portfolio (click on images to see larger photo)All images © 1998 Hiroji Kubota/Magnum Photos.

Sa Pa, Vietnam
"The village of Sa Pa, 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) above sea level, is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Lao Cai, a city on the border between Vietnam and China. Access to Sa Pa is along mountain roads. Many members of the H'mong and Zao tribes live in Sa Pa. They plant and harvest rice in terraced fields built like steps in the side of the surrounding hills. At the Sunday morning market, one of the principal enjoyments of the people in the area, this young H'mong boy put his own rice in a bowl of noodles he had ordered, then took his time eating."

Calcutta, India
"How surprised I was to realize that even today many people in India are very poor. In Calcutta, one of India's best-known large cities, many street people have been chased off to the city's outskirts over the past two years. The city took this action in the hope of attracting foreign investment. In addition, the streets are now cleaned twice a day, in the morning and evening. All such action, however, does not mean that poverty has disappeared. This photo, showing a mother and child early in the morning in busy downtown Calcutta, tells the story vividly."

Phnom Penh, Cambodia
"Small boats carrying loads of fish caught in the Mekong River gather early in the morning on the riverside in Phnom Penh, not far from a casino boat and one of the capital city's most deluxe hotels. Children come here to pick up small fish dropped from the boats. I wondered whether the children took the fish home to eat with rice or whether they sold the fish to help support their families."

Dhaka, Bangladesh
"Traffic crowds the streets of the old section of Dhaka, the capital, and the central office district. Different from the notorious traffic congestion in Bangkok, rickshaws comprise an overwhelming percentage of the traffic in Dhaka. These vehicles are an important mode of transportation in the city. Since Bangladesh reportedly has the world's highest population density, that probably makes Dhaka the world's most densely populated city."

Mumbai (Bombay), India
"Mumbai is India's largest commercial city. Besides being the home of the world's largest movie industry, the city is also the home of just about any other conceivable kind of business activity. Especially interesting for me were the laundry cooperatives and the lunch delivery businesses. Laundry is washed, dried, and delivered the same day. Meanwhile, after hundreds of thousands of wives make lunch at home for their husbands, a delivery service picks up the lunches and delivers them at specific times to the places where the husbands work. The service is reliable and cheap."

Fatehpur, Rajasthan, India
"About 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan State, rich landowners and merchants have fine homes, called
haveli,whose walls are colorfully painted. Haveliowners spend most of their time in large cities. Although many haveliare found in Fatehpur and vicinity, the lives of most of the people living in Fatehpur and other towns around here are far removed from such luxury."

Lhasa, Xizang, China
"Ever since the restrictions on New Year visits to Jokhang Temple, the holiest temple of Lamaism, were lifted during the Tibetan New Year in Febraury 1981, Tibetans began visiting Lhasa not only from places throughout the wide expanse of Tibet but also from distant Qinghai, Yunnan, Szechwan, Gansu, and Nei Mongol. This photo shows the area in front of the temple's main gate filled with pilgrims wearing heavy sheepskin coats."

Chittagong, Bangladesh
"Along the coast in Gujarat State, India, and in this area in the outskirts of Chittagong—the second largest city in Bangladesh-there are many scrapyards for breaking up huge ships taken out of service. Besides the long beach, ideal for shipbreakers, this area also has a rich supply of cheap labor. Demand is strong for scrap iron and for various fittings taken from the ships. This photo shows workers carrying a steel plate weighing perhaps 300 kilograms (660 pounds) removed from the ship in the background. The workers walk barefooted through dirt slippery from oil and grease."

Samastipur, Bihar, India
"The flooding that occurs every year in India's Bihar State and in neighboring Bangladesh is not often reported in the news. In addition, the government provides almost no flood assistance. During flooding, residents of the area carry their household goods (scant few) to the side of the road. The bicycle hanging in the tree here gave me the impression that bicycles are among a household's most prized possessions."

Paizhouwuan, Hubei, China
"The fact that nineteen soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) lost their lives in this area probably means that no one expected the levee to break so suddenly. But extremely heavy rains, reportedly the heaviest in a hundred years, fell continuously, and the flow of water in the Chang Jiang River (Yangtze River) reached an unheard of volume of 100,000 cubic meters (3,531,000 cubic feet) per second. Partly because priority was placed on protecting large urban areas such as Wuhan, Jiujiang, and Yueyang, the agricultural areas along the Chang Jiang suffered tremendous damage. The Paizhouwuan area was no exception."

Anzhangxiang, Hunan, China
"Flooding plagues the northern part of Hunan Province just about every year, caused mainly by the water level rising in the province's four rivers—the Xiang Jiang, Zi Jiang, Yuan Jiang, and Li Shui Rivers. Another cause is land reclamation from the Dongting Hu and Poyang Hu Lakes, reducing the number of outlets for water from the Chang Jiang River (Yangtze River). There was also damage to the canal in Anzhangxiang. Here, taking advantage of the agricultural off-season, about three thousand farmers were mobilized to repair the damage. Farmers who did not answer the mobilization call were fined 30 yuan (about US$3.50) a day."

Karnal, Haryana, India
"Haryana State, once part of Punjab State, is one of India's most fertile districts, especially for producing grains such as rice and wheat. Because over 70 percent of all Indians are vegetarians, rice and wheat are particularly important to them. Rice planting is generally done by hand. Surprisingly, however, I found small tractors being used for cultivating wet rice paddies."

Bali, Indonesia
"Compared to its relatively small land area, Bali has numerous mountains and valleys. One cannot help but be taken by the combined beauty of the terrace fields, wet paddies, and plush tree growth. The Balinese are the only Indonesians who embrace Hinduism, and their fine arts, classical arts, and religious ceremonies reflect their profound beliefs. As I watched this farmer working a rice field with Mt. Agung, Bali's tallest and holiest mountain, in the background, it seemed for an instant that he was performing a religious ceremony."

Hiegu, Yangon, (Rangoon) Myanamar, (Burma)
"Ever since the military government took control of Myanmar after the coup d'etat in 1962, the country's economy has moved steadily downward. Although formerly the world's largest exporter of rice, for instance, today the United Nations has designated Myanmar a heavily indebted poor country. Although some economic progress is seen in the capital, Yangon, and in parts of Mandalay, the second largest city, the overall feeling is that time stopped in Myanmar several decades ago."

Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
"Kathmandu is located about 1,300 meters (4,250 feet) above sea level and the immediate vicinity is surrounded by mountains two and three thousand meters high (6,500 to 9,850 feet). About 65 kilometers (40 miles) away, meanwhile, are the tall peaks of the Himalayas, some towering as high as seven thousand meters (23,000 feet). The peaks are covered with snow all year round. Almost all the mountains in Nepal up to three thousand meters (9800 feet) in height have terraced fields carved into them for raising various crops. Viewing the fields from a helicopter impressed me anew with the tremendous efforts the local farmers make to produce food."

Hukou, Shaanxi, China
"'He who controls the waters of the Huang He River (Yellow River) controls China.' This saying has been borne out throughout China's long history. The saying also emphasized how the Chinese people have continuously suffered from the river's wildly erratic flow. Upstream, like in Qinghai Province, a number of dams have been built, resulting in much less flooding than previously. Here in Hukou, situated between Shaanxi and Shanxi Provinces, is the only falls along the entire Huang He River. Until fairly recently this area had been off limits to foreign visitors."

Anshan, Liaoning, China
"Even before the founding of the People's Republic of China, Anshan was a key area for the steel industry. The steel plant located here is the largest in China, comprising ten blast furnaces and thirteen rolling mills. But it lacks the modernized facilities the plants in Paoshan (in the outskirts of Shanghai) have, and thus has fallen behind in productivity and the introduction of anti-pollution measures. The annual consumption of coal in China, meanwhile, is approximately 1.45 billion tons, with much of it having high sulfur content. The ill effects of pollution caused by using this coal have become a serious problem not only for the hundred thousand workers at the Anshan Steel and Iron Works but for the entire country and beyond."

Taunggyi, Shan, Myanmar (Burma)
"One of the attractions of Taunggyi in Shan State in Myanmar is the market held every five days. Because the town is situated on a plateau 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) above sea level, even in summer it is cool enough in the early morning and evening to require wearing a long-sleeve shirt. The market attracts the members of tribes living in the nearby mountains and takes on a unique atmosphere. The Shan are of Chinese lineage. For that reason, and because they live in an area bordering on China, they have always had close relations with people on the Chinese side. This area is also infamous worldwide as a production center for illegal drugs."

Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
"All sorts of food products are sold at the market on Qingping Road in Guangdong's old downtown area. Many Cantonese are proud of the saying applied to them, that the only things they won’t eat that fly are airplanes and the only four-legged things they won't eat are tables. The store in this photo is not a pet shop. Sold here for food are not only dogs but also snakes, cats, monkeys, and even owls. Snake and cat meat eaten together is called 'dragon and lion' food."

Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
"Because Kashgar is a dry area, water is a precious commodity. The volume of water that flows from the melting snow in the Kunlun Mountains is gradually decreasing every year in Kashgar and Hotan, causing unease among the populace. In the old city of Kashgar, people must go to places like the one seen in this photo to obtain water for daily living needs. Walking around selling water in the city would be a good business."

Hon Dat, Vietnam
"The development of waterways in the Mekong Delta amazed me. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the total length now is no less than ten thousand kilometers (6,200 miles). It is possible to travel anywhere in the delta, even from Ho Chi Min City (formerly Saigon). Because of the waterways, duck farms have sprouted up in many places. The delta area supplies almost half of Vietnam's total demand for food."

Bacolor, Luzon, Philippines
"Mount Pinatubo had no history of erupting before 1991, when the largest eruption of the twentieth century occurred here. Fertile farmland and a number of old and historic towns in the vicinity were completely buried by lahar,a mixture of volcanic ash and mud. A billion square meters (11 billion square feet) of laharremain on the mountain, and every time it rains heavily the laharmoves."

Mindanao, Philippines
"Because of the rarity of typhoons hitting Mindanao, the island is an ideal spot for growing bananas. To develop more land for growing bananas, forests have been leveled and large-scale banana farms built. The bananas grown here are chiefly for export to Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. To ward off some insects and mold, various agricultural chemicals are sprayed on the bananas. It is said that the local people will not eat bananas destined for export."

Jakarta, Indonesia"
Tamrin Road and Sudirman Road running north and south through the center of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, are the main streets in the city, and central government offices, banks, office buildings, and five-star hotels line them. Walk down any of the side roads off the two main streets, however, and you'll find open lots where construction projects seem to have been halted. Many poor people use the empty lots to grow vegetables."

Jiaxian, Shaanxi, China

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