Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cambodian Workers

The most fascinating part of my first day was I met some Cambodian workers in a compound where they work. The workers are probably in the country illegally and are segregated to do construction work. I was told they can make only 200baht a day in Cambodia but can make 300baht a day here.

Great people,I was teaching them Thai, English and they were teaching me Cambodian (Khmer). Their living conditions were very very poor. I will go back again and again to them to get to know them better and make more photos. I wish I could help them some how, not sure what I can give them. Great people was offered sun flower seeds and given water 2 times. Many kids in the compound also.

More to follow.


First Day In Slum

I did my first day in the slum today, I awoke at about 3am and went into the slum after a shower and breakfast at first light (620am). I found a new part of the railroad tracks in the slum that I have not photographed in before, it was right next door to my $25 a night hotel. The people I met today walking the tracks were a joy to be around, I got numerous offers of food (maybe 3) and took up some construction workers on their offer which was sticky rice and fried pork. I also got offered water by 3 or 4 people and beer by a couple others. Today was sort of a record for things offered me, that has always happened in the past but today it was super sized.

Speaking Thai today was difficult, I felt my mouth and toungue slipping and slurping trying to find the right words. Many times I had to repeat myself today so I think I am not speaking as well or as clearly as I have in the past, I need to work on that. I drank 2 bottles of water and I find I have less fear approaching people to talk to them about all kind of subjects, "A bottle of water please" "How much is the squid?" "Where is the nearest Internet shop" "There was a fire here in Rom Klao where is that? Along with the normal stuff, who I am, where I am from, where I learned Thai, why I am taking photos etc etc.

In Thailand

Well I arrived in Thailand yesterday just before noon after a long flight. I managed to sleep for about 6 hours during the middle airplane ride (3 planes to get here) so that eased things a bit. The hotel I am staying in is an ideal location, I have the Klong Toey slum all around me, so I just need to walk out the door and a minute later I am in one part of the slum. I have 5 weeks in Thai and hope to photograph the slum, the boxers and later on the Mae Sot garbage dump refugees. I am not sure what else I will shoot but I have 200 rolls of Tri-x and I want to use it all. 

The xrays coming here were not that bad, I got 100 rolls xrayed 2 times and 100 rolls xrayed 1 time. In Taipei security is not to extreme, if you ask for a hand check they do it for you. When I got to the room I went outside and shot a few photos, then did some shopping and came back and collapsed, I woke up 12 hours later, 3pm to 3 am!

PhotoNOLA Prints Finished And Ready For Shipping And Thai Packing

Well after a ton of work I have managed to finish off the 22 "Body Sellers" prints. The 56lb shipping box is loaded and ready to be taken to Fed Ex. I expect it to cost about $110 CAD to ship the box down to New Orleans, so that is not such a bad deal, it will take 5 days to arrive. No more worries about completing this on time. It is such a wonderful relief to have the production of this exhibition behind me, it was like 5 months of work maybe more. Producing the prints also cost more than $2200 CAD, now I ned to pay for shipping etc, it became a very expensive proposition on a security guards salary.  Next time round I will try to find closer places (within driving distance) and galleries that pay an artist fee of some kind to offset the costs.

Now I can move on to other things, I can give my full concentration to the creation of new work. This next trip will be my first Thai journey without any check in baggage. I have one knapsack weighing 19lbs and my camera bag is around 11lbs. I might have to shift around some of the knapsack weight as technically I am only allowed one check in bag weighing 15lbs.

My  completed packing includes

2 Leica M6  bodies
1 Leica R6 body
21mm, 28mm, 35mm and 60 mm lens
200 rolls of Tri-x (thinking of reducing that number a bit to cut weight)
2 small flash units
small digi camera

2 pairs of light pants
4 long sleeve, 1 short sleeve shirt
3 socks. 5 boxers
1 bathing suit (this is the pleasure section of my packing)
1 bag of odds and ends, extra batteries, cable release, flashlight etc

One more nightshift and I am off to Thai to make pictures, thank goodness!!! Lets go create!!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Short Videos On The Blog?

I am thinking of doing a bunch of short talking vids this trip. When I am in the slum in Klong Toey I might do a bit of a short vid, when in the dump with the Burmese another video, at the Muay Thai boxing gym some more. I think that a voice over with a bit of video, or just some video on its own might be a great way to tell some stories, and it would probably be fun for the blog viewers as well. This idea might bring the readers of the blog closer to the places I visit and the people in the photographs. A fun idea that might work, will give it a try this trip.

Free Flow Creation

Well I will have 200 rolls of Tri-x to play with, I need to flow freely with my shooting. I need to experiment with light, unusual compositions, push film (higher contrast),  bounce flash, blur-movement and shoot from all angles. There should be emotion, feeling, compassion and empathy in my photographs but I also need to try to create in an unrestrictive free way (no rules!). So many photographers are rigid in the way the create, its important to get past that type of limitation, its time to get to another level. Nows my chance I am 49, I need to have a great 4 1/2 weeks and come back with some powerful photographs. I need to make work that pays tribute to my subject, work that yells out their stories.

I am very excited! This is going to be fun! "Ain't Photography Grand!!"

Friday, October 25, 2013

Winnipeg Art Gallery Reply Letter

Got another reply today when I checked my mail before going to work. The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is one of the high end spam submissions I sent out (the earlier MacKenzie probably as well) so the submissions accomplished their goals, Mr. Yaum is making some noise and trying to get noticed. Maybe the work, the name is starting to be remembered a bit, maybe the photographs next time will have a more positive reaction. I will send out another submission to these same high end places next year after I shoot in Asia 1 or 2 more times, and then after that, and after that and after that!!! The fight to get the photographs noticed continues, : )

Here is the very nice note I received from the  polite people at the WAG:

Hello Mr. Yaum,

Thank-you for your submissions of your two projects entitled Families of the Dump and Body Sellers, The Sex Workers of Thailand.  I have passed along your information to P., the Curator of Contemporary Art. 

Exhibitions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery are carefully considered, and booked generally 2 – 3 years in advance.  Work in the open, public spaces such as Eckhardt Hall, Skylight Gallery and the Penthouse Lobby are drawn from our permanent collection, as are the works in six of our exhibition spaces.  The other spaces feature curated temporary exhibitions drawn from both our collection and those from which we borrow, both private and public.  At this time our schedule is quite full, with exhibitions scheduled through 2016.

Please understand that due to the large number of submissions the WAG receives, we are only able to follow up with submissions we intend to pursue. 

Again, thank-you for thinking of the WAG.

E……….Curatorial Administrative Assistant


Rejection Number 2

Hello Gerry,
Our curatorial team has reviewed your exhibition packages for The Families Of the Mae Sot Garbage Dump and Body Sellers: The Sex Workers of Thailand at its most recent meeting. After careful consideration, we have decided to decline your offers. 
We appreciate the opportunity to consider your proposals and thank you for thinking of the MacKenzie.
Head Curator, MacKenzie Art Gallery

Don McCullin Video

Here is a short video of the great photographer Donald McCullin tailking about his work. He created many important photographs during his lifetime, the experience of making them left him emotionally troubled.

I do not know how the greats like McCullin, Salgado, Nachtway and Smith can do what they do for so long without being traumatized sooner. They seem to be able to put up with it for many years before any damage is done, what amazing commitment and dedication, truly great men. I did my little short photo work in the dump in May and it still bothers me, I still think about the people daily. How can photographers cover death, tragedy, suffering and not fall apart?

Here is the McCullin video:

Quote: James Nachtwey

"For me the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity." 


I loaded my prints into the shipping case today, the total weight for the case and 22 mounted prints is 56lbs. Not sure how much 56lbs will cost to ship but it will not be cheap. I will take the case to work the next two nights and do the spotting before the final packing for the courier. The case is very solid, and should protect the prints well. If I get more shows out of province I might consider doing this type of mounting again, its a hell of a lot cheaper than sending framed photographs and it looks pretty cool. I am not a fan of dry mounting but this aluminum dibond thing is a nice compromise.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Show Prices

With the help and encouragement of Thom my show contact I made up some prices for the prints. I am not sure I will sell anything but it does not hurt to try, the aluminum mounted prints will sell for between $500-700 USD. I will also be offering amounted matted 8x10 photos for $200-250 USD. It would be great to get some money back through sales printing this show cost over $2200 CAD, plus all the costs associated with traveling down to New Orleans for the opening.

22 Prints For PhotoNOLA "Body Sellers" Show

Well I mounted another 8 prints today, thats the end of my dry mounting. I have a total of 22 prints ready now to ship to New Orleans. I am glad I decided to go with the aluminum dibond option, its much lighter and smaller than framed prints and much lighter compared to straight 3mm aluminum. The dibond mounted prints look cool, the brushed aluminum metal edges make the prints stand out more. I am finishing off the titling and hanging gear work on the last 8 and then its off to bed, another night shift awaits. Tomorrow I will add the tape to the glued hooks and pack everything securely before taking the shipping box to work. I have two 2 nights, Friday and Saturday to do the spotting followed by the final packing by Sunday morning.

It looks like I am going to get this done on time!! Within the 22 photos I did 3 sets of double portraits of people shot in 2007 and 2009 (Long, Jiji and Matt). 

James Nachtwey Documentary

Here is a wonderful, intense and thoughtful documentary on the the photographer Jim Nachtwey. Not sure why they do not have subtitles in the German speaking sections but the other parts of this documentary are moving and at times astounding. Please check out the link here:

War Photographer

I found this link to the documentary in 7 parts that has subtitles:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quote: James Natchwey

"I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

Studying Nachtwey's "Inferno"

I got the photographer James Natchwey's great book "Inferno" this last week, what a moving powerful work it is. I have been taking it to work each night and studying it, his use of verticals and strong unusual compositions are having quite an influence on me. I am not sure how much I will take away from all the nights I have studied Salgado and Natchwey but it is bound to have a positive influence on my use of light and composition.

Seeing the love, the compassion, the understanding and empathy these artists have for their subjects is also having a positive effect. I want to get as deep into the lives of the people I photograph as they do. Human beings are the most important and most difficult subject for an artist to try to communicate in his/her work. When documentary photography is done right the photographs can influence and change lives for the better, what is more important and beautiful than that? Having a positive influence in the lives of the worlds disadvantaged people is as good as it gets.

Please check out the link to see some of the extremely important and powerful photographs from Natchwey's book:

"INFERNO" by James Natchwey

James Natchwey

"Body Sellers" Printing Update

Gosh I am putting in a lot of hours getting this latest exhibition printed-mounted and ready for shipping. I have 9 prints all done except for spotting, today after work I mounted another 5 prints. I will attach the hanging hardware to these newest 5 tomorrow and try to dry mount another 5. The 10 new dry mounted print will give the show 19 photographs, I might try to do 1 or 2 more after that. The show will not have more than 22 photos in it, the final count will probably 19 or 20. My goal is to have all the prints ready for spotting by Saturday so I can do that during my nightshift and then pack everything and have it ready for Fed Ex on Sunday morning.

Thats enough for today, I need to have a snack then off to bed, I have a 12 hour security nightshift waiting for me.

Todays 5 dry mounted show photos.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Progressing Nicely

Well managed to do the secondary printing (bleaching-toning) on 4 reprints I did on Friday night. I think I am done with all my printing for the show, the prints are in the final wash now and should be done-dry and ready for mounting tomorrow. I initially hoped to do 20-25 photos for this shoe the number might be under 20 now, possibly 18 or 19 prints which should be OK.

Tonight at work I will work on label titles with a signature to put on the back of each photo mouted panel of Aluminum brushed dibond. The title and signature should give the piece a more final finished feel to it.

I think I have figured out the hanging hook issues. I tried a new type of clue with fresh hooks and am currently testing the print, I've it hanging for 3 hours without problems. I think I might go to the old back up standby to the hooks of putting a piece of duct tape over it as well(glue first, black duct tape second). Duct tape on the pack of the prints might look kind of half assed but its better to look a bit half assed than have one of my prints go crashing to the ground and have the dibond all bent up (it bends relatively easily). I will do a bunch more hook gluing before heading back to bed, am working tonight, need to get my beauty rest.

Hanging test for Matt Ladyboy Sex Worker Print

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Double Workshop

I had a double workshop today from 1pm to around 630pm. The workshops were the view camera class followed by the darkroom, for 2 students. I think it went fairly well I hope the students Jozy and Heather learned some things. It was fun to do a bit of teaching thou my voice is sort of gone now. I now have money to use for the donations in the dump and maybe a bit left over to have a nice meal or two.

As a bonus Heather/Jozy made 2 RC prints I will take with me to Thailand to hand out as gifts. A young girl with her dog (did not have a print last time around and she was disappointed), they also printed a photo of a mother with a child on the railway tracks which I will give out. So it was a win, win, win thing. I got to teach film photography hopefully helping the students, I raised some money for the people/children of Mae Sot dump and I got some prints made to hand out to Klong Toey slum residents.

A nice busy day, going to have some food then head to bed, I go back to work a day early tomorrow evening. Tomorrow after work I need to get back into the darkroom (secondary printing). I still have quite a bit to do to finish the PhotoNOLA exhibition prints, I need to get it all completed in the next week.

Jozy and Heather's prints from the workshop, I will take them to Thai and hand them out as gifts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dry Mounting Going Well

3am now, am spending the night dry mounting onto the dibond. Things are going pretty well, there are a few issues but for the most part things are coming along nicely. I have 5 prints dry mounted now and am attaching the hanging gear to the 2nd print. The glue for the hanging hooks takes 24 hours to set properly so this will be a slow process. I want to try to dry mount 10 prints tonight, tomorrow night I will do my secondary processing on the group of the prints in the darkroom. Saturday I am doing the double workshops for 2 people (workshop money will go towards dump donations) and Sunday I go back to work a day early. I need to try to do as much as I can tonight, the prints need to be completed and be ready for shipping by the end of next week.

Anyway its been a good start, here is a quick snapshot of work done so far. Time for lunch, I'm starving!

Update* Managed to dry mount 9 prints and glue the hanging hooks on 8 of those. I need to take a nap then move onto the secondary printing on 12 photos I am re-wetting. Hopefully I can finish all the secondary printing, mount at least another 11 photographs and finish off the hanging hooks/wire by Thursday of this coming week. I will need to put in 3 hours a day or so after my work shifts between Sunday-Thursday. It will be a relief to get this all done and shipped off, then I can move on to new things.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dry Mounting!

Finally!! I am dry mounting the portraits for the "Body Sellers" show. I am working on my first print now, a photograph of the ladyboy worker Um 22. I want to add the hardware and hang the photo for 1 week to make sure there ore no crashing print issues! I am using glue to attach the hooks on the back of the dibond and I want to make sure all is OK before shipping things off, this will be the second set of tests on the hanging gear.

I have about 9 days to complete everything, which should not be a problem, hopefully I can get everything done in a week and have a few days left over to take a breath and relax. The departure date for the trip to Thailand to make new photos is closing in, my excitement at the possibilities is also growing daily. What will I find? Who will I meet? What photos will be made?

"Ain't Photography Grand!!!!"

Update* Here is the dry mounted final print of Um 22 on the brushed aluminum dibond. I am gluing on the the hanging hardware and will test hang it in 24 hours. I like the sheen of the aluminum, not sure if a darker stainless steel metal would look better or not. I should be able to fit 20-25 of these type mounted prints in my shipping case easily. Sorry about the glaring flash highlights from the point and shoot digi camera I used to make this pic. Happy the way this turned out, its cool to envision something in your minds eye then develop it step by step before seeing it in its final form for the first time. The process to make these prints has been difficult but quite rewarding. I owe a debt of gratitude to photo friends Larry and Jack for their help with this brushed aluminum dibond stuff. The prints should look great hanging in New Orleans, only 19-24 more to go!

Um 22 Ladyboy Sex Worker, Thailand 2007

Positive Review

After I sent a thanks for the opportunity email to the teacher of the students I spoke to, I got back this nice encouraging note. I am glad they liked the talk, hopefully I can continue to improve at these things.
"Everybody enjoyed and was inspired by your work and they all liked you, as you, a lot.  Thanks you for taking the time to come over. Keep in touch."


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dibond Cut

Well the shop was able to cut my 30 panels of dibond quickly, I got an email yesterday they are ready for pick up, I will do that today. Things are now nicely back on schedule, I have been working on the last 3 prints this week and should have 2 completed with the 3rd (the last print) close to completion. I then need to spend a day or two doing the final printing process on about 10 photos, this process includes the bleaching, toning and archival wash. I should be able to start the photo dry mounting tonight and attaching the hanging hardware in the coming days.

I am looking forward to getting this all done, getting on a plane and getting back to Thai. I need to make new pics, finding and making new photos  again will be exciting and rewarding. I am also looking forward to meeting up with all the people I have photographed before.

Update* I picked up the dibond early this morning it cost $210 for cutting but they did a very nice job with some kind of water based saw (no ragged-jagged metal). The 30 panels cost about $20 CAD each for a grand total of around $600. I want to check if I can get this brushed aluminum dibond in Thailand, the labour costs are bound to be cheaper there. If the show in Bangkok happens I will probably want to mount onto aluminum dibond and then transport the prints in my check in luggage.

Artist Talk And Do I Belong Thoughts

I did the talk at the University of Alberta today, it seems to go quite well. I think every time  I do these these things the talks improve. I am still a bit nervous and uncomfortable especially at the beginning but I am definitely improving each time out. This time around I was less wild rambling, things were mostly on topic and focused. I need to improve my introductory comments, and stay more on topic throughout (more photo technique teaching?), I have to try to get people more involved early (a funny story off the top?). At the end of the talk I need to work on some kind of closing statement that puts things to rest cleaner.

I need to overcome my before and after nervousness and anxiety, I am writing this 8 hours after the completion of the talk and am still pretty wound up. Hopefully the more of these I do the less anxiety I will experience, the talks are fun, but the butterflies, nervousness and insecurities are not. After years of photographic rejection and struggle I think I am still a bit surprised people actually want to hear me and that my artistic feelings, photographs and thoughts actually have some value. Its like, are you sure you want to hear my thoughts? See my work? Why now? This must be a mistake, right? "It's me you wanted, right?"Sometimes its like I'm thinking I do not belong in the room and they got the wrong guy, like I am this security guard (which I am) that just opened the door and wandered in where I didn't belong. "Oops, sorry, excuse me I will leave now!"

There might be a big bonus to this whole process, I am starting to feel that its not a mistake and that I do belong in this club, I am not just bluffing my way through it. Confidence breeds confidence, any success, any positives will no doubt help me push forward in new ways, creating new and better work. As the shows get bigger, as the talks get better, I hope my personal confidence will grow and next time 8 hours after the fact I will not be still all WOUND UP! : ).

Even if none of that happens, if there are no more shows, no more talks, the most important thing  is I need and have to make photos, if I do that everything else will be OK, I will be happy. For me the photos have always been enough the rest is gravy.

In todays talk I showed 2 short films, "The Train Is Coming" opening night video, and "The Families of the Dump" slide show video.  I also spoke about various things, told several stories and showed 20 or so loose reject fibre prints from Klong Toey slum and the "Body Sellers, the sex worker on white background pictures. The whole thing ended up lasting about hour and I got maybe 10 questions. There were 23-26 students and 2 teachers at the talk, more than I expected, which was a bit intimidating at first but I soon got used to it.

I feel the talk was a success, and  the best of the 3 I have done (the first alone without other artists), but there is still plenty of room for improvement. I hope I conveyed my love for documentary photography and the creation of photographs. Most importantly I hope everyone understood my respect and compassion for the people I photograph.

I am looking forward to the possibility of doing more of these in the future, the teacher Sima (the person who invited me) seemed quite happy, and the students for the most part seemed involved, it was a fun time and a good experience. I hope I can speak at a variety of venues to different types of people. This would allow me to tell the stories of my subjects, to promote the work, encourage photography and possibly inspire others to find their own voice.

The next talk will be in the middle of December at PhotoNOLA in New Orleans for "Body Sellers".

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Last Week Of PhotoNOLA Show Work And Workshops

Well I have 6 days now to do my final printing and secondary printing for the PhotoNOLA show. I will stay up all night printing tonight then in the morning borrow my dads truck and head off to buy the Dibond and take it to a second shop for cutting. The cutting will take longer than I expected so I will probably not be able to start dry mounting the photos until Friday at the earliest and next Tuesday at the latest. I also have to add the hanging hardware next week as I cannot dry mount prints with that gear hanging off the back of the board. I should complete everything on time but it will be tight.

On the good news front, I have 2 workshops with 2 students scheduled for Saturday (4 total workshops) and I might also have a last minute view camera workshop on Friday. If all these things come to pass I will have extra money for Thai, and I can eat a bit better (have some Western food once in a while), I can also make a bigger donation to the foundations and people at the dump. I hope the students show and I can do the workshops.

Am a bit tired from the work week but I need to get into the darkroom and do at least one print tonight, maybe start a second. Wednesday is the artist talk, am looking forward to that, I got some advice from a friend that eased my mind, made me more relaxed. Talking to the students should be a gas, it should be lots of fun, I hope I can do more of these in future.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quote: Vicki Goldberg

This is from Vicki Goldberg's wonderful book of essays "Light Matters: Writings on Photography".

"Styles are not entirely easy to come by, but a clever photographer can find one without twisting his soul for it. A vision is more difficult and more rare. Style depends largely on surface components such as composition and contrast, on aesthetics, on a consistent eye, sometimes on gimmicks. Vision probably draws as much from the life as from the eye, from the heart as well as the brain, from the complexities of personality more than from ingenuity or mastery of craft......Sometimes a style is developed perhaps unconsciously, because no adequate way to convey the vision immediately presents itself. Although vision obviously goes deeper than style, it is not necessarily better and certainly not always more likeable, for a style may be superficial but charming, whereas a vision can be sincere without being profound."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nice Room In Bangkok

I have a nice room in Bangkok to stay in, I think to start the trip I will stay there for the first 5 nights. The room will cost about $25CAD a night and I believe its within a short motorcycle taxi drive of the Klong Toey slum and boxing gym. The place has free wifi, a/c, fridge (for film), cable tv, hot shower etc. I think it should work out fine, the hardest part might be finding the place on the first day after my 24 hour 3 airplane ride from Canada. The deluxe rooms at the hotel run about $35 a night but I think I will save the money and go with the cheaper version as I have a small budget this trip. Another bonus is this hotel is only 1 or 2 years old so everything should work well and be very clean.

Update* I booked the room for 5 nights (total cost $125, I got the last available room), its within walking distance of many of my photo series areas. I should be able to find the hotel direct from the airport, as I have the address written in Thai and the phone number to give to the taxi driver. The reviews of the place are favourable with the only negatives being not much english spoken by the staff and only Thai restaurants in the neighbourhood, these complaints do not affect me as I speak enough Thai to get by and love to eat Thai foods. 

Really looking forward to arriving, checking in, having a quick meal, doing a bit of shopping (toiletries and snacks) then going to bed. The next morning I will be up bright and early and walk into Klong Toey slum to make pics.  The good hotel location should save me at least 2 hours daily travel time along with saving on taxi/motorcycle transportation costs, I can put towards nicer food and more donations.

Very Busy Week Ahead

Gosh I have a very busy week off ahead, I wrote it all down so I would not forget anything. I need to:
- Thanksgiving, a day off for recovery from my work week. Maybe a bit of new    35mm lens hood testing/film development to make there is no vignetting.                  
- Borrow my fathers truck, go to the plastic shop and buy the 2 4x8 sheets of Dibond. Then take the sheets to another part of the city or cutting, total cost will be $600 - $650 CAD.
 - Print 2-4 more prints for the PhotoNOLA show
- I will go to do my artist talk at the University of Alberta. This will be my first solo talk, hopefully there will be many more in the future and I will get better and better at them.
- Continue printing the show.
- Pick up the cut Dibond if possible, and start dry mounting prints. I will be doing up 20+ photos.
- Continue printing if necessary. Continue dry mounting.
- Do the secondary processing on all photos from the last few weeks.
- Go buy extra hooks and then start gluing and cutting wire for the print hanging mechanisms.
- Do 2 workshops with 2 students, a view camera workshop followed by a darkroom workshop, this will be an all day affair probably running from 1 pm to 7-9pm . I hope the ladies show up for the workshop as promised, I want to use the money they pay me as a donation to the people who live in the dump. Hopefully the money will help feed some children and families there as well as help pay for the running of the school.
- Finish any mounting, hanging work and properly/safely pack the prints for shipment to New Orleans.
- I go back to work a day early and work my regular 12 hour security night shift.
Wooo! I also have to fit in all my regular jobs like paying for car insurance, cleaning the yard (winter is coming!), helping my parents, getting health insurance for the coming trip etc.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Questions And Answers PhotoNOLA "Body Sellers: The Sex Workers Of Thailand"‏

Well I finally finished up my answers for the PhotoNOLA show "Body Sellers" Show. My contact in New Orleans Thom is going to write up an article to help promote the show. Believe it or not but this is like version 5 or 6 of my answers. I sometimes go off topic and wax philosophic but I think it was a good process for me to go through this. When your forced to answer questions, many for the first time it makes you think carefully of what your trying to accomplish with your art. You may have thought you knew exactly what you were doing and why but to put down those sometimes vague ideas into concrete sentences is definately a learning experience. Shows like this are very expensive to produce but the experiences I am gaining as a person, and photographer  are invaluable.
Here are the questions and answers in their raw unedited form:

How did your interest in photography begin?
It started when I was in Junior High School and took a darkroom course. The darkroom seemed like a magical place to me, and after I entered that red light lit room I never wanted to leave.  Later on I learned how to operate a camera and things really took off.  That was 35 years ago, with each passing year my desire to make pictures has grown stronger and stronger.

How long have you been a photographer?
I started to study photography when I was 14 but I did not consider myself a photographer until I was 21. I am now 49 so I guess you can say I have been a photographer for 28 years.

What sparked your interest in this particular subject matter?
I have always had an insatiable curiosity about people. In about 1994-5 I watched a documentary on the sex worker bar scene in Thailand, seeing the documentary sparked my curiosity, I needed to understand that very foreign world. I wanted to tell the bargirls story, learn who they were, what they felt, their backgrounds etc. My first trip to Thailand was shortly after that in 1996.

Describe your technique for this series.
I use a 8x10 Kodak Masterview camera in studio with a 300mm Nikon lens, a 4800w Speedotron pack unit with 4 flashes on a white background and Tri-x film. Each session lasts 1 to 2 hours, followed by and hour or so to change out the 8x10 film before the next session, I usually shoot 2- 3 sessions a day.

Why this particular technique?

Short Answer:
I wanted to show the viewer a maximum of detail with a minimum of distraction. The large 8x10 black and white negative and white background simplifies and yet shows everything.

Long Answer:
My basic camera technique was initially inspired by the work of Richard Avedon. I changed up his lighting  a bit giving a more flatter even light, I also use a wider lens (300mm versus 360mm). I wanted the portraits to communicate the slightest change of expression and feeling. With 8x10 negs you see everything, it is surprising how from one negative to another a very slight change in expression can alter the whole mood of the photograph.
My basic technique with the subject is to introduce myself, and explain in detail what I want to do and why I want to do it. I carry around a small album with photos from back in Canada as well as the photos I made in Thai which I show to each potential subject. The best way to make photographs is to be honest, kind, polite and treat people with respect. In Thai society like everywhere else if you speak and act politely your going to usually get the same politeness and respect in return. When I make the portraits I never try to coerce my subject, if they wanted to do something we did it, if not then we did not. You see that in the shots of the ladyboy workers, some subjects were shy and I shot them that way, others were like " Here I am!" with a big smile on their faces so I shot them that way.

 Has your approach to the subjects changed as the project matured? If so, how?
Through the years the project has changed because my view of that world has evolved, over time I grew more jaded by it all, I responded in the same way many workers do. Early on I was a bit naive and unsure of what was what but with time I saw so much pain and heartache it became an oppressive place to be. I think that’s reflected in the photographs, there are a much higher percentage of sad cynical portraits in the 2012 work as compared to the earlier 2007 sessions.
Photographing in that world is difficult, it wears on you, the abuse, the addictions the sadness of the bar scene takes its toll on everyone involved in it, especially the worker who is often damaged for life both physically and mentally. Through the years I think the portraits have become less optimistic, less hopeful. In 2010 I became burnt out by it all and went on to photograph other subjects in Thailand, I returned briefly to the project in 2012 for a few weeks, some of those 2012 images are in this show. 

Describe the logistics of photographing in another country.
Getting the equipment to Thailand in 2007 was very difficult, I had to transport 3 overweight check-in bags of flash and camera gear, and 2 overweight carry-on bags. Setting up large photo studios in small hotel rooms is also rather challenging. I have found if you put your mind to things, if you want it bad enough and work hard enough most things are possible.
 The photo sessions in 2009 and 2012 were physically easier as I only had to bring over the camera, tripod, meter, holders and film from Canada, the rest of the gear I stored in Thailand. It was always a bit of a mystery whether the equipment would all be in working order after being stored for so long in the heat and humidity. So far everything has worked great and I have not had any equipment failures. The only major problem I have had is that the ground glass on my 8x10 keeps breaking, I had that happen both in 2009 (1 ground glass) and 2012 (2 ground glass). All the photos made in those years were made using a broken ground glass. The ground glass I used is actually 2 separate pieces filled with cracks that is held together with scotch tape and  glue.

 How many people have you photographed?
I have photographed 65 different subjects for this project, several of those people I have photographed multiple times over different years, some as many as 8 times. Sometimes these sessions were groups of up to 3 but most sessions was one worker at a time.

How do you find subjects? Do you pay them? Send them prints? 
I found the subjects for this project at the places they work, the gogo bars, the beer bars, the shortime sex bars or on the street working as freelancers. Another way I find many of the subjects was through their friends. Once I photograph someone I almost always get asked to do another session and often they would bring friends who work in the bars to be photographed as well. Trust builds trust, like I said before when you treat people with respect and kindness you usually get it right back, most often I had more people to photograph than film available.

Yes I paid the subject and also would give a tip for motorcycle taxi costs to and from the studio sessions. The workers are struggling through life often working to support their children and families, I wish I could afford to pay them more for their time.

Sometimes I send emails with scans of the photos to the subjects, other times if I could find them I would hand out hard copy prints as gifts. I found thou that many times I could not find the people who I had photographed. There is lots of turnover in the bar scene world, the worker might have changed bars, gone back up country to be with their families, be living or travelling with their customers, some were in jail, others were sick or had left Thailand.  

How do the subjects respond to the final images?
Most often the they felt the photos were honest to who they were and they enjoyed the images. 

Do you speak Thai?
I have studied Thai since 1999 I am not fluent but can speak basic conversational Thai, I can also read and write in Thai at a child's level. When I meet and speak to my subjects and explain what I want and show them samples of the work, I do it all in the Thai language. The photo sessions are also 95% done in Thai. I find that my language skills have opened up new opportunities for my photography, everything comes a bit easier when you can speak to your subject in their own language. One of the things I try to do when making photographs is to understand as much as I can about the culture and history of the people I am photographing. Speaking Thai helps that process, it also builds trust, friendship and empathy.

The more time you spend studying the language, culture, history and life of your subjects the better the photographs are. Currently I am studying Burma and learning to speak some of the language for a new series I am working on. Photography offers me a doorway into all kinds of different worlds, it is wonderful to have all of these experiences and meet and spend time with such a wide variety of people. 

Will you continue this series?
Yes I will but I need some time away, I plan on continuing the process possibly sometime in 2015. Some of my subjects such as the female worker Long, the male worker Ti and ladyboy workers, Bee, Matt, Betty and Jiji I have photographed multiple times over different years, I would like to continue telling those stories.

 What is your ultimate goal for this work?
My ultimate goal is to tell the true story of the worker, to humanize them, to show who they are and what they are about, I want to give them a voice.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

First Rejection Letter. No Doubt Many More To Come

Wow, got my first rejection letter already today. Oh well, no biggy, 656 letters to go!

I expect at least 95% of the submissions to be either rejected or ignored. I am moving up in gallery weight class so there is bound to be lots of them.

The first today was from the Art Gallery of Regina, I will try with these folks next time around after completing the next round of work.

Dear Gerry

"Thank ou for your submission to the Art Gallery of Regina. I regret that I can't book your show at this time. I would like to assure you that this decision was in no way a reflection on the quality of your work. We book two to three years in advance and have many different factors to consider.

We really appreciated the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with your new work and wish you the best of luck with your project.


....... "

Quote: Owen Edwards Photography Critique, The Mysteries Of Light In Photographs

I have been going through and re-reading many of my old "American Photo" magazines, this quote was from a review in the Feb/1980 issue.

"...light is unpredictable, intractable stuff for photographers. Find it just as you want it, render it faithfully, and there is still no guarantee that light will do your bidding. How else to explain the way Atget's faded old prints so exquisitely convey the bittersweet essence of melancholy, while the exactingly crafted, light-enthralled masterpieces of Ansel Adams seem devoid of high emotion, eliciting a kind of respect for the technique of the artist rather than the surge of ecstasy that one hopes for? It is not just that Atget's world has changed irretrievably, as he feared it would, or (to steal from Dorothy Parker) that the Rockies are beautiful but dumb. The reason for the difference is that thou Adams has the Zone system and the scientist's eye, Atget has the gift of light, unexplainable and inimitable.

Like any artistic gift, this special feel for light can be misdirected, squandered, mysteriously lost or--worst of all--depended upon entirely. Great light does not by itself make great photographs, and in order order to use its power well a photograph must have intelligence, control and a persistent sense of what he's doing with his pictures."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Costs, Almost Done With the PhotoNOLA Printing

I got my latest 16x20 box of Ilford paper from B&H today, I doubt I will use much of it but its good to have some extra just in case. The problem with having extra photo paper about is that its expensive, this box cost me $238.15 USD.

I will also probably have to pay more for cutting up my PhotoNOLA Dibond material. Originally  I was told that it would be cut in a device called a Guillotine but that has been changed now and I might have to transport the material to another shop with a special saw of some kind, cutting 2-4x8 sheets will be expensive around $200 CAD. The cut is supposed to be much superior to other saws so I am debating whether I want a rough looking cheap cut ($30 CAD) or a fine looking expensive cut.

I am looking forward to finishing off printing the New Orleans show, I can then concentrate on making pics in Thailand, I NEED to make new photos. I have 90-95% of the "Body Sellers" prints completed, I still want to print 3 more negs, and maybe do a reprint or two. I only have 6 days off next week not my regular 7, I need to get the Dibond cut and get all the printing done by that weeks Saturday. I wil dry mount the prints to the Dibond after working my nightshifts the last week of October, then send the whole thing down to New Orleans.

3 More Submissions Plus 1

Well I did up my final 3 submissions, Casa, SAAG and SAG. I decided what the heck and threw in another acronym, the AGSC (The Art Gallery of Swift Current). That's the end of the packages until at least next year, I am getting a bit dizzy making all these things up. Most of these submissions fall into the limited categories I wrote about earlier, within driving distance and an artist fee to help pay for show production costs. I also made some very high end advertising/spam submissions that were more introduction information packages that have no chance of achieving a show (its like throwing around a bunch of lit matches hoping something catches fire).

When I get new work completed I plan on sending out another 2 or 3 dozen dozen submissions next year to all the same suspects. If I keep working hard producing new photographs and making these packages every year or so hopefully something positive will develop.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Email Submissions-Exhibition Proposals, Wave Of The Future?

Email submissions are more and more common, they seem to be the way many galleries are going, some galleries even insist on only sending email proposals. I am a big fan of these electronic submissions, my last 2 shows of work were a result of simple emails, 1 print at the Alberta Open 2013 and my bigger 37 print show at the Kassa Gallery. I think many galleries-curators have come to realize that if the work is good enough you do not need all the bells and whistles of fancy submission packages (often the sign of weak art). If the work is strong and original an environmentally friendly email is enough. If the gallery likes what it sees it can work with the artist from there. Emails are fast simple and effective for both the artist and the curator, I hope more and more galleries will adopt them.

Here are links to 3 recent email submissions I have made, please try them out yourself:

Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM), Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (by email only)

Verso Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (by email only):

MacKenzie Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (email or package proposal):

Gallery Guide To Canada

Here is a link that might be very helpful for artists who want to submit work, please check it out and create and submit to your hearts content. We are all here to promote and help each other, I hope this link leads to some great shows for you, good luck.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sharing Another Gallery

Hey folks, here is another gallery I found today the Surrey Art Gallery (SAG), they seem to like submissions and it looks to be a very nice facility.

Surrey Art Gallery
Surrey Gallery exhibition.
I will make up submission packages for the SAG, along with CASA and SAAG this week and send them out next week. That should about do it for now, no more submissions until I have a new round of pictures available from the coming trip, so maybe late in 2014 or early 2015.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Importance Of Sharing

In years past I have dealt with many photographers that are afraid to share how they do things or are afraid to share the galleries they submit to (worried about competition?). I always found that behaviour a bit insecure and counter productive. Recently I had a talk with an acquaintance about karma and how helping others inevidently leads to good fortune for yourself, what goes around comes around. Not only is helping others the right thing to do but by going that route karma comes back at you and helps your game. My show in PhotoNOLA is a result of that, I answered an email and tried to help a fellow I did not know online and now he is helping me times 5 with my coming PhotoNOLA show.

In the spirit of sharing anyone out there that has any questions about anything I write on the blog or if you want to just chat send me an email, I always answer my mail.

I would also like to share a couple of higher level galleries in Alberta with everyone, just in case you have not heard of them. The 2 galleries are CASA in Lethbridge and the AGGP in Grand Prairie. Both of these galleries are mid level art facilities in the province. Lets all try to share and help each other along the difficult creation and art show landscape.

I plan on making a submission to CASA and another Lethbridge gallery the SAAG (Southern Alberta Art Gallery) next week. I have already submitted work to the AGGP. The hope with these smaller beautiful facilities is that they will allow me to show the work and tell the stories of the people I photograph to a larger audience as well as provide a stepping stone to the largest galleries and museums in Canada. These submissions do not fall into the spam/advertising category, they will be made with the hope and the real possibility of getting shows.
I will also try making a grant submission to the EAC the Edmonton Arts Council. I live in a city that believes in supporting the arts to benefit their community (an idea I strongly support), I need to try to take advantage of that availability and get some funding for my Thai work.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Emotion Trumps Beauty

Beautiful light in pictures, interesting compositions are wonderful but for me the most important thing in a photograph is the emotional impact it hits the viewer with. Who cares if you have beautiful light and a great unique composition if the work lacks emotional power. If you can get composition, great light and great emotion into one picture all the better but I will take emotion over pretty light any day. A picture that has strong emotional appeal can work even with flat or average light, it will be remembered but a picture that is all style and no substance is gimmicky and soon forgotten.

Photography by James Nachtwey

Making Photos Is What Matters Most

Many people I know that are involved in photography want to make a living at photography doing fine art work. That is a noble goal, working and living as an artist would be a dream for me as well. The thing is if you want to do that you have to jump through lots of hoops and many compromise their vision to make photos that sell.

What matters most and what should only matter is "Making Photos". An artist needs to create work, he/she needs to put all other concerns, excuses aside and simply make pictures! Trying to get the work shown is important, winning contests and the like is important but they are distant distant seconds to just going out as often as you can and making photos. Forget all the other shit, just make pictures, if you create strong art good things will follow. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Darkroom Youtube Channel Video

Did this up last night, a very short video of some darkroom work, I was more or less practicing making up a nicer video with a different HD camera. Hopefully in the future I can do more of these vids from the field, during photo sessions and in the darkroom.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Printing And Other Things

Well I am finishing off a number of items for the New Orleans PhotoNOLA photography festival show.

- answering questions for local promotion article
- making the last set of prints, 1 last night maybe 3 or 4 more in to go in the coming nights followed by some possible last minute reprints.
- will go tomorrow or friday to pay for the Dibond and get it cut with the guillotine to the proper size.
- will start dry mounting prints possibly this week.
- I have tested a simple hanging method with glue and plastic clips with adjustable wire, it seems to work well (tested successfully to carry a higher weight). I will need to buy more clips and wire.

Everything seem on schedule and should be completed and sent out the last week of October before I fly to Thailand to continue my photographic series in the dump and elsewhere. Am really looking forward to making 35mm work again and putting this darkroom work behind me. I crave to do new work, I wish I could shoot new photos each and every day.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

James Nachtwey Video

Here is a video of another great photographer and humanitarian, James Nachtwey:

Salgado Contact Sheet Documentary

I found this absolutely fascinating, the contact sheets of Sebastiao Salgado. Check out how wonderful his overall composition is, even the shots that were never chosen are so beautifuly composed. I need to study and work hard at improving my 35mm composition.