Matt Colaciello's Portfolio

A hero lives in every person. I film and photograph heroes.  


Tashi Palmo

Tashi Palmo lives at the top of the Shera Valley several kilometers above the Indus River in the Indian region of Ladakh. In the past, it was too cold to plant vegetables or barley. During the last ten years, however, she has begun cultivating the land around her home as spring temperatures come earlier and the growing season lasts longer. Though climate change has benefitted Tashi Palmo in this way, changes in precipitation have created constant worry: "In the past, rain came as a constant drizzle; never so hard that it came through the roof. Now we get sudden downpours that can turn into flash floods."  

Remaz Abdelgader

Remaz, 23, is an intern at the office of House Representative André Carson. When Remaz was a child she and her family came to the U.S. as refugees. Today, she aspires to become a human rights lawyer. In 2016, Remaz received national attention when Bernie Sanders invited her up on stage at a rally when she asked him how he would address growing Islamophobia in the U.S. "Whoever is elected," Remaz says, "we have to remain engaged and work for policies that address our community." 

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Chamba Tsetan

Chamba loves ice. He's the right winger on India's national hockey team but there is nothing right wing about his politics. He is always ready to recite the preamble to India's highly democratic constitution and, in the next moment, offer an intelligent critique of his country's government, its environmental policies, and their implications for his region's glaciers.

Anita and Nandini

Anita, left, drinking her morning chai; Nandini, right, carrying home still-warm milk from her cow. Anita and her relatives are some of the people I interviewed about changes in the agricultural economy, climate, and culture of the Indian state of Bihar.

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Gen Tashi

If you didn't expect someone who has spent 81 years of his life in robes—and about half of that in retreat—to be aware of  climate change and its causes, Gen Tashi will set you straight. At 89, this Ladakhi monk is concerned about what is to come for his region: "Climate change is going to make water scarcity a big problem for Ladakh... Scientists say, 'plant more trees!' But if we don't have any water how will the trees grow?"

Swati Negi

Architect and earth builder originally from Madhya Pradesh, India. Swati works with the Ice Stupa Project to engineer artificial glaciers that conserve glacial melt water to irrigate Ladakhi fields. In the summer, Swati and the crew at the SECMOL school build highly-insulating structures from rammed earth. It's a technique that saves energy by passively keeping buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 

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Rishar and his son

Fisherman in Desa Sama Bahari, Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. In a fishing village like Rishar's, health and success are intimately intertwined with the state of the sea. Struggling with coral bleaching, fish population decline, and a contentious relationship with national park authorities, Rishar wonders if fishing will be a viable livelihood for his son.

Urgyen Dolma

"We used to get snow that accumulated up to the height of a mud brick (around 5 inches). Now we get almost none." Urgyen Dolma, 77 is one of the many elders in Ladakh, India, I interviewed with local students as part of a collaboration between the SECMOL school and The Global Workshop. Our interviews form the foundation of an oral environmental history of this region of the Himalayas. 


Tsetan Angmo

College student and aspiring climate change activist in the Leh District of Ladakh, India. Here, Tsetan stands behind her family's home with the boulders carried down to their doorstep by the devastating 2010 cloud burst floods. The highly unusual weather phenomena that caused these floods were likely created by climate change.

Pak Taimba

Pak Taimba spent his twenties seeking his fortune on dangerous commercial fishing liners off the coast of Borneo. During a stint of shark finning—the lucrative but extremely destructive practice driving shark extinction—he was caught in Australian waters and imprisoned for 9 months. "It actually wasn't so bad," he says. "There were men from all over the world who were caught fishing illegally or tying to immigrate to Australia. I made lots of friends. A lot of the fishermen said they'd go right back to finning when they got out. But I'll never take the risk again." 

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Asha Mohamood Noor

Asha is a community organizer in Detroit, Michigan, where she works for the Campaign to Take on Hate. Asha has been woke since middle school when, in the wake of 9/11, she saw everyday Muslim Americans blamed for atrocities they had nothing to do with. "I'm black and Muslim, and my parents are immigrants from Somalia, so I've always known that my identity is different from the status quo... I view it as a necessity to organize for disenfranchised communities." 

Samstan Dundup

Retired farmer, 87, Domkhar Village, Ladakh, India.

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Ibu Bapanda

Bajau fisherwoman, Desa Sama Bahari, Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Choti and her little sister

Choti and her little sister, Khiri Village, Bihar, India. The people of North India's densely populated Ganges River Plains face increasingly frequent hot spells and unreliable precipitation. As a result of climate change, Choti and her peers will likely have to overcome unprecedented economic and environmental challenges in the decades to come. 

Pak La Uda

Bajau fisherman and world free-diving record holder from Desa Sama Bahari, Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. 

All images ©2016-2017