The Tattooed Women of Myanmar’s Chin Tribes

I’m excited to announce that my new travel photography project is out! Called “Tattooed Women of Myanmar,” it showcases portraits of ethnic minority women with facial tattoos.

Though these women are now elderly, they were just teens when it was decided that face tattoos would enhance their worth. A week of intense pain and a lifetime with these markings made these few women immensely beautiful, and thus easily married off. While in Myanmar I was able to work on a project with several members of a remote tribe. In fact, I was the first person ever to photograph some of the women in remote and off-limits areas of southern Chin State.

I’m posting a few photos here, but you’ll get a better sense of the project’s scope by seeing it in its entirety.

To view the project, visit


Working as an NGO Photographer in Africa [and How to Not Contract Ebola]


There are few things I love more than traveling, photographing remote areas of the world, helping others, and not contracting Ebola. Luckily I was able to fulfill all four of those dreams on my recent work trip as a travel photographer to Africa.

I was able to spend my time getting sunburned in a couple of African countries, but my work was all done in The Gambia. It’s a small sliver of a country that’s smaller than the state of Connecticut. The Gambia is sandwiched smack in the middle of Senegal and rhymes with Zambia, but has a pretentious official article in front.

I worked for Penny Appeal, a UK-based nonprofit operating in more than 30 countries around the world. They provide emergency relief, house and educate orphans, build wells, and more. They have dozens of locals working in their own villages. They’re awesome people. They also happen to be a British Muslim organization.

While many I know have issues with this religion and way of life, I felt fine 99% of the time. Seeing little kids memorize the Qur’an doesn’t really make sense to me, but then again, I’m no Muslim. Yes, I am a pretty devout Christian—or spiritual, as might be more appropriate—but I saw no reason not to work with these folks. While I find many of their practices odd and limiting—and oftentimes sexist—I’m quite sure they feel similarly confused about me. Given this particular group’s comments on my clothing (I wore proper attire while working in the field, of course, but shorts when at the “resort”—like the men and holiday-goers), they likely think that females wearing shorts are a sign of physical and moral indecency. But we talked about these issues quite a bit, and I did my best to learn as much as I could. Besides, I’m friends with Muslims in several different countries around the world, and know that just like Jews, Catholics, Christians, and virtually every other religion, interpretations of religion and practices vary widely.

But why does any of this matter? It doesn’t, unless you’re stuck in times of the past or choose to group everyone of a religion into one category. What matters is that these were the nicest, most delightful folks I’ve worked with, and if I can participate in helping orphans, villagers, and needy people, why shouldn’t I—whether I agree with the religion or not? The group does wonderful work, and they’re great people, so I was delighted to work with them for the first of what I hope is many times. I now consider many of them my good friends–they were that awesome.

While photographing the poverty, well projects, orphans, school systems, and more in West Africa, I heard about quite a few ways to not contract Ebola. Tips include:

– Don’t shake hands, as this spreads germs. || In certain villages—or when meeting entire orphanages, we’d shake hands with 40 different kids and adults in the span of just a few minutes.

– Don’t make out with the locals or foreigners while in West Africa. || Though many tried getting me to stay (I was married off over half a dozen times, but I don’t think any of the marriages stuck), I avoided official wedlock—and therefore did not kiss anyone while there.

– Resist making out with any water buffalo. || I already made this mistake somewhere in Asia*, hence why I came back sick years ago.   *This is not actually true.

– Don’t go to West Africa. || Whoops.

– Avoid contacts with bats and nonhuman primates, as well as their raw meat. || I really wish someone had told me this before I ate all that ape. But seriously, they eat rat in The Gambia (huge, HUGE rats), because it apparently helps lower blood pressure. No, that’s not really related.

– Don’t be a doctor treating patients in West Africa. || Shirley you can’t be serious.

Now that you know how to stay Ebola free, I’ve included some non-Ebola photos from my trip. Check back soon for another update, where I’ll be ranting about husbands in Gambia, Moroccan tea, and so much more.


Hidden Signs in Photos

An In-Depth Look at What’s Lurking in the Background of Your Photos

Do you ever get home, look at your photos for the first time on a large computer screen, and then notice details you never before saw? What’s that in the background? What is he motioning? How could she be…OH my GO–! I know I see odd things upon closer inspection, and I wanted to clue you in on exactly what I found. Throughout my thousands of photos taken throughout 9 different countries in 2012, you can imagine that photobombs were so tame in the scheme of things, they didn’t even make the cut. 

Let’s start off with a fairly normal photo (and you can read through and then click to enlarge the photos, running through a slideshow all at once) so you can be as shocked and awed as I was. 

Take a look here (below). Can’t see much except a sand hill, right? Wrong, naturally. 


Let’s look closer (below):

Yeah, weird…I didn’t know Mr. Revere was even still alive! Or that he visited India! So honored though.


Let’s take a glance at a new photo (below) from Nepal:


Big whoop, you say. A guy is asking for directions. But look closer now (below).

Holy eep, man


And this was one of the small riots, too. Naturally someone was killed here later that afternoon, but I was safe and long gone by that time.

Okay okay, let’s get a bit more light-hearted. Here’s a photo I took of the incredible mountains of Thailand (below):


And now, with the details you missed or perhaps weren’t even aware of!


Oh, that’s…hmm. Maybe not so light-hearted.

You get the idea now. Since I know you’ve caught on, I’ll only include just the labeled photos for your viewing convenience. And because you’re probably still wondering about this post’s photo header (you weren’t), here’s the “background” on that one (below) too:


Thanks for warmly welcoming me to India, ma’am.

Here’s a guy who went out of his way to welcome me to India (below):


Thank you. I know I’m laughing in the photo but I was so, so frightened. Trauma? You bet your bottom dollar!
Moving on to a treasure hunt in Singapore (below):
And now back to a sign in the mountains of Nepal (below):
Oh, you’ll like this one. Rad motorcycle tricks by a student of mine and his bro in India, bro (below)!
And another typical scene from my second Indian apartment’s front yard (below):
Just commenting, people, not judging. Calm down.
Nothing odd about this one, actually (below):
And while we’re on the animal theme…here I am in northern Nepal (below):
I, too, am saddened by this photo. And I thought being called a pig was an upgrade over heifer.
Last but not least, here I am during a huge conference of ours in India. I didn’t know what I was getting into when asked to pose for a photo (below).
Needless to say, I had to weed guys out and only ended up with 4 of ’em.
So I urge you, citizens of the world…go back through your photos. Look closely, examine, and see what’s under the surface. I’m sure you’ll be dismayed at your findings; I certainly was. Enjoy!

Life in Malta, Part 3: Networking


My my how time flies! One year ago I was writing to say I was leaving to India for a fellowship, and now here I am abroad, not sitting in a cute little café and drinking a cappuccino, but actually about to return to the states with a baby on one hip and four babies on the other hip. Or is it five? I don’t really remember, but I guess however many I get through airport security with is how many I’ll bring to the homeless shelter with me.

I just stopped over to visit a friend in Italy for a few days and will then return to the good ol’ USA. Hey, come on—I’m pretty nearby and need to pack on an extra few before I return home so everyone believes the bit about the pregnancies. Anyhow, Malta was good to me. I realized that no matter where in the world I am, friends and strangers alike offer their kindness, learning experiences, and adventures within every walk of life. And how does one meet these people, you ask? I’ve found that networking, a term which I used to hate, has come in so very handy with meeting people—even people on the small island of Malta. As you should know by now, I simply love standing around in a fancy-schmancy atmoshphere, awkwardly “connecting” and noshing on awkward things like chips and dips, fondue, and hummus in order to explain to fellow unemployed people how we can pretend to be of use to each other. My remedy? I went out into the real world for mini sessions of “Coop’s Networking Nightz on the Streetz.” Here then are bits of these conversations so that you, the viewer, can understand how to network while abroad.


Street Scene 1: The donut truck man parked on the street

Man: You want some donuts?

Me: Hmm…well they do look pretty good…but I

Man: No, you really don’t look like you need them. You really don’t.

Me: Wha–


Street Scene 2: Inside a small corner shop

Random Maltese Woman: Hello–where are you from?

Me: I’m from the USA.

RMW: Oh, America! What do you think of our country?

Me: Well it’s very beautiful and many peope are friendly.

RMW: America is a big country, yes? And you people make lots of movies and are loud I think.

Me: Well yes, Malta is very tiny compared to America, and yes, we tend to be somewhat loud p—

Interrupting American: DO YOU HAVE ANY HEINEKEN 6 PACKS?

RMW: No, but we have Cisk. You know, Maltese beer.


Me: I’m sorry.

RMW: Don’t act all innocent. I’ve heard your cackle.


Street Scene 3: Along the promenade, speaking with a first-time scuba diving customer

Me: Hi there, and what do you do?

Guy: I’m a magician.

Me: Oh, awesome! You do stage magic or i—wait, how come I’m no longer wearing any clothes?


Street Scene 4: Walking on the streets of Gozo

Voice: (From behind. Husky-ish.) Hullo Kuh-thryn.


Same creepy old 4-foot-tall man: Hey there, hey, hi, hi you. We’re going to be all right. All right. Yeah.

Me: (Audibly shudders)


Street Scene 5: Couple giving me a ride.

Couple: Are you on holiday here?

Me: No, I’m working here for a scuba diving guide on Malta & Gozo.

Couple: Very nice! We’re on vacation.

Me: (confused since they sound Maltese) From…?

Couple: From Floriana! (near the nation’s capital, approximately 30 minutes away)

Me: So you come here on vacation. Er, holiday.

Couple: Yes, when it’s the weekend or we need to relax, we come here.

Me: Ah. I see. Well that’s close by! Do you ever travel…abroad?

Couple: Sometimes we go to Gozo!

Me: Ah. Mhmm. What about…to other countries?

Couple: Our friend once took the ferry…to ITALY! Wow!

Me: And I thought Maltese peeps didn’t get out much!


Street Scene 6: On the street, innocently waiting for the bus

Random Nigerian Man: How are YOU?

Me: Uh, I’m fine, thanks.

RNM: My name is !Xobile. Are you married?

Me: Well you skipped over quite the courtship period, now didn’t you?

RNM: I would like to invite you to marry me and be my 6th wife.

Me: I’m flattered, really. Under more normal cir—

RNM: Boom! Married. 


I’ll be back in the U.S. in just a matter of days. I assume it’ll be the usual: Jet-lagged sleep; the eating of brownies, cookies, processed food, and cheap Chinese food; seeing friends; doctor’s appointment; enjoying consistent hot showers; not having folks stare; job hunting; and gchatting with my newest Nigerian prince. Until Italy and the end-of-the-year’s Best Of 2012 list, I’m out!




[Photos: Unedited goodies from the isands of Gozo and Northwestern Malta]


[click above to see multiple photos in one go]