #enlightened time. In this images a #ranger patrol leader figures out a way through a new #lava field before his team enters the area. If you are thinking about supporting conservation this holiday period, I can think of no more deserving place than Virunga. This is the URL if you would like to help. https://virunga.org/donate

I met this #madam while working on #HIV Aids in India, she was quick to tell me that she was a veteran of the #sexindustry for the last 35 years. I asked her how old she was and she told me she was 47. She said her family had sold her to a #brothel when she was 12. She also said they sold her younger sister around the same time. She said all this in a very matter of fact way, she did not appear to blame her father. Her long life in the sex industry had blunted her to any lingering concept that this was wrong, for her, it seemed, this was just the way things went. I took a couple of snaps and then she waved me out, saying she had problems with a couple of new young girls that she needed to straighten out. I was quiet for a while after meeting her. Her life was a lot to take in. #sexworkers #trafficking #India #color #humantrafficking

April 2018: A Oneisan practices with her #Shamisen instrument at the Asakusa Kenban where #Geisha shows are held for clients. These instruments may create beautiful sounds but the material of their design holds its own macabre secrets. The bridge of the Shamisen is made of #ivory and the plectrum, known as a Bachi, is similarly made of ivory, said to create the best sound. The skin on the front of her Shamisen is made of cat skin and the skin at the back is made of dog skin. The #instrument itself was made 15 years ago. The skin used depends on the genre of music and the skill of the player. Traditionally skins were made using dog or cat skin but use of these skins gradually fell out of favor starting around 2006 due to social stigma and the decline of workers skilled in preparing these particular skins. The bachi or plectrum used to play the shamisen differ in size, shape, and material. The bachi used for nagauta shamisen are made out of three possible materials, i.e. wood, plastic, or ivory. Ivory is the preferred substance and Shamisen players believe it delivers the best sound. Japan is the worlds largest domestic market for ivory, a substance often hiding in plain sight in the culture.
#ivoryinjapan #shamisenplayer

Today is #WorldAidsDay, the global #disease that many of us seem to have forgotten about. According to #UNAIDS, there are an astonishing 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS today. Of those, 1.8 million are children. 5000 more people become HIV+ every day. Thankfully the medical response has been phenomenal; 21 million people are using #anti-retroviral treatments today. This has seen a reduction in AIDS-related deaths of 51% since 2004. I have photographed this disease for a number of years now, it remains a terrifying and lonely experience for many of its victims. I photographed this gentleman in East London, South Africa a few years ago. He developed #tuberculosis as a side effect of his weakened immune system, his oxygen tank was with him constantly. The heating lamp was another constant because he was always cold. “Mostly,” he said to me, “I am afraid.” His wife has recently persuaded him to get onto A.R.V treatment despite his fears of stigmatism and ostracism. She was also #HIV+. #photojournalism #AIDS #arvtreatment

A San #bushman rests elegantly on a farm fence while returning from a hunt. Ironically the fence runs right through what used to be the bushmen's hunting ground but now prevents them from pursuing any animal that is on the other side. The San people live in greater #harmony than arguably any other nation with their environment, never taking more than they need and always sharing equally amongst themselves. Recently I read a great book called "Affluence without Abundance,: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen," by anthropologist James Suzman. Essentially it's about how much we can still learn from the world's most #marginalized communities and how we underestimate them in their capacity to show us true #happiness and #contentment. #photojournalism #canonphotography #indignenouspeople #sanpeople

Recently I printed this for a friend who worked on the #Lord’sResistanceArmy disarmament and the capture of #JosephKony for 11 years, much of it spent in the middle of nowhere in Central African Republic. I had forgotten about this image, it shows recent L.R.A defector, Michael Onen, 24, who I photographed the day after his defection at the African Union Ugandan Army base at Obo, Central African Republic. Onen defected after spending 16 years in the L.R.A. He was abducted as a child of 8, taken from his home village in the DR Congo in an L.R.A attack that wiped out most of that village. The scars on his back are as a result of beatings he received from his L.R.A captors early after his capture, most kids that are taken don’t survive the first year. The forced marches, the constant beatings, starvation and harassment, these collective abuses are too much. Michael survived; and then they made him a #sociopath. He says that #Kony lives by instilling fear in his #fighters, re-socializing children into killers who do his bidding. How do you judge someone like Michael? He was involved in attacks on civilians once he became part of the L.R.A but he feels he had no choice, forced to fight as a child, after a while it just became normal. He was watched at all times, escaping was very difficult and after a while, the older fighters became a grotesque family for him.⠀
In recent times the L.R.A has turned its focus to Ivory as a means of income. This has had a devastating effect on elephant populations everywhere they operate. Michael Onen was part of the L.R.A ivory poaching team operating in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Profits from the ivory are used by the LRA for arms and resupply. Thankfully @AfricanParks has done a great job turning things around in #Garamba and they have stabilized their #elephant losses and are protecting them against fierce odds. As for Michael, the last I heard he was absorbed into the Ugandan army in a group that pursues the ever-elusive Kony. That's what happens to most of the guys who defect, it's hard to send them home.
#childsoldiers

These are some brave men I photographed for a series on #MaleBreastCancer. All of them went through a tough time finding out they had #breastcancer, going through #chemotherapy and then surgery. I asked them to try to physicalize how it felt to hear that this #disease was inside them and then how it felt to hear it was no longer in their #bodies after they had beaten it. I think it’s a hard thing for most men to make themselves this #vulnerable, especially to a stranger with a camera. They stood in front of me as a warning to other men. Breast Cancer in men gains a foothold due to male ignorance. It’s just not something that we think happens to us, especially in the light of how terribly common breast #cancer is for women. I started this series as a way of highlighting that ignorance but stalled on it when I ran out of subjects. I hope to continue when I can find additional people. Please bear in mind that this disease affects both sexes, if you feel a lump in your chest and you’re a guy, please don’t just dismiss it. That could end up killing you.
#cancerfight

This is an image of over 40 #lion bone #carcasses to be sent to China from South Africa for their #traditionalmedicine market. CITES offers permits for these. The second image is of lion cubs on a lion breeding farm in South Africa that caters to the canned lion hunting trade, a controversial but legal trade inside South Africa. The lion bone carcasses are generally the result of hunts but as the bones become more valuable, there is great incentive to breed lions only for their bones. #Lionbones are increasingly a side industry for these breeders. Lion bone has come to replace much of the #tigerbone trade as tigers are so severely #endangered in the wild. China recently declared that it will once again allow trading of rhino and tiger parts domestically after a 25-year ban. They say this is to accommodate “farmed animals” bred in China. There are many reports on those farms, none of them good. Issues of severe inbreeding, starvation and other abuses are common. There are also many reports that wild animals fetch higher prices on the Chinese market. Any legalization of these animal products throws open large loopholes for the illegal trade, stimulating poaching against severely endangered wild animals in countries that feed the illegal wildlife trade flowing into China. This is a very disappointing decision on the part of #China, especially so soon after they agreed to ban their domestic #ivorytrade.
#lioncarcasses #lionfarm #lionbreeding

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