Six-and-a-half years after starting a photo performance that has seen him travel the world and reach people from far-away lands, Ran Elfassy has logged the last chapter in his 350-week long series. His self-portraits were created as an antidote to living in Hong Kong’s polluted, arts-community backwater, and have been made in Hong Kong, Canada, Israel, Ethiopia, Thailand, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Mainland China and many more places. Most surprisingly is that his self portraits were bought from ‘strangers’ in the US, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Hungary and more. The point: to inspire others to launch their own creative projects, raising awareness of various environmental issues, and even helping these strangers by selling the photos on eBay.
“In our hyper-active, work-work-work lives, maybe an antidote is for all of us to have more creative moments,” said Elfassy. In this final push, Elfassy has decided to give the proceeds of the sale of his last image to Austin ‘Senor Tiburon’ (Mr. Shark) Barker, a Californian man Elfassy just met through Shark Rescue, a Hong Kong-based conservation campaign Elfassy launched to protect sharks from extinction.
“This completely random act of kindness to help a guy I only met this week is my little effort to help the victim of a terrible accident regain the freedom and joys of diving,” said Elfassy. Barker was made paralyzed after being hit by a car, and his dream is to get back under water.
According to Barker, “I lost everything from my accident. My career, marriage, my home. I was rear-ended on the freeway by a woman on her cell phone while I was waiting to exit. She had minimal insurance and I was airlifted to a trauma center. I had expired from my injuries but paramedics revived me. I was in coma for a while, had surgery to repair tears in my lungs from some broken ribs, and fused vertebrae in my back and rods in my spine for support. I would love it if scuba vendors would get involved and make my dream of getting back in the water possible. This would be a victory for the disabled, the dive community and anyone else who has the spirit to overcome unbelievable obstacles and find some joy again in a life that was destroyed.”
In this surprising twist of fate, Elfassy also shares with Barker the experience of having been made paralyzed by a car accident. In Elfassy’s case, however, he fully recovered, whereas Barker is in permanent need of a wheelchair. “I was also in a coma and had major head trauma,” said Elfassy, “and I would like to help ‘Senor Tiburon’ get back in the ocean.”
“It’s a great coincidence,” Elfassy continued, “I meet this guy because of Shark Rescue – because we’re both committed to saving sharks from extinction – and I happen to be wrapping up a project that tries to show how being creative can reach and inspire others. I really hope that through this photo, I can help Austin get back to diving and enjoying the beauty of the oceans.”
Selected highlights from 350 Rans:
• Week/photo No. 1 – Feb 19, 2004 – The first self portrait in the series.
• Week/photo No. 13 – May 13, 2004 – Resting on the shoulders of Alain Ngalani, Muay Thai kickboxing world champion.
• Week/photo No. 22 – July 15 2004 – Ran having a golf ball hit out of his mouth by Ranjan Marwah, founder of Capital Access, one of Asia’s top recruiting firms.
• Week/photo No 48 – Jan 13, 2005 – From when Ran and his wife survived the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, as they were in the water in Sri Lanka, taking surfing lessons.
• Week/photo No. 107 – Mar 2, 2006 – From when Ran was stabbed in the gut during the annual Hong Kong Art Walk.
• Week/photo No. 142 – Nov 2 2006 – From when Ran was hit by a car, then having a cocktail at Joyce is Not Here, a bar in Hong Kong.
• Week/photo No. 208 – February 7 2008 – From when Ran was being filmed as the subject of a Sony/National Geographic commercial, on the 350 Rans photo project.
• Week/photo No. 263 – February 26 2009 – From when Ran was the last of his kind to be killed, making his species extinct.
• Week/photo No. 287 – August 13 2009 – From when Ran launched Shark Rescue (www.sharkrescue.com) to help protect sharks from extinction.
• Week/photo No. 350 – October 28 2010 – The last self portrait in the series.
About Shark Rescue:
Shark Rescue is an initiative from Hong Kong, considered ‘ground zero’ of the shark trade. Our mission is to protect sharks and the oceans from unsustainable human activities. We are calling for a ban on shark fishing because the unchecked fishery has already decimated shark populations the world over, effectively upsetting the balance of marine habitats. Through our products and campaigns, we ask if we will allow the end of sharks – will we risk losing even one species?
As Hong Kong is the greatest trader in shark-fin and other products, the city is particularly responsible for fueling the destruction of the world’s seas and oceans. Our call to action is to have the Government lead towards a sustainable future.
See: (www.sharkrescue.com for more information