The Universal Scream project began as a promise I made to my then six-year-old daughter that I would photograph her favourite toy with children I met around the Pacific Rim during my yearlong journey with Michael Palin for his travel series Full Circle.
The toy in question was a five-foot tall inflatable doll based on Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream of Nature and the first pictures were taken with a group of Inuit children on Little Diomede Island in the Bering Straits in August 1995.
Eighteen years have passed and my daughter Sonia is now almost 25, but a version of the inflatable Scream still travels with me - and I continue to photograph it whenever I get a chance.
From the Sahara to the Himalayas, with novice Buddhist monks in Bhutan to Yanomami warriors in Amazonia, the doll has been photographed in hundreds of locations with a cast of thousands from all around the world.
Basil Pao began his photographic career in 1980 upon his return to Hong Kong after ten years in the United States, where he was art director for Atlantic Records and Album Graphics Inc. in New York, and Warner Brothers Records in Los Angeles. His work during that time included designing the book and graphics for the Monty Python film Life of Brian, where he first worked with Michael Palin. They have since collaborated on 11 illustrated books based on the BBC travel series Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Hemingway Adventure, Sahara, Himalaya, New Europe and Brazil. He is also the author of Hands, China Revealed and The Universal Scream, which was launched on 12 December 2013 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch’s birthday. His exhibition catalogues include Yi’Jing-Book of Changes, which accompanied The Great Walls of China Series exhibition; Travels with Michael Palin for his exhibitions at the Fox Talbot Museum in Wiltshire and the Royal Geographical Society in London; and Around the World in 8000 Days for the exhibition at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. His corporate work includes the limited-edition books A Tale of Two Ventures for Wah Kwong Maritime Transport; AMAN, Bhutan and AMAN2 for Amanresorts; OM-Ordinary Moments, CMYK-China, Shan Shui-Mountain-Water, Blazing Shadows-A World of Black & Light for Printer Trento and his latest OM 2 -Ordinary Moments+. Basil’s travel essays and other assignments, including his photography for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor and Little Buddha, have appeared in publications and exhibitions all around the world.