Draped over the crouched body of a village elder, the young initiate grimaces as hundreds of incisions are made to his body with a razor-sharp piece of bamboo – around his nipples to represent the eyes, the length of his torso to represent the creature’s snout and just above the waist to represent its nostrils. The actual cutting takes just 20 minutes. No screaming is allowed.  The next day – in fact, every morning for seven days in a row – his weeping, blood-encrusted wounds are vigorously scrapped with a sharp piece of timber and packed with mud from the river until, finally, his skin begins to seal and harden to form a pattern in the image of the crocodile – the most powerful and revered creature in the Sepik River………

I’d seen several torsos scarred by this ritual as I travelled along the Sepik River, before I managed to photograph these two young men  who had been initiated into the Crocodile Clan about a year ago. To escape the harsh light, we travelled up a shallow creek in a dugout canoe and wandered through the jungle to a waterhole where I captured these images. The patterns on their bodies appeared to me quite beautiful as I photographed them; the gentle, almost feminine, demeanor of both young men seemed at odds with the harsh, proudly masculine transformation of their bodies. It was this softness, and the contradiction, that I sought to capture in the series of photographs I produced (samples above).

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A successful promotional photograph starts with knowing what you want it to say and who you want it to appeal to - before you even bring the camera to your eye.




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