by Karen J. Coates
photographs by Jerry Redfern
Karen Coates and Jerry Redfern spent more than seven years traveling in Laos, talking to farmers, scrap-metal hunters, people who make and use tools from UXO, people who hunt for death beneath the earth and render it harmless. With their words and photographs, they reveal the beauty of Laos, the strength of Laotians, and the commitment of bomb-disposal teams. People take precedence in this account, which is deeply personal without ever becoming a polemic.
Karen Coates says “I’ve been hooked on Asia ever since I spent a semester of graduate school in Hanoi more than a dozen years ago. Somehow I managed to wheedle my husband, photojournalist Jerry Redfern, into a life on the move. I took a newspaper job in Phnom Penh in 1998, shortly after we married, and we’ve been tromping through jungles and rice paddies ever since. I’m the Southeast Asia correspondent for Archaeology and I write a Food Culture column for The Faster Times. My work appears in publications around the world such as GlobalPost, Wall Street Journal Asia, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, DAYS Japan, GEO Spain, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and many others.”
Karen Coates and Jerry Redfern combined their talents in Cambodia Now: Life in the Wake of War (McFarland and Company 2005) and in This Way More Better; Stories and Photos from Asia’s Back Roads (ThingsAsian Press 2013).
Jerry Redfern began his career as a staff photographer at newspapers in the American West, at a time when papers still had darkrooms and photographers still processed their own film. In 1998, he and his wife, Karen Coates, moved to Cambodia where Redfern shot news, features and investigative stories for Agence France-Presse, The New York Times, The Cambodia Daily and other publications. Redfern’s work has won awards from numerous journalism and art organizations, including the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Center – Review Santa Fe, and the National Press Photographers Association. Redfern’s images appear in publications around the world, includingThe New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Archaeology, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, GEO, Sierra, National Geographic Books, and many others.