The Real Bali … and Arthur Fleischmann …

A real pleasure to spend some time in a beautiful barely untouched part of Bali, far away (well, about an hour and a half) from ‘tourist central’.

The Sidemen Valley adjacent to the village of the same name in East Bali is akin to stepping back several decades to earlier times when Bali was an unmarred spiritual paradise. Rice paddies are liberally strewn through the lush fertile valley dominated at the end by views of dramatic volcanic Gunung Agung. It’s bloody gorgeous …

I recently became aware of the impressive Balinese 1930’s photography work of Slovak born photographer/sculptor Arthur Fleischmann. Whilst at Sidemen I made this atmospheric image … “Homage to Arthur Fleischmann – Diah” (top below) … as a tribute and an attempt to echo Fleischmann’s Balinese work of that era.

Fleischmann arrived in Bali by boat in 1937 and set about documenting Balinese life. In particular he turned his camera to what he saw as the everyday heroics of Balinese women in agrarian life and at harvest … “their labour under the heat of a searing sun celebrated and immortalised”. Three of Arthurs many images can be found bottom below.

His Balinese photography collection is best found in the large book “Bali in the 1930’s” (if you can find it!)

The outbreak of WWII led to his departure from Bali to a new life in Sydney where he become a member of Australia’s Merioola artist commune. In 1949 he left for London where he lived the rest of his life till his death in 1990 at the age of 94. His last sculptural work … “Tribute to the Discovery of DNA” … stands in the NSW State Library, Sydney.

I am very grateful for the help of loverly local talent Diah Antari, my driver Suyasa and the rest of the so helpful staff at the beautiful Wapa di Ume hotel in the Sidemen Valley … so very much appreciated !

(The other real bonus being in Bali again … the chance to once again stay at my very ‘favouritist’ hotel … the sublime Tandjung Sari at Sanur. Owned by the Wawo-Runtu family since it’s beginnings in 1962, Tandjung Sari is a peaceful oasis on the Sanur waterfront … a place that fosters Balinese arts and lifestyle above all else. Once a haven for rock stars and royalty it has matured with grace over the decades. Nothing much has changed … and nor does it need to … since my first of many visits over twenty years ago.)

Image “Homage to Arthur Fleischmann – Diah” (top) © Brian Cassey, Images x 3 (bottom) © Arthur Fleischmann

"Homage to Arthur Fleischmann" - image © by Brian Cassey - made of Diah Antari in the Sidemen Valley East Bali

The work of Arthur Fleischmann in Bali 1930's - compilation by Brian Cassey

Tsunami at the Opera …

It never falls to amaze me where (and when) my images turn up in a publication or find another airing.

A couple of months ago I received an email from the most unlikely source … Opera de Lyon in France … who requested the use of an image of mine made way back in January 2005 during the tsunami disaster aftermath in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. They requested a licence to use the pic in their material promoting and supporting this years opera season “I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky” … and they nicely offered (without persuasion) to pay rather royally for the privilege.

The photo was made amongst the rubble of the unspeakable disaster that was Banda Aceh after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. It certainly wasn’t the best, the most dramatic or most memorable image that I made covering that massive disaster in Thailand, Myanmar or Indonesia … but it was this specific photo that Opera De Lyon requested to adorn their seasons brochure 2019/20, web site, promotional material and The Theatre de la Croix Rousse opera program. Who am I to argue …

i wasn’t on my own to be selected to have an image grace this years Opera de Lyon season material. They also selected work from highly regarded photojournalists … Bangladesh born Washington DC based photographer Andrew Biraj … and Paris based PJ Véronique de Viguerie.

Opera de Lyon’s rationale for the use of the images was quoted as … “The vitality of opera today – and its relevance – lies essentially in its ability to decipher and to see the world, the world of yesterday and the world of today. Great works and great shows open windows on our time and our news. We wish to present photos that illustrate and counterpoint the works of the program; images that expand and enrich the perception we can have of these operas, and come to open our reflection to the wider world”. So there …

First … but hopefully not the last … time that my images made it to the ‘Opera’. 🙂

Image © Brian Cassey 2005 for Opera de Lyon 2019 … top from the Opera de Lyon web site … below from the Opera de Lyon seasons program for “I was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky”. Sadly both suffered from clumsy cropping.


Opera de Lyon - 'I was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky' - image by Brian Cassey made in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Opera de Lyon - 'I was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky' - image by Brian Cassey made in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia


“After The Wave” – Tsunami 10 Years On …

Seems impossible that the horror of the Boxing Day Asian tsunami is now ten years past today. Still hard to believe – even after working on the aftermath in Banda Aceh Indonesia, Phuket Thailand and Myanmar – that nearly a quarter of a million died that day.

For those who worked documenting the Worlds (possibly) largest ever natural disaster, including myself, the images of death and destruction are indelibly etched.

I was tasked to cover the tsunami alongside the tough as nails and supremely talented UK journalist Susie Boniface for a British Sunday tabloid. Our immediate objective was to find the youngest UK victim and in Phuket we discovered battered survivor Patrice Fayet searching for his British wife and 6 month old Ruby-Rose. With the permission of Patrice and his family we documented his search amongst the temple morgues around Koh Lak Thailand. A eye opening unenviable task. The remains of Patrice’s wife Samantha were identified by DNA some months later. Ruby-Rose has never been found.

Ten years on and I was approached by a production company to provide my images of Patrice and the search for Ruby-Rose for use as an integral part of a 90 minute commemorative documentary film “After the Wave”. The film has already aired on SBS and the UK Discovery Channel to mark the tenth anniversary of the disaster.

“After the Wave” tells the untold story of the epic forensic operation in Thailand to identify and return home the bodies of over 5,000 victims. It has received great reviews in the Australian media. The SMH described it as ‘Haunting and Beautiful’ …  SBS stated  “The 90 minute film ‘After The Wave’ features heartbreaking first-person accounts of families torn apart when the tsunami struck. It also tells the story of the Australian Federal Police officers who led what became the world’s biggest forensic identification operation – returning a staggering 4000 bodies to families in 40 different countries”.

Around a dozen of my images from ten years ago are used in the production (with Patrice’s permission) and a further two of Patrice during his search for Ruby-Rose are being used on promotional material for “After the Wave” … and these can be viewed below (pics 2 and 3).

A collection of my tsunami photographs from both the 2004 Asian event (including those of Patrice’s search) and the Papua New Guinea tsunami in Sissano and Aitape 1998 can be found at …

Patrice Fayet images © Brian Cassey




Global Gallery and ‘Bus’ Portraits …

An excellent evening last week at the Global Gallery in Paddington Sydney for the ‘opening’ of our ‘fotostrada’ collaborative exhibition – “Portraits on a Bus”.

The exhibit consisted of thirty prints by ‘fotostrada’ members Dean Lewins, Tracey Nearmy, Sam Mooy, Graham Crouch, Mark ‘Crusty’ Baker and myself – from geographically as far afield as India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, all around Australia and even Antarctica – all of them portraying the bus passenger and the machines that convey them.

Gratifyingly it seemed that almost every photographer in Sydney had come along to have a look at the work (and down a free drink or two!) and it was excellent to spend just a little time with media imaging colleagues that I don’t get to catch up with too often!

The entire “Portraits on a Bus” work is now available – for those who were unable to get to Global Gallery – on the ‘fotostrada’ web site at

In addition my own “Portraits on a Bus” essay, consisting of my exhibition images and a number that just missed out on the exhibition cut, are now on my personal web site at 

The “Portraits on a Bus” exhibition was held in conjunction with the “2012 Head On Photo Festival”. Below is a quick pic of the exhibition opening eve at Global Gallery.

© image Brian Cassey

Portraits on a Bus …

The ‘fotostrada’ photojournalist collective – of which I am one member of a total of eleven  – is showing a group exhibition entitled “Portraits on a Bus” as part of the “2012 Head On Photo Festival” .

The exhibition runs at the Global Gallery, Paddington, Sydney from Tuesday, 29th May to Sunday 3rd June with the grand opening eve on Wednesday 30th May from 6pm. All are welcome to attend.

Here’s the exhibit description from the Head On Festival program and web site …

“The bus is ubiquitous. Every country on the planet has some form of bus transportation.

From cramped roof top rides on dishevelled buses in India … to tiny ‘bemos’ in Indonesia, mundane mass transport in Hong Kong, luxury express buses in Australia … even a work bus in Antarctica – the ‘fotostrada’ collective team has captured all in images which convey the very essence of the travelling bus passenger and the machines that carry them.”

Several of my images made during visits to India, Hong Kong and Indonesia are featured in the exhibition alongside other great work by colleagues Dean Lewins, Tracey Nearmy, Graham Crouch, Sam Mooy, Renee Nowytarger, Mark ‘Crusty’ Baker and Melanie Russell.

I’ve put together my own personal extended version of “Portraits on a Bus” from all my images that made the short list for the exhibition collection … and this essay has been added to my personal web site at

Posted below is a small selection of my “Portraits on a Bus” images.

Look forward to seeing you at the exhibition …

Images © Brian Cassey – from Hong Kong, Rajasthan India and Sukawati Bali Indonesia.