March 20, 2012

a field trip to myanmar

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Ive been in 11 cities in 6 countries.  In the midst of it all, I traveled to Myanmar (Burma) two weeks ago to work on a special project.

A man came into my life a few years ago. The story of his life is compelling. Harold Martin was a prisoner of war in World War II. 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured by the Japanese in the fall of Singapore in 1942. After he was captured, he spent two long and brutal years working on the Burma “Death” Railway. Many of his friends died while working on the railway due to illness and being executed for attempting to escape. It is estimated that 16,000 Allied prisoners died while working on the railway.

Harold survived this ordeal but was then sent to Japan on one of the notorious “hell ships”. While being transported to Japan, the convoy of Japanese ships were torpedoed by US submarines. The ship Harold was on sunk but he managed to survive by clinging onto a makeshift raft. After 4 days drifting in the ocean he was rescued by the USS Pampanito submarine along with 72 other Allied soldiers.

70 years later, Harold, who is now 95 years old wanted to travel back to Myanmar (Burma) for the first time. He wanted to visit the grave sites of three of his mates that are buried in a Commonwealth war cemetery near the village of Thanbyuzayat.  He had been searching for these graves for many years. This year he had finally found them. I decided to go with him to document (video and stills) his experience in going back. It was an amazing few days. Myanmar and the Burmese people are beautiful. In all my travels I have never come across more lovely and hospitable people.

This series of images is only a small portion of what was captured in the few days I spent with Harold. These images are of the quieter moments in-between the main events. The main story is captured on video and medium format film. The video I took on the trip is going to be featured in a documentary that is being made about Harold’s life. The day spent at the war cemetery is entirely on these mediums and I am in the process of creating a body of work with it.

The images in the slideshow are all from the the Fuji X-Pro1 camera.  I would like to thank Camera Electronics in Perth, Australia ( ) and FujiFilm Australia ( ) in letting me take this camera on the trip.

There is something about when images and music are combined, then the body of work can become something else. Ive created a slideshow of these images put together with music.  I really enjoyed moving beyond the boundaries of being a stills photographer on this project. Working with video and audio is definitely challenging but I loved how it was able to give more depth to the story. It is something I am going to start exploring more of in my work.



Wonderful story well told. Please do more films!

[…] I blogged about it briefly a few months ago with the out takes / behind the scenes images from the t… […]

Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.
Love the film.

These are incredible images Samm.
I visited a war museum near the River Kwai in Thailand, and it was such an emotional experience to see the graves of all those young people. Harold must be an amazing person to have travelled to Burma and share this experience with. Looking forward to the documentary.

Just amazing!

Love these my friend!!

Love the slideshow Sammy. Such intimate shots with Harold, really beautiful stuff.

Fantastic images! Makes me want to pack a small bag and get out traveling again.

Wow! These pics look great! Very “film-like”. Are these all straight from the camera? Very nice stuff.

fascinating and important to be documented. also important for to take this step sammy. you change my view constantly and i hope to always meet you on the road of inspiration and progress*** much love from farawayland!

Such beauty in every image. I love the landscapes, so truly beautiful.

Brilliant. Superb set. What more can I say.

Dude, Brilliant. Superb set.

beautiful set of images! blown away!

you’re a beautiful storyteller samm.

beautiful photos and story

there is eeriness and beauty in these images, samm… you tell harold’s story with such honesty. words can’t really express how i feel looking through these photographs. you did such a wonderful job, friend.

Hey Samm, love this documentary. You find so much beauty in the ordinary.

Nothing short of incredible. Tears streaming down my cheeks…. You are amazing!

WOW. I’m a little stumped on what to say.. incredible collection. I look forward to seeing the project unfold… amazing journey Samm, for both of you. x

you’re an inspiration sammy… this is beautiful, I cannot wait to absorb the whole story xx

Your killing me. Love this work.

What a story. And so well told, Samm.

That’s it… stunning.

Beautiful. Amazing. Incredible. x

holy shit this is insane. inspiring, inspiring work.

Beautiful Samm, thanks so much for sharing your journey. Can’t wait for the next installment.

thank you for sharing this. such a compelling story and a moving collection of images. i’m looking forward to seeing how this body of work develops. thank you for inspiring me to slow down this evening and look closely.

Great, great work, Samm.

holy crap. unbelievable. these all with the x-pro?

Incredible. Can’t wait to see the rest of the story.

Samm, I am moved to tears and can’t wait for more.

samm i am not really sure what to write here. what words can i say in response to such an amazing story. i guess all i’ll say is thank you. thank you for sharing. thank you for being you. i cannot wait to see the film and motion from this incredible journey.

Sam. these are breathtaking. and good for you for pushing yourself outside of the “still” world. Your trip looks amazing. Thank you for sharing these.

Amazing images, what a fantastic project. That part of the world is special to me too.