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Elephant Polo: The King’s Cup

Elephant Polo: The King’s Cup

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.”

Elephant Polo: The King’s Cup
 on Nowness.com.

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