Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting Recognized

Over the last few days I have had 2 different meeting with people in one area who I photographed in another quite distant area. A few days ago I was photographing on a road under some freeways when I heard behind me "Gerry! Gerry!!" I had my ear plugs in so it to me a second to respond and when I turned I saw some of the garbage workers in a truck slowly passing and waiing (greeting of respect where Thais places their hands together up near their face) me! I smiled and waied back but it took me a second to remember who they were.

Today at 8am when I was trying to run across the same very busy road a young boy on a motorbike stopped and started talking to me. He asked if I was going to photograph boxing today? I said no I was not going to photograph boxing and quickly said goodbye before running off at the first available break in the traffic for the last 10 minutes. I think the young boy was a boxer from the gym but I am not sure, did not recognize his face.

Remembering Names

Sometimes have a hard time remembering the names of all the people I meet. How many this trip? 50? 100? When you can remember the nicknames of the people you photograph it always helps. Today when I met the drinking group and waied Khune Ot and Khune Dang and used their names, there were smiles of appreciation all around. The Khune part of the nickname is a polite way to address people Khune Gerry = Mr. Gerry.

I have to work harder at remembering peoples names and the stories they tell me, sometimes my mind just goes blank because I am usually multi tasking while talking to them, doing some kind of camera stuff and talking at the same time to keep them comfortable, so sometimes the name goes in one ear and out the other. I have to work on remembering what I am told and putting a face to the name later on when I meet that person again.

Big Thumbs Up

When I sat down with the drinking men today in the slum I was offered some whiskey but told the man I had just met that I did not drink the others who knew me told him the same thing. A few minutes later on I was offered some cold water from the communal pot, a common straw is used by everyone. When I drank the water I got a big thumbs up and some "good good" comments from the smiling men in the area. I had my own water bottle but it would have been rude to refuse the water. I think they might have been a bit surprised I would drink with them that way, they must have had experiences in the past where farang would not drink from the communal bucket, using the same straw.

I want to go back and photograph these fellows with the Banarama 2 when it arrives, I think some good photos can be made in this area using that 4x5 neg and flash combo, it might give a heightend reality to the photo, something like a harsh Weegee, Diane Arbus feel to the photograph. I have always liked the look of flash combined with stark detail and contrast in a photograph.

Bullet Proof Amulets

The 3 amulets that were given/sold to me by the group of drinking men (Khune Ot, Khune Dang) supposedly have magical powers. Both Khune Dang and Khune Ot along with others sitting near by explained to me how if I wore an amulet it would protect me. These Buddhist amulets would protect me from harm, if I was shot at with a gun the amulet would not allow the bullet to penetrate my skin, the bullets would just bounce off me.

Not going to test out this theory just yet but the amulets are quite beautiful. I will place them up high somewhere in my darkroom back in Canada and give them the proper respect they deserve.

8am Lets Drink!

Got up early and out on the road fast today, was awake by 630am and out on the road at 715am. I got down to the area where the canal garbage collectors homes and boats are at about 8am. I had an hour to kill before they were scheduled to leave so I walked down to the area where the drinking men and glue sniffer teenagers hang out. There 4 drinkers in their regular spot, 3 of the drinkers were 1/2 sober 1/2 drunk, one was completely drunk. I talked to Khune Ot and Khune Dang who were polite to me, they defended me a bit from the drunk man who I met for the first time, telling him in Thai that I was a friend and not to ask me for money and there was no need to try to speak English to me because I spoke Thai.

Khune Ot told me the Thai whiskey they drink is 45% proof (I think thats what he said). He was sitting in the same spot with the same expression in the same position as when I left him 2 days ago and 3 days ago and 4 days ago. He seems never to move, he just sits there and drinks and drinks. 8am in the morning and Ot has a shot glass with whiskey in it and I am photographing him. Khune Dang was much more friendly today and open with me, allowing me to photograph him more easily, last time (the first time I met him) he was wary of me. He even gave me some Buddhist pendents after explaining (had me smell one amulet he called it "Sweet") in depth what they were and where they were from (I understood very little of what he said). Later on Khune Dang asked for 60 baht for whiskey, which I gave him.

Geez these guys will not live long drinking like that everyday, how can you be drunk everyday of your life? There is such sadness and desperation in that group, such a waste, so many aimless lives. They seem like nice decent men, I have rarely seen anger, they are almost always smiling, maybe in a a different life they could be productive people. Addiction is really difficult for me to understand, I have never been drunk in my life, never did drugs, or drink never smoked. Its hard for me to look at people like this and really understand what they are going through. Why can they not stop? How hard is it to stop? Will their body shut down if they try to stop? What damage has been done? Why do they drink?
One interesting tidbit I learned today. The drinkers look down on the young men who sniff glue in the area, they consider the glue sniffers a bad group but is there really a difference between them?

Introducing the Banarama 2!!!

Dean Jones went out of his way to help me and quickly made up a replacement Razzle camera. My original Banarama camera was stolen when I came to Thailand on the 15th of the month, I found out it had been stolen 4 days later on the 19th when I finally got my bag delivered to me by China Airlines.

I wrote Dean about what had happened and asked him to start work on Banarama 2 which I expected to be completed 1-2 years from now. Dean worked miracles and got the camera made for me in record time. He is sending me the camera tomorrow morning via courier to Thailand, it should hopefully be in my hands Monday or Tuesday next week and I can use it to photograph in the slums, in the boxing gym, and on the streets at night. I should be able to shoot Banarama 2 for 12 or 13 days before heading home to Canada. This time the Banarama 2 is going in the carry on baggage!

Thank you very very much  Dean for all your hard work, your a gentleman and a scholar!

Here is the first look at Banarama 2 it is the same focal length as orginal, it's fitted with a Fujinon 135mm, a cable release will be added before shipment.

Patty Cake

Have a 7/11 girl playing patty cake with me. This girl probably in her late 20s has been giving me the eye stare down the last 5 times I went to the store, and I mean when I say she is staring she is really MELTING ME WITH HER EYES. Sometimes when a girl stares at you, there is doubt, is she interested or not? Maybe you just have something hanging out of your mouth or nose? Did I forget to wash my face? No doubt this time thou, there is interest, but why?

Earlier in the week she asked where I am staying, I told her, she also asked about my relationship situation, I was completely honest about that also but none of that seems to have deterred her. Last night I went to buy some treats at her store, I go to the cashier and this melting eye girl (do not know her name) is working the till, she gives me the eye stare down thing 2 more times, then when I reach out to take my change she uses both hands to give it to me, first she takes my extended hand with her left hand and holds it...for a long time...then hands me the change with her right hand and holds my hand again this time with both her hands...for a long time...all the time staring at me with a smile.

patty cake...

She seems like a nice girl, a friendly hard working girl but I do not want to lead her on, and have her be disappointed later, she is looking for a long term relationship and probably eventually a loving husband and I cannot be that for her, it would be wrong to encourage her. Many girls in Thailand seem to have this fantasy that farang (Western) men are special in some way, maybe its because they assume farangs have money, maybe its just their uniqueness, maybe its a racial thing (Thais love white skin), most likely its the money. Many farang males take advantage of that situation, many Thai girls end up hurt and alone. My friend Weaw who I met again last year ended up getting HIV from one of her farang boyfriends (the HIV eventually led to blindness). Weaw wanted love, a family and happiness and now she lives at her family home up country, blind, HIV positive and alone.

This girl working a poor paying job only wants a better life, I cannot blame her for trying. She wants love, hope, a good future, a loving loyal husband, family and children. Of course my ego, Mr Ego is saying to me, no no its you! Your so hot! Your the man!! Your so handsome !!! Your so sexy!!!! She does not see a fattish, aging 47 year old man with a slight limp when he walks! She sees Mr Hotty! Brad Pitt, George Clooney move over! Gerry's coming through!

But Mr Ego is wrong again.

Guess I have to stop going to that 7/11. Hope this mystery girl finds someone good to be with and lives a long happy life.

Wasted Day

Had a very bad day, the worst in a long time on these trips. Not sure why just felt all lethargic, went to bed at 1030pm last night, woke up at 10am after a night of dreams some nightmares. Got ready to go, took a shower had some fruit but then for some reason just felt lousy and lazy, laid down again and woke up at 145pm, to late to shoot the 4x5 (light here goes down about 5pm). Grabbed my Leicas but am unsure where to go or what to shoot. I have an appointment to go shoot the garbage klong workers tomorrow on their boat at 9am. Maybe I just need to regroup and try again tomorrow. A terrible terrible day, a day I will regret later when I am back in Canada and missing shooting in Thailand.

Need to get some good food (have not been eating well am losing weight), refocus and prepare to make photographs tomorrow morning. I am going to try to follow my friend Larry's advice over the coming days (he advised I get up and get out earlier). Tomorrow will get up at 630am to get down to the slum on time (for 9am) to shoot with the garbage canal collectors, the day after am going to get up early again with the 4x5 to do portraits. Enough of this lazy ass shit Gerry, get off your ass and to work!

Feel lousy, I guess today I was just to lazy to carry the 4x5 today with the tripod and holders in the heat, must be getting worn down. Damn hate wasting days, soon I will be back in security working mode in Canada unable to make photos. NOWS MY TIME!

Hope the Banarama 2 comes soon, then I can shoot 4x5 a bit lighter and in darker situations, I think Dean is shipping it soon ( today?) via express courier.

I need to change where I shoot soon, might go to Cambodia or up North to Chiang Khong, possibly Laos. A change of scenery might also help me get out of my lethargy, I have limited funds thou so need to be careful money wise. I have to leave the country before December 14th and return as my entry visa expires on that day. I leave the country for good and am back to Canada to work on December 18th.

As soon as I get the Banarama 2, I plan on doing some portraits in the gym, then shooting a women sex worker named Nid (50) who I have photographed since 1999, I want to photograph her out on the streets near the are she works. I also wanted to photograph Ladyboy Mat if possible, maybe in her apartment if she will let me (think she shares a room with 3-5 ladyboys). Hopefully the Banarama 2 will arrive without being stolen! Losing the original Banarama has really limited what I wanted to do.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow Day

Went down to the drug/drinking area of the slum, made a few photos but not much was happening. I also photographed an old man Khune But-too-un he is 72 years old and might be suffering from a form of dementia/drug/alcohol abuse? Khune But-too-un had some connection to the Vietnam war but I am sure what it was. I started talking to him and he did not stop talking for the next 30 minutes, gesturing wildly, talking serious then joking then serious again, he did not require much encouragement, I smiled and photographed him  as he talked and talked. He might have been just a lonely old man, heck I talk a lot also when I have no one to speak to for a long time.

Not many good photos made today but the one possible positive of the day was I arranged to go with the garbage pickers on the klong (canal) Thursday morning at 9am. I asked permission of a man (Khune Pee-koon) I had talked to a few times  and he said I could go along with them when they worked. What this fellow does is travel up and down the canal in a big boat picking up all the garbage the people throw in the canal, couches, mattresses, bags, bottles etc. There are 2 boats with 4 men who do this job every 2 days.  It might lead to some good photographs.

Tomorrow I am will take out the 4x5 again and see if I can photograph wai pun a disabled man I met a week or so ago, I promised I would return to do his photo so plan on keeping that promise. I hope I can also make some more portraits of the garbage workers and also some people who work in the nearby truck repair yard.

Monday, November 28, 2011

920pm Time To Go

Got to get back to the room, wash my clothes, load and store film, maybe read a bit before bed. I am reading a book called "Michelangelo and the Popes ceiling." Learning of Michelangelo's struggles, the obstacles he faced make any problems I have seem minor in comparison. He created such beauty while facing such adversity, All I have to worry about is getting off my lazy butt and getting down to the slum to snap a few pics.

I have to get up earlier tomorrow, I want to photograph the garbage workers and the slum drug users again  with the Lecia's.

Well its off to the room now, night folks!

Banarama 2 On The Way

Dean Jones in Australia came to my rescue. After I had the Banarama camera stolen he quickly made me up a Banarama 2, it has the same lens but is even better, its a LTD edition camera. Dean says the camera is almost ready and has told me he can ship the Banarama 2 direct to Thailand. If I could get that camera here soon I would still have 2 weeks to shoot it. I could use it to photograph in the boxing gym and also in slum huts and darker areas of the slum, I could use it to make portraits amongst the drug users also. I could enter peoples homes get deeper into their lives and photograph on the run in low light and have a sharp 4x5 negative, it would be freaking awesome!

My only worry is the camera getting lost or stolen before it reaches me again, not sure how good the Thai post office is for this sort of thing, also not sure about paying duty etc. I think thou its worth the risk, the chance of losing the camera again is worth it because of the potential photographs I could make and the stories I could tell.

The photography gods cannot punish me twice!

Glue Sniffers

Right alongside the people with the puppies was a group of 3 young men who sniffed glue from bags. I had been told a few days back that the police often come and arrest them for doing this. There is probably drugs sold in the area is well, that seems more likely to be the reason for the police presence. My first time in the slums I was told by a man that the corrupt Thai police in the area arrest drug users then demand a fine (bribe) be paid depending on the height of the user, the taller the user the higher the bribe. If the bribe is not paid the user goes to prison, maybe that's what's happening here.

The 3 young men who sniffed drug from bags were Chud 16, Geh 17 and Em 22. I made a few photographs of Em with a bag to his nose and he looked at me suspiciously and angrily I went up to him and showed him my photo introduction book and explained my job in Canada etc. and why I was making photographs in Thailand, he relaxed and even smiled at one point (a sweet smile).

The boys are very quick and secretive about their glue sniffing and often turn away or hide under a towel when they do it. I want to document this part of their lives but am unsure I can do it, its also dangerous to make photos of this subject and to hang out in these places with drug users. So far I seem to be making friends in the area, but carrying around $7000-9000 worth of camera gear where people might rob you for $20 can be dangerous, I have been told to trust no one. I am going to play it by ear, go back a number of times continue to treat people politely and with respect, hopefully things will continue to go well. I gave out some small money to the kids there and also bought them some corn.

One of the boys (Chud) bought me a bottle of water. The last time I was there Chud seemed wild and out of control, today he seemed like a nice curious kid (less glue sniffing?). The glue stuff fries their brains eventually, ugly way to become mentally disabled. If I return in 10 years what will have happened to these 3 young men? The lives they live are so ugly there has to be a better way, I want to learn more about how they got to this point, where do they live? Where are their parents?

Dogs And Drug Users

I went back to the place in the shacks near the road where I had photographed a few days ago with the 4x5. This time with the Leica's(28mm and 50mm) I had more freedom to shoot quickly, change composition and shoot at faster shutter speeds. People called me out by name as I arrived, and it was much easier to start making photographs this time compared to last time. I just walked up, said hello to everyone, waied the group and started shooting. The same people that were drunk last time were drunk this time, their were also a few people that I had not met before who I introduced myself to and told my history . I am getting really good and babbling out my history in Thai complete with a picture book I carry, I can get everything out in record time, to the ahs and ohs that the listening Thai person goes through. One women who I introduced myself to was named Toy, she seemed especially surprised I did not drink or smoke and yelled it out when I told her for some of the nearby drunk men to hear.

I did a number of portraits of people in this area sitting, talking, doing a bit of work and holding/hugging puppies. Drunk and drug people handling and holding the cutest of puppies. I think I preferred being with these Thais today more than being with the sexpat farang last night.

Wild Man In The Klong (Canal)

I arrived in the slum at sometime after 3pm got out ran across the busy road and started photographing the slum shacks and the filthy canal. I had been doing this for maybe 10 minutes when I heard a noise behind me and a wild 30ish Thai man ran past me, he had a wild look in his eyes looking over his shoulder like someone was chasing him, I looked back but no one was chasing him. The man dashed past me down a dirty slope to the canal water and jumped into the filthy bacteria filled water, the water was all the way up to his neck shoulder level. He kind of half swam, half walked 20 feet or so to the next pillar where he climbed out of the water. I photographed him as best I could then followed him down the canal. He ended up stopping another 100 or so feet down the road he had wild eyes and he constantly looked around, he was under the influence of some drug or maybe multiple drugs and seemed to be extremely paranoid. I talked to him as best I could, sometimes he answered my questions sometimes not, I learned his name was Baung-hee and he was 41 years old. I continued to talk to and photograph Khune Baung-hee, he would talk to the air, bang his hand against the concrete pillar and dig around in the dirt talking to himself, often quickly looking at me and away (he was hard to photograph). After 20 minutes or so I gave him 20 baht and told him to go buy himself something to eat. Later in the day I saw him again near the slum homes I was visiting, some people their said he was dangerous, that he boxed people.

Late Start

Last night I got back to my room and finally to bed around 2am. I felt kind of lousy and was tired out from all the walking, hanging in the farang bar areas of Bangkok can be depressing. Thai people working the bars become jaded and harsher, the farang are often drunk or hunting flesh, the sex workers tired and worn down, its an interesting place to visit but a depressing place to stay.  Getting back to my room late after eating, blog and travel time I was feeling sort of down, unsure of where to go the next day with my work.

I woke up late and lay in bed coughing up green crap feeling a bit lost. Should I go to Pattaya (red light district city of Thailand)? I want to photograph some people I know there to continue my work with them, but that would mean more drunk farang, more tired sex workers, more jaded Thais. I packed my bag and was ready about to go after a shower and a meal of cookies it was 2pm At the last minute thou I decided to grab my Leicas and head down to the drug area where I had seen the young boys sniffing glue from bags (I had done some portraits with the Linhof).

It ended out working out great (check out the later blogs) I only shot today for 2 and 1/2 hours but it was very productive. Sometimes you have to try to make photos even when your down and unsure how to proceed. The photo gods reward those who never give up and work through the tough times.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whats Most Important

Sometimes I am a very selfish person, I get so obsessed with my photography I forget whats most important, the need to take care of and give back to the person I love.

Things Seen Heard And Done Today

Did a long multi hour walk today through the bar areas and other areas of Bangkok. I visited the gallery of Khune Manit a very famous Thai photographer. I bought a book of his that is filled with wonderful imagery, titled "Ordinary, Extraordinary"

Things spoken, seen and overheard during my day.

- On Silom road near Patpong a very excited young male farang tourist holding up a green package smiling broadly yelled out to his friend " This is supposed to make you very HORNY!"

- In the Nana area talking to sexpats (sex tourists who stay in Thailand longterm). Do you know what the girls say about the Japanese? "Som, Som, Som" "3, 3, 3" which means 3000 baht for sex, 3 inch penis, 3 minutes till their done.

- In the Nana area talking to the same sexpats after the 3, 3, 3 quote a 69 year old sexpat said."Yes thats why when they go with me and I am so much larger they feel so good, its like they never had great sex before".

- In the Nana area from another 69 year old American sexpat. I like to make the woman have natural water and not use KY gel but they always say that the second time  I take to long to cum and they  hurt."

- Saw a Japanese man of about 28 years old following his friend on Soi Cowboy a bar area of  Bangkok. The 28 year old was dressed in a suit and tie, he looked very uncomfortable and totally out of his element. At one point as he followed his buddy with people jostling him left and right he almost stepped on a Thai man who was crawling on the ground begging, the Japanese suited guy kind of did a pirouette jump out of the way at the last second or he would have fallen on top of the begging Thai man. You could almost hear this young suit and tied guy thinking out loud "Why the hell am I here? I want to go home!" Many tourists in the bars look very comfortable, they are experienced bar hoppers but sometimes you see others like this Japanese gentleman who look like he transported in from another planet.

- When I was going into a 7/11 in the Patpong bar area of Bangkok I saw a homeless man digging through the trash looking for left over food, he drank something from a cup that was laying in the garbage. As I passed him I placed my empty water bottle in the garbage near where he was digging. I thought a second later I should buy this man some food, but I was already past him and inside the store before this thought occurred to me. I should have gone outside and asked him to wait. Inside the store I got my water and also bought a bag of sausages that they heated up in the microwave with sauce but when I came out the man was gone. I looked for him up and down the soi (side road) for 10 minutes but could not find him, he had just disappeared! I should have asked him to wait, I was only in the store maybe 3 minutes but it was to long. After looking for him for up and down the soi I left the area. Eventually I came upon another man sleeping on the road dressed similarly but I do not think it was the same fellow, I did not see the face of the first man but I am pretty sure the second sleeping man was not the same person (both were homeless). I gently woke up the sleeping man and gave him the food I had bought.

Next time hopefully it will not take me so long to make the decision to buy a hungry man food and next time I will politely ask him to wait for me.

Why did I have a delayed reaction to helping a hungry person? My reaction should have been instantaneous, I think I have become much to jaded, a person is digging through garbage for food, its not a difficult moral decision, he is hungry you have money, buy him some food! Next time "Mister, Please wait here, I will get you buy you some food."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More Photos Of Mod?

Canada seems so distant today, today I was photographing a girl named Mod who is HIV positive, she is a women who can speak English and who has had bfs from many countries. She has a baby with a farang man from Canada.

I want to photograph Mod 33 again, I got her email and her phone number, I will try contact her and try to learn more about her life in the post bar world (I think she is a former bargirl but not 100% sure). Many farang use the girls from the bar make them pregnant, then leave them, this has happened to Mod. I would like to tell her complete story, she is 6 years HIV positive and on no medication, has scars and is very skinny.  I want to photograph her with her young 1/2 farang son, maybe I can do that in the coming days.

HIV Girl Mod And Her 2 Friends

Was walking on the road heading towards the slum when a named Mod 33 stopped to talk to me in English. She told me she had boy friends before from Canada, also Germany and Australia so could speak English (sex worker?). Mod told me she was HIV positive for the last 6 years but was not on medication, she took medication for a short time when she was having the farang boyfriends (Canada guy) baby so the baby would not be HIV positive. The young baby lives with her grand mom in the slum, Mod sleeps there sometime she also stays sometime in a shack near the market with her man friends.

I asked Mod if I could make her portrait which she agreed to, later on 2 of her friends both older large men, both drug users came by to watch. I spoke to them and asked them if they wanted to have their photographs taken. I was warned again by one of the drug users Khune Gyp that there were many bad people in the area who might steal my camera, not him because he was good, but others might.

Ended up photographing all 3 of them using up my last 15 sheets of film. I was going to give them 20 baht each but Khune Gym asked for 100 baht for 3 people, so I gave him the 100.

Photographing these people was a bit dangerous, we were on the edge of  the canal, standing on one of the raised platforms, a platform supporting a pillar to the overhead freeway. It would not have taken much, a push and I would have been in the filthy water unable to protect my gear. In front of me as I worked were the girl Mod and the 2 men, behind me only a fall to the dirty bacteria filled canal water, a bit risky but so far I have been lucky with the people I have met in the slum, no real problems.

Thai people are generally good hearted people, even the ones on drugs are warning me of possible dangers.

This shows how if you reach out to people you can find good folks everywhere, that is the story I need to tell.

Feel Better Today But...

I feel better today, stronger carrying the gear compared to yesterday. I think I am through the worst part of my illness but am coughing quite a bit now and spitting out green sh-t. Coughed the green crap 5 times so far today.

Tomorrow I might go to see a famous Thai photographers gallery with Mimi, so will be carrying the Leica's all day, they will seem light in comparison.

Want to shoot the Leicas more over the coming day, get a better rythm in the photography, shooting in more difficult light and with subjects that are dancing about.

Photographing In Kaos

Gosh its hard to photograph around children sometime. Today I went back to the same location I saw a young boy (Chud) sniffing glue from a bag yesterday. The boy was not there also the man Oh who I photographed yesterday and seemed to be the boss was no where to be seen. I ended up photographing 3 older men all drug/alcohol users, all looked either drugged or partially drugged. I also was photographing some kids in the same area aged around 11, 12 years old.

It was fricking kaos at times, people all shouting my name at the same time, talking to me in Thai, asking questions, pointing and talking, pulling the camera, tripod, reflector, cable release and film holders in different directions. I know I made at least one bad mistake where I double exposed a good shot. I have to try to focus more in these situations, talk tougher to the kids and control the situation otherwise no good photos will be made.

Sometimes focusing, making good photographs where your the center of attention and everyone wants a piece of you is tough, I wish people would just let me talk to them one at a time, and work slowly and correctly.

Jery!!!! Jerry!!!!....Jerrrr RYYY!!!!

My head hurts no from all the yelling.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tired And Sick

Yesterday I was very sick, today I am kinda sick. Last night I must have blown my nose 40 times, had a big pile used tissue next to my bed when I woke up, yuck! I did sleep about 11 hours which helped thou I still felt off when I woke up.

I had to go out and make pictures today thou as I had already had 2 days off, could not afford a 3rd. I thought I would just go do something easy so took the 4x5, 3 lens, the spot meter and 26 holders and headed down to my favorite slum shack canal photo place (photographed there 2 times before). I shot a bit at the shacks then wandered down and did a few portraits of peoples homes and then portraits of some of the people along the canal.  I did not feel much like talking but did my best between sniffles to tell the people I met who I was and why I was there.

At the end of the day I shot some younger boys of around 15 years old who were hanging out in a park. The area was a bit rough, some of the kids were sniffing glue from bags, and kept asking how much my camera was worth, even heard the word kamoy (steal) one time. One man of 30 named Oh who was covered in tattoos seemed like the boss guy there, he talked to me alot and I made his portrait (leg up smoking a cigarette, looking tough!). I gave one drug kid named Chud 10 baht, he kept asking for money (started at 100 baht). I told them I would come back tomorrow with more film. I do not think this area is to safe but its right next to a busy road so hopefully I can get the shots made tomorrow and get out without problems.

I need to get some sleep, felt very tired dragging the camera bag around the slum today, felt like it weighed 100 pounds.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First International Show A Go!

The show in Bangkok is a go, I will have my work shown at the new (larger space) Toot Yung Gallery sometime next year, Myrtille Tibayrenc will curate the show.

Mimi told me last night " I would love to show your work at my gallery."

Art Opening Night

Met Mimi last night, we had a meal and went to the opening of Philip Blenkisop new space. I met upwards of 30 people from around the globe all expats living in Bangkok, all part of the art scene in Bangkok. Met French, German, American, Thai, South Africans and Australians, all with exotic sounding names that I could not remember. The place was littered with talented photographers, Philip's work was stunning, they also had some work showing by the photographer Max Pap who I do not know but who looks like a great photographer. There were also some other gallery people there along with painters and other artists.

I really enjoyed my night out, I hope I did not stand out to much, felt really out of my element. I am not much of a art party guy (this was kind of my first one, outside of the Fading Lives opening). It was nice to meet all the folks and hopefully I can learn more about their work, their lives in the future.

Today I feel shitty thou, got a cold, runny nose and headache. I had 1/2 a glass of champagne last night not sure if thats what did it (I do not drink or smoke), think I just overextended myself a bit, did not get back to the room till 3am, to bed till 4am, it was very hot there and I had little water to drink. Today was a wasted sick day in bed. I have to go get some food try to get some sleep so I can get out and make some decent work tomorrow, need to get up early tomorrow and get back to the slum for some portraits.

Looking at the work I saw last night was a bit intimidating, my work is not as original or powerful as what I saw. I need to make my work more human and more intimate, I do not travel to the wide and varied places the other photogs I met yesterday go, but I think I can be more intimate because I spend more time with the people I photograph, maybe the photographs can be unique and strong for that reason, MAYBE!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meeting Mimi

Well I contacted Mimi today and am meeting for dinner tonight at 7pm, afterwards we might be going to a show of the wonderful documentary photographer Philip Blenkisop. Mimi is the French lady curator/owner of the Toot Yung Gallery here in Bangkok, she contacted me a few months ago about possibly showing my work next year here in Bangkok.

It should be an interesting evening, I am not much of a promoter of my work but will do my best. I feel like I don't belong, I feel out of my element with gallery curator art people and am a bit intimidated meeting world class photographers like Philip Blenkisop. I will try to nod and grin at the proper moments, hopefully I can bluff my way through the night.

I am really looking forward to seeing the photos at the show. No bluffing required when looking at Philip's work, that will be exciting and fun.

Wonder how fancy they expect me to dress? Only have barefoot sandals to wear, should have brought some shoes from Canada. Oh well if the sandals or good enough for meeting poor people in the slum they are good enough for meeting rich people at a snazzy art gallery.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Learning And Help From Others

I feel I have gained by my friendships and relationships with other photographers and artists and others that I know.

Jock Sturges told me to use a reflector(s), now I do and see its value. I have started having people hold a reflector for me during the shoot (usually I ask some passing young person), the reflector makes all the difference, it can really liven up a portrait, filling in the shadows just the way you need them filled.

Before I left Edmonton a new friend Eleanor suggested I get the names of my subjects to make the work more human. Over the last 2 trips I have recorded the name or nickname plus the age and occupation of all the people I photograph. I think she was right it adds a bit of reality a bit of humanity to the portraits.

My friend Larry has helped me with his wonderful photographs, with his dedication, with his determination and hard work. My friend Rob has taught me countless things, I know much more about how film, cameras, the darkroom works because of Rob, he has also inspired me to be an individual and create my own personal work.

The people in the clubs I have belonged to have educated and helped me become a better photographer and hopefully a better person, seeing their work has also inspired me and driven me to work harder on my own things.

Because of the love and support of my family, I have been able to do things I could not otherwise have done. Things I take for granted others never even dream of, my family has given me those opportunities.

Anything we do is the result of the people who have directly influenced us. I owe many things to many people.

Think The Works OK But Not Great

I think the works going OK, I am still pretty slow with the camera and pretty terrible with my interaction with the subject and the posing. I need to concentrate and talk up close and quietly with my subject eye to eye. When I get up close and look at the subject in the eye, maybe touch their chin it seems to help focus them more, they pay more attention to me and less to the people yelling things from the sidelines.

To eventually create great work I will need to focus and push myself, it might take years but maybe someday my work will look as beautiful and effortless as the large format photographers, Sally Mann, Jock Sturges, August Sander and Paul Strand.

Hey I know its a long shot but heck we got to try to reach for and surpass the stars in our universe!


The men who work in the garbage station in the Klong Toey market have taken to promoting me. Over the last few days when someone strange comes and sees the farang, they start talking about me or to me at that point the promotion work starts (3 different people have done this so far). They say things like this to the new thai person:

- He can speak Thai!
- The stranger might say...OH!

- He learned Thai in a Temple!!
- The stranger might say...OYY!!

- He can read/write Thai also!!!
- The stranger might wow really!!!'

Having these promoters is a bit embarressing but it also cuts through the awkwardness, its like becoming friends with the stranger without saying a word.

The farang who can write Thai thing is quite often a walking on water miracle for Thais, they rarely meet farang who can write Thai, its a very impressive thing for them. Of course I only write at a grade 3 level but that does not matter : )

He can write Thai!!!!!

Usually at this point the notebook I was writing on is ripped out of my hand and shown around the group to various OOHHS and AAAHHS!

Friends In The Gym Neighborhood

I have branched out in all directions from the gym, like a spider spreading his web : ) Hopefully its a nice friendly spider web, of sharing, understanding, joking and making good photographs.

I go back day after day, talk to the people, learn about their lives, talk about mine and try to gain their trust. I want to understand who they are as people and hopefully they will trust me enough to allow me to make their photographs. Everyday that I go back it gets a bit easier, people are more friendly and more trusting.

Today I met a very nice younger girl named Boh 21, she asked me detailed questions about my life, I also met her family and the family of Ring Pit a boxer at the gym. Other people frown when I walk by, and do not want to have anything to do with me. I try to stay clear of the people who want to be left alone but also try to smile, be friendly and show the proper respect if I get the opportunity.

I photographed a number of young boys today, they asked for some Popsicles after the photos were made and I bought them a treat, they were sweet but hard to work with always fidgiting and making faces (not good when your shooting at 1/4 of a second). They were nice  and polite thou and called me loong (uncle) in Thai (Thai people always call older people a respectful name, father, mother, uncle, aunt, or just pee for an older person, or even khune father, khune mother etc Khune = mister or miss).

It is tiring going back day after day carrying the camera, the film holders and spending hours talking trying to gain peoples trust. When I am making the photos thou, I feel joyful, learning about the lives of the people here is also fun. I just wish it was not so damn hot! (32C today) and that I had someone to carry the camera gear!

Tomorrow I will go to the airport to fill out the paper work for my stolen camera gear (waste more time on this mess!). Then later in the day if I can I want to go back and photograph some more slum shacks along the canal. I noticed a place farther down from where I photographed before that might yield some good images.

The day after tomorrow I already of a man lined up to photograph he lives accross from the man I photographed today Khune Jood. He is disabled (uses a walker even thou he is only 37) and seems to have some mental handicap of some kind, but is a very friendly man who spoke to me today as I walked by his shack, we ended up talking for 15+ minutes.

Talking To Everyone

One thing I have noticed this trip as compared to other trips, I am talking to everyone, in the past it was sort of a person here or a person there thing. This trip (maybe because I am a bit of a known curiosity in the slum and people approach me), I have talked to people of all ages and types. I have talked to young men, young women, old men, old women, children (much more than in the past) and also to mentally handicapped people. Today I talked to 2 different mentally handicapped men who came up to me and started conversations (there seems to be a higher percentage of mentally handicapped people in the slum, linked to drug abuse?)

My Thai must be improving because the conversations seem to be lasting longer and longer, sometimes I talk to taxi drivers for almost the full 1 hour cab ride through Bangkok traffic to the slum. Another sign things are improving is it hurts less to speak, I do not need to try as hard and it flows more easily and effortlessly.

Its loads of fun speaking another language, I wish I could speak 5 or 6. Knowing the language of the people you photograph helps open doors, in real life and in your personal understanding of the people and the culture.

Today when I was with a Thai family near their slum shack, I asked a young grandmother about a baby laying on a wooden platform, the baby was only 1 month and 8 days old. I am not sure why but after I learned of the babies age I told the grand mom a long story of my favorite photo of all time. The photo is of me as a 1 month old baby, laying on a bed with my father gently reaching out and touching me, he has a loving tender smile on his face. It is a beautiful photograph that shows a fathers love for his young baby son (I have never seen my father happier). I told the story about this photo to the Thai grand mother, and she told it to the other people in the family. I think that's the real power of sharing a language you can also share personal human experiences.

Drunk In The Slum

Today I met 3 and photographed 2 drunk (drugged?) men. The 2 men I photographed were both drunk midday, around 1pm. One man Rang Pit was a boxer who trained while still a bit drunk, the other Jood was a man who lived in a slum shack next to the garbage work station.

The more time I spend in Klong Toey slum the more drunks I see, 9 times out of 10 the drunk person is a man. Quite often I have seen drunk fathers and sons sitting around completely wasted while the women of the family take care of the children, clean the home and run a business.


I am constantly asked by people in the slum, how much this cost or that cost. I am asked my salary, how much the plane ticket cost, how much my pants cost, how much my taxi from my room cost etc etc,

When you do not have money, cost and the price of things is of utmost importance. If you have money you do not think about it, but if you do not have it you think about it all the time. I never think to ask someone how much their pants costs, I have had whatever I wanted from a young age.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Go Go Bars

Tonight I went to meet a sexpat acquaintance I have known since 1999. It has sort of become a ritual to meet him at least once every time I visit Bangkok. I usually just sit in the hotel and chat with him but tonight I met him on his way out to the go go bars, I went with him on his bar tour. This man (he has been living in Bangkok chasing girls on a nightly basis for over 15 years) is a pro sex worker hunter who knows what days to visit what bars to find which girls, he took me through 3 different go go bars.

The bars are such a sad place to visit, the girls are beautiful but the atmosphere is depressing. Old farang men everywhere with grins on their faces or in drunken bored stupors, with girls dressed in bikinis or nude dancing zombie like on raised platforms. I talked to a few girls in Thai and you could feel how much they hated working in the bar, one girl Boh told me she worked 1 year another told me she worked 2 years, both girls looked maybe 19 years old. Some of the younger girls I saw had that dead to the world expression, no smiles, not looking at anything but themselves in the mirrors as they danced. It was a depressing scene, my acquaintance seemed oblivious to this, as he pointed out the girls he had taken, how many times and for how much money, how good they were in bed etc. He talked how this one when he first took her was not horny but how after 2 years in the bars she became very horny. It was like his eyes and my eyes saw 2 different things. He spoke of how some girls were to ugly for him and how this one or that one was not interested in him no matter how much money he paid because he was to old (70).

In one bar he chose a girl for the night, paid the barfine and told the mamason he would come back later to collect the girl. When the girl he chose came over to be introduced to him, she was so shy and uncomfortable, she was 18 and supposedly brand new to the bar life. The mamason brings new girls to this man I know all the time, he has a reputation in that bar for liking the new, young and beautiful girls. I looked at this poor girl as she nervously waied him and sat beside him, the mamason had led the girl to her seat and sat her down next to my acquaintance, then walked away. I wonder how many girls through the years this mamason has handed off to customers and for how many more years she would continue to do this.

The Thai people at the bars are also different than the people I meet in other parts of Thailand, they have become hardened and wary of farang. They do not believe what you tell them and look at you doubtfully no matter what you say or how you say it. I met one ladyboy sex worker who was especially loud and over the top, many ladyboys are like that but this one might have sent a yelling craziness record. I would have liked to photograph her to see here in a quieter moment, I think with her the over the top extreme behaviour is a defence mechanism of sorts.
I did find out one bit of good news tonight. A girl I knew well and photographed back in 1996 (my first time in Bangkok and the second person I met in the bars) has found a good life. I had heard years ago that she married but tonight I found out she married a English man, lives in England and now has 2 children, one boy and one girl. Sometimes the bar life has a happy ending for the girl. It was the best news of a night of sad and suspicious faces, learning that news made this nights trip a success. It was so nice to hear she was now living a happy family life in England, far from the ugliness I knew and saw her in back in 1996.
In my minds eye I can still see the eyes of one young girl in the gogo sitting next to me, she just stared blankly ahead talking to no one, saying nothing, she looked unbelievably sad, I was told her mother was a waitress at the bar. Hopefully one day this young girl will be lucky enough to have a husband and children who love her and be free of the bar world.

Enough of this sad ugly bar crap, I better get to bed now its after midnight. I want to go down to the slum tomorrow and make some photos of the garbage workers, and children near the gym.

Comfort Level Up

My comfort level in the slum, making the photographs, using the camera are way up. I feel the flow coming to the work, thou I think I still need to engage with my subject more and the camera less!

Even carrying the camera seems a bit easier lately, I might have dropped some weight since I came here and maybe am a bit stronger carrying the gear about.

Things are working out well.

Todays Portraits

Woke up at 7am today when the light was just coming up, I prepared my gear had some jam with bread, took a shower, put on my sunscreen and was out of the room by 9am.

I headed down to Klong Toey Market in search of the garbage workers and arrived at their work area around 10am. I sat down and talked to them reintroducing myself, am sort of a regular there now as they all greeted me with a smile. Today I got to learn a few names as I made some portraits, I shot 4 men and 2 women at this location. I learned a bit about the lives of some of the workers as we all handed around photos. I met a women named Meaw who had a young daughter and young son, who's pictures she showed to me proudly. Meaw's son who looked quite shy is 13 years old, he clung close to her in the photograph, she looked very proud of him. I also saw a picture of a man worker 43 named Jon who had a pretty 20 year old daughter. Khune Jon also showed me a picture of himself before he worked with garbage, he had a clean white uniform of a gov't official. He must have been a bit embarrassed to be working as he was now so showed me his life before his current job. They were surprised I wanted to photograph them, I told them I was interested in photographing everyone and learning about their lives.

The area where the garbage workers worked was very dirty, they told me to roll up my pants so they would not get in the filthy smelly water (their words). I also got asked the value of my camera, and also how much my pants cost me ($90 from a sports store in Edmonton). I wonder how much they make a month working this job? I will have to ask them tomorrow. A worker might have to work 2 or 3 weeks to afford my one pair of pants.

After photographing the sanitation workers I went to the slum gym which was very quiet. I walked around the area and met a man I had talked to before Khune Nawrong  68. Khune Nawrong is a former seaman (sailor) he worked on cargo ships that travelled the world. He told me he worked on the ships for 40 years until he became disabled (looks to have had a stroke) in the USA, he now loves in a small slum shack in Bangkok, near the gym. He told me he had women in every port (sex workers) and how workers in India cost $5 and workers in Brazil would cost $2-3. His living condtions were very poor but he was seemed like a kind if lonely man, he would talk to the various farang (Westerners) who came to the gym because he is one of the few people in the area who can speak English. He is very proud of his life of traveling, and rightfully so! I wonder if at night he dreams of the places he has been and the things he has seen.

I had 6 sheets of film left after shooting Khune Nawrong so set up a the camera and rephotographed some head shots of the young children I owed shots to from last time. I hope these reshot photos will provided some sharper negs worth printing, either way I am going to make up something for them this time. I told them I would go back tomorrow to the same spot to make more photos if they wanted, they all agreed to come back to that spot at 2pm tomorrow. Gan the young girl I gave a photo to a few days ago came by selling little fried eggs (not sure from what bird??) in styrofoam containers. I bought some for the children which they eagerly ate up, I had a few myself, they were quite good, sort of desert like. Ran out of film around 130pm, used up around 46 sheets (23 holders all I can carry at one time).

Now its back to the room to reload film for tomorrows shoots. I want to return and shoot more garbage workers and also a man named Joon who lives near there, then will go and photograph the children at 2pm.

I also want to go to the farang customer, Thai bargirl area of Bangkok for the first time to check up on some people I know. Originally I wanted to do some street night flash portraits in this area but since the Banarama was stolen I can no longer do that.

Hopefully the work created over the last few days and in the days to come will result in some quality photographs that will raise awareness of the conditions the people of Klong Toey live in, hopefully the work can help educate and inform the viewer and demonstrate our shared humanity ("Common Lives").

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Muay Thai Matches Up Close

Today I had the opportunity to photograph 6 Muay Thai matches from the ring corner. I was up on the canvas right in one of the corners shooting with a newspaper photographer. The facility was out in an isolated area of Bangkok admission was free but the matches had heavy betting and also tv coverage (their were 3 large video cameras and one portable video camera). The place was eventually filled up with probably over 300 screaming Thais, I was the only farang (Westerner) in attendance.

Before the match I introduced myself to a local official, told him about my photography in Thailand and asked permission to shoot at the ring corner, he said no problem (the language skills came in useful again!).

My access to make photos was complete, I got access behind the scenes where the boxers were preparing for the fights and also right at the ring corner. I was as close as I could possibly be without actually stepping into the ring. I was so close actually  inches from the fighters at times that I had to move back so as not to get punched. I felt the sweat from the boxers land on my skin, clothes and cameras. I even got stepped on a few times and had one boxers head hit my leg as he was flung to the canvas, his arm also came out of the ring and touched my arm.

I had great access, the best I could have hoped for and all for the cost of a taxi cab ride 2 ways ($8). Not sure how the photos will turn out, I wanted to shoot without flash in available light, with my fast lens. I exposed my Tri-x at 800 ASA (pushed to stops over normal) and exposed at f stops of 2-4 and shutter speeds of 1/125 to 1/500. I shot with 2 Leica bodies and a 50mm F1.4, a 28mm F2 and a 21mm F2.8

I will do some development tests on my return to Canada, I have not pushed Tri-x for a while. I had read that Sebastiao Salgado shot his Tri-x up to a speed of 800 so I should be able to get some half decent negs with the proper development/developer, the prints will probably be very grainy and difficult to print but it might lead to some strong photographs.

This will be good experience for future shooting in low light. I want to try to avoid the flash as much as possible now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Banarama 2

Talked to Dean Jones in Australia about the Banarama 2 I wanted made. He might be able make the camera faster, so I will not have to weight 2 years for it. I hope I can get some kind of money back from China Airlines for my lost gear to pay for the new camera.

Still feel depressed about the lost photo opportunities because of the stolen camera but today's shooting helped me feel better, I think I did some good work today. I had fun meeting the people, talking to them and learning about their lives, it helped me forget my simple problems.

Let The Children Down

Today I handed out the 3 photos I made of the children next to the slum gym. I only printed 3 of the photos because the other children photographed produced unsharp negatives. After I handed out the 3 prints I walked away and 2 young boys I had photographed in September ran up to me asking for their photos, all eager with hopeful eyes. I told them again (told them yesterday also)that I did not have any photos of them, that I was sorry but the photos I had taken were not in focus so I had not printed them. The poor kids looked so disappointed, I felt terrible. I told them I would photograph them again either on Sunday or Monday then make up photos for them next time.

Damn, felt like I had stolen their ice cream. I have to make an effort to make better pictures of them with sharp negs this next shoot. Even if I do not get good negs I will have to print up something to give them when I return in 2012, I feel like I owe them.

Speaking Thai

Am speaking Thai till my head hurts, non stop gabbing, talk talk talk! I feel at times like my head is going to explode, I talk so much my voice starts hurting. I can see that I would eventually become fluent if I stayed here and I can feel the Thai is improving, the conversations, the jokes, the questions are becoming more involved. I ask for help constantly, and am not shy about it. Today I went into a shop looking to buy chargers that were stolen in my baggage (no luck). In years past I would been scared to do this in Thai and would have asked a Thai friend to ask for me but now I just blurt everything out myself.

Hidden Desperation

When I first entered the world of the bargirl I was fooled by the Thai way of having fun and hiding their misery. In the bars when I would hang out there was laughing and playing, their was joking and kidding. At first it seemed like a happy place to me, later on as my Thai improved and my experiences in the bars numbered and grew, I saw the true nature of the place. I learned of the suffering, saw the tears and the hardships the girls under went. At first I did not see the hidden desperation of the bars but later I learned and saw the truth.

The same thing seems to be happening now in the slum. People laugh and smile at me all the time, they point at me and say "Farang mar (A farang is here!)" When I talk back to them and joke, they laugh and we tell stories to each other. On the surface over the last few years of trips to Klong Toey I have experienced this surface happiness hundreds of times, but now I start to see the sadness under the surface. I can now see more clearly the hidden desperation the people here suffer, the sadness in their lives, the effects poverty, lack of education, substance abuse, physical abuse and the problems of living daily in these poor conditions bring to the people of the slum. I am starting to understand a tiny bit what their lives are truly like.

Som Tum

Not sure what the deal is but Thais are very impressed if a farang can eat som tum (spicy papaya salad). Today when I was talking to the 5 old ladies they asked if I could eat som tum and were very impressed when I told them the day before I eaten som tum 2 times. The women asked how many peppers I would eat in my som tum, when I said 3 peppers, there was a positive cry of wonder.

Last night when I was ordering som tum on the street from a street vendor a Thai girl who was in line in front of me was shocked, and when I say she was shocked it was like I had changed water to wine kind of shocked. She was stunned (mouth hanging open) that I could read the Thai sign advertising the som tum and even more so (kept talking to her friend about me) that I was waiting in line to buy some.

I guess the whole som tum thing makes me "a kinda Thai person" in their eyes, like I passed some kind of initiation test.

Dangers Of The Slum

I have heard numerous times over the last few days about the dangers of the slum from Thais I meet and photograph. I have been warned 4 times of certain areas not to visit (think I walked through and photographed those areas a few times). I was told that those areas are dangerous and that thefts go on all the time, was told how my camera or bag could be stolen from me, or my tripod mounted camera grabbed. I think the area they were referring to was the place I paid out 40 baht today to the wild eyed Don man.

I need to be careful, I do not want to lose 2 cameras this trip!! or worse yet be stabbed or attacked in someway. I need to make the portraits thou and am willing to undergo some risk to get the photos made, but I also need to be careful and use sound judgement, a bit of good luck would not hurt also!

Giving Water To A Baby

While I was photographing in the caged park area today, I was watched a group of Thai ladies play cards. One of the women had a young baby in a stroller that Khune Naung Kien (78) was watching over. She started giving water to the baby using a little blue cap from a water bottle. It was so sweet and gentle to see this hunched over old lady giving water to a baby this way. I wonder what the future holds for this baby, will she  be doing the same thing in the same poverty, the same conditions 75 years from now? Will nothing change for the better?

Flowers On A Cart

While I was walking through the slum I came upon a older lady who was decorating her bottle/junk cart. She had this metal cart she used to cart bottles and other recyclables. The cart was an ugly metal thing but as I walked by her I saw the women was tying small flowers to the cart handle, it was one of those completely unnecessary things to do (from a functioning cart point of view) but somehow it struck me as very personal and beautiful. Here was this old women, working an exhausting job hauling bottles and cardboard around in the 33C hot sun, but yet she took the time to make her cart just a little beautiful. It spoke to me of the goodness and beauty inside all of us trying to get out.

5 Little Old Ladies

While walking in Klong Toey Slum today I met 5 little old ladies sitting together and gossiping. When I walked by one of them spoke English to me, I answered her in Thai and we were off! Me and 5 little old ladies gossiping for something like 30 minutes.

I got asked and answered questions about my country, my job, my time in Thailand, my relationships, if I had children, where I learned Thai, my mother and father. I also got asked what I thought about Thailand, the slum, why I was making photos, how old I was, what parts of Thailand I had visited, etc etc

It was a jolly time with much laughing and joking, I would usually say something and then someone would repeat twice as loud. The women were charming and motherly, warning me of the dangers of certain areas of the slum. They even acted out how someone would steal my camera, and also made a face and told me a man that passed was dangerous. One lady who was 62, pretended to pose for me and asked if I thought she was beautiful, the other ladies laughed and I had to agree that they were all beautiful but that their hearts were what really mattered. I felt like I was in a convention of grandmas, it was a fun experience.

My Day

Got up early this morning at 530 am it was still dark outside. I had a breakfast of white bread and fried chicken with some ice tea, took a shower and got my 4x5 gear ready. Headed out via taxi to the slum where I walked down the track areas looking for Lek, A and Same who I photographed in September, I had made prints for them and wanted to hand them out. It was Saturday and my Western ideas had me thinking it was a day off, but this is Thailand and most people work on Saturday so no one was home. I have to try and get up early tomorrow and give it another try, on Sunday Thais have the day off.

I continued walking down the tracks to an area I had been through many times at one point I stopped by a group of older men in an open space. I talked to them then asked one old man with a very strong face if I could take his photo. The mans name was Ootom he was 70 years old but looked closer to 90. I made a number of photographs of his face, back and while he was standing using the reflector which another man held for me. There was one drunk tough looking young guy there named Don, he had those wild angry drug like eyes. I tried to stay clear of him but he was hovering around looking rather menacing through out the shoot. When I was done this man Don asked for 100 baht ($3.30) for water (!), I kind of avoided him and continued talking to the man I photographed but you could see he was a bit intimidated by this Don fellow. Eventually I said goodbye to everyone, took Don aside and tried to befriend him a bit and ended up giving him 40 baht ($1.30). I also asked if I could photograph him at a later date, he agreed but I am not sure I want to meet him again, he seemed dangerous.

I walked on and photographed a group of people in a small caged park area, I photographed one middle aged man with drunk friendly eyes (Biak 56) and one old lady (Naung Kien 78). Later when I left the park I photographed a smelly canal area, hopefully I can do 3 or 4 connected images of that canal area. On one side of the canal they had chickens running about and on the other side the peoples homes, they would take these styrofoam wooden rafts to get accross to the chicken farms, the rafts look like they would take about 5 seconds to sink if someone my size climbed aboard.

I then walked down and through an areas where I met and talked to 5 little old ladies (he blog above) followed by a photo session with 5 young Thai boys, I gave them 5 or 10 baht a piece for posing, plus taugh them how to shoot the 4x5. The boys were hard to control and were jumping around a lot so am not sure if I got any sharp negs in this group shoot.

I was out of 4x5 film at this point, it was 2pm, I had been out on the street for about 6 hours, had put on sunscreen 4 times and drank more than 8 bottles of water. I headed to my room, quickly showered and changed, grabbed my Leica bag and headed out again. This time I headed to the Muay Thai gym, took photos there for 2 hours, gave everyone there photos.

I had a meal but still feel hungry, will try to get some street food to take back to the room. Its now 830am, I have to load film yet as well, feel exhausted (a good tired thou), wanted to go out to the slum early tomorow again but am not sure that will happen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Banarama Stolen

I got my bag from China Airlines an hour ago, it was about 1/3 the weight it was when I put it in check in luggage back in Edmonton. The bag had been gutted with most of the items stolen.

I lost the Banarama valued at over $1000, a flash battery with a value of maybe $300 and various charger cords maybe $50. I also lost some other things but cannot remember what they are just now, its all to depressing to think about.

I could care less about the monetary value of the items but not having the camera is going to mean I cannot make some good possibly great and maybe even important photographs. I feel I am letting the people I wanted to photograph down, this just plain sucks. I placed another order for the same Banarama camera (will call it Banarama 2) with Dean Jones (Razzle camera maker) in Australia will have at least a 2 year wait to get Banarama 2 made.
Here is a photo of the Banarama from Deans website.

I feel like I let people down, the people I wanted to photograph with the Banarama deserve to have their stories told, I so wanted to tell those stories.

This f-cking sucks, it feels terrible to lose the opportunity to make photographs with the Banarama (even put a beautiful new strap on it before leaving Edmonton, hope the thief enjoys the new strap!).

I called China Airlines to inform them of the theft, they gave me some forms to fill out. To China Airlines its a forms thing, to the person who stole the camera its a money thing but to me its lost photos that I will never be able to make again, lost moments in time that will never captured, they're lost forever. To me this is about not telling the stories of the people I was going to photograph. I should have put the bag in the carry on bags, its my fault I failed to live up to my responsibility. With a bit of extra effort I could have carried the camera, but I was foolish I was worried about the weight, got lazy and put it in the check in bag. I f-cked up and cannot make those photographs now, I cannot tell those peoples stories.

I will try to regroup and do the best photos I can with the tools I have.

Stop whining Gerry, get off your ass and make some meaningful photographs, tell some stories with the tools you have.

Going back to the room to try to sleep and get ready for tomorrow, going to f-cking work my ass off to forget this ugliness. I have great tools, need to work them and tell the stories that need to be told.

Need to get my head around this and not let this trip be a failure, need to create and let this go. Got to tell the stories of the people that allow me to photograph them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

$10000 Of Gear But Safe In The Slum

Photographing here seems much easier this time round (the third trip I have photographed in Klong Toey). I wander the slum shacks and dark passage ways with maybe $10 000 worth of camera gear around my neck and in my bag. I have not felt threatened at any point and try to stay clear of situations that might be dangerous, especially when it comes to younger males under some kind of substance influence. You have to figure thou that sooner or later I am bound to run into the wrong person at the wrong time, its just a matter of percentages, I will try my best thou to use common sense and politeness to stay clear of that.

I seem to becoming a regular to certain areas of the slum, yesterday I had folks remembering me and telling stories about me to others. One old man I met in September said, "I remember you, you spoke Thai well (he is a former sailor who had a girl in every port, and speaks English quite fluently, he now lives in a shared slum shack not far from the gym). I also walked by an old lady I met in September who was speaking to 2 other Thai ladies about me, "He speaks Thai well." she said  to her friends with a smile directed at me (Thais always politely exaggerate how well you speak).

I do not want to get complacent but I am really starting to feel in my element when I walk in Klong Toey, starting to feel like I belong a bit more. It really is about the people I meet thou, they are so open and so giving to those that make an effort to learn and understand their lives, besides that they are for the most part decent hard working people that have are beaten down by life, people who when treated with respect glow with friendliness and kindness.

2 Today Things

Finally am caught up with yesterdays blogs, I also wanted to share 2 things I noticed today when I was walking to the local Foodland supermarket for an American breakfast (scrambled eggs, ham, 2 toast, kiwi juice and tea for $1.50)

There is a open area filled with wild dogs next to the sidewalk that I walk when I head to Foodland. The sidewalk is protected by a big high see through metal fence, their are many angry dogs are on the other side of the fence. I have walked by this area dozens of times and the dogs always go crazy when they see me barking away, a mangier group you could not imagine, all beat up by life. Today as I walked that walk at 8am I saw a mystery man on a bicycle inside the dog area, he was wearing dark clothing and a big straw hat, his face was covered with a ski type mask to protect himself from the sun so only his eyes showed. I watched him first go to one area where there were 6 dogs and feed them from a bag, then he cycled off to another area which was gated, the dogs in the next section eagerly awaited him quietly with waving happy tails, in this area he cycled to a spot and then spilled out a long line (so that the dogs would not fight over it) of food (looked like rice), in this group he fed another 7 dogs including one puppy. he cycled on and I saw him feed another 3+ puppies in a wooded area. The last I saw of this guy he was cycling off in the distance with 3 new dogs trailing him, he must have been heading to a 4th spot to feed them as well.
Who was this mystery man? He looked very poor, he must do this everyday, as the dogs all knew him and were quiet and soft to him yet violent and angry to others on the outside sidewalks (the power of kindness and food!). Not sure how but I would want to meet up with his man and make his portrait, a good person who goes out of his way to help these poor abandoned strays. If we all followed his example and put others in front of our own selfish needs, the world would be a better place.

After I had finished watching this fellow and his feline friends I walked up and over a saphan loy walking bridge (bridge over a busy Thai street, the only way to cross heavily trafficked Bangkok streets safely). On the other side of the bridge there was a work project going on, 3 large condominium buildings going up. On the bridge I met a young male worker with a girl who might have been his girlfriend, they looked around 21 years old. I asked him as we walked if he was going to work on the condominium he said yes, so I asked him how much he made a month doing that work, he told me 3900 baht ($130). $130 a month for long hard days of work, with probably only a few days off a month.

The Importance Of Language

Yesterday was a day that reinforced the absolute importance of language skills. I used Thai all day, it helped me find things, it helped me learn things, it helped me see (gain entry to) things and it helped me make photographs. I have definitely lost any shyness I might have once held about speaking Thai (back in 1999). Now for the slightest reason and sometimes for no reason at all I start babbling in Thai. Yesterday it helped me find new areas to photograph, meet and introduce myself to well over 50 people, maybe as many as 100. Most importantly it has helped me learn more about lives of the people I meet, hopefully the language skills also help me grow as a person and as a photographer. Heck speaking Thai has also got me out of potentially dangerous situations or at least helped calm certain people who might have interpreted my actions in a different way if I could not have spoken to them and explained things.

The Kindness Of Strangers

I was reminded again yesterday of the generosity and the kindness of Thais to strangers. Here are some examples just from yesterdays 12 hour photo walk.

- had a man in the slum first offer me whiskey and then later when I said I did not drink he offered and kindly forced upon me a bottle of cold water.

- had a man who was working in a truck repair area of Klong Toey offer me a stool to sit on, that's not that big a deal but the seat he offered me was his own! There was only one plastic stool in the area and he stood up to offer it to me.

- When I was walking through the flood waters I got offered 2 rides, one by a young man on a motorcycle the other by an older man in a car, both complete strangers to me.

- When I was going home I was having trouble flagging down a taxi (rush hour) when I asked a driver waiting in a lineup at a Big C shopping center if he would take me, he did not want to but did open the door to his taxi ran out to the street area and waited there for 5 minutes until he could find me a taxi that would help me.

Garbage Workers

I have always been interested in making photographs of the workers who handle the garbage in Bangkok, its a really filthy smelly job but I often see the sanitation workers laughing and joking as they work. Years ago back in 1999 when I was staying at a apartment building in Bangkok I used to get trapped behind the smelly garbage truck and would see the workers doing their jobs, way back then I wanted to photograph them but never got the opportunity, now thou I might have that chance!

Yesterday I was walking the slum near the Klong Toey market and came upon an area where the garbage trucks parked to dump their loads. There was a little sitting area the drivers waited at very near the compacting machinery that accepted the raw smelly garbage. I initially made a few photos there and moved on but later in the day I had walked full circle and came back to that same spot and met some of the same people. This second time around I sat down and talked to the folks, showing them my little photo book (a book I carry about my life in Canada, about my photography etc.) and eventually I did some 35mm shots of the garbage dump workers doing their jobs. I also told some of the workers that I would like to photograph them with a larger camera and they were eager to pose for me.

I also had a proposal of sorts from 2 of the lady workers when they said they would come back to Canada with me (tongue firmly in cheek)! A big scene was made with the women and their male workers joking back and forth about their departure to the snows of Canada, I played along as best as I could telling them of the ice on the roads and the cold weather etc but the ladies just said "No problem when will we go?" Fun people to be around and fun people to joke with. When I left the 2nd time it was lunch break, 3 of the workers (the 2 ladies and a man) took their noodle dishes into the cab of the garbage truck, closed the windows to cut down on the smell at ate their food. I thought back to how spoiled I am in Canada, eating great food after washing my hands,weaing clean clean clothes as I ate in a sterile pleasant environment. The people I met yesterday had no where to wash were covered and surrounded by filth, germs and nauseating smells as they ate. Seeing stuff like this really puts my life into perspective.
I want to go back, I will go back! and make portraits of of all these people, I need to show their humanity.

Slum Shacks Over Smelly Canal

I found one area also near the gym where the slum shacks are built right next to or even overhanging a smelly canal (Klong Toey canal?). The shacks were basically clapboard single rooms that you could see though by looking at the cracks between the boards. The smell from the canal was strong, with garbage floating by on the dark green/black polluted water.

I walked a length of maybe 30 homes, but photographing their will be difficult from a tech point of view, there is very little room for tripods and in many places very limited light. I think what I will do is travel back there with Banarama 4x5 (Polaroid conversion camera) when I finally get my bag from China airlines, I can use the Banarama handheld with flash in these tight shooting locations. I want to get right in close to these people and hopefully understand a bit about their lives, if I can photograph them right in their homes with all their belongings near by that should lead to a more complete story of who they are.

Wish I had the 90mm Razzle now, oh well will have to make do with the 135mm Banarama.

Homeless In A Slum

Met an old man (do not know his name yet) yesterday who was very drunk sitting at a table not far from the Klong Toey gym. He called me over and started to talk and talk and talk to me. He told me he had no home (imagine being homeless in a slum where the slum shack people are actually the rich folks), and that he slept on a table in the the open air on a nearby raised platform. I will go back and learn more about this man and also try to make some portraits of him, he also introduced me to 3 nearby old ladies who were talking at a very small nearby shack, one of the old ladies was in a wheelchair the other 2 also looked in poor health thou one wore bright lipstick (she laughed when I joked that maybe she learned her english from a farang boyfriend when she was younger), one old lady seemed to be drunk. I need to get to learn more about these peoples lives and make photographs of them as well.  Elderly, living in a slum shack, substance abuse problems? How did this all happen to them? How do they survive on a day to day basis?

Children Of Klong Toey

After I visited the Muay Thai gym I went back to see the areas where I had made the children yauk doo portraits.

Gan 9 Klong Toey Slum, Bangkok 2011

The children immediately remembered me and surrounded me asking questions, at one point I had 15 young boys and girls all speaking Thai to me (and a bit of English they were excited to try). The girl above Gan was not shy and apprehensive anymore and came right up to me asking questions and became frustrated when I did not understand all her Thai.

When I left in September I told them I would return in 2 months and one of the young boys said to me (without me mentioning the 2 month thing), " Has it been 2 months already?" Very smart kids, that are so full of life and have a thirst to learn and improve themselves. I am happy I kept my promise and returned to them, I wish thou I had more photos to give them, only 3 of the people I photographed led to good pictures, the others were so so or out of focus so I did not print them, I am so limited for time in Canada but now I wish I had printed the out of focus stuff as well to give them something now.  I will try and make more photos of them this trip and then give it to them in my next trip to Thai, this last trip will happen sometime in the first 6 months of 2012, after that I will probably not be able to return (no vacation time and no money) to Thailand for a year or longer.

I keep thinking now of all those smiling happy faces, all wanting to talk to me at the same time, was swamped with questions, with smiles and with giggling, was also asked my name 3 or 4 times. Hopefully if my health stays good I can return and photograph these children through the years as they grow up, I want to follow and learn what happens in their lives.

Yesterdays Adventures

Was so tired after yesterdays shooting that I could not get down to the cafe to type my blogs, so the ones that follow are a day old.

I had hoped to get the Klong Toey gym  the night of the previous blog entry but when I got back to the room I just felt really tired, maybe it was the jet lag catching up to me, I went to bed at about 330pm and woke up at 3am the next day! After all that sleep I had no headache from oversleeping I just felt much better. I decided since I kind of started out slow I needed to work harder that first real day of shooting. I loaded up my 2 Leica M6 bodies with 3 lens (21mm, 28mm and 50mm) and 20 rolls of film. I was out of the room by 545am even thou it was still dark, the light started coming up as I was in a taxi and it was light enough to shoot at slow shutter speeds at about 610am.

My first destination of the day was an area of Bangkok that had flooding. It took me about a 30 minute ride and plenty of walking to find flooded areas to photograph. I walked around in the flood water (changed my long pants to short pants and wore plastic flip flops), for about 4 hours. There was not much of interest to photograph where I was, did the cars through the water thing, but no real portraiture as their were not many people in the water, more like floodscape photos shot from under and on top of a highway overpass plus some stuff floating in water shots, front gates of homes flooded, nothing really to exciting. I shot mostly abstract photos that did not have any real human interest/connection.

After I photographed this flooded area I decided to spend the rest of the day in Klong Toey where I could also visit the people at the Muay Thai gym. The boxers and othes at the gym were glad to seem me, there was lots of waiing all around along with smiles and small talk. I did a few more photos of the boxers in available light but only with the faster 50mm and the 28mm lens because of the very low light.

I ended up getting back to the room at 615pm so I was out walking and photographing for about 12 hours and 30 minutes, I was exhausted washed the flood off me, and then just collapsed into bed, I wanted to sleep a short time before going to the Internet cafe but could not get up after I had fallen asleep. I went to bed at 7pm and did not wake up till 4am.

Today I have my 4x5 gear ready but because my bag problem with China Airlines (still do not have it) and a late opening Internet cafe (10am waiting for an email form China airlines) I cannot get a full photo day in.  I think I will get up very early again (my friend Larry influenced me here) tomorrow and make a full day of it with the 4x5 in Klong Toey. After I write these blog entries I am going to go down to an area where there is lots of bus travel, I want to photograph (with the Leicas) Thais looking out of bus windows, and also possibly photograph people in the buses, they are sort of hot oppressive places (non air con buses) and a good place to do some portraiture. I might also make a short trip down to the Nana bar area to do some day shots. The trick is getting home early enough so I can get to bed early enough and have a good full day with the 4x5 in Klong Toey tomorrow.

Today is partly a lost day but tomorrow I plan on kicking ass again, putting in a full long day, I will try to shoot 48 sheets of portraits in Klong Toey.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

First Shots

Woke up at 4am washed my clothes and had some good food along with a nice rest so feel better. I had 2 fried eggs/sausage/2 toast, tea, kiwi juice, a red fruit juice (num gra jii um), rice with chicken and cashew nuts. The cost of all that was 182 baht, about $6.

Shot some 4x5 aerial views of trees, buildings and the skyline along with some abstract street details with the Leicas.

Did my first 4x5 portraits of a Thai man named Suk with his 4 month old baby girl. I think those shots are lost because of subject (baby) movement, I exposed at F 22 and 1/4, later on I thought I should have moved up the shutter speeds to the 1/15 to 1/30 range with a f stop of F11 or F8. I guess we learn from out mistakes, am sorry now that I lost those pictures, I need to concentrate more on the photo I am making and the tech needs of that particular subject. I had locked into the idea of shooting these portraits at 1/4 of a second as that shutterspeed was successful with the muay thai head shots. In this situation I was shooting a very young infant and she does not understand the whole don't move thingy. I should have compensated for that with a faster shutter speed, sacrificing the depth of field (father out of focus). Oh well live and learn, next time I will know and do better.

Its almost 1pm, will go back to the room phone about the bag, change my clothes and go out to the gym to say hello to everyone.

No Bag

When I checked in back in Edmonton I had a ditsy giggling person check in my bag, there was mistake made with my boarding passes (had to redoo my boarding pass in Vancouver) but I was assured 2 times that my bag would go all the way to Bangkok

So I arrive in Bangkok and there is no bag! I checked with the China Airline people and was told the bag never left Vancouver, they had all my info on a print out at the desk already and told me the bag would arrive in 1 or 2 days.

I have my banarama camera in that bag, along with some medicine and chargers, batteries etc. Hopefully it will arrive soon, so that I can use the camera to make photos at the gym.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Taipei

Am stuck in Taipei for a 7 hour layover, sucks big time to be sitting here instead of flying to Bangkok now. I originally had a better connection but the airline changed my booking 3 weeks ago.

The trip so far was not so bad maybe I am becoming a more hardened traveler, I even recognized one of the stewardesses on my flight. I ended up sleeping about 30 minutes on the flight to Vancouver another 30 minutes plus in Vancouver airport and about 6 hours on the flight from Vancouver to Taipei.

The airport in Taipei has a a free Internet so that's good it will help me pass the time. They also have free showers, never took a shower in an airport before but it might be something worth trying. If I take a shower here I can put on my fresh shirt and be all sweet smelling before I dive into flooded 35C Bangkok!

Just now as I was typing I realized I am surrounded by Thais, there are 2 ladies on each side of me and a man a bit farther off. I spoke to them, turns out they are workers heading home to Bangkok from the USA, they work on a Carnival cruise ship in Long Beach California. Its nice to meet Thai people in Taipei, I can work on my Thai, and learn a bit about them before I make it to Bangkok, which is at least 9 hours away.

**Note for future reference, when you your flying over the pacific try to get a seat as close to an active washroom as possible (like this trip). There is nothing like the smell of fresh urine to help your appetite, that faint oder makes the airline food taste that much better!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Really Matters

You ever get the feeling your doing something more important than yourself? That your life is not nearly as important as the work your doing. As I age and create more and more work, hopefully better work, the idea that the photographs are whats most important in my life, dominates my thoughts. The photographs are what really matters, my life is of little consequence, except to continue to create the work. If I were to die making photographs it would be a good death, its the way I would want to go, it would be a worthwhile important way to die.

If the people in my photographs can live on through the work, if the stories the images tell can continue to be told, then thats what really matters, thats whats important.

Hmmm!? I hope this is not one of those foreshadowing your death moments! Where they take your recent meaning of life, ok way to die quote and read it at your funeral, lets hold off on this dying thing for as long as we can! Go ahead and use the quote when I am old and grey and cannot carry my 4x5 any longer, many many years from now : ) .

Photograph Sells For Record 4.3 Million

A new world record was set for a photograph yesterday. The image went for 4.3 million, titled "Rhein II" by the photographer Andreas Gursky.

Two thoughts
- wonder how much Rhein I is worth?
- I love it when they do the .3 thingy, like $300 000 is chump change, hardly worth mentioning. I would be extremely happy if one of my photographs sold for 1% of the .3! $3000 would pay for all my travel/living costs and a bit of my film for the upcoming Thai trip.

Here is the photograph and the link to the story, its a beautiful photograph that measures 2 meters by 3 meters.

Rhein II By Andreas Gursky

Friday, November 11, 2011

Its All Coming Together

I feel as if my 4x5 portrait work is coming together nicely. Today before work I made up some more prints to hand out to the people of Klong Toey. One of the images I was working on was a close up head shot of a young boxer named Gaew, I had one of my screaming moments when I saw the print in the fixer.

I now feel things are on the right track with my 4x5 available light portrait work. I have overcome my fear of using the large format equipment in the field to make portraits. This last trip I was able to overcome much of the technical problems I faced, now the camera, lens, film choice, metering, f-stops and shutter speed selection seem clearer to me.

This coming trip I should be able to concentrate almost totally on my subject. The technical stuff starts to fade into the background, now I need to read, understand my subject and make photos that speak to that understanding. I need to reach within myself and my subject and draw out the emotional content I want the photograph to have. I need to make photographs that pay tribute in an honest way to my subject, photographs that speak a truth. maybe not the whole truth, but at least a partial truth of who that person is.

I fly Sunday to Thai with 600 sheets of 4x5 Tri-x and 60 sheets of 4x5 Portra film. I feel excited about the challenge that awaits me.

Ain't Photography Grand!

The Scream!!!!

For years I have been doing this sort of animal like scream in the darkroom. The scream is a reaction to seeing a photograph I love for the first time in the fixer, I turn on the light, turn to the wet fixer print and SCREAM with joy/happiness/excitement. Its not a planned thing its more of a involuntary impulse, but boy does it feel good!, its the highest high I have in photography. As long as I have this magic screaming moment, photography will continue to be the most joyful thing I know.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Its A Small World

Today I went out photographing with my friend Rob near Drumheller Alberta. We had a great day making photos in areas that had there first snowfall of the year. I think I got some good shots with the 5x7, and also shot 35mm Leica and some handheld 4x5 Banarama (Polaroid Razzle conversion camera).

The most surprising thing that happened today was a group of people I met. We had just finished photographing some hoodoo formations, I was walking back to the truck with my 5x7 on my shoulder when I heard the word SOO-WAI! Soo-wai means beautiful in Thai. When I got back to the vehicle the group that had spoken the word came back to the parking area (there were only 3 cars parked). I asked if they were from Thailand and they were. The man I spoke to asked "How did you know we were from Thailand?" I spoke Thai to him saying in Thai "I can speak a little bit of Thai" Everyone got all excited and we all started talking (their were 5 people in the group, 3 men and 2 women). We had a short talk, and then I asked some questions about Thailand and the flooding, I asked about Klong Toey and if there was flooding there, one of the men lived very near Klong Toey and he told me that area was ok, along with Silom roads and other central parts of Bangkok. I also asked about the airport and he said I would not have problems traveling by taxi into Bangkok to the area I plan to stay.

Its a small world! I met this Thai group in the middle of no where, what are the odds? I now feel much more comfortable with my coming Thai trip, I am not worried  about getting out of the airport and traveling to my room. Less worried about facing any flood problems early on.

The days shooting with Rob was also pretty awesome, a wonderful day, I feel a tad tired now but am very glad I got up early on 3 hours sleep to make photos!

A great day!