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Today’s been yet another wet and windy day in the Calder valley and one I’ve been glad that I’ve not had to venture afar in. Most of it has been spent working at home, apart from an afternoon ‘constitutional’ stroll along the canal and a trip up to my local pub, the ‘Big 6’ to meet up with friends and take part in the Friday quiz which is read out my Mel, in her broad Lancashire accent. Guessing what she’s saying is almost as challenging as getting the answers right (sorry Mel!). To give you an idea, heard of the film Ben Hur? In a Lancashire accent Hur is ‘hair’!

It was a pleasant interlude and nice to spend time having a laugh with friends as my other half is down in London this weekend with the ‘girls’. Right now I’m having a quiet night in and trying to sort through more old pictures. Looking through them makes me very conscious of how time’s flying by. Recently I’ve been adding hundreds of old rail pictures to my Zenfolio website. What I’ve neglected is the 1000s of travel pictures in my collection. Tonight I came across one of my old portfolios which I used to tout around the national newspapers and travel magazines when I first turned professional and lived in London. The internet was in its infancy then so you used to ring up newspapers and magazines to try and get appointments with their picture editors to show off your pictures. Sometimes it would go well, other times not. The worst were some of the travel magazines where Mummy or Daddy had got someone a job through their connections. I’m naming no names, but I remember turning up at one (well known brand) where the bright young thing didn’t even have access to a loupe or a lightbox, so held up a sheet of slides to one of the overhead fluorescent tubes and said “oh, these are pretty colours”…

Here’s a couple of the pictures from those old portfolios and the story behind them. This is a mother Orangutan and her baby trying to pinch some of the bunch of bananas from her mouth which was taken in the Bukit Lawang sanctuary in Sumatra, Indonesia back in July 1998. We were very privileged to see such amazing creatures in the wild.

Lynn (my ex-wife) and I were travelling around the world for 18 months at the time and spent several months in Sumatra. Then, SE Asia was in the doldrums of their ‘Economic Crisis’ which was terrible for them, but good for us as the value of the pound was amazing. I’d been there a few years before when £1 would get you 3,500 Rupiah. When we were there it would buy you 22,000 Rupiah! I look back on those times and realise just how lucky we were to be travelling then, because so much has changed since. Here’s the next picture, which has a very different tale to tell.

This picture was taken as a wedding in Bhavnagar, which is in the Gujarat state in Western India. It was taken on the 19th February 2000. One of the reasons I like it is the way one young girl was distracted and looked away, but that’s not the full story. Bhavnager isn’t on the tourist trail (far from it).

Lynn and I had been out on holiday in South India but I stayed on to explore the railways as the Gujarat was the last place steam locomotives operated. Sadly, I missed them by a couple of weeks, but that’s another story. Bhavnagar is also where Gandhi went to college, so I was interested in it to get travel pictures too.

Whilst I was there I was invited by this family to attend a wedding. It’s not an uncommon experience and Indian weddings are a delight for photographers like me and also a great way to get to meet local people. But there’s yet another layer to this tale…

On my way home I lost some of my notes, including the family’s address, so I was never able to send them the pictures, or keep in contact. Almost a year later, on the 26th January 2001 an earthquake struck the Gujarat. Measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale and lasting about 110 seconds, it was the most powerful earthquake to strike India in half a century. 20,000 people died and when I see this picture I often wonder what the fate of these young girls was.

I wish I had more time to scan these old slides. There’s so many stories they can tell, and so many memories…