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This Is Northern New South Wales

The Sing Sing, Papua New Guinea – Brian Hodges

  • Travel

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Last week I received an email from a gentleman based in Santa Barbara, California named Brian Hodges, it said:  “Lovely website. I’m not yet a resident of Byron, but am in the process of moving… It will be home starting in February. I’m excited for the move and eager to participate in the artistic community.

In short, I’m a travel photographer, and might have some content of interest to submit. Have a look at my website when you have a moment:

I have some portraits taken in Papua New Guinea that might be of interest. You will find some of the images from this series in “field studio”. Thanks for taking to time to look.” 

So I took a look at Brians work and was blown away by the talent and the stunning work this humble, multi-award winning photographer, was asking me if we would like to share!

The answer was yes! as the timing was perfect, Common Ground is starting to spread its wings into travel to inspire you all to get out of our little bubble and explore the world a little more. We are interested in sharing stories that are connected to us through travel adventures by people from or connected to our region. So here is the first story and photo essay from Brian, we look forward to sharing more of his adventures:

“The tourist doesn’t know where he’s been and a traveller doesn’t know where he’s going” –  Paul Theroux

After a 13 hour flight from Los Angeles with my wife, we arrived at the Brisbane airport with vague plans to buy tickets to Papua New Guinea. As a photographer I was naturally drawn to the exotic tribal aesthetic of the Papuan’s, but knew little more than I had seen in guide books. We really didn’t know where we were going, but within a few hours of our arrival in Australia we found an outbound flight to Port Moresby. The flight to PNG was mostly filled with tales of horror and peril from fellow travelers. Based on what everybody told us, It seemed that danger lurked everywhere. We questioned wether we had made the right decision. 

In my experience, reports of danger are usually exaggerated, and the proved to be the case for us in PNG. We spent three weeks exploring the coasts and highlands, and were only met with open smiles. We ended up making dear friends and are eager to return see more

On special occasions, tribal groups gather to participate in a cultural festival known as a “Sing Sing”. The aim of these gatherings is to peacefully share traditions among diverse and occasionally warring tribes. The Sing Sing provides a forum for the indigenous people to showcase their traditional costume, face paint, and music.

Traveling with my white photo backdrop, I set up a small field studio at two different Sing Sing events – One in town of Goroka (Eastern Highlands Province), and one in the village of Simbai (Madang Province). The Goroka show is probably the largest cultural event held in Papua New Guinea. It takes place every year around Independence Day (September 16), and attracts about one hundred diverse tribes from regions around the country.

The esthetic values of the Papua New Guinea highland tribes remain largely unadulterated by external influences. This integrity is increasingly rare in today’s connected world. As a photographer, I am drawn to the exquisite sense of style displayed by these subjects, and feel compelled to document its uniqueness. Removing visually competing contextual references with my white background, I am able to showcase the subject and their unique beauty.

Photos and words – Brian Hodges

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