Commanda by bobfoto

Commanda

I believe that Photography is a science. It is about stopping time, catching that moment. When I look at a photograph, I am taken back in time to the moment, to the place, and to the people. This retrospective project has been cathartic, it has been therapy, it has been all about a weird world where I lived once.

This is the Hardest Photograph I Ever Took.

Now I could leave now and Dear Reader, you would be saying "What the...? How does this rate as a tough photo, I feel jipped!"

But you get a story too... so sit down, relax, grab a cup of Tea, Coffee, Scotch, Beer, Usain Bolt Energy Drink and read on. We start where I left off yesterday, in the Maroon coloured Hilux which needed push starting with the keys given to me by the lady from the photo on Thursday with Father Austin from the photo on last Sunday and we are cruising through the desolate wasteland that is Loloho. The wharf area of the great Panguna Copper Mine.

The sun is shining. The water is blue, the Meekamui are sitting quiet in the hills, and there is a man on the side of the road trying to hitch a ride. This is not unusual in Papua New Guinea, millions of people do not have vehicles, and hitching a ride is commonplace. In fact, to increase my personal security in some situations, I have picked up hitchhikers, often safer to travel with friendly locals, but you need to be a good judge of character.

Father Austin drives past and he says to me "I know that guy, do you mind if we give him a ride?"

I have complete faith in Father Austin, he has guided me well to date, so I say "Yeah why not..."

We turn around and pull up next to the Commander. Father Austin shakes the Commanders hand and they chat in their Tok Ples, this man is a wantok. What could be wrong? He hops into the back of the Hilux with his daughter. His wife climbs into the tray with her bilum of vegetables.

I introduce myself, and the Commander tells me his story.

When the war started, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (the BRA) killed everybody, they set fire to villages, they raped, they destroyed. Fuck the mine.

PNG sent in the army, Australia and New Zealand sent their Navy to sit in the blue water and watch from afar. People were slaughtered. Their own people. Bougainvilleans killing Bougainvilleans. Bukans killing Bukans.

But there was resistance. There were Bougainvilleans who liked Rio Tinto, who liked Bougainville Copper, who enjoyed working in the mine, who enjoyed the benefits from a hard day's toil. So these men, found weapons and fought back against the BRA. They wanted to call themselves the Bougainville Resistance Army, but some fuckers had already taken the BRA label.

It was at this moment I thought of the People's Front of Judea, or was that the Judean People's Front?

The Commander continued, it was in a car like this when he was travelling with his son, on a road like this one, on a day like this one when the BRA stepped out onto the road, they came from the sides, and with weapons firing, they decided to kill the Commander. His son was shot in the neck, in the side of the head, in the chest. His son opened up inside the car. The Commander was full of hate. The Commander travelled to Townsville, Queensland, Australia with the PNG Army, the BRA, the Australian and New Zealand Defence and they signed the Peace Treaty.

The Commander is still ready to take up arms.

It was at this moment, that my head was spinning. This man and his story filled me with every emotion that PNG has to offer. His daughter sat upright, with no emotion at all. PNG kids do not do this. They love meeting new people, they love meeting hairy white guys who love a good yarn and who love PNG whether they be Davids or Jasons.

I needed to brighten the mood a little, I needed to smile, I pulled out my camera and asked the Commander and his daughter if I could take their photo. A photo always brings a smile to PNGeans, especially the kids. They love it! It had to be the answer.

So I aimed and focused.

The daughter sitting upright, then sat back and disappeared into the darkness of her father's arm.

I took the shot. No smile, no reaction. Nothing. I had never felt so empty. Photography makes me smile, it makes me giggle like a child, I love capturing that moment. Not today. I showed the screen to the daughter. For 1/1000th of a second she took her eyes away from me and looked at the screen, and then back at me again.

She just sat there in the darkness.

I put my camera away.

We sat in silence.

Outside, the water was still blue.

Photo taken 7 August 2008 somewhere between Loloho and Arawa. Bougainville.
Whoa, it always breaks my heart to see/hear about when children have been pushed beyond feeling and being children by the actions of adults. So sad so empty.
August 11th, 2012  
Thats a tough story and we need to know it has happened in places like this! i have a friend who's daughter was in the NZ police in Bouganville for some years and never heard tales like this from her! It's a big place!
August 11th, 2012  
A child broken, so very heart rending.
August 11th, 2012  
@maggiemae - After the war, the NZ Police, and the Australian Defence force went into Bougainville and formed the Peace Monitoring Corps, and the NZ Police are still there, or were when I was in country. A little bit like RAMSI is in the Solomons.
August 11th, 2012  
@monika64 - Thanks Monika, It was such a unique situation for me... only one other time did photography garner such a reaction and that shot is coming up in September. ;)
August 11th, 2012  
August 11th, 2012  
I'm gobsmacked.
August 11th, 2012  
TC
Wow...what a story! The lighting in this shot sure adds to the expressions...or is it expressionless? So very sad for the entire family to live with so much hurt, anger and fear. I would think riding in the truck would bring back intense feelings for them. This is one of those photos (and stories) that grab at heart strings and leave an imprint. I don't know how you found the courage to ask if you could take their photo, but i thank you for sharing your experience Jason!
August 11th, 2012  
Heart wrenching story. Thanks, Jason for sharing it. I hope these people found some peace in their life.
August 11th, 2012  
Great story and cool portrait
August 11th, 2012  
@abhijit - Thank you Abhijit :)

@beckys @tctime - You are more than welcome Becky and TC. At the time I kinda felt that a photo may not have been the right idea, but I was searching for a change of tone, some kind of brevity... my idea failed. :(

@kjarn - This image still sucks the wind out of me.
August 11th, 2012  
Very sad story and thankfully, not what I was expecting. Looking into that little girls eyes, I just wonder what she is thinking at that moment. As always, interesting story and powerful photograph to go with it. You should seriously write a book. At least you are taking the time to put your thoughts and photos on this site for others to enjoy, even if reliving it is difficult at times.
August 11th, 2012  
Another chapter full of emotion. Perfect capture of the moment.
August 11th, 2012  
Such a sad story. A very stern photograph, I can imagine that it was a hard one to take.
August 11th, 2012  
@boatpainter @tonydebont @hankinsphoto - Thank you Janet, thank you Tony and thank you Steve. Thank you all for the lovely comments, I do appreciate it! :D
August 11th, 2012  
Now you've gone and made me cry
August 11th, 2012  
It's heart-breaking to read the story and see this shot.
August 11th, 2012  
@swilde - Sorry Sue. :(

@myautofocuslife - It is PNG. It is such a bust-up emotional place. It really knows how to lift and how to kick your spirits.
August 11th, 2012  
The perfect shot for the story, dark.....hard shadows - it goes so well with it.
August 11th, 2012  
Amazingly sad story,Jason!! The strong shadows convey it so well !!
August 11th, 2012  
Powerful.
August 11th, 2012  
@leananiemand @carolmw @michelleyoung - Thank you Ladies :)
August 11th, 2012  
This is an emotional story. I can tell why you called this the hardest photograph you have ever taken. When I looked at this shot, I wondered why the two were so solemn and now I know why.
August 12th, 2012  
Lyn
breaking my heart. . .I couldn't imagine the sad and haunted look in the little girl's eyes, but now I understand. you have seen and lived so much. . .
August 12th, 2012  
@daisy @lyno - my stomach was flippin' and floppin'... I was sure that photography was going to win over this young girl.... nope :(
August 12th, 2012  
Very sad feeling. I always wanted to do this kind of photojournalism. Where I can get to know people more. and TRUE emotions and feelings are captured
August 12th, 2012  
woah
August 12th, 2012  
@josephpadiernos - Thank you Joseph, I appreciate your words!
August 13th, 2012  
@houdiniem - Oh yeah baby!
August 13th, 2012  
Some dark things run so deep.
August 13th, 2012  
@filsie65 - indeed they do Phil. :(
August 13th, 2012  
Seems your mood matched the color of the water after this turn of events. Hardest photo, harder man...... This one makes me sit back and think because to feel through your story would be too long a journey for me tonight. I will take the time later, well worth the journey if only through the shadows you've captured in you photos. I'm learning lots, thanks.......
August 14th, 2012  
@robv - Thanks Robert. I wasn't so much blue after, just hollow, just empty, just nothingness. At least blue has some feel to it.
August 14th, 2012  
Oh Jason...
August 14th, 2012  
@luvthyclassics - It's okay Jesse, I kinda learnt a lot about myself and photography in that short trip in the car that day. And boy did it leave a memory...
August 15th, 2012  
it´s so very sad reading this story but it´s like always, where good things are there are bad things too... no light without darkness... let´s hope the girl will find some light in her life..
August 23rd, 2012  
@agentzuckerguss - I hope she ends up at that school I went to... they looked like they were having fun!
August 24th, 2012  
This shot is perfect though hard... She lives in the shadow of a tragedy, she retreats to the shadow of her father-- that is hauntingly beautiful and deeply sad.
September 3rd, 2012  
@hellcat - Thank you Hellcat!
September 3rd, 2012  
Heartbreaking. Dead inside like some of the slightly older street kids in Phnom Penh....at least she has her father and mother still
September 7th, 2012  
@palusami - I could imagine some of the stories of the young adults of SE Asia would be very similar. :(
September 7th, 2012  
Poor kid - life in paradise is so often not paradise.
October 20th, 2012  
OMG, what a story. Hard to imagine what some people have gone through.
October 20th, 2012  
@judithg - ain't that the truth... it can be such a brutal place at times. :(

@eudora - It certainly reminds me not to take such things like freedom and safety for granted...
October 20th, 2012  
i just saw this pic on the "controversial" post.......wow...i have a pit in my stomach right now, imagining all of this...and the attempt to try to lighten the mood.....and the failure...and the disappointment.... - - had you not added context to this shot, that would have remained a purely private moment. I am glad you shared it.
October 21st, 2012  
@sticksandstones - Thank you Jenny... It was such a strange "non-PNG" moment for me. It really caused me to sit back and question just what I knew about that country and its people.
October 21st, 2012  
i'm so deeply moved by this image and the story. . .hard to find words really. thank you for sharing it.
February 10th, 2013  
Because sometimes a photo does need words, this is wonderful, beautiful, horrific, sad, depressing? I don't know, it makes me feel something though. I missed this during one of my 365 sulks, glad that you posted it in that thread today. Its a fantastic (not the right word, but I have no idea what else to use) shot. Great job, for the photo, and words.
February 10th, 2013  
Thanks for sharing.
February 11th, 2013  
@stepheesue @kph129 - You are both welcome Stephanie and Kristin, I look back at these words and this image and I realise my words don't flow as well as they sometimes do... I remember this being a hard story to write, I remember being happy that I was able to get the words down, but it was tough. This photo is still difficult for me to look at.

Thanks @jase_h - the above comment is relevant as a response to yours. Secretly at the time, I knew I had stopped time. I felt dull but I knew I had captured a moment. Thanks.
February 11th, 2013  
Humans at times can be extremely gentle yet most of the time we're a vicious, cruel species. We are the wildlife!
Your story has touched me - I keep going back to the young girl's eyes and they are empty. Any emotion I had, has been sucked out of me. Well written - beautifully composed with the shadows - darkness vs the light - the only light is over the Commando's chest/heart. May he eventually find the peace and the comfort he needs to heal ... and then may he pass it onto to his daughter. Very disturbing - there are so many in similar positions all over the world. My heart aches.
April 20th, 2013  
I must walk away then come back to comment Jason...
April 20th, 2013  
@thebluegnu - Thanks Gnu, I have just re-read what I wrote, and man oh man, I have just stepped back to that moment and I think I have something in my eye. This past week has been full on hectic for me and sometimes when the adrenalin is running in this place, you forget to stop and breathe. My schedule for the next 3 weeks only increases, photography has been ignored a little but now in this brief respite, I realise what photography is for me. Thank you for your words here, this is quite a community indeed. Thank you.

@adifferenteye - Thank you for being here Dar.
April 20th, 2013  
@bobfoto Always Jason always, my son wrote, sang, produce, well did an album it is called Songs of the Dead. My interpretation is, it is about our world in which we live. To me, the entire CD is chilling, but there is one song on there called MT. NEBO that I believe is epic. He is allowing the CD to be downloaded for free right now, you, I think would appreciate his style and the content of this one. Just by knowing you through 365, I think it would speak to you. Ethan and the Imaginary Friends. his band. If you google the name it will tell you every where in which you can listen or down load. If you check out, tell me what you think of Mt. Nebo.
dar
April 20th, 2013  
@thebluegnu beautiful words Gnu...
April 20th, 2013  
@adifferenteye - it reminds me of Scarborough Fair. And I have liked their facebook page, so it would be good to see where they go next? Oh and by the way, if they are ever in the Northern Territory of Australia, I know the perfect venue for them.
April 20th, 2013  
@bobfoto that sounds wonderful Jason. thank you for liking their page. I thought you may connect with the music. They are working on playing for the premiere of The Walking Dead show I think in August, in Atlanta GA. USA. They were invited to UK, but for august as well and we need more time to book a tour. I am sure they would love to come to Australia, well they have said that is on their bucket list. dar
April 21st, 2013  
@adifferenteye Thank you - Your son's words and rendition are dark - but truly amazing. Photographers paint in pictures and your son paints in words which are extremely powerful. The line 'Not measured by what he earns but by what he can take' - hits the nail on the head. If we take greed out of the equation, I think humans would be more humanE, but then our twisted darkness would find some other perversion to act out. All that aside - I do believe there are lots of good people around and life for some, is not too shabby :) Sharing it brings good karma. :)
April 21st, 2013  
@adifferenteye @thebluegnu - Thank you ladies, thanks!
April 21st, 2013  
@thebluegnu Thank you so very much for taking the time Gnu... He is quite brilliant and very advance in his views in the world. He just turned 23 March 30th. When 9/11 happened he was 11, he was so upset he told me, Ma, I can't stand this, I have to go write a song or something... he did. It was framed by someone, and they gave it to the Port Authority in New York City. @bobfoto Jason, you are a GEM, boy can you get emotions churning I LOVE IT!! all I am saying, if Gnu and I are NOT invited AS honored guests, by your side guests, at your premiere oooo buddy the wratch of TWO women, NOT PRETTY!! hahaha...
@thebluegnu I also see the MONOPOLY man in my head several times when I listen to CD. I have taking photos to put to Mt. Nebo as I see what it means to me.
THANK YOU BOTH SO SO VERY MUCH!!!
dar
April 21st, 2013  
@adifferenteye - There is a small town in Queensland called Nebo. And thank you so much for the kind words!
April 21st, 2013  
@bobfoto That part of our world has ALWAYS been on MY bucket list Jason, and you are most welcome... hey you deserve it!!
dar
April 21st, 2013  
@adifferenteye - While I agree that Queensland is on a lot of bucket lists, I doubt that Nebo is the drawcard... ;)
April 21st, 2013  
Jason, I'm so glad you linked back to this photo.

For me, the Hardest Photograph You Ever Took is your Hardest Photograph To Look At, as well—and that's a good thing. You bring so much depth and soul to this project—every extreme of the human condition. Thank you. Thank you, thank you.

@adifferenteye Thanks for sharing. I agree with Jason on the Scarborough Fair reference—a very dark Scarborough Fair. Here's a link for any other passersby: http://ethanandtheimaginaryfriends.bandcamp.com/track/mt-nebo @bobfoto
June 18th, 2013  
@squamloon - Oh Squam, I am sitting here wishing I was back in Bougainville... it is another country apart from PNG and PNG is so apart from everywhere else. Bougainville is something else. I want to meet the Commanda again, shake his hand, cry a little, let him know that I have no idea what he went through, but let him know I care.
June 18th, 2013  
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