Sri Lanka, Part One


I’m going to start a new website/blog soon (about time!) but before I do that, I wanted to finish off here with one final installment (in two parts) – Sri Lanka!

Coco and I spent a few weeks there last December, almost by accident really. We were all set to travel to northern India, but due to extra horrendous air pollution and Coco’s propensity for developing respiratory issues even in squeaky clean Sydney, we changed our plans at the last minute and headed south to Sri Lanka instead.

Lightening quick history for those curious: Way old (125,000 years), invaded by the Portuguese (1500s), then the Dutch (1600s), then the English (1800s). Population wise, Sri Lankan people are a diverse lot, but mainly Sinhalese with a large Tamil minority. These two groups didn’t get on for a while (30 years) but since 2009, when the civil war ended, things are decidedly better.

Okay, shall we saunter, very slowly, in supremely sultry Sri Lanka …

After about a four hour drive from Colombo, we arrived at our first destination – nowhere. But a very beautiful, calming nowhere.


the view of nothing is everything






touching the earth lightly :: 1






touching the earth lightly :: 2






Santani, the ‘minimalist luxury’ resort we’d landed at, is undoubtedly a beautiful place. But in my rush to book last minute accommodation after India fell through, I may not have fully understood the offering – very chilled, with a focus on health and wellness. After a day of being ‘nowhere’, I have to be honest – I needed to be somewhere.

So we went daytripping, to the nearby city of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital. As you might remember, I’m not a great tourist and I generally don’t like sight-seeing, but it was either that or more ‘relaxing’. First stop, a big deal in the Buddhist world, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. We didn’t spy the tooth of Buddha but I did meet this beautiful woman there.


dressed for puja at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic






there’s always a queue to see the Sacred Tooth Relic






We also stuck our noses into Kandy’s Royal Botanical Gardens. A huge sprawling place full of giant, ancient trees.


land of giant trees :: 1






land of giant trees :: 2






land of giant trees :: 3






practising their English on Coco






above ground roots?






Sri Lanka has an incredible variety of flora, as the lovely Dileepa back at the resort had told us. It’s biodiversity heaven apparently, with more than 3,000 different plant species.


Dileepa, the 20 year old naturalist






After our daytripping we did a bit more relaxing (yawn), and then headed north to see the ancient rock and palace fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO listed world heritage site. We climbed up about 800 of its 1,200 stairs, forgoing the final ‘Lion Staircase’ – in the heat, dripping with sweat from the unbelievable humidity, that was plenty, believe me.


ancient rock fortress ahead






1,500 year old water gardens






the (slow) ascent of man






Sigiriya’s spiral spin-out






we meet again






the final assault up the Lion Staircase. or not






The other highlight was a visit to Minneriya National Park to see elephants roaming wild. While some elephant ‘attractions’ in Sri Lanka chain their star performers, these elephants are free to wander wherever they like.

captured on camera but free to roam






where elephants have right of way






mum and the two kids


I like to think she’s smiling










elephant spotting






Coco on safari






From there, we drove south through the tea plantation hills, on our way down to the coast.


tea for as far as the eye can see












moody mountains






After spending hours and hours winding down from the hills through lush green forest, it’s quite something to finally reach the coast and Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches. We stayed in Tangalle, where the sand is a brilliant white and in the middle of the day, burning hot.


white hot :: 1






white hot :: 2






After Tangalle, we travelled west to Galle, and went on another ‘safari’, only this time on a river.


river life :: 1






river life :: 2






river life :: 3






corner shop






greetings, welcome to Temple Island






The proximity to water, from the beaches to the rivers, is very much part of Sri Lanka’s appeal. But in 2004, this proximity proved deadly when a massive tsunami hit, killing more than 30,000. People had no warning whatsoever – one minute it was life as normal, and the next, the world turned upside down.


before and after the tsunami hit






It was 14 years ago, yet you can still see signs of the devastation along the coast in the form of abandoned, ruined homes.


everything went underwater






the jungle reclaims its territory






The day I visited this area just outside Galle, I was on my own. It was incredibly eerie and sad, wandering around these homes, imagining them once filled with happy families and wondering what happened to them, if they managed to get out alive.


home, once upon a time :: 1






home, once upon a time :: 2






Just as I was going to leave, I noticed some other homes around the corner that were in much better shape and still inhabited. As I approached one, a lovely woman holding her baby came out to greet me. She was so warm and welcoming, and I felt so happy that she and her husband had survived the unimaginable ordeal – and had gone on to produce a beautiful child.


home, still :: 1






We chatted for a while, before a gaggle of kids swarmed around us. I don’t know how old they were but most of them looked younger than 14 – for them, a tsunami is something they’ve only ever heard or read about. I so hope they never get to experience it firsthand.


home, still :: 2






new life after the tsunami :: 1






new life after the tsunami :: 2






pray the tsunami never happens again






Stay tuned for the second part of Sri Lanka soon!


New exhibition: the Art of Ageing




Hooray! I have a new exhibition that starts this Friday, October 21. It’s called The Art of Ageing and it’s going to be at the Sydney Town Hall until Sunday.




The exhibition is the result of a commission I received this year by the Department of Family and Community Services to capture older people in a way that is more positive and varied than typical images portray them.

It was an interesting project for all sorts of reasons. I travelled all around Sydney to photograph a wide range of cultural backgrounds, which I always love. Some of the shoots were challenging because of people’s physical limitations. And it was interesting personally because recently I’ve become a little obsessed with trying to understand ageing. I find myself asking random people over the age of 60, how does it feel to be older? Not as in aches and pains, but do you feel massively different to who you were 20 years ago or are you essentially the same – except for more wrinkles and grey hair?

After doing this project, I’ve ended up with more questions. Like, why is Western society so obsessed with youth? And why does the human body degrade so much while the brain often stays relatively young?

Anyway, after meeting and photographing some pretty inspiring people who just happen to have spent longer on the planet than others, I’ve found myself feeling more positive about ageing. Lucky because there’s not much you can do about it!

A sneak preview of a few other pics that will appear:


Simply Voices Choir

Simply Voices Choir




Aunty Glenda

Aunty Glenda








The Art of Ageing exhibition; Sydney Town Hall (Lower Town Hall); Friday 21 October-Sunday 23 October: 9am-3pm; Free

The images are nice and big (1.3 metres wide) but there are only 14 so it won’t take you long to whip around. And I’d also love to hear your opinion on why the Western world is so ageist and how you personally feel about getting older. I can feel another project coming on!

Order my first book online

Buy the 52 Suburbs Book online

Find out more about the Sydney book here



EnglishItalianChinese (Traditional)GermanFrenchHindiTurkish