Red Hero Charity Auction
Red Hero is the direct translation of Mongolia’s capital city ‘Ulaanbataar’. Despite having the dubious accolade of the world’s coldest capital, I keep returning to this proud nation for its truly unique landscape, its people and the charity I support there. Photography should come from the heart and I believe most my best works have come from here. The charity has become very important to me, not just because its been a vehicle to incredible adventure, being welcomed into people’s private homes for example has given for most I believe a very rare insight into the ‘everyday’ of its people but fundamentally for the huge difference such a charity makes for many youngsters. The Tsolmon Ireedui Foundation tifcharity.org (Hong Kong registered) is a day centre in one of the poorer suburbs of Ulaanbataar, set up to help children within very poor families. It provides schooling, a decent meal, access to a doctor and importantly an opportunity to take the pressure off often single or ill parents. Since my first auction, Red Hero 1 in 2013, I have seen the charity grow from just a dozen or so kids to around three times that on our approach to Red Hero3. The charity is one of only two buildings in the whole district that has running water. So no more trips to the outside ‘long drop’ toilet for these young kids in a -20 degree winter. This has been made possible in part from the contributions of the previous two auctions where we managed to gross over 500 000 HKD from 19 photographs. With the added kudos of having Kee Club and Christies by our sides Im proud to announce we shall have Red Hero 3 on November 8 2016. Danny Chau of chaudigital.hk is one of the very best fine art printers in the business, he’s responsible for making the final magic happen. Ive used again box framing with Museum grade glass. Its not cheap but ‘reflections’ take from the experience. As a guide to pricing the photographs we estimate at 3 times the cost price of printing and framing. Prices at auction ranged previously from 20-58k HKD. All profits to the charity. I’m including here an extract from my diary written earlier this year in my 2 week winter visit. (I return for a further 2 weeks in summer to complete the collection you see below). I think it helps set the scene, takes you briefly into a world I was lucky to experience :
“We head out to the nearby suburbs again where the charity I’m working with are based. Traffic is typically bad, buses are crammed with people, the condensation on the windows freezes from the inside. We have a doctor, the charity cook, some of the charity team with me and of course my ‘bodyguard’ (so called, not just to make me feel important but actually in reality, I’ve mentioned before, it can be tricky for foreigners in the poorer urban areas). Along the way people flag down passing traffic hoping for a ride. “Everyone is a taxi here”.. Somehow a set rate of 600 tugriks per km has been established.. Usually it’s a flat rate 1000, around $US 0.50 making it the cheapest taxi fare I’ve ever come across. We notice too a crowd has gathered outside a building, police are there in large numbers, from the top floor a person is attempting to jump.. It’s not something usual I’m told.. (Just seen news, it was a 15 year old girl, she was saved by the police).
We arrive at what at first appears quite a nice house by most standards and I was wondering why this family had been selected by the charity. I was not prepared for his story, on hearing his history I realised this mans life was rapidly unraveling faster than he could hold it together. “He’s the only dad we have at the charity who is not a drunk”. He’s a single parent, taking labour work wherever he can. He has two sons, one is clearly very physically disabled and needs 24/7 care. His tendons are “not attached properly”, the father flips him upside down whipping his socks off to show floppy achilles. His boisterous sweet looking brother cares for him during the day whilst dad takes work where he can. He’s only seven years old. We were meant to visit this family two days ago but the fathers brother had just died then. This reads like a Korean soap opera I know but it’s really life at the sharp end for some people. It’s dawned on me how dedicated the charity is. I can see what drives them, it’s very rewarding to be a very small part of this work being done. It’s a tricky case to handle, this boy will require a lot more manpower and the reality of extra cost..
I could sense this proud man was only just about holding it together. I hope he finds a wife again“