Enslaved in Slave Island #13

One an NSACP* outreach volunteer, the other a single father; both lifelong friends, and recovering addicts. Wekanda Housing Scheme, Stewart Street, Slave Island. Shot on assignment for Panos Pictures and The Global Fund, in January 2022.

• 70mm • f/4 • 1/400 • ISO800 • 5DMkIV & EF 24-105/f4L courtesy Canon/Metropolitan

*The National STD/AIDS Control Programme is a Sri Lankan Health Ministry initiative to coordinate the country’s response to sexually transmitted diseases.


Sometimes Life Gives You Oranges

Six for two-hundred bucks, on 2nd Cross Street, Pettah. January 2023.

• 35mm • f/4 • 1/125 • ISO1250 • R6 & RF14-35/4L •

Enslaved in Slave Island #10

Current and recovering addicts in the Wekanda Housing Scheme, on Stewart Street; participating in a National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP) outreach project in Slave Island. Shot on assignment for Panos Pictures and The Global Fund, in January 2022.

• 60mm • f/4 • 1/800 • ISO100 • Canon 5DMkIV & EF 24-105/f4L, courtesy Canon/Metropolitan

Breakfast in Pettah #5

In spite of my interrupting his breakfast service, the owner of this little tea kadé refused to take payment for the glass I had when I was done snapping. New Moor Street, Hultsfdorp. October 2022.

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/1000 • ISO200 • R6 & RF 35/1.8 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan

Portrait of Unemployment

Naattamis (a sort of Sri Lankan urban stevedore, employed to unload produce from lorries in Colombo’s main market district of Pettah) usually begin work before dawn, hauling heavy sacks of vegetables, potatoes, and dry goods on their distinctive two-wheeled carts, labouring until late morning to keep the wholesale stores of the market stocked. But the unprecedented economic downturn in the country has seen an agricultural system scuppered by fertiliser shortages, and transportation hampered by infrequent fuel supplies. The result is a drastic reduction of produce entering the capital from distant farms and fishing towns. When I took this picture at 7.30am, on 4th Cross Street, these naattamis should have been busily racing up and down the narrow warren of lanes; instead, they were sitting around without work, fearing there would be no more that morning, and very little the next day. Pettah, September 2022.

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/500 • ISO400 • Canon R6 & RF 35/1.8 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan.

Shall I Play for You

Children’s Choir, Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour, Colombo. Christmas, 2018. Shot on assignment for Smart Media and Gateway College.

Offerings to Go

Anuradha Perera and Shermaine Willis, for Ashraff Associates and The Radh, Kandy. Temple of the Tooth, October 2018.

Weighing In

Tea pluckers stand in line to have their first pick of the day weighed on a tea plantation in Bagawantalawa, in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, in February 2014. Each basketload is, on average, 6kg, with the woven bamboo basket itself weighing a couple of kilos. Each tea plucker is expected to pick around 18kg for her daily wage, and is paid extra for anything over the standard. The best can pick as much as 40kg a day. The women, most of South Indian Tamil ethnicity, wear traditional saris to work, with a further wrap of heavier cloth around their lower bodies to protect them from the tough tea bushes and biting insects. Younger tea pluckers can often be seen wearing T-shirts instead of the traditional sari blouse. The long blue and white measuring sticks are laid across the tea bushes to make sure the picking stays level and even. The poles also aid balance on the steep hills and can double as weapons against snakes and scorpions sheltering in the shade beneath the bushes. Most of these women will work on one plantation all of their lives, beginning at the age of sixteen and continuing well into their fifties, picking the Ceylon Tea that goes into the world’s most famous brands.

Planters’ Tea

Sri Lankan tea plantation industry leaders enjoy a cup of Ceylon Tea
Sri Lankan tea plantation industry leaders enjoy a cup of Ceylon Tea. L/R: Johann Rodrigo, CEO Horana Plantations; Dr Roshan Rajadurai, Managing Director, Hayleys Plantations; Bhathiya Bulumulla, CEO Elpitiya Plantations; Anura Weerakoon, CEO Kelani Valley Plantations; and Senaka Alawattegama, CEO Talawakele Tea Estates. Shot on assignment for Save the Children, at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. November 2020.