Brent Lewin

A baby elephant braces for a hit during a training session in a Karen village in Burma. The training session is called the “crush,” since its goal is to break the elephant’s spirit. Wild elephants are typically tied up, starved and beaten for three days straight. Burmese Karen mahouts near the Thai border operate a clandestine and illegal trade in elephants, smuggling them into Thailand for sale to mahouts for the Thai tourism industry.

Brent Lewin’s photo is a rare glimpse into the darker side of Thailand’s elephant tourism industry. Through exposure in international media, this image has helped raise awareness about the plight of the Asian elephant and has caused tourists to think twice about which elephant camps they support. 

Brent Lewin (b.1979) is a Canadian photographer based in Bangkok. His work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, The New York Times, Newsweek, and Time. His on-going documentary work on the vanishing culture of elephant keeping has received awards from Pictures of the Year International, Px3, the International Photography Awards, and American Photo. Brent was also selected by Photo District News as one of the PDN 30 photographers in 2010.

More of his work can be viewed on his site: