PINK LADY Finalist, Highly Commended in Politics of Food,
The image I submitted is part of a larger personal project. Over the past 2 years during multiple visits to Sri Lanka, I have documented a man’s endeavour to restore the once dwindling local turtle population. Since 1995 Titus has collected and protected turtle eggs on his home beach in the South West of the island country. During the season he is up at 4am checking for signs of new nests, collecting the eggs to protect them from dogs, birds, lizards and human poachers. He re-buries the eggs in a netted area of his garden, where, 52 days later, the baby turtles hatch. Titus releases them in to the Indian Ocean at dusk or dawn, when there are fewer predators waiting.
Photographing Titus in the nearly pitch dark was technically challenging. I didn’t want to loose the atmosphere of the moment by using speed lights. My partner was holding a head torch to help me set up and I decided that the small pool of light it cast had just the right feel: revealing something forbidden, something happening in the shadows of a paradise island. Titus does his work against the odds, there is no funding or official organisation behind him, in fact, he regularly gets arrested because people suspect him to be a poacher himself. Moreover, the local police has a reputation to be involved in the trade of turtle eggs. I feel like the moment of Titus digging up the eggs in the early dawn twilight captures the ambiguity of his situation. Is he the hero or the perpetrator? When asked why he keeps doing it despite the risks, he pats his chest and says ‘madam, for the love!’