Photographer Stefan Heinrichs Reveals the Characters Behind the Extraordinary Sport
Players, spectators, staff and pachyderms pause amid the action at the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament in a new film by Stefan Heinrichs. The annual competition held in the royal town of Hua Hin, Thailand, sees teams sponsored by the likes of Mercedes Benz and Audemars Piguet going head to head eight feet above ground to raise money for elephant rehabilitation, conservation and related charities. Each animal carries two people on its back during a match: a polo player wielding an extra long cane mallet, and a mahout or professional elephant rider to guide him. The scene off the pitch is all the more surreal, as international sports stars and European royals rub shoulders with Buddhist monks and transgender beauty queens. Filmed in black and white, Heinrich’s work captures the event’s quieter moments in a sequence of moving portraits, a signature technique the Berlin-based photographer has honed in projects for the likes of Mykita and Moncler. Heinrichs cites the Kru Ba Yai—elephant spirit men who open the proceedings by blessing the animals—as a highlight of filming this year’s tournament at the Anantara Resort on Thailand’s gulf coast. “They’re so connected to the elephants,” he notes of the ancient tradition. “But people don’t learn the practice anymore. These four men are the only ones who can still talk to them.”
STATS FROM THE SET
42—all of whom receive a medical check-up as part of the tournament.
Number of male elephants
Number of teams
Longest polo stick
Two seven-minute chukkas, or halves.
Money raised to date
$600,000 for the Thai Elephant Conservation Center and other charities.
Average elephant weight
Total weight of elephants
Total weight of food consumed by the elephants
Staple food (elephants)
Bananas and pineapples.
Staple food (photographer)
Bananas and pineapples—plus lots of water, and the occasional pla neung see-ew (steamed fish with soy sauce).
Average age of elephant players
17 years and 6 months.
Average age of human players
52 years and 6 months.
New Zealand's Pop Prodigy Multiplies Into a Formidable Beatboxing Chorus
One-woman, iPad-looping sensation Kimbra performs her breakout hit “Settle Down” in our exclusively commissioned and dynamic short by directors Us. Springing to global attention after featuring on Belgian chart-topping phenomenon Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” the soulful 22-year-old Kiwi dropped her debut album Vows in America last month. Us directing duo Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor filmed a single take of the track to capture the live energy of Kimbra’s performance, visually recreating her vocal loops in post-production. “She builds the entire song using just her vocals, some beatboxing and her iPad,” they explain. “It’s often quite hard to distinguish many layers of sound, so we wanted to break down the structure of her performance, and highlight what she was actually doing.” Currently touring the States with indie rockers Foster the People, NOWNESS caught up with Kimbra on the road to snare her choice of dance moves and drum kits.