Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Would'nt Want To Be The Chicken

On my last day of shooting in the countryside at the brick making rural area outside of Kathmandu I saw a young man and 2 women walking towards me. The young women were carrying various beautiful flowers, the young man a nice plump content chicken. I was sure exactly what was going to happen but I would not want to be the chicken, they do Hindu sacrifices of chickens and goats here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kathmandu In The Day And At 3am In The Morning.

Did a 3am to 530am walk through Kathmandu the other night, it was a totally different world. The streets here have no lights, so after about 2am its almost completely dark outside. You have to walk carefully because the ground is so uneven and its a bit spooky at times, especially near the bat flying area. It seemed so strange to be able to see such bright stars at night, Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal yet the stars were as clear and bright here as they are in the rocky mountains during a camping trip. In the day its chaos, people everywhere, cars honking, people selling, Nepalese and Tourists every few feet and night, nada, nothing at all!

The only down side to the nights walk was it was quite cold and I was bare foot wearing sandals and a light vest (no jacket), I ended up catching a nasty cold as a result. I am struggling now to get over the running nose, sore throat and body aches before I return to Canada. The last thing I want to do is be feeling crappy, coughing and blowing my nose for 24 hours on 3 different planes back to Edmonton. At least this illness happened after my shooting was over, so its not really that big a deal.

Workers Smoking Some Kind Of Narcotic

*Updated in New Orleons

When I was photographing in the brick making area of Nepal outside of Kathmandu I was given access to a bit of the private lives of the workers. I was photographing in an outside area when a group of 5 or so young male ( Bangladeshi? ) workers asked me into the small compound of their living space. In this little bricked in area a small fire was going, everyone was hovering around it for warmth. As they placed their hands over the fire and I was photographing one young man brought out a pipe with some kind of substance in it. He.lit the pipe in the fire and then several workers took very long deep drags off it. They must have been smoking some kind of narcotic because when the big boss man showed up he immediately said to me  "No photos please!" and  waved me off with his hand. the strange thing was the workers asked me and were happy when I photographed them smoking. They probably used the drug to get through their long physically demanding day.

Note* The big boss man is always the guy with the nicest clothes and the most gold. Watch out for him he wants to keep his source of money flowing.

Blind Child Needs Help

I met a young boy child of (maybe 2 years old) a few days ago at the larger Leprosy clinic. The child was born blind but I was told with some funding his sight can be restored through surgery at a local hospital. I got all the contact info the child and will speak to my friend Larry about him, he is a great photographer and a Doctor (Optometrist) and should be able to give me some advice.

Foreigners here in Kathmandu spend thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands on pursuits like mountaineering and trekking, and lesser amounts on things like bungee jumping and boozing it up nightly. Why so me me me oriented, why spend everything on your own selfish pursuits, why not help a young boy be able to see again, why not give him back his life?

Film Done!

I shot the last of my film yesterday, 206 rolls are ready to be taken home and developed. Am pretty exhausted after all the traveling and photographing but as always it was a wonderful trip filled with memorable moments. Hopefully in those 206 rolls there is another show or two, maybe I can also raise some funds with the photographs to help some of the people that allowed into their lives. Doubt I can help much but even a few dollars here makes a difference.

Photographing The Tenant Farm Families

As I walked around in the early morning light (left the hotel at 615 am, arrived on site before 7am) photographing the farmers, I recorded the following in my notebook.

- Out shooting at first light, beautiful, misty air.
- Smoke stacks in the distant covered in mist (pollution?)
- Hindi music playing, surreal, children running through the old worked ( rice? ) fields and laughing. a joyous feeling!
- Chimneys from the brick making factories are very graphic, will look good in b/w photos.
- Hard work, the farmers (both women and men) dig at the field with a pick/shovel tool, it looks very difficult. They hack away a 1cm section of dirt with the old plant stalk in it,  they areprobably getting ready for the next planting season.
- Farmers live in very basic temporary corrugated metal lean-to/tent homes.
- Farmers life a modern form of slavery?
- People are excited and yelling to each other across the fields to other families when I photograph them.
- Young girls crying when I try to approach and photograph them, they look terrified of the big white guy.

Note* I was told afterward the farm workers travel from area to area working the land (tenant workers) as the seasons change, they are not native to this area, their homes are far off somewhere.

34 Bricks

Updated On My Return To Canada*

During the last day of shooting I did at the brick making area, I photographed a group of 3 women carrying bricks out of the brick storage area up a wooden plank and into 2 waiting trucks. For each journey of bricks the women were give one little plastic chip, the chips I assume were a method of payment, each chip was worth so much money.

To carry the bricks the women used a head sling device that hung down their backs. On the device they each carried 34 large heavy bricks at a time, a extremely heavy and difficult amount to walk with, I am not sure I could have done it. All 3 women were in there 30s or early 40s and used to hard labor, they laughed at my photo taking and afterwards 2 came up to me asking for some money, I gave them a small bit each, they were satisfied with the amount.

The women's capacity for hard work and their ability to do a extremely physical job was impressive. I wonder how old they can work to, once they hit 50 I doubt they would be able to continue. People in the West have their gyms, their aerobic classes, their elliptical machines. These Nepalese workers do not have time for such foolishness, they get their exercise from back breaking exhausting work, work they have to do to support their families. I wonder what their opinion would be of the Westerner in his-her little designer outfit with custom work out tech stuff toys hopping about to peppy music in some state of the art expensive members only health club. They probably would probably break out laughing and not stop for a good 10 minutes.

The 35mm Is A Great F-ckin Lens!

I love the 35mm F1.4 lens I bought for the Leica rangefinders, its fast easy to focus and 35mm is a wonderfully convenient focal length. This lens was very expensive the most I ever paid for a lens in my life around $ 3000- $3500 USD but worth every penny!! I will be shooting the sh-t out of this thing for years and years to come.

Love What You Have

I have been amazed on several occasions where some of the poorest of the poor here in Nepal who see their lives in such a positive way. On 2 different occasions very poor people have spoken to me of how lucky they actually are.

1) In the landless people area.
2) In the READ-Nepal  leprosy center

More to follow when I have time to write.

Interacting Properly

One of the things I have worked on for a few years is how to interact with people properly when making photos of strangers. Recently I watched a documentary on the great photographer James Natchwey

who spoke of the way he approaches people and the importance of doing this in the proper way. This trip I have been concentrating more than ever on the way I approach people and make photographs.

I have found the most important part of the technique is to approach with out menace, to try to not interfere in what my subject is doing and to acknowledge them in a friendly way when they notice you. It is important to know how to say hello and thank you in their native language, whether that is Thai, Burmese, Cambodian or Nepalese.

Hello - Burmese =  Ming-gau-lau-bau
         - Khmer (Cambodian) = Sok-sau-by
         - Thai = Sawat-dee-khup
         - Nepalese = Naum-mus-stay

Thank you - Burmese = Zay-zoo-din-bah-day
                 - Khmer = Oh-koon-jau-run
                 - Thai = Khop-khune- khup
                 - Nepalese = Daun-nii-baud

When someone notices me, I usually say hello with the appropriate hand greetings (unless my hands are filled with cameras). I also smile and nod at most of the people who notice me, this gesture quite often brings a return nod and sometimes a smile. Once you have sort of established this polite rapport the rest of the photo making usually goes easier. Many times the people will invite you into their homes as well or offer you food and drink, this happened to me in the landless people area 2 days ago and the brick making area yesterday.

Politeness, respect and slow cautious movements all work together to create atmosphere that makes the subject comfortable (usually) with your sudden appearance and photo making. Many people I know in Canada are afraid to make photos of strangers, the trick is, do not treat them like strangers! Be polite, talk to them, maybe make some small gifts (candy, rice, color snapshots) and you will be given access. More importantly you will be invited into unique exciting worlds and have positive memories that will last you a lifetime.

Latest Email Home

I was not going to send any more of these emails but yesterday got a bit of positive feedback so decided to send one last one. I am now done shooting, I shot the last of my film yesterday morning, making a grand total of 206 films shot! Yesterdays subjects were around the bricking making areas outside of Kathmandu. No bricks were actually made but I did some other work. I photographed amongst other things:

-tenant farmers (nomads) working the fields with very primitive tools
- young male brick workers (Bangladeshi workers?) starting their day out smoking some kind of drug ( hashish? big boss politely asked me to stop making those photos so it must be illegal).
- men shoveling coal
- 3 women workers loading brick into small trucks, they did 34 at a time off a sling off the back of their heads, rather incredible, it must have been very heavy, I lifted one brick and it was close to the weight of my Leica rangefinder).
- a number of children
- a number of landscape shots, from above and distant shots of smokestacks (part of the brick making process involves large stacks).

The day before yesterday I photographed along the river where the landless people live (in shacks)...not sure I got much this day, sort of screwed up and missed the really good area, might try to get the better area next trip. Lots of begging here, plenty of requests for money but also very kind and helpful people everywhere.

Anyway that's the last one. Arda from the mono guild camera club suggested we might try a photo festival here in Edmonton. Anyone interested in that? Lets talk abit about that, maybe we could get 2 or 3 galleries interested and have something in the summer or in the fall...

Thanks for your patience

PS...also one more question for all of you, please advise if you know anything about this. If I do the documentary video project on the Leprosy advocate Raj, I will need to get a HD video camera with some power to it. I would want the documentary to be professional so need a high end camera, one that I could use a normal lens with and possibly some kind of wide angle (the clinic is very small and confined)...if you have any sites, info on cameras or general advice please send me a note and we can talk privately about it...I am very limited in experience when it comes to video so this is new ground for me.

Thanks again Gerry

The Crying Game

I have made children from 4 different cultures cry this trip, its quite an accomplishment! Earlier this trip young children from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia cried and last night I went 4/4 when I had 2 Nepalese young girls (3-4?) staring at me with very big awestruck eyes before bursting into tears and running away to their mothers.

Children of a certain age often burst out in tears on seeing me. I am a big (230lb), tall (6 foot 2) monster approaching and standing over them. Even when I get down as low as I can so I am closer to their height and speak softly or sing songs or make funny noises they still stare with wide frightened eyes before breaking out in screams and tears. I must look like their worst nightmares.

4/4 a perfect trip!

Last Day Of Shooting Brick Making Area

Yesterday I shot the last of my film (12 rolls) in a brick making factory just outside of Kathmandu. There was no brick making going on but I did manage to photograph women carrying bricks, tenant farmer families working the land, men shoveling coal and the young male workers smoking some kind of narcotic early in the morning before work.

Monday, November 25, 2013

PhotoNOLA Facebook Page

Here is the face book page for the PhotoNOLA festival.

A Great Link About PhotoNOLA

This is a great link showing all the aspects of the PhotoNOLA photo festival. There is also a bit of info on the "Body Sellers" show.

Body Sellers Show Advert

Here is another advert - blog entry for the body sellers show in New Orleans which opens in a few days on December 1, 2013. This one is from the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center where the work is being shown. 

Almost Out Of Film

I am almost out of film, I could have easily shot 200 rolls in Nepal alone but had to settle for 45. I think I have about 8 films left, I will check later when I clean my cameras and prepare for tomorrow which will probably be my last day of shooting here. I will spend my last 2 days in Nepal without any film.

Tomorrow I will go to the brick making factories outside Kathmandu and shoot the last of the film, am not sure what I will find but my friend Larry did great work there. I wish I had more film to shoot!! I want to shoot more at the Leprosy centers, with the  kind landless people along the river and with the drug using street kids. I hope to return to Nepal, maybe next year to continue some of this work.

Next year I also want to shoot the 5x7 in Mae Sot with the Burmese Refugees and possibly start up doing the white background sex worker portraits again but I will have to see how this all shakes down. There is also the little matter of possibly shooting my first documentary on Raj at the Leprosy clinic.

Movie Thoughts

I have been thinking of ways I can shoot the documentary Raj leprosy movie if that ever happens. There was a doc I saw years ago, a best picture winner that used an interesting technique. In the documentary (Hearts and Minds) they had severely damaged (missing limbs, in wheelchairs etc) American Vietnam war vets interviewed  with a tight composition, only showing their faces. After you had gotten connected to the men, after you had heard their stories, after you felt some compassion and understanding with them the camera pulls and shows their horrific injuries, it is shocking and very effective. I was thinking why not try that with Raj, I could have a tighter composed head shot and have him speak of his life before the Leprosy, before the illnesses, I could have him talk of his love for his wife and children etc. then later pull back and show his devastated body. After the shock of that hits home I would have him speak of Leprosy and his mission in life. With this calculated technique his later stories would have double the impact.

I have a nice Hi8 video camera but I think I would need to buy a higher in digital HD video camera with changeable lens (to allow the use of wide angle lens).  How will I pay for that? Maybe apply for a grant and use some tax payer money in a very important way (telling the story of Raj and Leprosy).

Here are 2 links, to a trailer and the full film I mentioned, "Hearts and Minds"

Update: I just sent a grant question to a person I know at the Edmonton Arts Council, asking if any grants are possible for a project such as this documentary. Hopefully something will come of that, it is very important to tell Raj's story.  

Running Short Of Funds

After giving out my fathers gift of $50 CAD yesterday to the leprosy clinic and a $100 USD to the large leprosy clinic has left me a bit short of funds. I also have have been paying a local man to drive me to various places, some outside of Kathmandu, the total cost of that service for 2 1/2 days is $70 plus around $7 in tips. I have money in the bank but am trying to save as much as possible for my coming trip to New Orleans for the "Body Sellers" exhibit. I need to spend carefully from now on (no SD card!).

Handing Out Bags Of Rice And Other Donations

I bought 4 small bags of rice at a small local store here, the cost was 50 cents a kilo and 65 cents a kilo, I ended up getting 4 kilos. One of the tricks the drug using young men I have been photographing use is they constantly ask for money to buy rice (we do not have enough to eat!!). I had been putting them off with the photos and with one 50 rupee bill (50 cents USD) but the begging keeps happening so I decided to try actually giving them rice, to make sure they do not use the money for drugs (unless they resell the rice!). I gave out one bag of rice to them 2 days ago and today I gave out 2 bags of rice to the poor landless people along the river. I have 1 bag of rice left in my room. I will probably hand that out in 2 days to the young drug users again. I will probably not have any film left to shoot when I return to where the boys family live (dirt covered public area) but I made them a promise so will keep it. I will print out the color photos I took last time and deliver it to them with this last bag of rice as promised, it is important to keep your promises.

Down by the river today with the landless people I got lots and lots of requests for money, some people said no to photos as well for the most part about 90% of the time people did not object to being photographed. When I can speak to the people I usually have near a 100% photo access rate but here in Nepal I am limited to smiles and a few words like (hello and thank you). When the families can speak English things go well, I got invited into one family yard today and given tea after having a nice chat with the father of the home who is a former policeman (now unemployed). In the same area I also got invited into Anjana's family home which was quite wonderful, they also gave me a fried egg, milk tea and some water.

Changed Rooms, Feel BETTER!

I changed rooms today, I had a nice hot bath, have an 82 channel flat screen TV, a beautiful view, better location and a clean room. The cost of the new room is $35 a night, the older room with the cold  crazy shower and non working tube TV was $30 a night. Five bucks has made a heck of a difference.

Anjana's Family

The Landless People

In Kathmandu Nepal they have an area of the city that is referred to as the place of the "Landless People". The area houses many people who live in slum style housing, they do not own there own land but instead live on public land. I walked this region when I was in Kathmandu and spend a few hours there. I need to spend more time in this area in the future, it might be a great area to do large format portraiture. Another place for another series of photographs. I have so many places to photograph, am not sure I will ever be able to return here.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Updates To Follow

I will update all my titled empty blogs in the coming days or when I have time on my return to Canada, please come back and check them out later if your interested.

Pashupatinath Temple - Cremations

Read Nepal Leprosy Clinic

Raj Kumar Shah's leprosy center in Kathmandu Nepal.

An Amazing Man - Documentary Film?

Today I met a truly amazing person, his name is Raj Kumar Shah and he is a survivor of leprosy as well as an educator and  a man who seeks to enlighten others on the disease and promote handicapped rights in Nepal and the world. I spent a few hours with Raj today visiting his small clinic and learning about his complicated life of suffering, recovery and fight for the rights of others. In a word Raj Kumar Shaw is a "fighter", he knows he will die soon and he wants to go down making a difference, contributing the remainder of his life to help others, then he hopes his beautiful wife and son will continue the work.

Raj is a survivor of Leprosy and was cured back in 1984, he has lost most of fingers on both hands as a result. He is also a double amputee, losing both legs, one to arthritis and one to an accident. Raj also had 2  partially functioning kidneys (one is basically dead) so goes for dialysis several times a week. With all of the damage nature has done to his 36 year old body he might not reach 40 years of age.

What I found amazing about this man was his spirit, his laughter, his joy for life. Raj has faced all kinds of hardships but thanks god for the goodness and the blessings in his life. My first impression was very positive, this is a man deserving of having his story told. Raj is eager to find someone that will do a documentary on his life, and has asked me to do so. I have always wanted to make a documentary movie (with photo stills included), this might be my chance. Was it fate that led me here? Maybe we have a shared destiny.

Promise Nepal, Leprosy Clinic

Cold Shower, Hot Tap Water

The adventures at my hotel continue, I have changed rooms which got me a good quality heater at night, the TV still does not work and the shower sort of works. Sometimes when I turn the 1950s style faucet handles the shower heats up after about 5 minutes but last night it did not. I turned on the shower which was very cold and stayed cold, what was odd was that when I turned on the hot faucet in the bathroom sink it was very hot. So now I was faced with the problem of how to wash fat boy Gerry when the shower is shooting out freezing water and the sink is pouring out burning hot water. I ended up sort of splashing both hot and cold water on my body at the same time using both my hands (reaching across the width of the bathroom). It was rather a delicate washing situation, I was trying not to burn or freeze any important body parts!

Email To Home From Kathmandu After A Complex Day

Difficult challenging day...visited a leprosy clinic that had 180 people in it this morning..outside Kathmandu ..then went to another much smaller clinic with an amazing man named Raj who is 36, a leprosy survivor (lost most of his fingers)...he had both legs amputated one as a result of arthritis, another as a result of an accident, to top it all off he has 2 damaged kidneys and is on dialysis, he expects to only live a few more years..(he is 36).asked me to make a documentary film on his life...gave him the $50 dad gave me for his clinic..donated $100 American to the other larger top it all off went to a Hindu temple at night to watch the cremation of bodies...there were like 4 going on and another 2 could smell the burning bodies and hair, and you stood amongst the grieving relatives, it was a solemn ceremony, but moving in its complexity and complicated to much to write about, got to get my head around it all...tomorrow going to photograph slums on the river in the morning...and brick making in the night, almost out of film maybe for 2 days...but I am here for another 4...

one small boy is blind at the leprosy clinic...will forward his info to larry, if has surgery he might see again...going to forward the info to Larry, maybe he can help the child...

3rd Day In Kathmandu

The day started out poorly when I arrived to late to photograph the street kids here in Kathmandu, but ended well after visiting 2 Leprosy centers and the ....Temple where I watched and tried to photograph at night (1600 asa Tri-x with a 35mm F1.4 lens) the cremation of 4 or 5 bodies as part of a Hindu ceremony.

More to follow.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another 23% Please!

When you order anything from a restaurant there is an additional charge of 23% on everything, a 10% service charge and a 13% tax. Ouch!!

Street Kids Of Kathmandu

Note* Updated in Canada.

After arriving and setting up in Kathmandu I had a nice sleep (sort of as the room was freezing, no hot water shower) then got up early the next morning to go make photos. At about 6am I wandered out and photographed a injured man limping along doing his daily exercise, did a bit on construction workers and was doing some wall art when I saw a fire across the road. Around the fire was a group of maybe 10-12 young boys (men) with a few girls and one older lady (never found out her role). They were all huddled around the small fire after waking up, a few kids were still sleeping. I found out later that the kids were all homeless and hustled on the streets with tourists to get money for drugs and food. I ended up hanging with them and photographing them for a few hours, they tried hard to get money out of me. That first day I did give them a bit of money which was probably not smart (used for drugs), later on I gave them some rice and cookies etc instead.

I ended up photograhing them over about 3 days but wish I had done more. I made a mistake by not throwing myself into their world more and spending all my time with them. In Nepal there are so so so many subjects worthy of shooting that it is easy to get distracted. I ended up using the rest of my film shooting at the 2 Leprosy clinics, at the bricking making factory (farmers also) and along the river with the landless people of Kathmandu.

Maybe next time I can do more work with these street kids, I need to do more to tell their stories.

Evolving 16GB Extreme SD Card

I have been going through an evolving photo shop price change for a 16GB SD card I am interested in buying. The marked price (always phony baloney) was 4500 Nepalese rupees (about $45 USD), the immediate discount was 3500, then it went down to 3200, followed by 3000 the last time in the shop when I picked up my color snaps to hand out to the street kids tomorrow was 2800. I will probably go for the 2800 rupee price (around $28 USD), its still to expensive but in Nepal there is heavy taxes and duties, so everything technological is over priced. When I came in on the flight from Bangkok, the Nepalese passengers transported many TVs from Thailand (no duty at the airport here in Nepal I believe), I must have saw over 20 large flat screens leaving the airport on carts, maybe 25 or 30.

"Do You Smoke Weed?"

My drug taking opportunities continue to mount today from the shadows a question came forth "Do you smoke weed?" It would be very dangerous to do, buy, use any of that type sh-t anywhere in South East Asia. In Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia they have death penalties for some drug crimes, I am not sure on the Nepalese laws.

Bangkok's Toot Yung Gallery Update

I contacted Mimi from the Toot Yung Gallery in Bangkok yesterday, she responded today. We plan on meeting up before I go back to Canada. Mimi the galleries head honcho and curator is interested in showing some of my work, possibly this year, it would be my second international show, my first in Thailand.  The new improved Toot Yung Gallery is a beautiful, exciting, vibrant, and very busy place. Check out the links below, hopefully some of the work can be shown there, maybe more than one show (Mimi likes to work with and develop artists she things are worthy of support). Will see how this develops, I will probably show non documentary style work, more fine art unique sexual stuff that is more fine art related (stuff many of my photo club friends in Canada disliked or had trouble with. Most of my Canadian photo club friends shoot beautiful work but its almost all tried and true traditional subject matter).

Go to the gallery link on this page:

Fuckin Bats!

This morning early on in my walk, I was photographing and walking down a main street here in Kathmandu. As I looked up at the sky at all the large crows in the trees, I saw 5 or 6 very large black BATS fly by, it was about 815am a misty early morning overcast day. I noticed another 5 or 6  bats hanging vampire like upside down from a large branch on a tall tree, they hung over the early morning traffic resting and relaxed.

When I saw the bats the first words that came immediately to my mind and were " Fuckin Bats!"  I was so shocked by the scene I actually said out loud "Fuckin Bats!!!!!" , right there on the street. I have never seen large bats like this flying over an Southeast Asian city, rather a bizarre  early morning sight, a freaky way to start my day. 

A Raspy Harsh Low Voice Says From The Shadows "Do You Smoke Hashish?"

"Do you smoke hashish?" those were the first words spoken to me on the streets of Kathmandu last night soon after I walked out of my hotel to look for a place to have some food. It was rather ominous sounding to have a guy come forward out of the darkness (there are no street lights in Kathmandu) say with a low harsh raspy whisper, "Do you smoke hashish?, my reply "No I don't!" his reply, "Do you want to?" Rather a spooky welcome to Kathmandu.

I have been offered drugs here from men on the streets at least 4 times in less than 20 hours ( 7-8 of which I was asleep in my hotel).

Hello There!

When I left the hotel last night for a quick walk around I met up with 8 or so ladyboys, rather harsh looking ladyboys on the street, sex workers I think. The ladyboys hang out on the tourist roads looking to sell themselves to the Western and Asian backpackers. Photographing these workers, these girls might be a photo project of the future. That would be photography project 333.

Leprosy Clinic?

I am going to try to gain access and make photographs in a local Leprosy clinic,  I guess Leprosy is still a major problem in Nepal. I have been told that the Nepalese people genetically have a higher percentage of Lepers than other countries, not sure if that is true (genetic weakness?) but that is what I was told. More to follow.

Old Plane, Royal Nepal Airway

Email To A Friend From Nepal

Here is an email I sent to a friend.

Thanks Larry not sure I will use him (guide), a bit to pricey for me. I will try doing things on my own. Today I woke up in my cheaper room $30 a night or hot water, no working tv...sorta working heater...woke up at 715am, my plan was to sleep in today but I could not stay in bed, got outside around 8am just for a walk, ended up shooting 7 rolls....found some street kids who slept on the street...smelling glue..drugged...etc..some possible good shots, did lots of 21mm stuff up close...not  sure how it turned out (film not digi camera)...going to give them rice and also color photos tomorrow...a bit of a dangerous bunch...but it should be OK..I might just shoot them for 3 mornings..then move on to another part or Nepal for the rest of the trip..might visit leprosy clinic tomorrow.. Will be back in Canada soon, my 5 weeks is coming to an end...thanks for the help.


First Morning Of Shooting In Kathmandu Nepal (Drugged Street Boys)

My initial plan was to sleep in today but after going to bed at about 130am I woke up at 7am and could not sleep, my head and heart needed to make photos, so I got up showered and went outside by 8am. For my first day it was pretty good, I found several subjects to photograph. My 4 main subjects today in the 2 hours 30 minutes of shooting (7 rolls of film) were:

1) an injured man walking with cane on small back alley near hotel.
2) street graffiti and ripped posters (thanks Jim G)
3) street, homeless, drug boys, family
4) construction workers building a hotel

The best photos by far were the street kids who were wired and smoking glue out of bags. The group was partially woken up and partially sleeping when I met up with them. I saw a fire on a public street and approached them, I received lots of interest at first but later things calmed down a bit and I was able to make some documentary images of their lives. There were lots of requests for money, much more than by the Burmese at the Mae Sot dump.They were more difficult to photograph and deal with than anything I faced in Thailand.

These kids-men-women are damaged. One man who spoke English, I spoke to quite a bit. When I asked him his age he told me to guess, out of politeness I said 35, I thought he might be around 40-45, it turns out he was only 28. Many of the boys, all from 14 up, most in their late teens had body scars they seemed to wear them with honor, showing them off to me. I did not do many glue sniffing photos only a couple, maybe over the next few days I will get more. I need to spend as much time as possible with this group, I prefer to spend more time with one group and learn about their lives than to jump around from subject to subject. I might have to forgo other photo projects here to continue working with this group.

I took around 40 digi shots of the group, I will get them developed and hand them out tomorrow. I also gave out 50 Nepalese rupees today tomorrow I do not plan on giving out money. The 28 year old man (Bal Krisha) advised me to give out rice not money, he said the money was not shared but the rice was. If you give out money to the boys they just keep it for themselves and probably use it to buy drugs (glue?). Supposedly rice given to the group is handed out and shared, I hope its not resold for drugs. I was advised to buy a large $15 USD bag of rice for the group but I think instead I will buy 1 or 2 smaller bags to give out. I plan on shooting these boys (also some girls and a older couple staying with them) over the next 2 mornings, hopefully each day will bring new understanding and strong photos. I think I am building up some trust with these people, hopefully they will let me into their their lives and give me the freedom to tell their stories for at least a while.

I will spend 3 days in Kathmandu maybe 4 days and then move on to somewhere else in Nepal for the remainder of the time (8 days). I have 33-35 films left to shoot. I might also buy a 16GB extreme SD card here (expensive at $30 USD) and do some vids for the blog.

In Kathmandu Nepal!

Well I arrived in Kathmandu Nepal last night. Nepal is very different than Thailand, I am in a very touristy area filled with backpackers, the Thamal area of the city. Things are more expensive here than Thailand, the room I rented is more expensive  ($33 CAD) than the room I had in Bangkok and had no hot water, dirty sheets, a smelly interior, a shitty little TV that did not work and a heater/air conditioner that sort of worked but not really.

So far I love the Nepalese people even in the touristy areas they are decent folks that like to joke a lot. I have found the Nepalese people extremely friendly and helpful, they go of their way to help you. There is also more desperation, more poverty here than in Thailand, more begging and more aggressive sales pitches on the streets, people quite often call out to you or follow you, trying to sell you stuff.

The buildings here are tall, Kathmandu is built into a valley so space is at a premium, its like San Francisco in that way, many talk 4 or 5 story buildings with lots of narrow stairways. The other thing I noticed was candles in the rooms, I believe power failures are quite common so the candles are an emergency lighting system. There is also a large police presence, the streets especially at night have many police check points and armed soldiers and police walking around with shotguns and the like. There were contested national elections here a few days ago so that's probably the reason for all the police.

I have limited computer time today but will write as much as I can, some of the older titled blogs might need to be written back in Canada where I will have much more time for such things.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Poor Worker Housing

Animal Adventures Continue Spidey Mouse and Klepto Dog

Had a few more animal adventures here in Nong Yai Thailand, first in the morning I was taking my shower when I looked at the water heater (eye level) which was a few feet away to see I was being observed by a brown mouse (small rat?). I am not sure how the mouse got on top of the little heater unit, he must have climbed down the power wire spider man (mouse) like. This poor little creature was staring at me prettified and not moving, I must have surprised it when I walked into the toilet (washroom). He just kept staring at me not moving a millimeter hoping I would not notice his little beady brown eyes and long hairless tale.

My other animal adventure later in the day was a theft by dog. I was in a building having some food and doing a bit of photography, when entering a building in Thailand its usually common to remove your shoes at the entrance (Thais often eat on the floor). So after my time in the building, I go to leave and my right sandal is missing ($60 CAD for the pair). I have one shoe sitting on the floor outside the shop and one is missing, "What the heck?" After a bit of thought I came to the conclusion that one of the many nearby dogs had taken my shoe as a trophy, so I end up having a bunch or local people searching about for my missing sandal, eventually I find the sandal myself while wearing a borrowed to small flip flop on my right foot (hard to find Western big foot sizes here sometime). I was lucky the dog did not take the sandal to far, or I would have been shoe less in Nong Yai Thailand and would have to have bought new shoes before flying to Nepal.

So it was a bit of a strange day, at first light there was Spidey Mouse and at days in Klepto Dog.

Importance Of Photographing Something Beautiful

Coconut And Rubber Tree Farms

Motorcycle Touring In Rural Thailand

I spent parts of 2 days here in Nong Yai Thailand traveling and exploring the countryside on a small beat up motorbike. It was lots of fun to be more mobile, I would see a dirt road on a sugar cane field and just head down it to see what I would find. I found lots of interesting landscapy subjects. The most interesting subjects were landscapes of coconut and rubber trees, the region around Nong Yai is made up of many rubber tree and coconut farms, so you would get rows and rows, acres and acres of  lined up trees, like cars in a parking lot. It was very beautiful and quite peaceful, I think I might return at some future date and shoot this subject with a large format 5x7 camera.

A motorcycle in Thailand is fun to use but comes with a certain amount of danger. I drove the motorcycle Thai style, no helmet and no drivers license! I was very cautious, I kept to the shoulder on all the busier roads and drove very slowly. As I drove about, everyone, and I mean everyone drove faster past me. At one point as I was driving a helmetless little old grey haired Thai grand-mom ( 70+) sped on past, I thought "Shit even the grannies are passing me!" Still it is better to be safe than to get injured in a motorcycle accident, been there done that, not doing it again!"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Importance Of Curiosity And Body Language In Gaining Access

When I was talking to Ken Opprann yesterday he brought some important points up. We were discussing gaining access to make photos, and he spoke to me of how your body language, how you stand how you move, how you wait in certain places etc. can communicate important messages to those around you. How you move or do not move will draw people to you, will create curiousity. When people who live in those worlds people approach you, their curiosity in you might help to gain you access. When they see you in a positive non threatening way, when they view you as an allie trying to tell things with honesty then access may be givin.

Chances And Coincidenses That Led To Meeting Ken Opprann

Its funny how strange chances and coincidences in life work out. Last night by pure accident?, chance?, fate? I met a really cool and important freelance documentary photography, Mr Ken Opprann.

I was going to go home early after doing lots of walking but decided at the last moment to go for a 2 hour body massage at a shop on Bangkok's Silom road (my first massage in maybe 3 years). After a great massage I was walking home when there was a big rain shower, for a while I stood on the road undercover but it was not letting up so I decided to visit the cafe/restaurant I was standing in front of. I walk into this cafe (indoor and outdoor tables) and found a table along a quiet wall, just after I ordered some food I noticed a fricking huge cockroach running on the sofa across from me so I decide to change tables and take one nearer the window which had a view of the outdoor tables. While I was sitting at my little table and eating my ordered snack I noticed a bald powerful looking man working at his mac book directly in front of me, he was scanning through many photographs as well as doing what looked like some serious writing. It only took me a a few seconds to see the b/w photos were high class documentary style work. I immediately decided to approach him and went outside and introduced myself.

The photographer was a wonderfully skilled man named Ken Opprann who has traveled the world doing freelance documentary photography, he has 3 published books. We hit it off quickly he is a very nice fellow, I hope I can learn many things from him in the future.

Photojournist Ken Opprann

Chance, fate is strange thing to meet Ken the following had to happen:

1) I had to return to Bkk after 7 nights in Mae Sot, originally I planned to stay longer.
2) I had to take my first massage in 3 years.
3) I had to be stopped by a rain storm.
4) I had to choose to enter the Cafe to pass the down raining time.
5) I had to be turned off by the nasty huge cockroach and change tables.

All those things had to happen before I saw what he was doing on the computer which got me interested enough to approach him. This chance meeting may have an important influence on my photography, who knows maybe Ken will become a mentor-friend.

Bag Repair And The Advantage Of Begging In The Thai Language

There are some distinct advantages to speaking the language of the people your with, I have written about this on numerous occasions. Last night I had another small, little event that worked out well in my favor so I thought I would mention it. I brought a new used Domke bag on this trip to carry my Leica's, a bag I have grown to love in a very short time.

Going into my last day in the dump as I as cleaning my camera gear the night before when I noticed a large 3 inch tear in the cloth of the bag, right under the strap in one of the pockets. The damage to the bag was rather extensive and in a bad place, I knew if I brought it back to Canada I would have to toss the thing in the garbage and buy another bag at a cost of $100 or so. In the past I have had good luck having things repaired in Thailand so decided to give that a try. The first 2 sewing shops said the damage was to much and their machines would not do the job. One person recommended a shoe repair shop (an old lady sitting on the street with a stool and a small box to work from). I took the bag to the shoe repair lady and she did a great job repairing the large tear along with some smaller holes for 100 baht ($3.31 CAD).

I took the bag away very happy but then I found another whole on the opposite side of the bag that would eventually grow and grow. I went back to the old Thai repair lady looking to see if she could repair that as well. The problem was that she was done for the day had put way all her gear (into a very small metal box with locks on it, the box was left on the street). I sort of chased her up some nearby stairs (she was heading upstairs to her home) asking her to repair the small growing hole in my bag. She sort of made a face and a grunt that she did not want to do anything that she was done for the day etc. I told her in Thai that it was just a small hole I would give her 40 baht for it and that I was returning to Canada soon and could not get it done there (begging and pleading in Thai). The woman looked at me from behind her little dust mask and came down stairs. I did not realize what a burden it would for her to unpack everything, she everything and the kitchen sink inside that little metal box. It took lots of effor for her to take everything out again and prepare to work.

The lady unpacked her box, got out her glue, attached a piece of cloth to the bag, did some hammering on a heavy metal shoe frame, then brought out a big shoe style sewing needle and thread to attach it firmly to the bag. She did a fricking great job, I ended up giving her 60 baht which she was very happy with and gave me a big wai which I returned.

The funny part was that at first when she started working she was kind of grumpy, as she worked another customer brought some killer ass high heel woman's shoes to repair, she rather briskly told the man that she would do it tomorrow and to come back then. I joked with her that she could never go home because she had to many customers. That sort of lightened the mood  (up to that point I was quietly sitting next to her) and she started to ask me why I spoke Thai so well etc, she asked me about when I was returning to Canada etc (guess my plea of difficulty repairing goods in Canada was understood). So the the Thai helped me get my bag fixed it cost a total of 160 baht ($5.30 CAD) and its as good as new, I can use it for years to come. You got to love Thailand and the Thai people.

: )

60 Learning Sessions, 10 000 Students

Met a farang (Western) volunteer at the Burmese dump school on the last day. He told me that this school was one of 60 leaning centers and that there were over 10 000 students attending the schools, he also said that was just scratching the surface of the problem.

In Bangkok Again

Well I arrived in Bangkok again a few days ago. I took the first class day bus from Mae Sot and after a rather long painful 9 1/2 hour trip I arrived at the Mochit bus station in Bangkok, 45 minutes later via Taxi I was in my a/c hotel room watching TV. The trip to Bangkok was rather long, a screaming baby behind me plus cellphones ringing constantly wore on my nerves. One Chinese man to my left one row back must have made over 10 long LOUD (why do mainland Chinese always need to talk so loud?) phone calls during the journey. Cellphones have there place as conveniences and safety devices but boy do they intrude on your privacy and your quiet time, your always being personally being pestered by those noisy devices or the person next to you is pestering you with his/her use of the device.

Anyway I am safe in Bangkok now, had a few days of laying around sleeping and some good food so feel much  better than when I arrived. Of course the people in the dump are still digging through garbage, still living the unfortunate lives they lead. I met a Indian man at a hotel yesterday who talked about the all importance of money, that it was the only thing that mattered, how if you had money you could do anything. I tend to view things with a bit less pessimism than him but if you look at the people and the dump and myself the only real thing separating their lives and mine is how much money we have.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Edmonton Art Council Grant? For Funds To Continue The Project

I might try for an Edmonton Arts Council grant to continue the "Families" project with a large format camera. I tried for grants and failed twice with the Alberta Foundation For The Arts folks so I might try the EAC this time around, heck it does not hurt to try. I just need to convince the EAC jury this project is worthy of a grant (wasted tax payer money in my friends opinion) and that the work will be beneficial to the people of Edmonton.

Next Trip Only View Camera?

If I return to the dump, I think I will only come back with a view camera, not sure if that will be 4x5, 5x7 or 8x10 but a view camera seems the way to go now. I have established many relationships here because of the snapshots and the care packages, the joking and the fun times, I have become accepted. I can now travel the dump making 4 or 5 serious large format portraits a day. I still need to improve my Burmese, I need to double my efforts on my return to Canada.

I am seriously considering using either 5x7 or even 8x10, these portraits deserve a very large negative. I want to pay tribute to the humanity of the Burmese, it feels right, it feels like the time to bring in the heavy artillery.

Tomorrow Bangkok

I have about 40-45 films left to shoot this trip, tomorrow I had back to Bangkok for the final 2 1/2 weeks of my trip. I need to take a day or two off to recuperate after these last 6 tough days.

I am spent and heading to relaxation, but the people in the dump only have the dump, they live with the smells, the flies, the heat, they cannot escape it like I can. I will return to a good life in Canada and they will stay here, in 5 or 6 months if I return most people will still be here, doing the same  dirty work day in day out. Some babies will be born, Some people will die but most things for most of these people will stay the same, they only thing they have to look forward to is the daily struggle to survive.

One thing I know will be different, the young bride and groom will be a mother and father on my return, they will have a new life to take care of and worry about.

Wet And Slimy

Going out later in the day and facing the hot sun all day was very hard. I think I set a wetness record. I had my paper notebook in my lower pants pocket but sweat so much that my book got all wet, its in 4 or 5 pieces now as I refer to it for these blogs.

When I was waiting for my ride home today I was sitting on a swing with my face leaning forward, every time I shook my head 2-4 big drops of sweat would hit the dirt at my feet. I finished my water early on so had to do without for the last 2 hours or so, I drank up two bottles of water on my return to the room during my wash down procedure.

Sad Eyed Kids

When I was doing my unofficial photographer snapshot photo duties today in the dump I was trying to get some children to smile. Most times a weird face or strange sound will get a positive reaction but there was one child today who would not smile no matter what I did. Guess the kid has many other things to worry about than some jackass trying to make her look happy. It's to hard to smile when you live with flies and terrible smells, have no toys and eat food found in garbage.

Snakes And Cockroaches

The kids in the dump were playing with a small dead snake today, tossing it around, tossing it at me, laughing when I jumped etc. I know there are many dangerous snakes in Thailand, things like cobras etc., am not sure if this one was venomous when alive or not.

I had not seen many cockroaches this trip, maybe 3 or 4 but I had an up and personal meeting a few hours ago. After my shower I was walking around my hotel room barefoot when I felt a squish and quick little leg movements under my right foot toes, I had stepped on a cockroach. Usually these suckers run at the sight of danger but this guy had been partially damaged, I finished the job with my newly cleaned rubber boots.

My cockroach paranoia is something to look forward to tonight when I sleep! I hope none come to bed with me, I remember once years ago in Phnom Penh Cambodia waking up when a cockroach started walking up my arm towards my face. You want to see a guy move quickly from a dead comfortable sleep to standup and attack-kill mode, that was me that day, luckily I did not pull a muscle.

Camaraderie And Friendship

There is a real sense of camaraderie and friendship amongst the people here. The drivers of the truck, the people as they work the garbage are always respectful of each other. In my 14 trips to the dump I have never seen an angry or violent altercation between adults, I have seen parents yell and and sometimes hit their children (on the arm/leg) but that's as much anger as I have seen here. When the fresh garbage arrives there is often a feeding frenzy of up to 30 people trying to get at the good stuff, but everyone is always respectful of those around them (and of me!).

Respectful Terms And I Do Not Understand Burmese

One of the most common things I say here in Burmese is "Burma saugau nau mau lay ba boo" which means, "I do not understand the Burmese Language". When I say this it always brings a laugh and smile and it is often repeated over and over and over again by those around me after they hear me speak.

Another set of terms I have found very useful especially when I am trying to get the attention of someone, is calling people uncle or aunt. In asian societies like Chinese, Thai, Burmese etc. to be polite you can call strangers, uncle, aunt, brother or sister, if you do not know there real names.

The Burmese terms that I have started using more often are:

Oo-Lay = Uncle
Toh-Doh = Aunt
Auh-Go = Brother
Auh- Mah = Sister

What Is Your Name

What is your name? That is one of the Burmese terms I knew last trip and forgot, I got reminded of it today when the groom asked me my name (he also asked me last trip). Quite a few people were calling me Gerry today, hopefully more and more next trip.

What is your name in Burmese = Nameh balai kho doo

Young Girl Washing Her Doll

There is a young girl (3-? 4?) with beautiful eyes I photographed on numerous occasions, today she was washing her naked white skinned barbie doll in a pail of water. She was washing her dolls legs and feet but her own feet and legs were filthy, she had a thick layer of dirt on her feet and legs, her doll in comparison was very clean.

The little girl with the beautiful eyes also had a beautiful name Woo-Woo-Kai.

Found The Bride!!!

I found the bride today, she had gained quite a bit of weight and I did not recognize her immediately, turns out she is PREGNANT! I was here during her marriage which was in May so that's about 6 months ago, she looks to be at least 5 months along, she is showing quite a bit. 15-16 and pregnant, living in a dump, she and the baby have a very hard life ahead of them.

I also learned the bride and grooms names today, hope I got them right Burmese names can be tough.

Groom - Wan Go
Wife - Nay Ko

I was worried about her, am glad I found out she was safe before I left the dump for the last time this trip.

6th And Final Day In The Dump

Well today was my 6th day in a row at the dump, the last of this trip to Thailand. I am spent, face beet red, back sore, worn down and out.

Today I decided to go to the dump later(wanted to see the later day activities) and arrived after buying my first class bus ticket back to Bangkok at about 1215pm, HIGH NOON. Most of the people were hiding in the shade somewhere when I arrived with my 100 photos to hand out and my 3 (heavy) care packages. I got rid of the heavy rice bags as fast as I could in the first 1/2 hour before handing out the photos the rest of the day.

I had numerous requests to do up photos for families, they do not realize I am heading back to Bangkok tomorrow and will not return here for at least 5 months probably longer. I told some Burmese families that spoke some Thai what I was doing, that I would be returning to Bangkok, then Canada and come back to the dump next year sometime but I am not sure that message will be spread. I am low on funds and need to go back to Canada to work so I can return and do more photos in the future. I have been unable to get an artist grant to continue this project so I have to fund it entirely with my security guard salary.

Anyway it was a long hard last day, along with the care packages and photos I also gave out some small candies and some money to 3 men (fathers) who work very hard each day supporting their families.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Puppy Gone, Other Still Suffering

One of the puppies from 2 days ago was gone, the other still moaning and struggling to live. I assume the the missing puppy has died, the other thou I am not sure of. Today when I found him he was all wrapped up in metal handle of a plastic pail. He was sort of struggling to get his paws loose and whining, I got him out of that mess but he could hardly stand so I think he is getting weaker. I made some photos of this poor little dog today, he had the saddest eyes filled with some pus, he probably only has few days of life left.

There is no money here to get veterinarians to treat dogs, heck there is no money here to get proper food and shelter to the people living in the nearby dump. Even with lack of funds, the slow painful death of this animal is unacceptable. Thais, Burmese, Buddhists do not believe in taking life but this poor little creature is suffering and dying slowly, surely its better to end his life as painlessly as possible.

Interacting Dude

In the area of the dump I visit daily there is definitely more interacting on all involved. I got hugged during a photo today by the back slapping lady from yesterday. I had a man share my water bottle which drew a smile from others, I had many people grabbing me or talking to me. Before today I just sort of wandered and shot, now its more like everyone has to say and do something when I approach and am around. I think for the photographs I prefer a bit less interaction but its good to know that people feel comfortable enough with me to joke, laugh and tease me (usually about my Burmese language attempts).

Walked The Dump, Visiting New Areas

Today I walked the whole length of the dump, in the one area I have not spent much time (once in May, no visits this trip) people were more stand offish to me. After a short while thou with a bit of talking, some smiles, photos and explanations in Thai I did manage to make some headway. I ended up shooting a bunch of child photos today, it was a nice change of pace from the other side of the dump where there is more rotting garbage, more flies etc.

I think most farang (Westerners) who visit the dump spend time on the side I visited today, the Burmese people who live there have probably had more negative experiences with strange Western people and are therefore more careful. I will return to this area of the dump tomorrow to hand out a bunch of color snapshots.

Young Girl Shoots Camera!

A young girl of maybe 8 years was fascinated by my cameras today she started tugging on my leica's, I gave her my little digi camera to shoot. She shot the camera and made pictures of her brother of me and her aunt, of me being hugged by her aunt etc. She was quite the little photographer I had to take it away from her after about 10 minutes with many complaints on her part, she would have shot it all day.

The kids here have so many possibilities, so much curiosity and intelligence, all they need is a chance to succeed. If these same children were born into a economically prosperous circumstance they could achieve anything, do anything, be anyone.

4 Cameras?

I probably would have been better off shooting 4 cameras this trip, I quite often had to change out the 28mm and 21 mm lens which slows you down and you sometimes miss something. Another benefit would be having another camera with loaded film ready, sometimes all 3 of my cameras run out of film and I miss a shot, that would happen less often if I had 4 cameras loaded with film. I have 2 more Leica bodies in Canada, a M6 and a M4P so the only negative would be the added weight.

100 Photos

Just came back from the photo shop where I did up an order of 100 photos for the people in the dump, the photos run 4 baht a peice so thats 400 baht ($13.23 CAD). I will hand out the photos tomorrow my last day in the dump. I will have to walk all over the dump finding people as well as shoot some more film, I have 18 rolls left plus whats left in the 3 cameras.

Angry Man Becomes Kind On Seeing A Beer

Had a bit of an unpleasant moment at the dump today. The oldest man in the family group that asked for some booze a few days back was unhappy with me taking photos of them today. I could not understand his Burmese but the gist of it was something like this "if you not give us any whiskey then don't take any photos. Luckily I brought the beer back that I could not hand out yesterday and produced it at that time. When the older man saw the beer which I gave to a younger man in the group (asked for 2 days earlier) his eyes lit up and his whole personality changed in a second. Suddenly photos were allowed, everything was cool and we were all friends. At that point he started placing his order for tomorrow, first a big bottle of beer, when I said no to that he asked for a caffeine drink that they have here, I told him I would bring it tomorrow. An hour or so later he asked for a beer also, then 2. I told him I would bring 1 beer the next day.

I am not sure this is the right thing to do, I do not want to load these guys up on booze, the 2 men in the group who request alcohal already have the watery eyes of alcoholics and I do not want to have things get out of control. Tomorrow is my last day at the dump so I thought one more beer would not hurt, I might also get him the caffeine drink, sort of a going away present. I have been taking loads of shots of this group so I feel I owe them. In a patriarch (male dominated) culture like the Burmese its very important to keep the older males in any family group happy. The ironic thing, and something I already knew from past experience is that women are generally much more concerned with the good of the family first over their selfish needs, while the oldest man was asking me for beer the mother in the group was showing me rice and asking for rice. I will also take them a care package of rice tomorrow.

Addictions are always a problem, people put their own selfish needs over the needs of their family, the 2 men should have asking for rice or other essentials just like the mother was.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Blog Link To Sex Worker On White Photos

Here is a link to a blog with the story that included some of my sex worker on white pics, same same stuff. Its strange how the internet works, it sort of feeds on itself.

160 rolls In 2 Weeks!

Gosh I think after about 2 weeks I will have gone through around 160 rolls of film, its a good thing I brought 200 rolls not 150. I am shooting to fast and to much but I am having a really hard time reeling myself in. The other thing to remember is I am using completely manual cameras, will single film advance, manual focus and exposure. If I had some kind of fast ass motor drive, auto exposure, auto focus camera how many films would I shoot?

Sickly Stink

I notice that everything I take to the dump ends up having this sickly stink to it. All my clothes, my camera bag, my boots, maybe my body and hair as well. The smell is hard to describe it was one of the contributing factors to my almost throwing up yesterday.

Quote: Oliver Stone

"Try to empathize with the suffering of others."

Tum Boon

I got asked today by the man who drives me Khune Noy to attend temple to "tum boon" (give gifts to the monks to make merit), I wanted to go but I was filthy after the dump and quite tired after my 4th day of shooting. I was told that the Burmese and the Thais both go to the same temples and "tum boon" at the same time for the monks, that sort of joint understanding and acceptance is hopeful.


Gosh I went to shoot around one of the richer shacks (they have a pig pen) and found at least a dozen little puppies running about and playing. I did up a little video of the cute rascals, will post it later.

One of the things I realized early on is that you have to watch your step here, I could accidentally step on a little chick (chicken chick) or crush a puppy with my huge heavy rubber boots. Even when I am sweating and dragging around 4 cameras (3 Leicas and the digi) while walking up and down piles of garbage I need to watch my steps, one misstep with my 230lb body would crush any small creature underfoot.

Buckets Of Sweat

Today was hotter than yesterday, even thou I left the dump at 930am I was still sweating heavily. When I was waiting in the shade for my ride after the days shooting I could feel at least a dozen beads of sweat run down my chest and stomach. I put on sunscreen 2 times today, before the second application of lotion I wiped my face and neck down with a small cloth I brought, the cloth was quite wet. I am sort of a walking puddle here, after I sit down  I leave a big wet spot. Now that's appetizing!!

Hard Slap On The Back, Guess I Am Part Of The Club Now!

I was taking photos of Doo-aye and 2 of her young girlfriends today when I got a very hardy slap on the back (it came close to knocking me off balance). One of the dumps older ladies a woman I knew and had photographed many times slapped my back as she walked by. The slap surprised me and I let out a loud "Oyyyyyyy!!" which made her smile. I guess the slapping stuff is a Burmese cultural thing, in Cambodia I used to get my ear lobe squeezed and twisted, here I guess it's a back slap. These normal relationship things mean the people are comfortable with you, they are treating you not as a special outsider but as one of the club, it is sort of a sign your accepted and belong.

I have noticed over the last little while the pics are getting easier and easier to make. I basically can most anywhere in the dump and gain access to make photographs now, many people have grown to trust me. Its a comfortable feeling to be accepted, its sort of like being part of one big extended family. I am still an outsider but not an out-outsider, sort of an inner outsider, if that makes sense.

Geez I wish I could talk to everyone, then I could get to the next level. When I return to Canada I have to make extended effort to improve my Burmese, any Burmese words I can manage are a big bonus. I am not sure now if I will return to the dump after this trip but I would like to travel in Burma in the future to create more work and tell more important stories.

Unofficial Dump Photographer

I have become the unofficial dump photographer of sorts. Once I handed out the color digi snapshots from last trip everyone started asking to be photographed. Today I handed out most of the second batch of pics that I made over the last few days. I want to do this one more time before I leave. I will shoot some more digi photos tomorrow at the dump then take the SD card to a local photo shop for printing, they should be ready in time for my last trip to the dump on the 12th. People get very excited by these little 5x7 and 4x6 photos, they happily pass them about (sometimes screaming with delight) and sort of swarm me when I take out the little photo booklets from the shop.

Nui-oo 6 Month Old Baby Girl, And Other Dump Babies

I spent a good part of the day photographing a baby and his mother/grandmother, the babies name is Nui-oo she is 6 months old and very cute. Nui-oo receives lots of love and attention from her family but the dump conditions she is being raised in are appalling. Today I photographed the mother holding the baby, dressed up to go to temple and also photographed her being held by her grandmother. she wore a little white hat to protect her from the sun.

I also did some photos of the girl Donna from yesterday holding her friends baby, today Donna smiled when she saw me and we had a short friendly talk. It was nice to see her happy, I hope she can find a husband and have child of her own someday.

I also photographed another baby whose name I do not know a young boy, he was even more fragile than Nui-oo. The last roll of film (luckily I had one left) from the day was the mother of the young boy breast feeding her son while she sat on a bunch of garbage, the innocent baby had flies on his face as he drank. If one of these photos turn out it could be the lead photo in any show. If I can get as show for this work I could possibly raise money (donation links, calendars, donation drives, print sales etc) to help various aid organizations in the Mae Sot area.

Another 17 Rolls Today

I shot another 17 rolls of film today plus did some digi photos and vids. I have 34 rolls left in the fridge in the hotel, I expect to go 2 more times to the dump, tomorrow morning and on the evening of the 12th. If I shoot 15 plus rolls both time that will use up my all the film I have allotted for this part of the trip, around 100 rolls will have been shot here in the dump at Mae Sot.

Trouble Sleeping

Last night I had trouble sleeping. I kept on thinking of things I saw at the dump during the day, it took me over 1 hour to fall asleep and after sleeping I had numerous bad dreams. The dreams were not about things that have happened here in Thailand but were about Canadian subjects and people I know, all with negative emotions. I must have woke up 3 or 4 times during the first few hours of sleep but after that things calmed down. I was able today to get up at 537am and get out to the Khune Noy's truck about 10 seconds before he arrived at 6 am.

"Body Sellers" PhotoNOLA Advertisement

I found this little advert link today for the coming "Body Sellers" show in New Orleans. It is on the Tulane University site, I do not know anything about that school. I hope the show is well received and the subjects I photographed get their story told properly. Hopefully the show/work also raises a bit of awareness on the sex tourist, sex worker issue.

Room Of Screaming Thai Boys

Is it Saturday? Lost track of my days, think its the 9th but not sure of the day of the week. I am surrounded by maybe a dozen screaming Thai boys playing all kinds of video games online at this Internet shop. They are having a ball!!!

Enough Writing Almost Time For Bed

I am going to go buy some more rice and fish for the families then have a nice Western meal at a nearby Canadian restaurant (opened by a former Canuck and his Thai wife). After my meal its back to the room and to bed, I have to wake up tomorrow at 5am to return to the dump for day 4. Tomorrow I hand out the care packages, then color snapshot photos and then its time to shoot another 12-17 rolls of film (today shot 17).

New Photos To Hand Out

I got a shop near the hotel to do up a bunch of color photos for me. I shot the photos over the the first 2 days in the dump, the people who posed for these snapshots will get free photos. Tomorrow when I go to the dump I will hand out the photos, I want to try to do this one more time before I leave.

Wash Down Procedure

Every day after returning from the dump I follow a set procedure, my wash down thingy. When I enter the hotel room my clothes (mostly pants) stick from the dump and I am covered in dirt and other things. I take off my rubber boots outside the door then dump my camera gear, empty my pockets and head to the toilet (Thai word for washroom).

In the washroom I strip down naked and throw my socks in the sink and hand wash them, then its my boxers and my shirt. I then take a quick shower with lots of soap which feels owe SO SO SO GOOD!. I rewash my socks, boxers and shirt with soap and water (the first time its only water). Then its on to the pants, the pants are quick dry things that are great but by the time I leave the dump everything below the knees is pretty much smelly and disgusting. I wash and soak the pants for the next 10 minutes or so draining out the black/brown water each time. Eventually I move on to soap and water with the pants as well. The final step is to wash down the outside and bottoms of my rubber boots. When everything is pretty well semi clean I squeeze out all the water from the clothing and take another body shower with soap, soaking under the hot water for a long time.

After the 2nd body shower I hang up all my wet freshly washed clothes and put on my relaxing room a/c clothes, a black t-shirt and big red boxers, I am quite a sight! Then I have a quick meal. The next day I reuse the same clothes again, after a few days I put the whole get up into the hotel wash where they do a proper clean.

It is so nice to get that smell off my body, that sort of rotten sickly stink that permeates the dump. Today when I was in my hot shower I thought what a treat it would be for the people there, I wish I could give each of them a hot shower, and hair wash. Followed by soft white towels and fresh clean clothing. If it was possible to do such a thing I am sure everyone would really enjoy it. How many of them have had a hot shower before?


Am hearing malaria stories. I guess the there is malaria in Mae Sot and many of the Burmese in the town suffer from it. The treks from their homes in Burma through the jungles to Thailand are probably where they get the disease, thou I have been told the big mosquitoes here in Mae Sot also carry malaria. Today in Khune Noy's store I saw an older Burmese lady buying malaria medication of some kind. I need to take extra precautions, I am currently covered in both sunblock and mosquito repellent, YUCK! Not sure this is much healthier.

Me Myself And I

Doing these photos is potentially a bit dangerous. I am out on my own, there is just me, myself and I. I am in a foreign country with over $10 000 CAD of Leica equipment, if something did go wrong I might have some difficulty righting the ship. I think in the end thou the risks are worth it, its not like I am in a war zone with bullets flying etc, but still I need to be cautious. The photos are worth the risks, the potential to help the people are worth the costs.

Free Icecream

Khune Noy picked me up today at the slum on a motorbike then dropped me off at his shop to change off to his truck. At the shop which is part store, part ice cream parlor and part barber shop (60 baht for a haircut- $2.00 CAD) he gave me some free ice cream and a glass of cold water. You got to love the homemade Thai ice cream, complete with nuts, its simple and quite delicious. I wish I could treat the kids in the dump to some ice cream, fresh fruit is donated weekly by a local aid organization, a much better more nutritional item.

100 Baht No Passport Fine

I was told today that Burmese who are caught without passports are charged a 100 baht fine before being kicked out of the country (not sure they are removed, it might just be a police/immigration officer bribe to stay). I guess the Burmese also pay more for many things, they are afraid to cause any trouble or draw attention to themselves in anyway, so they often pay more. For example local motorcycle and rot song-tao drivers (pickup truck public transport) routinely charge more from Burmese people. When your in a country illegally locals can take advantage of you in many ways such as lower wages and higher costs on everything.

So their choices are to live with political, economic problems (sometimes even rape, murder and genocide) in Burma or run off to Thailand and be exploited. People across the world face similar exploitation its not only a Thai thing, North Koreans in China, Mexicans in the USA etc.

Young Boy No Photo

Today in the dump I talked to a young boy who had been avoiding me, he is around 12 years old and looks like a frighted dog, like someone has been beating him. His eyes dart about, he makes quick sudden movements with his head as he looks around him. He asked me not to take his photo and refused the small candy I offered him. He is the only child in the dump who has refused this small treat. This boy must have gone through some serious trauma in his life, at times as he looks about with fearful eyes it seems like he expects to be suddenly beaten, suddenly slapped. He is frightened by me, I need to go slowly, I wish I could speak to him and learn about his life. Does he have parents in the dump? Is he alone?

Donna 26, The Girl With Frightened Eyes

Met a new girl in the dump today, a girl named Donna 26 years old. Donna had frightened skittish eyes just like the young boy in the next blog. I have no idea what Donna's life has been like but some terrible shit must have happened. She looked so frail, so vulnerable, so beaten up by life. I saw her from atop a hill of garbage and moved down to the little cut up chair she was sitting on. I offered her a small candy and tried to speak to her. Donna speaks Thai so we were able to learn a bit about each other. I told her about my life in Canada and she told me a tiny bit about her life. She had been in Thailand for about 7 years, she is here with her Mother, she is new to the dump, has no children or husband.

As we talked I took a few photos, but she looked a bit trapped in her chair and I could not get anything of value. After we had talked for 10 minutes or so I offered her some money and at first she refused but later on with a smile and a big wai (putting her hands together in thanks and then raising them up to her face) she took the money. I said goodbye and wished her well and then left. When I  got back on top of the hill and reloaded film in my 3 cameras she had disappeared, I am not sure where she went.

Is she a victim of the brothels? HIV positive? I hope I can meet her again and learn more about her life. I will try to give her and her mother a care package of rice tomorrow.

Big Bundles, Pay Day?

Today at the dump many families loaded up huge bundles of plastics and bottles.All the recyclables were placed in big white bags and then tied onto bicycles for transport to a second near by dump where I assume money was given out. Later on in the day when I was wandering and exploring I saw one older frail but muscled Burmese man make 3 trips down the dump road carrying large white sacks on his bicycle.


I heard music coming from several huts today, many huts have portable radios either bought or found in the dump. The sound of music vibrating through the dump heat and is a welcome relief from the normal sounds of garbage trucks, bulldozers, pigs and barking dogs.

Booze Request

Got a multiple request for booze from one young male in the slum, he seems like a good jolly sort but there is a potential danger there. I am not sure I should give out any hard booze but I might compromise and get him a can of beer to avoid conflict. Of the 11 times I have been to the dump (8 times last trip, 3 so far this trip) he is the only one who as asked for liquor. The man has been polite to me, jokes with me and has posed for both videos and photos.

To Many Smiles?

I am getting lots of smiles from the people here, not sure that's the story I should be telling. The people are so friendly they often clean up their children before I can make pics or turn at me and wave or smile or some such thing. I need to get a more natural true story told. As Richard Avedon said, smiles tend to be masks that hide the truth.


I got nauseous today at the dump for the first time, thought I might throw up at one point, I had to look away and collect myself. The whole thing started when I was photographing the rice pail for a family, the pail was half filled with rice and other things found in the garbage that a father was recycling to feed his family later. I had been photographing the father with his two young sons for maybe 20 minutes as they dug in a big pile of garbage. Both boys were very cute and loved to have their picture taken, they wore old beaten up hats and were about 4 and 6 years old.

I was zooming in and doing a closeup of the food pail and also doing shots of the fathers hands as he dumped cooked rice from dirty plastic bags he found under a big pile of smelly  fly covered garbage into the pail. As I was shooting away he found some sort of watery brown milk like stuff in a bag and was unsure whether to include it in the families food. He thought about it for a second then dumped the whole watery/milky bag into the mushy fly covered rice pail. The liquid made a sloshing splat type sound as it hit the rice, the only sound I can think of that compares is when I use an outhouse at a campsite in Canada, it's the sound the urine and fecal matter makes as it falls and hits the waste liquids and solids below.

All along as I was making the photos of the pail of rice and the food being put in it I kept thinking, those little boys will eat this later, my god those little boys are going to eat that shit, it kept going over and over in my mind. The sickly smells, the visuals, then the liquid and the sloshing splat sounds and I almost lost it, I had to turn away take a few steps back and pretend to be photographing some dogs on a nearby hill. In about 2 minutes after I had recovered I returned to photograph the family.

Breast Feeding Piglet

I saw something rather strange today at the dump. There was a new family set up in grassy area partially out of reach of the dump flies, the small shelter they set up was new and had not been there the day before. The family was made up of a young mother, a father and a baby of maybe 1 year. The family also had a little black baby piglet.

The strange part, the part I had not seen before was that the mother was trying to breast feed the piglet. A human mother breast feeding a little pig, I have never seen or heard of that before maybe it's common but it was new to me. When I was there the piglet did not take to the woman's nipple, maybe he was not hungry (video to follow).

Forgot My Water

Today my 3rd day in the dump I forgot to bring my water! In May I was going through 2 bottles a day, now in November the weather is not so bad so 1 bottle is enough. If I had forgotten my water in May it would have been a major problem, today it was more of a nuisance and not that serious. After about 1 hour I started to get thirsty after 2 hours I needed water. I ended up saying for just over 4 hours and was at the dump from around 610am to 1010am. On the way home Khune Noy (the man who drives me to the shop) gave me a glass of cold water at his ice cream/store/barbershop, boy did that taste good!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Email To Friends 3

Did my 2nd day in the dump here in Mae Sot Thailand. Watched people fill a 5 gallon pail half full of cooked rice they found in the garbage. Children here eating oranges they found in the garbage as well. Yesterday saw a young child of maybe 2 crying in the garbage with flies on her face after her mother left her to do some work (scavenging in the garbage for recyclables).

Even with all these hardships the people smile and laugh and share jokes with me. There is singing and joy along with the dirt, smells and flies. Its a hard world to explain in photographs. I have a strong belief in the power of photography, I believe that documentary photography has the power to change. Seeing all this thou makes my faith wander, can anything I do here really matter? Can a photo raise awareness? Can it cause positive change?

I gave out to bags of rice care packages to two families living in the open, they are new to the dump and only have basic lean-too's for homes. An hour after I gave out the rice one of the families was boiling it in a small tin pot over an open fire (the pot was on some rocks, the fire beneath). This type of thing seems much more practical than a photograph, it had an immediate impact on the families lives, it made things a tiny bit better at least for that day.

Not sure why I am writing all of this but my heads spinning a bit with what I experienced today.

Thanks for listening Gerry

Thursday, November 7, 2013

More Color Photo Snapshot Handouts?

I am going to try to go to a photo shop and get a some prints made of the latest dump snapshots. I want to do this 2 times if possible, now and on the last day before I leave. After the first hand outs from May I am getting lots of people posing for me and asking me to take family photos and photos with their babies etc. This type of pic is not really what I am interested in but if it makes people happy so its a good thing. The families of the dump have little enough to smile about, adding a bit of cheer to someones life is always a worthy goal.

5 1/2 Months Later Most People Are Still In The Dump

Last night after visiting the dump I was thinking of all the people I met during the day and their lives. I had returned to Canada had spent 5 1/2 months there, had an artist talk, produced work for a show in New Orleans, had great meals with my family, watched movies, played golf and tennis etc etc. But the people in the dump, the families who live there, young girls like Doo-aye only know the dump, the dirt, the flies, and the day to do day survival.

2 Sick Dying Puppies

When I was about to leave the dump I found 2 sick puppies near the school. A lady brought rice for them to eat but one was not moving only crying out softly, the other puppy could only drag itself along and could not stand. I tried to get the healthier puppy to eat but it would not take any food, it only chewed on the foam bowl and pathetically licked its non working back legs.

In Buddhist culture its considered wrong to take a life, any life, so dogs are left to die a natural death.

Dogs, Ducks, Chickens And Pigs

The dump is filled with animals, there are dogs everywhere, chickens a plenty a few pigs and today I noticed ducks! Big fat ducks, walking and sitting on the garbage. The dogs search for food in the garbage along with the people, quite often you see a dog sticking his nose into the ground next to a person, they are competing for the same food. The ducks, chickens and pigs must be food raised by the families. Some of the richer families have small fenced off areas behind their homes where they keep a bit of livestock.

Cooking The Rice I Donated

When I arrived in the dump today I handed out to care packages with rice and other goodies. I gave the rice to two families that live in a newly occupied area of the dump. These new families (5 or 6?) do not have any bamboo/wooden shacks they live in lean-too type things made from whatever they find in the dump. I need to give out another 2 packages to this same group tomorrow but this time to different families.

About 1 hour after I had given the rice out one of the families was boiling rice in a small pot over an open flame fire, the pot was set up on some rocks. It was very rewarding to see the rice I given out being used and at least helping the family a little bit.

Finished Film Early At 10AM

I finished up the film early today, with the film already in the cameras from yesterday I shot 17 rolls of 35 frame Tri-x. I had all the film shot by around 930am, I am shooting much to fast, I need to slow things down. To end out the day I did a few still digi photos (for printing and handing out) and some videos.

20 Baht Found To Much Yelling

To plenty of hooting, hollering and smiles an older man in the dump found a 20 baht (66 cents CAD) in an envelope with some papers. The man acted like he had found a treasure which I guess in a way he had.

Rolling In Garbage

This trip I seem to be much more intimate with the garbage, yesterday I fell down it it, today I stepped into a big dirty puddle that filled my right boot with slime and dirt. Because of all the rains the dump seems much more vile this time, more smells, more flies, more mud, more slipping and sliding.

I do not mind the garbage so much but having it stick all over your clothes and body is tough, you feel like you cannot get it off you. Another danger is you need to move quickly at times to avoid the bull dozer and the fast moving garbage trucks. It is quite easy to fall at the wrong time and be hit, especially when your trying to get that perfect composition.

Update* I thought I would update some cofusion on the falling down into garbagte thingy. I did not really fall down from a standing position, it was more of a roll on my back thing. I was crouched down in a sitting-squating position trying to get a good composition on a child I was shooting when I lost my balance and rolled backwards on my butt and back into the garbage. There was sort of a garbage hole behind me and I ended up off balance laying back in the dirty garbage kicking my legs and feet about like a turtle on its back that cannot right itself, it must have looked quite funny. After it happened I felt more embarressed than worried about the smell and dirty clothes.

Food Found In Garbage

One thing I am noticing much more this time then last trip is the collection of food out of the garbage by the workers. I have seen whole cooked pails of rice (bad?) scavenged from the garbage. Today I saw some young boys eating oranges they found in the garbage and quite often vegetable leaves/stocks of some kind are pulled out and used. I think all this food is recooked somehow but seeing it in piles next to the stinking garbage with flies, bull dozers and dogs is stomach turning at best (at least to this spoiled Westerner).

When your desperate and hungry you eat what you can eat, you can not afford to be a fussy spoiled boy like I am.

610 Am In Darkness People Hard At Work

When I arrived today shortly after 6am a group of people were already hard at work, did they work all night? Some of the workers had flashlight devices mounted to their heads to allow them to work in the dark. These people are not lazy, they work very hard, they do jobs others do not want. The people do not blow there money on booze and drugs, they are just trying to provide for their families. All the Burmese refugee wants is an opportunity, hard work is not a problem, they will work till they drop if they are given the chance.

A Monks Life

I left for the dump today when it was still dark at about 6am. I pay a local man to drive me each morning, it costs 200 baht both ways which is just under $7.00 CAD. On the way out today the streets were filled with monks out collecting food. Buddhist monks all over Asia go out very early in the morning to collect food from locals. Monks are not allowed to work or ask for things so everything they need is donated by locals. Thais especially women make merit by giving to the monks, women are not allowed into the monk-hood so one of the few ways they can make merit is by donating food and other things to the temples.

We must have passed over 30 monks this morning as we drove to the dump, they were often very young boys. The monks life is challenging and difficult but can be very rewarding (or so I have heard). One of the interesting little facts is that when they go out in the morning to collect alms they go barefoot, later in the day they wear sandals.