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Talpe, Sri Lanka
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Thalpe, Unawatuna, Southern Province, Sri Lanka. Talpe  Sri Lanka

Thalpe, Unawatuna, Southern Province, Sri Lanka.

Sometimes a single image pulls me out the door. I came across an old Steve McCurry photo of the Weligama stick fishermen while cleaning out boxes of magazines a few years back. McCurry depicted the fishermen as seafaring mavericks with one of the toughest jobs on earth, and from that moment I knew I had to see them with my own eyes. All I knew about Sri Lanka at the time was that it was locked in the grip of a bloody civil war, it was separated from the Indian Subcontinent by Adam's Bridge, and Ceylon tea was world-class.

Fast forward to Ceylon. Touts and tour operators would have you believe that the stick fishermen no longer work the southern coast, but with a little hard work and some hiking shoes you'll have no trouble finding them on your own. Having them welcome you with open arms into their closed little community is another matter entirely, but after a week of shooting, shouting, and hanging around, I think these fellas finally warmed to my presence. They even took the time t haul my carcass out of the surf after a particularly large wave decided to play tricks on me.