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 … https://www.briancasseyphotographer.com/photographs/tsunami/

Patrice Fayet images © Brian Cassey