Max Pam

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RAMADAN YEMEN

What could I say about Yemen that did it justice. I tried in my journal to work it honestly. I tried with 60 rolls of black and white 120 film to translate the experience. That hot, spare and beautiful Ramadan May of 1993.

No eating or drinking anything between sunrise and sunset. The faithful waiting for the moment. The cannon booms from the mosque in the afterglow of the day. KABOUMMM and a frenzy of quat buying, tea drinking and food eating begins in the suqs and squares and oases and towns all over the country. Everyone happy, elated laughing and joking sitting down together as one nation.

And you know what, people always wanted me to share and be part of  their Ramadan, their community, their Yemen. I travelled all over the country with them. To Shibam, Taizz, Al Mukallah, Sanaa, over the desert, by the sea and into the mountains. The shared taxis were always a half past dead Peugeot 405’s with sometimes 10 or 12 people jammed in.

These photographs give my version of that unforgettable Ramadan month. An experience freely given to me by the generosity of Yemeni people.

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MAX PAM is passionate about life, travel and photography – for him they are inseparable. Travel has been the catalyst for the creation of his compelling images since the 1960s and the images he has produced providing an intimate journal of his life. As a teenager Pam found post war suburban Melbourne grim, oppressive and culturally isolated.  He found refuge in the counter-culture of surfing and the imagery of National Geographic and Surfer Magazine and became determined to travel overseas.

Pam left Australia at 20, after accepting a job as a photographer assisting an astrophysicist.  Together, the pair drove a Volkswagen from Calcutta to London. This adventure proved inspirational and travel has remained a crucial and continuous link to his creative and personal development.

As Gary Dufour noted in his essay on Pam’s work for Indian Ocean Journals, “each photograph is shaped by incidents experienced as a traveller. His photographs extend upon the tradition of the gazetteer; each photograph a record of an experience, a personal account of an encounter somewhere in the world. Each glimpse is part of an unfolding story rather than simply a record of a place observed. While travel underscores his production Pam’s photographs are not the accidental evidence of a tourist.”

Pam’s work takes the viewer on compelling journeys around the globe.  His extensive work in Asian counties is well represented in major collections and books as are his travels in Europe and Australia and into the rich and diverse Indian Ocean Rim cultures including India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Yemen, The Republic of Tanzania, Mauritius, Madagascar, the Cocos and Christmas Islands.  These images leave the viewer, as Tim Winton said in Pam’s award winning book Going East, “… grateful for having been taken so mysteriously by surprise and so far and sweetly abroad.”

His book Going East was featured in Phaidon’s History of the Photobook Vol 2 in 2006 His prints are in national and private collections in Australia, France, Great Britain Italy and Japan. Some of  the published books on Max Pam’s work include: Max Pam (1999), Ethiopia (1999), Indian Ocean Journals (2000). But it was the first one Going East: Twenty Years of Asian Photography (1992) that won the most prestigious European book award, French “Prix du livre”. His most recent book Atlas Monographs (2009) won the International Photo Book Prize at Photoespana in Madrid in 2010.

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