NUBIVAGANT: WANDERING IN THE CLOUDS by Gaz Leah

A few months back I was lucky enough to shoot an expedition to Africa with Adidas Outdoor and my friend, Gaz Leah. It was a grueling, month long shoot in the jungles of a small island nation called Sao Tome and Principe. We fought torrential rain, dwindling food supplies, and logistical nightmares small and large. Somehow, we still got to the top. Check out a few of the images I shot for the project and an excellent read of the journey by Gaz below. 

See you out there, 

Matthew 

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A child in a village near Cao Grande

A local village close to Cao Grande.

Tiny Almada sorts rope on the 7th pitch 

Rehash

Repost from Instagram: This is one of the first lit portraits I ever took. I had just met this kid, a 16 year old from the rougher neighborhoods of Monterrey, Mexico, where he was heavily involved in the drug trade . He bears countless scars, including places where police once burned cigarettes out on his chest. Escalando Fronteras, the climbing nonprofit I worked with, gave him the skills to pursue rock climbing as a profession. He has competed in competitions, and serves as an example for other teenagers in his neighborhood. A year later, he is focused, determined, and completely addicted to a new thing.... rock climbing.

About the past 8 months... Part 1

It's ridiculously hard to sum up the past 8 months other than to say life is a wild ride when you chase passions like a 5 year old chasing a butterfly in the backyard. You go here, then you run there. You get confused, and at some point you step in dog poo. But you keep going. That butterfly needs to be caught, and you’re 5 so you don’t know any better. 

i’ve thus far failed at keeping a blog while traveling. I have encountered too many ridiculous human beings and accumulated more stories and photos than I can coherently describe in a sitting. Combine that with constantly shooting and learning more about photography, and you can understand why ‘ain’t nobody got time for that.’ Nonetheless, now that life has calmed down, I can type a few words for the internet. 

It all started in Monterrey, Mexico, really, but I’m starting this story in a sun soaked Bali around July 12th. I arrived for a photojournalism workshop and found myself immediately chasing street beggars, portraiture, and general wandering adventure shots like this one.

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The story of how I got one of my first shots in Asia is indicative of how my adventures went. I purposely got lost on a motorcycle and met a stranger in an exchange of hand gestures, who then invited me into his life without hesitation. I, of course, bounced off the walls with travel stoke, shooting here and shooting there to nail the perfect shot while trying to not destroy my gear. 

During my travels I covered adventure, fashion, portraiture, and documentary subjects. I managed to link up with an Orphanage in Bali called the YKPA, and with them I shot a story about children forced to beg in the streets and the orphanage founder's struggle to provide a future for them. That was a ridiculous time, chasing the story through backalleys, slums, and choked streets on a motorcycle with my 14 year old fixer. These street kids were forced to beg all day by their parents and relatives, who were often reluctant to work themselves. The YPKA sought to educate them with street schools, and when possible, recruit them into the orphanage itself.

I walked away from that experience resolute on shooting more journalistic stories and focusing on honing my documentary photography skills with more projects. My skill set and path was reaffirmed. 

 A mom and her son begging in the streets of Denpasar, Bali.

A mom and her son begging in the streets of Denpasar, Bali.

 Children of the orphanage. 

Children of the orphanage. 

 A former street beggar. Now under the care of the YKPA. 

A former street beggar. Now under the care of the YKPA. 

Of course, I was in Bali and so I set out to conquer the fashion world, shooting for multiple clients across the island to fund my adventures. It was rather bizarre transitioning from documentary and reality to models, sunshine, and photoshop, but I loved every second of it, as it provided some beautiful and creative distractions from my more serious and depressing undertakings.

In between all of this I succeeded in befriending a local village on the North Shore of Bali. There I found a love of documentary and travel portraiture, as I had yet to do this with singular focus. Living on the beach, they resided in thatched huts and depended entirely upon the sea for their livelihood. They completely welcomed me into their lives, and I spent my time chasing portraiture and children around on the beach in between shots of the local homemade liquor with the elders, which for the record was not only absolutely terrible to taste but deceivingly powerful. 

 hauling in the day's catch

hauling in the day's catch

After my Bali wanderings, I succeeded in an epic road trip across East Java with some random Catalonians I just met. I had needed a break from the constant fashion and doco work I had been doing, and the trip refreshed the love for random, wandering, and strange motorcycle road trips in foreign countries with complete strangers. There ain't nothing like blasting through countryside rice fields on a motorcycle in full sun with a solid crew of awesome travelers to get your mind off things.