THE KAREN ON ANDAMAN ISLANDS by Andreas Deffner February 2014

The Karen on Andaman Islands

Deffner’s photographs offer a fascinating window into the strange and distant world of the Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal about 670 sea miles West of Thailand and 150 sea miles South of Burma. This Indian territory supports approx. 250,000 people on 204 islands. One small part of the population is composed of the Karen; an ethnic group brought from mainland Burma to the archipelago 60 years ago .

Between 1999 and 2006 Deffner went to the Andaman Islands for weeks at a time. To not travel as a tourist, he tagged along with official trips by scientists, supported by Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which runs a base camp called A.N.E.T. (Andaman and Nicobar Enviromental Team) near Wandoor at the southern tip of South Andaman Island.

These trips with Dr. Rauf Ali, environmentalist, Manish Chandri, anthropologist and Harry Andrews, then director of the Madras Crocodile Bank, put Deffner in touch with local Karen people who work for A.N.E.T. running boats and assisting in scientific work.  They allowed the photographer access to all of the archipelago (aside from the Nicobars which are completely closed off to foreigners).

Among the generous and very hospitable Karen people was one gentleman in particular who stood out. 70 year-old boater Saw Pauw, who as an elder had enormous standing in the community, opened doors in remote local villages and communities for Deffner. Due to the villagers’ trust in Deffner, he was able to record unique native customs and ceremonial rituals.


Born in 1959 Deffner studied photography and communication design and started to work as a free-lance photographer in 1980. After living in Paris and Hamburg he moved to Berlin. He is now a full time resident of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.

Andreas Deffner is a passionate traveller and a knowledgable explorer of the subcontinent, who first got to India because of his love for a woman more than twenty years ago. He quickly fell in love with the whole country and decided to put down roots in India, where he finds spectacular and quiet stories and captures them with his camera.

“India has become my second home. It is maybe partially because of my interest in travelling and it’s adventures, but more importantly I find strong visual impressions, a nice dose of anarchy and unfinished places inspiring.”

All black-and-white images have been captured with a Leica camera. To see more of Andreas’ work:

Photo Credit:  Andreas Deffner


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