Thursday, October 30, 2014

Printing Dad And Larry's Sacrifice

Started working on my first of 4 or 5 dad pictures for the coming show. The first photo is a tight blurry head shot with plenty of grain. This picture is a bit of a departure for me but a photo type I want to continue to work with in the future. I think the photograph communicates the sadness and desperation a person feels when they are diagnosed with a terminal disease. There is a fear and solemnity to the picture that I think tells a tiny bit of what my father is going through. I thought I had better start working on the dad prints now when dad is still in relatively good shape, later on it might be to hard to print these images, to emotional for me to spend all those hours alone with dad in the dark.

My friend Larry made a rather extraordinary sacrifice for me. Originally we had planned to show the dad photos in a separate back room of the gallery but after that room proved to be unsatisfactory to hang photographs Larry told me that I could have a space in the main gallery, space that was previously for Larry's work. He is giving me a great gift, sacrificing showing his work to allow my father to be seen. It is hard to find good friends many times petty jealousies, unknown grievances and silly grudges destroy friendships. Thank you Larry for allowing my fathers story to be told.

Link: Printing Young Boy Inside Mae Sot Garbage Dump Video

Here is a high quality YouTube version of the "Young inside Mae Sot garbage dump" video that I posted yesterday. I now have 33 subscribers to my YouTube channel, did not realize that, not great but OK. In the future if I travel to Thai for extended periods I will be posting more videos from in the field. I want to make vids of the actual areas I shoot in and then post them while I am overseas on the blog, in Vimeo and YouTube. Maybe some kind of weekly video diary of some kind. All you need now is a digital camera a laptop plus internet access and you do so many wonderful things, tell so many important stories.

I rarely show my face in the vids I make, most people seem a bit obsessed with showing their moniker, like they are showing off or something. I prefer to remain anonymous just like with the whole fake Gerry Yaum name thing, the work is what's important not Gerry. If I start doing more and more vids thou, hiding in the shadows might become a bit silly, I will see how it goes, maybe in tribute to the coming Halloween I can where a ski mask or something : )

Stumbling and Bumbling Along

One interesting new feature with blurb books is the ability to sell your book on, that might be something to look towards in the future. It would be great if I could sell the work in book or magazine form a bit and then be able to put that money back into making new photos. My friend Larry told me tonight he sold several photographs recently, he sells his work often. Gosh if I could sell just one print a year I would be happy. It has been several years since I sold any work.

Larry is helping me with this group show next February but it seems all other outlets I have tried over the last couple of years has met with rejections. I got another rejection letter yesterday, this one from a gallery in Medicine Hat Alberta (the capital of high art). Heck I can't make it in Medicine Hat, how the hell am I ever eventually going to be shown in New York, London or Paris?  Back to baby steps with my work. I need to continue to do what I feel is right, continue to work hard and let the cards fall where they may.

I know I will make photographs the rest of my life, that I will continue to create and tell my own  personal stories. The most important thing is to work hard and disregard the all the negative stuff. I have a show coming and will work towards that, after the show I will make more pictures and hope for another exhibition. "Doo-Aye" in the dump needs her story told, my father needs his, "Long" and the workers in the bars of Thai need theirs as do "Bong" and the Muay Thai  boxers and "Jang" and the other residents of slums in Bangkok and elsewhere. Photographing these forgotten people and groups is the most important thing I do, so I will continue to do it. Screw everything else!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ordered One Blurb Magazine

I ordered my exhibition magazine tonight from . The total cost was $15.73 CAD, most of that money was shipping related. Printing the mag cost $4.99, shipping was $9.99 and GST was .75. When you order 2, 3 or 5 mags the shipping cost is not that much more so your paying a premium on shipping for a single magazine. I only bought one today because I wanted to check the quality, see what it looks like. If everything is good I will order 4 or 5 for the exhibition.

There is a 12% discount if you order 20 or more magazines, thou I doubt I will do that. I might have 5 of them at the show marked at $15 a piece meaning I might make $6 or $7 dollar profit per magazine if any sold (doubtful). Larry will have nice printed catolog of images, so I wanted to have something to show people as well. One advantage of the mag is I can show non dump photos in it, to give people a flavour of the other photo series I am working on.

The magazine should arrive on or before November 14, when I see it I can decide what to do next. If the quality is crappy it might end there. What is more likely is that I will make changes and order a second single or possibly several next time around. I am not sure if the pics will be to dark (possibly), to contrasty or have some other issue, we will have to wait and see.

Quote: Gino Bartali (Cyclist)

"Good is something you do, not something you talk about, some medals are pinned to your soul, not to your jacket."

Dad The Cook

Dad has been doing better this week after having a minor procedure at the hospital the week before. Today he was chowing down on some A&W chubby chicken I bought him, he also ate part of a hamburger. The amazing thing I learned today was that dad made some cabbage rolls yesterday. For years dad was a cook at a farmers market here in Edmonton, making pyrogies, cabbage rolls 5 or 6 types of breads, pies, various deserts etc. Since he got cancer he was unable to do any cooking work but yesterday somehow he felt good enough to make some cabbage rolls (with moms help). When I went down to his house today he made sure mom gave me some cabbage rolls to take home. I joked with him about making pyrogies next, I was only joking but I think dad might give it a try. His appetite is much improved so that's a good sign, mom said he is eating lots of different types of food. Having him at home and eating all his favourites is helping dad, being around the family is also a positive for him. I think that if he was left in the hospital he would lost his will and his appetite and might already be gone. Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease but dad is 8 months in, 82 years old and still fighting on. I am starting to have some hope that dad might be able to make it to our next birthday, we share the same April birthday. Its a lot to ask, and still a long way off, probably to much hope for but if dad can make it he would be 83 and I would be 51. Christmas is less than two months away, that is a more achievable goal, I hope we can spend this christmas together at the house.

Video: Printing Young Boy In Mae Sot Garbage Dump

Here is todays darkroom effort, the photo is for my coming group show with Larry Louie entitled "Life in the Margins".

Steps to make this 5th attempt print:

Durst 1200 condensor enlarger with 50mm El-Nikkor lens, Bergger glossy photo paper, Dectol developer 1/1 for 4 minutes.

- 70 second basic exposure at f4, filter 1/2.
- Dodge boys face -10 seconds. Round dodge tool.
- Dodge back family figures -30 seconds. Round dodge tool.
- Burn all for edges +50 seconds. Card.
- Burning mask #1 + 100 seconds
- Burning mask #1 top edge holes +60 seconds. Use card and mask to burn area.
- Burning mask #1 smart dirt area on top +40 seconds. Use hand plus mask to burn area,
- Burning mask #2, f 2.8 and filter -1 + 200 seconds, lower area of bag in burn gets 100 seconds only,
  burn bright highlight on top of bags the total 200 seconds.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Current Magazine Layout

Here are some captures of the magazine layout, there might be changes. There will be no type in the magazine except the "Gerry Yaum" on the cover. I was thinking of not including my fake name but then I thought visitors might not understand that the magazine was connected with the show, so I decided to put Mr. Yaum in. There will be a total of 22 images in this 20 page (plus cover) magazine, the final cost of printing should be $4.99 plus shipping.

A Few Of Dad

Here are a few scans of dad I might put in the exhibition magazine. I don't think I posted these before, they were shot around July/August 2014.

GR-21 Experimental Shots

Been feeling lousy the last week or so, balance problems, not sure why, dizzy and the like. I toughed it up a bit tonight on my first day off and developed a bunch of the GR-21 experimental footage. Here are a few scans. Tomorrow I need to start my weeks printing, I want to at least do up 3 negs. I am also working on the magazine tonight, doing up some scans of dad. Hopefully I can send that out for a test printing in the next few days. If everything works out I will make up al final exhibition version of 4 or 5 mags, might even put a price on them ($15?).

Here is the GR-21 stuff:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Link: Truly Great Photo Learning Book "Magnum Contact Sheets"

I got a great new book today from Amazon, called "Magnum Contact Sheets". If I had known how good this book was I would have bought it years ago. I guess its better late then never to find something like this. I did see a slightly different format of this book several years ago but it was manufactured with printed contact sheets in a box, I did not like that layout. I like this version much better as they have  great individual photographs next to the contact sheets they came from in book form. This should be a great learning tool as you can follow the photographers train of thought, follow his compositional choices and flow of the shoot as it happens through the contact sheet. I will study and learn from this latest purchase for years to come. Here is the book and a link to the on sale amazon page, I highly recommend it for you budding documentary photographers out there.

This thing has the potential to be my all time favourite photography book, the learning possibilities are endless.

Magnum Contact Sheets

Link: Strong Honest Documentary "Hookers At The Point"

Here is a sad and rather amazing documentary on prostitution (New York area, USA). I wonder if it would be possible to create a similar style film documenting the lives of the workers in Thai. To hear their personal stories is so compelling and important. A film like this humanizes folks that are so often stereotyped, ignored and forgotten. The interviews and the awkward fake sex talk between the workers and their clients are especially telling and powerful. This film was made by Brent Owens.

Hookers At The Point

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Another Nice Email

I got another kind email today from Joanna in Singapore. It is nice to know that your work and the blog has a positive influence. Sometimes I can get a bit down with all the gallery and grant rejections but then something nice is written to you by a good person you do not know and it makes up for a lot of the negatives. Here is part of her email, I removed the more personal sections.


Hi Gerry

Apologise, could not reply earlier. ......find your passion very inspiring the works and experiences that you have been through and shared.

Thank you for sharing, enjoyed learning about the stuff you do and have gone through.

Thank you!

Going For It With The GR-21

"I photograph to see what something looks like photographed."

I am not sure if I read that somewhere or came up with it myself but that's sort of my philosophy with the Ricoh GR-21 point and shoot. I allow myself much more freedom to explore and try stuff, its expensive on film but liberating of spirit. I will be posting some of these wild shooting choices in the coming week.

Update: The LCD on the GR-21 is malfunctioning, to bad, will send it back to Japan for a full refund, I hope! I am now in the market for another one of these wonderful little cameras. I ended up shooting 4 or 5 films with the camera before it went down, will post some of those experiments in the coming days.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Dynamic?

I tried a few shots of dad with the GR-21, will develop the film next week when I am off work. Am still getting used to using this new camera, it has a much different feel and usage than some of my other cameras like the Leica's. I think you need to shoot it with more flow and less concentration on composition. I want this tool to capture less in a documentary photography sense and more in my feelings as an artist sense. I want my emotions, my thoughts to come out of in these pictures. In the past my work has always been subject first, my feelings second. Now with this camera I want it to be my heart on film, my feelings, my emotions, my everything coming out in the expression of the photographs. The work will be less subject oriented, more abstract, more ambiguous, more personal. A different type of dynamic.

Dads Appetite Improves

Earlier this week dad had a hospital visit where they did some minor work, now his appetite is much improved. The previous week dad was throwing up a lot, now he seems much better. He has cravings for all kinds of foods including cabbage rolls, next week when I am off work I will go buy him some. Today I took dad some sausage, pork hawks (for head cheese), bread, cupcakes and some pork steaks. When I left to go to work dad said to me"Thank you Gerald", it was quite a rewarding feeling to hear him say that. Dad is usually not the kind of person who thanks, he is usually the one who gets the thanks because he is the one always giving. It was a good feeling today to give a little bit back to him and to hear those words. One other bonus of getting dad food is that every time I bring it he wants to eat immediately. Today as I was leaving he was asking mom to cook up the pork hawks.

Near Final Version Of Exhibition Video

Here is the near final version of my half of the "Life in the Margins" exhibition video. I need to get away from this for a while to get a fresh feel for it. I will let this version stand for now and see how I feel about it next month. Sometimes it's a good idea to stand back from something to get a, unbiased objective perspective on its quality. There is at least one segment (cut out?) of the video that I will work on, and I will probably add some more still photos but this near final version tells the story of the dump pretty well, it shows many aspects of life there. It is a bit long, I might cut it down by 1 minute.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nice Email From Singapore

I got a nice email from a lady named Joanna in Singapore today. She was asking about one of the men I photographed back in 2012 in Klong Toey slum in Bangkok. It is nice to get feedback from people you do not know online. That is the power of photography it can reach anyone anywhere, pictures have the ability to communicate past and through countries, cultures and languages.

"Ain't Photography Grand!"

If any of you out there have any questions about anything on the blog, please go ahead and ask. I answer all the emails I get and try to help and inform in any way I can. We can all learn from each other.


Dad Looked Good Today

Tomorrow I will photograph dad with the new Ricoh GR-21 toy. Today dad looked quite well, it was a relief for me to see him looking relatively good, he sure is a fighter, I am proud of him for not giving up. I hope later in life when I go through what he is going through I can summon similar fortitude and courage. At that time I will try to think back to dad and use his example for inspiration. My father has always been a positive influence for me. When it comes to most anything I think, how would dad do it? How hard would he work to get this done? Then I try to live up to his standard.

Absolutely TINY!

Gosh I got the Ricoh GR-21 today, this thing is tiny, tiny small and light. It seems like it is not even a having a camera, it is so small. The whole camera fits into my hand and does not hang over and is only 1 thick. I would compare this machine to modern point digi cameras in size but the huge advantage for me is I can use it to shoot Tri-x. If this cameras lens lives up to its reputation I will carry this camera everywhere. If I make strong photos with this machine I might be carrying this camera everywhere for the rest of my life.  I will post some photos made with this new tool in the coming days. I am very excited by the possibilities this presence. This camera has almost no footprint and should allow me to be much more subtle and secretive when I am making photos in dangerous situations with people that are afraid of photography. The decision to purchase this tool could turn out great!

I am surprised at how quick it arrived. The camera was shipped from Japan, the Japanese are so efficient. I also ordered extra batteries and a filter for it but those shipments from other parts of the world (one is Ontario) have yet to make it to me. I got a bit of luck with this Ricoh as well, no extra charges of any kind.

Quotes: Eleanor Roosevelt

"Happiness is not a's the by-product of a life well lived."

"We all create the person we become by our choices as we go through life. In a real sense, by the time we are adults, we are the some total of the choices we have made."

"Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age have not yet begun."

"I say to the young: Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, and imaginatively."

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another Quick Peek At "Life In The Margins" Show Video

Here is my most recent attempt at my part of the exhibition show video. The idea is that I will make up a 20 minute video, 10 minutes of Larry's shooting location (Tondo slum in the Philippines) and 10 minutes of mine (from the "Families of the Dump series in the Mae Sot garbage dump) and let it run on a loop during the exhibition. I still have some work to do on this, trimming and tightening plus adding and subtracting. I think the video idea will be good for the exhibit, it will help establish a foundation, a setting for the viewer to base their interpretation of the photographs on. Plus as a bonus it might help raise a bit more awareness and money for the people represented.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Photo Groups, The Good, The Bad (And No Ugly)

Recently I left two photo groups I belonged to for extended periods (one for around 20 years). Groups are great for companionship, socializing and like. They are also a great resource for learning from others and helping friends. The big negative with groups is the group thought thing that can occur if your not careful. Peer pressure to conform and fit in is a very real danger in the group dynamic. Years ago I read a quote referring to Japanese society and how individuals are forced to join group thought.

"In Japan the nail that stands up gets hammered down."

I think that can be a problem when your part of any group, you are often expected to fit in and if you do something different or act differently than others in the group your peers often want (need?) to hammer you down. If your to enthusiastic or dedicated, if your to gung ho or hold strong opinions your often not accepted (assuming the majority in the group do not have those characteristics). Subject matter is very subjective and in amateur group settings most people shoot the same type of stuff the same way, there is very little stepping outside the hobbyist box. You could take photos from 10 different photo groups across the country, mix and match all of those photos and it would not really matter, most everyone is shooting mostly the same subjects in mostly the same ways. People in a group generally feel more comfortable surrounded by those exactly like themselves, this is a real danger to creativity. What can happen is that those that shoot photographs of different subjects or shoot in different ways are ridiculed, subtle pressure is applied to conform to the group dynamic. The subliminal message is. "Why are you shooting this? When everyone else is shooting mountains, old buildings and flowers. Fit in, conform, be like us."

If I was going to give advice to young-new photographers about joining photo groups I would tell them to go for it, you can learn a lot but later on once you find your way leave the group so that your not polluted by their conformity. It is important all artists try to  find their own way, their own unique paths. It is easy to sit in a room quietly with everyone else and conform but if you want to make strong work I think you need to step away from the crowd. Do not do what group thought tells you to do, do not follow the majority, do not make pictures that have been done countless times. Have strong opinions and do not be afraid to voice and defend them. Most importantly have the courage to leave a group and be on your own.

I hope that this is what will happen with me. I became more independent and opinionated and decided (with some help) to leave these groups and try and find my own path. For me it has been the best of both worlds. I met and interacted with some great people and got what I could out of the groups but now it's time to step away and move forward, hopefully in new and exciting directions. I will try to take the road less travelled (R. Frost).

Note* I am still involved with one advanced photo group made up of pros and high end fine art and documentary photographers, that work extremely hard at their craft. These guys are advanced artists and play by different rules. Being part of their group has been very beneficial, I guess these dudes would fit into the "good" in the title.

Anyway here is the famous Robert Frost poem:

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

New Type Of Seeing?

Here are two never posted shots that are a bit different for me. I am thinking of putting these pics in the magazine I am working on for the "Life in the Margins" exhibition. I might try shooting this style more with the Ricoh GR-21, higher grain, high contrast, motion-blur and unorthodox compositions. I have been thinking a lot about the quote by Daido Moriyama that I posted a few days back, here it is again.

"At first sight a photograph looks straightforward as it slices off a scene or a moment in time. But the images that photography captures are actually ambiguous. And it's because of this ambiguity that I like photography." 

Muay Thai boxer in Klong Toey boxing gym, Thailand 2013
Burmese baby held by mother in Mae Sot garbage dump, Thailand 2013

Magazine Cover Version 3

I am finding the hardest part of doing up this magazine is finding scanned negs that are big enough to use. I have plenty of images I love and want to include but the problem is finding 5 meg files of my choices. I could go and search for all the right negs and scan them all again at a higher dpi but that is just so painful to do. I am trying to get by with what I have and still produce a good product. I will have to do a few scans but want to limit how much time I spend on this project. Here is tonights capture of the magazine design back cover page on the left and front cover page on the right, this is version 3.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blurb Magazine?

I am downloading the program to make magazines on its called "BookWright". Blurb mags cost $4.99 USD  (20 pages) each and you can also upload a eBook version to Apple. The mags come with glossy paper and are supposed to look just like the real thing. I thought why not lets give it a try, maybe if this works I can make up 5 or so for the "Exposure, Life in the Margins" show. I am sure Larry will have some beautiful book-catalog type thing to show (he did 3 years ago). I need something at least half ass decent to put beside his wonderful work. This might be just the ticket, I think a mix of some favourite photos might be the best option, with a strong cover.

Here are my first attempts at a strong cover for the magazine:

Photo Idea: "Bangkok At Night", Revisited

Years ago I had an idea to do a series of photographs of Bangkok at night. That idea came back to me tonight, fresh and exciting. In the past I thought of shooting it with the Banarama 4x5 hand held camera and flash but now I am thinking it might work better in 35mm an the Ricoh GR-21. This is the way I see it.

Tri-x the GR-21 and Rodinal developer. I would go for a high contrast and higher grain look then print the work on the high contrast Durst 1200 condensor enlarger. These images would be very harsh and stark looking, like nothing I have ever created before. I would wander the streets shooting everything, everything of interest, allowing myself the freedom to chase and create in new and different ways. No rules, no limitations, just shoot and shoot and find my story. I would photograph at night and in Bangkok but put no other restrictions on myself. I might use the on camera flash or a separate hand held flash (the GR-21 has external flash sinc capability) or I might try pushing the film all the way up to 6400 ASA. I would do everything I want, blurred images, strange angles, grain, contrast, tough strange subject matter etc. Everything and anything would fly. NO RULES.

This would be a fun type of photography a freeing type of expression, just me and the streets, one simple tool and creating from what I find. The Toot Yung Gallery in Bangkok has promised to show my work, this might be the work that I show. This could lead to strong and powerful work, worthy of the gallery time and space. Heck this stuff could even sell which I feel I owe the gallery, they are letting me in, the work needs to have the possibility of selling to help me pay them back.

If I stay 6 months in Bangkok I could work on this project nightly or every second night. With Rodinal a little goes a long long way so I could develop the film as I go over the 6 month time period, using a 1/50 or 1/100 dilution. Seeing the work, posting it on the blog and feeling my way along as I go would be very helpful. Having the immediate feedback would be a great and positive way to create, I would know where I stood day to day and week to week.

Shooting the cheap point and shoot GR-21 at night would be safer to do than any of my Leicas or other big expensive looking machines. I would no doubt be entering some pretty dangerous worlds as I wandered at night so its best to travel light and simple. I might even carry a separate pretend wallet with a bit of cash in it, I could hand it over freely and hopefully without conflict if I was mugged. Just don't take my camera!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quotes: Daido Moriyama

"I think the most important thing that photography can do is to relate both the photographer and the viewers memories."

"At first sight a photograph looks straightforward as it slices off a scene or a moment in time. But the images that photography captures are actually ambiguous. And it's because of this ambiguity that I like photography."

Link: GR-21 Use?

The huge advantage of the Ricoh GR-21 is that it is a pro level camera that does not look like it. The camera is an extremely well made Japanese built machine with a world class ultra wide angle 21mm lens (9 elements in 6 groups). The unique and great thing about the GR-21 is that it looks like a simple cheap point and shoot! When using it I am less likely to get shouted at, pushed around, beaten up or robbed

Carrying around a camera in the field that does not look pro like has lots of advantages, the main one is it might not scare off your subjects. I remember when I walked on the streets of Phnom Penh years ago with my Nikon F5, some of my subjects ran on seeing the camera, figuring I was a pro shooter who was going to shut down their business with bad publicity (I was in a red light area).

With the Ricoh I might just be able to make pictures in places and with people that are scared of more fearful looking gear. I am thinking that if I do the "Lost Innocence" brothel portraits this camera might do a better job, it might allow me easier access than the big ass digital Mark II or the Blad cameras. I was also thinking of wandering the streets and shooting away going everywhere to work on my "Bangkok At Night" series I planned years ago. I might also try to concentrate on one or two workers from a some sort of bar in Thai and document that workers life at home and on the streets.

The camera also has a built in flash, I have always liked the harsh look of direct light. I would probably print this work quite contrasty and grainy, playing to films strengths as Larry suggested I do. So direct flash or pushed Tri-x, most likely at 800ASA, maybe even 1600 or 3200.

Another advantage of this camera is it is very small and light. I want to try and carry it everywhere I go. Imagine having a camera with you and using it everyday, every hour of your life.

Here is a YouTube link to a book by Daido Moriyama, he used a GR-21 to make it, you can see what this camera can do in the right hands. I would like to try stuff in a similar style but with a more documentary serious side to it. Photograph important subjects but in a more abstract less formal manner. Through the abstraction I hope to capture more dynamic feelings and emotion in the work.
Daido Moriyama, "Farewell Photography"

Photograph by Daido Moriama
Photograph by Daido Moriama

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Video: Printing 'The Bride And Groom from Mae Sot Garbage Dump"

Here is a video of the first attempt at this print, a bit off but close. I did up print number 2 after making and pretty well nailed it. I will make up 2 more prints trying to make minor improvement to each, then move on to the next print. I will print one of 2 small child standing in garbage prints I want to make for the exhibition.

"Ain't Photography Grand!" There is no other thing that gives me more happiness.

I feel better about the recent camera purchase now. This is what I do, make photos, I am sure I will make good pictures with the Ricoh point and shoot, so nothing else matters. Money comes and money goes but good photography is important and great photography can live on forever. I will try to make a great picture with the camera, I will try to tell an important story about a forgotten life.

Now back into the darkroom to attempt to improve on the bride and groom neg. Everything in photography is so challenging, but I love it.

Lewis Payne Portrait

I watched the Robert Redford directed film "The Conspirator" tonight. The story dealt with the trial of Mary Surrat and her eventual execution by hanging with 3 men involved in President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

This photo  of one of the jailed conspirators Lewis Payne by civil war photographer Alexander Gardner I have always found powerful. There is bewildering beauty in Payne's youthful defiance and acceptance of his fate. Gardner made 3 different exposures. In 2 of the photos Payne ignores the photographer, in the best one the 3rd he confronts Gardner.

Tbe greatness and power of photography is displayed once again.

Lewis Payne by Alexander Gardner 1865

Friday, October 17, 2014


Not sure I should have done this but I bought another camera. It is a point and shoot film camera that cost $950 USD (over $1100 CAD). This might be a big mistake, not sure just yet. I think if I make 1 great picture of 10 or so good pictures with it I can rationalize it away but right now, am not sure I did the right thing.

The camera is the Ricoh GR-21, it has a world class 21mm F3.5 lens on it. The lens is made by Leica and was so revered by those who used it that it came out as a separate lens that could be used with Leica range finder cameras. I learned about this camera when I was studying the work of Daido Moriyama, he used it to create many iconic photographs. The camera I bought is in NICE shape and in 100% working condition. I will probably shoot a lot of pushed 800ASA Tri-x with this latest tool.

Now for the rationals for this expensive maybe silly purchase.

- I can carry it in my pocket and use it at dads funeral.
- I can carry it anywhere use it quickly and easily.
- I can use it to create lots of big grain, higher contrast, more abstract fun work.
- I want to make non traditional composed work, happy accidents and quick haphazard choice looks.
- It has a 21mm lens, the only film point and shoot around that has.
- I got it at a reasonable price (believe it or not) it runs around $1495 mint, mine was originally listed at $1080 USD. I was able to get the seller to come down in price, probably because its a film camera.
-  The seller is from Japan, where they take care of their camera gear. Hopefully this unit will last me many years, maybe the rest of my life.
- I hope the camera will completely free up my shooting and allow me to freely flow and create more emotion and feeling in my photographs. I want what I feel in my heart to be able to translate quickly and easily into a picture.

The underlying motivation was to have a camera I could carry in my pocket when I say goodbye to dad. I might also be able to use it in the bars of Asia to be less conspicuous. The great sharp beautiful extremely wide lens was a big selling point as well. Still it all came down to having a camera to say goodbye to dad with, that was my number one motivation for the purchase.

A Ricoh GR-21, not mine.

Quote: Sebastiao Salgado

"I adore photography, talking photographs holding my camera, choosing my frame, playing with the light. I love living with people, observing communities, and now animals, trees and rocks too. It is the desire to photograph that always drives me to leave again, to go and look elsewhere. Constantly to be taking more new images."

This is from the cover of the new book I mentioned in the previous blog.

Link: Highly Recommended Book

Today I got a book from Amazon that I ordered last week from work. It is called "From my Land to the Planet by Sebastiao Salgado. The book is a first person account, Salgado telling the stories behind his great, compassionate photographs. I am going to devour this, it will be joyful and inspirational to read. If anyone is interested here is the link again. The book cover is a bit boring but the interior is filled with magic.

From my Land to the Planet by Sebastiao Salgado

Note* When you shop with Amazon you can get free shipping if your purchase is $25 or more.

Quote: Klaus Kinski (Actor)

"One should judge a man mainly from his depravities. Virtues can be faked. Depravities are real."

Video: Printing "Doo-aye With Her Father In The Mae Sot Garbage Dump"

Here is a short video of todays darkroom work. I am working all night on a show photograph of Doo-aye with her father. This picture was made on my first day in the dump probably in about my first hour of shooting in May of 2013. Higher quality versions of this video are also on my Vimeo and YouTube channels, to see them just click on the links at the upper left part of this page.

Update* I managed to get it done in 4 prints. Tomorrow I am on to making the show print of "Bride and Groom in the Mae Sot garbage dump, May 2013". I will work on a few test strips now before going to visit my Father and coming back home to sleep.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Quote: Nelson Mandela

"As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest."

I will use this quote as the opening to my artist statement for my coming joint "Life on the Margins" exhibition.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Got The Paper And Learning From Larry

With a quick knock at my door my 2 boxes of 16x20 Ilford warm tone fiber arrived today. You got to to love the ease of this service. If I need more paper in the future I can get it within a week or so. Now time to print this paper effectively.

My friend Larry suggested something to me yesterday that I have been thinking of, allowing bright highlights to burn through from windows etc from back lit subjects. He made the point of the beauty of this type of look and not trying to even out the light in a print to much. He feels that with a film print it is better instead to play to films uniqueness and strengths, which is a a harsher more courser look. We also talked a great deal about methods of exposure, composition and focus. Something he does much better than I do is figuring out what he wants to say and focusing on the individual story he is telling to avoid over shooting.

I need to continue to learn and improve as a photographer and Larry is helping me. I of course do not want to become a copy cat, poor imitation Larry Jr. I want to maintain my own uniqueness but I still can learn lots from one of the best photographers in the country. Larry is a great teacher and I feel I have already learned so much from him. I owe him a debt of gratitude. After dad and mom he will have to get second billing credit if and when a book is ever produced (hope hope).

As to my feeling about how I need to photograph, my focus as always is on the subject, I need to put the subject first over considerations like beauty and style. Substance of the subject over the style of the photos is what I believe. If you can get both substance and style then your really cooking! But the importance of my subjects life story should always be first. I also feel that all people deserve to be represented even if their look is not as powerful as some others, you can still make good important photos of them.  Everyone deserves their stories told. The substance of my subject, their feelings their heart, the importance of their lives and story the pictures are telling about those lives is why I make my pics. The most important number 1 thing I want to put into my photos is the subjects HEART.


Had a dream about dad this afternoon. I was at this house and he was eating fried rice then started to choke, he could not speak and started to change colour on his face. My mom was in the room but did not notice so I had to pick dad out of his chair and give him the heimlich maneuver until he spit out everything that was choking him. I had to do it many times until it finally worked. 

Strange dream, not sure what it means, maybe I want to subconsciously save dads life somehow. I wish stopping cancer and saving him was as easy as my dream scenario.

"Exposure Photo Festival" Submission Blurb With Show Title

Here is a short write up Larry's wife Joanna wrote for the exhibition, this was submitted to the Exposure people in Calgary.

Living on the Margins:  The Manila and Mae Sot Projects
By Larry Louie and Gerry Yaum
Larry Louie’s Manila Project highlights the lives of the people living among the dead in Navotas Cemetery in Manila and the people living and working in the Smokey Mountain dumpsite in Tondo, Manila. Gerry Yaum’s Mae Sot Project is based on a group of Burmese refugees displaced by armed conflicts in Burma and unable to returned to their destroyed villages at home and unable to gain legal refugee status in Thailand living in the municipal garbage dump of Mae Sot, Thailand.

Video: Early Show Video Look See

With my cat laying next to me (lovely warm animal, she always likes to make physical contact) I am working on a very early draft of the video I intend to put into the "Living on the Margins" Exhibition.  Yes that is the official title, which I think is fitting for both Larry's and my work.

Anyway back to my thought, I am working on my part of the video for the show. The idea is to do 2 videos back to back first Larry (shot by Larry's wife Joanna) and then of me (shot by me). I plan on my video starting out with my first day at the dump and some of my early experiences.

The idea is to have a video presentation upstairs along with the photographs. I think its important to keep things short and fluid so it flows nicely. The whole thing most likely will only run 10-15 minutes and be on a continuous loop. I am including a soundtrack but likely the sound will probably be turned off.

Here is the first part of my section of the video, it is rather rough and will be reworked many times. I thought thou you might like to have a very early taste. The beginning of this video are my first moments in the dump in May 2013 as explained in the artist statement blog story.

Here is the longer version of the artist statement I might use. I am trying to make it personal and not so arty farty arrogant. I think people respond better when the feelings expressed are more down home, straight forward and honest. Visitors sometimes get intimidated by the whole arty, snobby art superiority culture crap. I want my work and statements to be down home, straight forward, accessible and understandable for the average person. To put it in simpler terms I never want my artist statements to be about my egotistical artistic pretensions. I want my artist statements to instead be about my subjects, their lives and stories are what matters, not Mr. Gerry. 

I will trim this LONG blog down to a more manageable standing and reading in a gallery level for the show. I want to keep the essence of what I wrote but will shorten it. I can save this longer version for the high quality personalized book : ))

"Children of the Dump" Artist Statement, Why I Made The Photos

The "Families of the Dump" and this smaller "Children of the Dump" documentary photograph series was made at the Mae Sot Thailand garbage dump where around 400 people in 50 plus families live and work. The families are made up of Burmese refugees mostly from the Karen ethnic group, they illegally travelled from Burma into Thailand to scavenge and work in the Mae Sot dump digging for recyclable goods. All able bodied members of the family work, from the very young to the very old. There is a school nearby for the children but often they are required to work and cannot go to school.

Why make the photographs for the "Children of the Dump" series? It all came down to that first day I visited the dump, that first day, what I saw, the experiences I had locked me into this project. Here is a rather long winded story about that day and a bit of what happened before and after.

My first day at the dump was in May of 2013, I was unsure what to expect. Over the years and 11 previous trips I had become fairly comfortable in Thailand, I could speak some of the language I could even read and write a bit in Thai but this was something new, something different. I was worried and a bit apprehensive about how this all would play out. The dump was populated not by Thais but by Burmese, people who were refugees, illegals inside Thailand who were escaping political persecution and or economic hardships in their own country of Burma. My knowledge of the Thai language and experiences photographing Thais in the slums of Bangkok or the beer bars of Pattaya would be of little value.

To get to the dump I first had to fly from Canada, 3 airplanes and 24 hours later I was in my hotel in Bangkok. I then arranged a bus ticket for the overnight 10 hour trip from Bangkok to Mae Sot Thailand. Mae Sot is a town that is 70% Burmese even thou it is inside Thailand, it snuggles up along the Moei river which separates Thailand and Burma. Burmese workers can  easily cross the Moei river to work inside Thailand legally or illegally. There is a lot of human, drug and gem smuggling along this border area and a corresponding large police and military presence.

On arrival in Mae Sot I was spent, exhausted and still recovering from jet lag. I checked into my second hotel and went in search of food. I had no idea how to get to the dump or exactly what I would find but I figured I would ask a motorcycle taxi driver. The one thing you can always be sure of no matter where you visit is that taxi drivers know where stuff is. My Thai language skills came in handy as I was able to communicate my intentions and to arrange for a pickup early next morning. The deal was that the driver would pick me up at my hotel and take me out to dump at 8am for 60baht ($2.00 CAD).

The next morning after a rough night’s sleep I was up at 715am, had a quick shower, a jam sandwich and some water. After putting on a ton of sunblock and gathering up my photo gear I was ready to go. I met Khune Noi (the driver) out in front of my $20 a night hotel and off we went me on the back of the motorbike him driving. We drove through the dark streets passing the occasional orange robed Buddhist monk or groups of monks walking barefoot in search of their morning alms (collecting donated food). After about 30 minutes of winding, dusty, bumpy, pot holed roads, we approached the dump entrance. We wound around a green water lake, I could smell the garbage and see the small shacked family homes in the distance. It took another slow 5 minutes of driving and finally we arrived, Khune Noi stopped the bike I clamored off and readjusted my cameras. He then handed me the bag I had given him earlier. The bag contained some rice, canned fish and soap. My plan was that every day I came to the dump I would give out a gift bag to one of the families. I asked Khune Noi to return at 12 noon to take me home, he smiled and left.

So there I was standing on the road next to the green lake in the early morning light. The numerous bamboo-wood-plastic covered huts extended down the road on my left, there must have been 15 or more with the lake on my right. Some of the families peered out at me others went on with their morning chores showing little concern. I went up to the first house and gave the bag of rice to the lady sitting in the entrance. I did my best to say "rice"in Burmese as I  handed it to her, she smiled waied me (put her hands together as if in prayer) and said thank you in Burmese.

Now that I had gotten rid of the extra baggage I wanted to make some pictures. I started to wander slowly, the sun had risen and it was already becoming quite hot. I tried to be as polite and unobtrusive as I could, approaching the homes and quietly taking a few photographs. When people would look at me, I would hold up the camera asking if it was OK to photograph. Sometimes I just smiled and said "minga lah bah" hello in Burmese. When I was done I would say "zah zue din bah day" thank you. After 45-60 minutes of this wandering I came across a young boy holding a sickle like tool that was used for digging in the dump. I shot some photographs of him and then he turned and headed towards the nearby dump, he walked quickly down a small path. I made several photos of him as he walked in front of me, he got farther and farther ahead as I struggled through the mounting garbage. He soon was out of range of my camera.
Young boy walking into the dump my first day shooting, May 2013
I looked for another subject, off in the distance maybe 300 meters ahead I saw a figure with a white hat working. By this time it was quite hot, the sunlight was very bright and reflected off all the white bags on the ground, all that light being bounced back up into my face made it hard on the eyes. I decided to head to the worker with the hat and see what that would yield. I started off, often my feet sank deep into the garbage, I tried to avoid the more smelly messy areas, there were hills and hills of waste, far into the horizon. As I walked the flies came, I had never seen or experienced so many flies before. They were all over me, on my hands, arms, face, nose, eyes, ears, they moved on my fingers, on my camera and on my lens. I continued to walk, there was no wind, the flies buzzed my ears, crawled on my face, the smell of the rotting garbage grew stronger, the now incredible heat got worse. All I could think about was these blasted flies. I started to get very uncomfortable, sweat ran down my face into my eyes, the sunblock stung my eyes, the flies continued buzzing and crawling all over me. They climbed everywhere, first on the garbage, then on me, if I breathed through my mouth they would fly inside my mouth and I had to spit them out. This all seemed crazy! Why was I here? Why was I doing this? These bloody disgusting flies! I counted them, there were now 40 walking or sitting on the parts of my body that I could see. I started to freak out a bit, started to feel more and more disturbed by it all. There was nowhere to go, I was trapped, damn it was so hot! Finally I reached the figure with the white hat.

I looked at the worker, it was a man, no a woman, no not a woman it was a girl, a young girl, maybe 11 years old, I found out later her name was Doo-Aye. She looked at me with interest and curiosity as children do and smiled. I stopped and photographed her, her father was nearby but was involved in his own scavenging and paid me no mind. Doo-Aye had on the simple white hat I had seen earlier and had thanaka on her face. Thanaka is a white paste made from tree bark, the Burmese wear it as a sunscreen and also as a cosmetic for beauty. She worked and dug in the garbage alongside her father, they were filling up a big bag with anything worth salvaging, mostly plastics and cardboard. Then Doo-Aye found a ladies purse, something some Thai women in Mae Sot had thrown away. She looked through every part of it hoping to find anything of value, she searched all the corners, all the compartments pulling stuff out and letting it fall on the ground. I continued to photograph her and made a short video with my digital camera as she worked. Every now and then she looked up at me with curiosity and smiled. I asked myself "Why was this child working like this?"

Doo-Aye was the key to my wanting to do this series of photographs in the dump. She was the reason I wanted to tell the story of these forgotten families and these poverty stricken children. Once I saw her eyes, the friendliness of her smile and the quiet acceptance of the hard ugly work she was doing, I was hooked. She had a grace, a vulnerability, a joy for life to her that seemed so contradictory to the circumstances she lived in. This little girl should have been in school with opportunities for a greater future, instead she was here in this garbage, in this heat, with these bloody flies. Seeing her woke me up, here was this child, an 11 year old person living this way and trying to help her family. What the f-ck was I whining about? What were a few flies, a little bit of short time discomfort compared to Doo-Aye's past, present and future lives. I had to make pictures here, I had to tell others what I saw, I had to try to educate and inform through the photographs and my blog. 

Doo-Aye surrounded by garbage, my first day in the dump May 2013
After that first day I was hooked, I went every day for the next week making pictures from 7am till 12 noon, I even got used to those blasted disgusting flies. I met other hard working families, who allowed me to photograph them and showed me their children with pride. Some of the women from the families got on me for not wearing a hat, they motioned up at the the sun, said the word "hot" in Burmese then pointed at their hat and my bare head. They shook their heads at me and frowned. This happened numerous times, it was sort of like having a Burmese mother or sister, someone watching over me. The more time I spend in the dump the more I became involved in the lives of the individuals.These people were living in absolute poverty but they had a beautiful dignity to them. I had shot photos for 8 days in a row, I made photographs until I ran out of film. Now I had to leave, it was time to return to Bangkok and then Canada, security work awaited (I work as a security guard). 

In November of 2013 I returned to Mae Sot to make photos for another 6 days. My first morning back  there were shouts of "Minga Lah Bah!!!" directed  at me from 5 or 6 different people, it was a happy return, I felt part of a family. I wore a hat this time round and one of the men looked at me, pointed at my hat then gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. This second trip I made pictures and gave them as gifts, I started donating more and more food bags, some mornings carrying 3 heavy bags in along with all my photo gear. I eventually donated money to the local Burmese school, a school where the teachers worked as volunteers. The little bit I gave was not much for me but so important to the lives of the people living in the dump. Being part of those lives for a short time enriched me in so many different ways. It is hard to describe my feeling about the dump, in one sense it’s a terrible place but because of the people it is also sometimes beautiful. 

As I left Mae Sot and the "Families of the Dump" for a second time I thought about our different lives, the differences fate had bestowed on us. I could run away from the dump, my Canadian passport and money meant I could leave and return to my privileged life in Canada. The families working the dump could not leave, they had nowhere to go and little hope of a brighter future. Now today as I write these words in my comfortable clean guard shack on my nice new computer Doo-Aye continues to live and work in the dump with the flies, cockroaches and rats. What will her future be? Will she find happiness? A loving husband? Children of her own?  Will her children be allowed a better life?

I am unable to return to the Mae Sot in 2014 but I will return in 2015. I will go back to continue photographing Doo-Aye her family and the other "Families of the Dump", their stories need to be told.

The attached link is to the "Eyes to Burma" charity, it is run by Mr. Fred Stockwell, he does good work helping the Burmese families living in the Mae Sot garbage dump. If you can please make a donation to his organization.

Thanks Gerry

Monday, October 13, 2014

Quotes: Dwight D. Eisenhower And Shihidul Alam (Photographer)

 Dwight D. Eisenhower:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children....This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Shahidul Alam:

"Only when we build a world that truly respects different civilisations, cultures , races and religions, can we truly hour the dead of 'Ground Zero', as well as those who continue to die."

From the book "My Journey as a Witness" By Shahidul Alam, page 116 about 'Ground Zero". Mr. Alam writes of the importance of a building a civilisation that is not dominated by the G8 countries, who represent only 13% of the worlds population.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Links: Exposure Photography Festival Goes Province-Wide in 2015

Here is a link to Artrubicon Visual Arts Magazine about the upcoming Alberta province wide "Exposure Photo Festival."

Another link from gallerieswest art magazine.

Link: InFocus Edmonton Call for Submissions

Here is a link to a call for submissions to the upcoming Exposure photography festival. I am already part of a two man show for this festival at another gallery so will not be submitting work. There is a $10 submission fee per 3 photos, I am not really a fan of that style of submission. Whenever there is a charge for submitting work I bow out, it is better to buy a roll of film! One good thing about this call is that you can do the everything online, no need to jump through all the hoops of making dvds etc.

I plan on going to this show even if I am scheduled to work my night shifts. I love to see any kind of photography in Edmonton.

Good luck to everyone, here is the link with all the details.
Deadline: November 30, 2014 Submit your best photography to this open theme group exhibition for Edmonton and area photographers. This call is open to professionals, amateurs and students. InFocus Edmonton will be curated by award winning artist and photographer Alexis Marie Chute and exhibited in the Annex at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre. InFocus Edmonton will take place during Exposure Photography Festival in the month of February. This is the first time the festival has been province-wide and thus this is Edmonton’s chance to present our amazing local talent. The exhibit will run Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, 2015.


Quote: African Proverb

"Until the lions have their own storytellers, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Other Stories To Tell?

Tonight I am looking for some other locations to make photographs in Asia. I am concentrating on Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I would also like to shoot in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. Here are links to a few found possibles:

Another scavenging in a dump location, Anlong Pi dump near Siem Reap Cambodia

The Front du Bassac apartment slums, Phnom Penh Cambodia 
Karaoke bars in Thailand, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and other areas. 

On a lighter more beautiful note, hilltribe peoples in Northern Laos. When I took a boat trip down the Mekong river in Laos a few years back I saw some of this. I always wanted to go back and make photos with a view camera, it could happen.

Bought 2 Books

I have been trying to cut down on my photo book purchases to save money to make my own photographs in Asia. Today thou I broke my fast and bought two books. I bought the Salgado non fiction book linked earlier and needed $5 more to get free shipping. After searching for a long time to find the extra $5, I finally decided to buy a book I got from the library today it is called "My Journey as a Witness" by photographer Shahidul Alam. I liked many of the photos (documentary photography), the book is filled with many behind the scenes stories like the Salgado book. This book might also help inspire the non fiction book I am thinking of trying to put together. The grand total for the two books plus shipping and taxes is around $56 CAD.

Here is a link to the Shahidul Alam book if your interested.

"My Journey As A Witness" by Shahidul Alam

Book and photograph by Shahidul Alam

Non Fiction Book?

My idol Sebastiao Salgado came out with a new book, this time a non fiction book. The behind the scenes stories about the making of some of his most famous photograghs.

Salgado's New Non Fiction Book

This gave me an idea to try and write some sort of non fiction book myself. I could do what Salgado did and just tell the stories behind some of my photographs. I have already done some of this on the blog with the "Picture Story" series. Or I could do a photo biography of the various adventures through the years.

This might all be pie in the sky type stuff, and at best it would be time. It does not hurt thou to think this way and to try to do stuff. So many people I know want to do important things but never make the effort, they fail before they begin. If you never try to do big things, how do you know you will not succeed? Even if you do try something large and fall on your ass, who cares, it's through efforts like these that you grow as a human being.

If I am in Asia for 6 months at a time I will need something to do when I am not shooting pictures. Why not try to write a book? I could spend my non shooting times in my room writing on my laptop. This could be loads of fun!

Something to think about.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Getting Outside My Comfort Zone

To make great photographs you have to put yourself into the proper place at the proper time. I do to much shooting inside my comfort zone of Bangkok Thailand. I need to spread out to other countries, other cities. The strongest photos I have made over the last 10 years are because I put myself into the proper locations to make photographs.

My friend Larry is excellent at placing himself into the proper situations to have the chance to create great work (which he does). All the top documentary photographers in history have been able to place themselves into the proper situations to create important work. When you are in those worlds your surrounded by picture opportunities, being surrounded by strong visuals helps you make a visual story ( a photograph) much more convincingly, with more power and vision.

I need to shoot subjects I am absolutely passionate about and place myself into those locations to tell those stories to their greatest effect. I need to push myself into, more difficult, possibly more dangerous but also more visual situations. If I can tell the important stories about the lives of forgotten people more effectively then that's all that matters, everything will work itself out.

More Scans From November 2013 "Families of the Dump"

Continued to search through my scanned photos looking for more forgotten not posted dump images. The first three photos were made early on morning when I first arrived at the dump around 645am. It was still to dark to shoot film effectively so I made the pictures with the help of a small portable flash that was given to me by a friend in Canada. In the pics the family had gathered up a pail of old cooked rice that they had found in the dump. I believe what they do with this rice is recook it and then eat it themselves. Over my time in the dump I have seen the families pull old rice from out of the garbage and pour it into buckets like in the first photo numerous times. Old pop bottles, old nuts all kinds of discarded food is scavenged and reused. The young girl in the photo is smiling even under the circumstances she lives in, I find this incredible, the human spirit is really a beautiful thing.