I'm not a photographer. I'm an artist. My plan was to document Sri Lanka in an exhibition in the UK to mark the first anniversary of the 2004 tsunami.
I did achieve this, and ended up creating a few larger works based on these photographs. But I decided that the raw photographs, while not technically very good, add to the narrative. I ended up displaying them along side my other work at the exhibition.
Here are those photographs, To view as a slideshow, click on the image, and then press play.
Charles Weber (left) and his brother Gerard Weber (right).
Gerard Weber was my driver and translator during the trip. His assistance was essential - I couldn't have done it without him.
He kindly put me up at his family home for the first couple of nights before we went on the road south to document the destruction that lay in the wake of the tsunami. He lives near Negombo, which wasn't directly affected. Even Gerard was shocked by what we saw further south. Television pictures just don't prepare you for the reality of it.
Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin situated in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures.
Chaminda is a fisherman in Totamuna. He lost his fishing boat in the tsunami. He was very hospitible to us when we arrived at the village, and introduced us to his extended family (those who survived - many were killed). He made us tea, and later offered us something to eat. Chaminda and some of his family sat for a photographic portrait in front of a temporary shelter, which became the source material for the key piece in my exhibition in England - a painted photo-collage called 'Totamuna'.
Chaminda became Gerard's main point of contact with the village when we returned home. He wrote to us, giving us his story for our project.Gerard and I were touched by Chaminda's generosity, so we decided to try to help him buy a new fishing boat. After my exhibition, I put part of the overall charity money raised towards his new boat. Gerard and the charity Help Lanka organised the purchase of the boat. Gerard sent me a photograph of Chaminda with his new boat a few months later.
One day I intend to return to the village to meet Chaminda and his family.
I met Dinusha in the village of Paraliya Thalwatta, which was completely destroyed by the tsunami. I spoke to her and her family for a while. She told me about how her sleep was disturbed each night by a recurring nightmare in which in the sea comes in again.
Dinusha was a law student, and had lost her books. I had almost run out of money at this point, but I gave her the last of it. It wasn't much, but she was very grateful. I tried to contact her again a few months later via Gerard but didn't manage to.
I based a large drawing 'Paraliya Thalwatta' on photographs of Dinusha and her neighbours that I took that night in the near darkness in their temporary wooden shelter.