Monday, November 30, 2015

Am Back In Mae Sot

After a all night bus ride I am back in Mae Sot. I will return to the dump in a few hours and continue making photos.

Projection Night Links

Here are some links sent to me of the recent "Projection Night" event by the Toot Yung gallery.

http://tootyunggallery.com
FACEBOOK: "In Your Face Projection Night"

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Few More Days At The Dump

Plan on spending a few more days in Bangkok before returning to Mae Sot for 5 days or so of more shooting. Am a bit worn down now, various injuries, the heat, my age, whatever it is has worn me down. I need to buck up and finish photographing strongly.

I also need to donate some more money, as well as 10 more hats, more food bags and 2 sets of boots when I return.

Bangkok Photo Projection Night

I attended the Bangkok photograph projection night here last night. The event was held at the Alliance Francaise de Bangkok. I would guess in excess of 200 folks attended, mostly a younger crowd. There were 500 photos projected showcasing the work of 22 photographers. My photos were near the end, and included around 10 sex worker portraits (stuff I found in my emails and forwarded to Mimi a few weeks back). The video section with my work including a written introduction lasted almost 4 minutes.

It was a nice night, a bit of a arty farty crowd but still a nice selection of photographs from some talented artists. I found several of the photographers work shown to be quite strong. There were several documentary projects that were especially good, underage Thai boy sex workers, ultra rich Thai people portraits, transgender portraits and Muay Thai boxers stand out in my mind.

There was also a fashion show afterwards featuring 5 ladyboys and the clothes designer also a ladyboy (am unsure of her name). I guess this designer is relatively famous in her field. Thai TV was at the event covering it for there social news section.

I made a hand held video of the photograph projection featuring my section of images. I will post it later when back in Canada.

Travel Grant Rejection

Today I got my second travel grant rejection, that makes me 1 for 3 applying for these grants. I will have to pay for documenting the "Families of the Dump" here in Thai 100% on my own, mostly from my security guard paycheck. Still if your art and the people you want to document are important to you and if you feel it is worth it, you simply have to do it, regardless how others feel. Even if those in power think your work is unworthy of financial support you can still do it on your own. I will continue to tell the stories I think are important regardless of the support I receive from Canadian art folk.

Nothing will stop me in the pursuit of my photographic work. Here is a another long list of rejection notes.
Hello Gerry

Thank you for your submission to the Edmonton Arts Council's Travel Grant program on October 1.

The assessment process is complete and, the EAC Board accepted the recommendations of the jury panel.  We will be sending out letters via Canada Post to notify all the applicants of the outcomes in the next week or so.

I regret to advise you that your application was not recommended for support.

There is no reason to respond to this notification - it is a courtesy email to advise you that the process is continuning.  However, the jury articulated some feedback for you.  I welcome the opportunity to discuss that with you at some point later in December, or as you prepare future grant applications.

Best,

-------------

Monday, November 23, 2015

Film

I plan on taking the 5x7 back to Bangkok and shooting in Klong Toey slum and at the boxing gym. I brought 400 sheets of 5x7 film with me this trip and still have over 1/2 left. It is a good thing I did not bring over to Thai my original idea of 500 sheets. Next time I will bring over less sheet film. When your shooting in non studio situations with a view camera the film lasts a lot longer. Shooting is slow, carrying many film holders into the field is difficult etc.

Today I completed my last roll of 40-120mm Tri-x films. The twin lens Rolleiflex is now retired. I will now switch to the Leica 35s as my secondary cameras. I still have about 30 films of the original 75-35mm Tri-x rolls.

On The Way To Bangkok

Am on the way to Bangkok tonight. I am going back to do Loy Khratong festival and also the photo projection night. I expect to be back in Mae Sot for 4 or 5 days in early December before returning to Canada and my night time security gig.

Shooting The 5x7 View Camera

Am photographing more now with the Linhof 5x7. Getting the children to stand still long enough to compose, focus, do movements, set exposure and remove the dark slide is quite a challenge. They are used to to quicky quick digi photos not an ancient 1800s technology. It is at times a struggle to use the 5x7 in the field but printing the large negs later should be joyful.

So Rewardiing

It is rewarding to help people and to make them happy with your photography. I can still see the smile on the women/mother who I gave the b/w 2013 photo to yesterday morning. She was so excited when I gave her the photo she stopped what she was doing and ran off to show her friends the pic.

In Canada I printed this small photo up at Walmart when I was in Drumheller after the Rosebud show. I almost did not make up this particular print but am so glad I did now. I will try to make up some more for her on my return home. I have some closer smiling head shots of the little girl in my archives. In the photo I gave away the girl looks down and depressed but the mother still loves it. I am really wondering now if this small child is safe. Is she in the dump somewhere? Has she moved away? Is she dead? Maybe this little photo is all the mother has left of her.

Note* The Burmese woman I am writing about her is the same one who asked me to buy rice for the family back in 2013.

Photos #s 6,8 (young girl)and 15 (mother and her 2 children) on this link.
http://gerryyaum.blogspot.com/2014/02/november-trip-scans-15.html

Malaria

I have been told "Malaria is crazy in Thailand now." That famous actors and many others have contracted the disease. It is hard not to be bitten. The mosquitoes are small fast and slippery here in Asia not like in Canada where they are big slow and easy to kill. Recently l have been bitten in places-times I did not expect. In a hot restaurant mid day, walking in the sunshine and in my hotel room with the a/c blaring.

Malaria is painfull and a killer and stays in your body forever (I believe), it not something I want to get. I bought some anti mosquito lotion but am not sure how effective it is used in conjunction with sunscreen. Putting all that cream everyday on your face arms etc. is nasty and it burns the skin.

Dad Dream "I Lay Down Looked Up But Could Not see."

After I went to pray for my father at the Buddhist temple my sad dreams about him stopped and were replaced by happy dreams. Today the sad dreams returned. I just woke up, here is what I remember.

In the dream I visited dad and moms house. When I arrived I was surprised to see dad there looking normal. He was in good shape. He was young and healthy, strong and normal. He started talking to me about something normal, jumped up and sat on the kitchen counter then got down and continued to talk to me as he walked. He looked happy and was dressed in blue. I ran up to him and hugged him very hard and told him how much I missed him, I told him that over and over again. He said " I lay down looked up but could not see" Then as I continued to hug him and tell him how I thought of him every day and cried with joy at seeing him again he spoke sadly and said "A thousand summers ago you sat on my lap."

Then I woke up.
These dreams are tough, when will they end.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Eating In The Dump

Today I was offered some food by one of the dump families I have known the longest. My rule of thumb is that whenever a poor person offers you food, you take it, no matter what it is and eat away. It would  be insulting to them if you do not accept the food. Even if I am not hungry I gladly eat what is given me.

They gave me a deep fried wanton like vegetable called "Kup Bong Joh". I ate while standing outside their shack home.I also shared a sweet coffee with man of the shack (he is always extremely friendly with me, I need to learn his difficult Burmese name). I enjoyed this lfairly large snack, the Kup Bong Joh was quite good. It was filled with vegetables I did not know but the combination tasted like potato. During the meal they showed me an old colour photo I gave them back in 2013, which was carefully being taken care of.

They offered me some more food when I was done eating but I thanked them and told them no I needed to make some photos.  They also offered me a cloth to wipe my greasy fingers and asked me to come into their shack to eat and rest (I am too big for that!).

It is a bit dicey eating food in a dump site after you have been touching garbage of all types but I feel great. The fried vegetable wanton (spring roll like) was a nice treat from some kind people. People who have very little but still want to share their food and home with you. I can still see the father, mother and their young daughter smiling at me as we shared the food. They tried so hard to be hospitable and asked nothing in return. I will remember their smiling faces for a long time.

Another amazing moment, another great memory from this short 7 week trip. 

Working Well With The Linhof 5x7

I am working the 5x7 with more confidence now.. The wait is less daunting, the dark cloth less cumbersome. The speed I can work the camera has improved.I now believe shooting the 8x10 Deardorff (A gift from my father) is possible in Asia. If I use one lens, one camera and the lightweight film holders I bought several years back, 8x10 is possible here.

Old Ladyboy Sex Attempt!!

Was almost molested by a ladyboy outside my hotel room in Mae Sot. About as non sexy a situation as I have ever faced. A bit of a nightmare scenario actually, one of those events that later haunt you in your sleep.

I had left my room to tell the front desk that I had no towels in my room. On my return I walked into an old ladyboy of about 60 years old. She had short brown hair (wig) a yellow shirt, with long skirt and wore a Buddha amulet around her neck. Initially I was confused and thought she worked at the hotel. The next thing I knew she approached me, asked where I was staying, if I lived alone and was at my door peering in to my half open door. She had this super creepy voice, an attempt to sound female that did not work at all.

I tried to fend her off when I realized she was not a hotel employee and just a horny person seeking a partner. Just as I was trying to close the door and lock her out of my room she suddenly reached out at my groin (narrowly missing her target) and made a disgusting open mouth slurping sound while looking hungrily down at my pants covered goodies.

Gosh what a nightmare! I said no no, I have someone already and closed the door as quickly as I could. If that would have progressed any farther, it would have been a lifetime nightmare inducing event.

Shooting The 5x7 With More Confidence

Am becoming more comfortable shooting the 5x7 in the field. Little by little my comfort level goes up. I have worked out a quick system of where to hang my dark cloth, keep my spot meter, loupe and devised a system to keep my back pack out of the waste of the dump. Like with all tools, the more you use them, the more familiar you become, the easier things get.

My language skills related to the camera have also improved. I can say stay still, thank you, very good and beautiful! Now if I can just keep the kids from running out of frame before the exposure, things will be good!!

Strange Moment Of The Day: Gangnam Style In The Dump

Today's strange moment (one of 2) was hearing the Korean pop song"Gangnam Style" blasting loudly out of one of the dump shacks at 730am. Someone also started singing part of the song in a loud Burmese accepted English. I eventually joined in singing much to the amusement of an older man who passed me and my camera while carrying his nights work in a large bag down. He smiled and chuckled as he walked by.

Worker Portraits


Woken Up Thank You's

Every morning when I arrive at the dump the first I do is hand out my food donation bags. Today on my arrival I handed out bags number 11 and 12.

It is usually around 630am when I approach the home and place the food bag quietly in the entrance of the shack. today as normal I did the same. I approached the next home in line for a donation placed the bag in the shack and then turned to walk away.

A man in the next shack down who was already awake came running over to me and insisted on waking up the owner of the shack where I had left the food. He spoke loudly calling out the persons name, the lady was asleep under the mosquito netting. I tried to tell him it was OK and there was no need to wake the person but he did not speak Thai. The lady woke up and when she understood what was going on she gave me a hand held together high wai (thanks for receiving a gift).

I then went to the next home in line and the process was repeated. the  man insisted on waking the second person in the second home as well. That person also gave me a deep respectful wai.

I wish I could have just given the bags away quietly. I do not need applause every time I do the right thing. People do not need to kao to me. The thank you's actually make me rather uncomfortable. Hopefully tomorrow can give away bags number 13 and 14 with a minimum of drama. 

Injured Women

I visited one of three families I have known the longest in the dump today., I wanted to make a family group portrait in front of their shack (influenced by the Walker Evans, Fields family portrait). The father was not home today so I could not make that image While at the home I did several landscape around the home shots and shot some photos of the children with both the 5x7 and Rollie. Some of these photos might work for "Forgotten Laughter".

While there I looked into the house and noticed the grand mom had a bandage wrapped around her head. She looked in bad shape the back of the head enlarged into a large lump with blood soaking through the bandage. The younger woman an aunt to the children of the home I believe also had a badly swollen jaw and a cut to her head. From what I was told (their son spoke some Thai) there was some kind of fight, possibly involving other women. The result of the fight was what I saw now.

They have a free clinic for the Burmese in the area called Mao Tao clinic. Still getting treatment at the clinic requires transportation costs and the grand mom who I saw working a few days ago cannot work to help the family. I gave the family 500 baht, the grandma waied me in thanks. I need to learn how to say "No its ok, no need to wai!" in Burmese.

I hope the grandma's injuries are non life threatening but a head injury to an old person can not be good. Also with an open cut infection is a real danger, everywhere in a garbage there are sources of bacteria.

Note* There was a grand father who lived in this family home back in 2013. I did not see him today, I wonder if he passed away? I have some photos of him I can give the family next trip.

Solar Panels

Fred and eyestoburma.org continue to work hard and do a good job in the dump. Since I was here two years ago there are now solar panels in the dump. The people now have power, I think it is limited power but it is power non the less. Well done Fred and all of those who work so hard to help the families in the Mae Sot garbage dump.

Please consider donating to the good folks at eyestoburma.org
www.eyestoburma.org

Almost Out Of 120mm Film

Only a few rolls of 120mm film left, I wish I had brought more 120 Tri-x. I love shooting the Rolleiflex!

Update* Am now out of 120mm film, I shot all 40 rolls.

Upcoming Plans

I have two more days of dump shooting before returning to Bangkok on the 24th. In Bangkok I plan to shoot the 5x7 in Klong Toey Slum, possibly at the boxing gym possibly else where. Then will atttend the photography projection night at the French Centre before returning to tMze Sot and doing more large format work. I might end the trip by taking a few days off somewhere nice. Followed by a long flight home and the return to life in Canada.

Helping Out, Calender?

Today in the dump I got my hands dirty, literally dirty. A older man was trying to lift up a heavy bag filled with recycled garbage that was hanging off his back, a strap placed around his forehead. A very young girl of 8 or 9, was trying to help him but was not strong enough to do so. They tried once to get it up but we're not successful. Since I was the closest person I slung my Rolleiflex over my neck and went over to help them lift the bag . All three of us working together got the job done. The man smiled hunched foreword and walked away.

The bag was all slimy and dirty with waste garbage liquid and quite slippery. Afterwards I needed to wipe my hands on my pants several times before I touched my high end Rolleiflex cameras optics. My hands had a sickly smell and a few dirty stains to them from that oune quick touch with the dump work. When I went over to help the mother of the group made a surprised noise of appreciation and later smiled at me.

Touching and living in the garbage everyday. Breathing and smelling tha odour and filth in their homes, clothing and every pore of their bodies. Watching their children live that life with them. A child growing up in that world. What must tha be like? It must be so unbelievably difficult. I have visited and spent partial days with them close to 20 times since 2013 but I am only scratching the surface in understanding what their lives are truly like.

I need to raise more money to help the "Families of the Dum". Maybe through the sales of calendars from the pictures made this trip. I could call the calendar  "The Children of the Dump" and give all the profits back to the dump child's parents.,

It's More Easy To Make Photographs Now

Ir has become easier to make photos now. Old relationships are remembered, new ones formed, trust established and the pictures flow. Sometimes people now ask me to make their photo, the free digital picture gifts help this process along as well. I cannot give the view camera portraits away for several years but the digi stuff happens in a few days.

Establishing relationships is the key, many times people approach and say hi to me in the dump and I do not even know who they are.

The Sickly Smell Of The Dump

The smell of the dump has come up numerous times lately, first my Thai driver Knun Noy mentioned it this morning, then one of the Burmese women who works the dump taught me the Burmese word for smelly, NEH NAH (she likes to tease me, and sort of yells words at me to learn).

Even thou the first thing I do every day I get back from the dump is wash down everything including myself, the smell of the dump stays with me. That sickly odor, that revolting stench seems still attached to me somewhere (fingernails? Clothing). Today I notised it as I was trying to eat lunch. The 5x7 camera knapsack bag is especially hard to clean.

Photos A Hit

The pics I am handing out are a hit again. I am giving away new color shots as well as some small b/w pics from 2013. The old pics are especially strongly received, people react with real surprise when I give those out. I will try to make more of those early b/w photos to give out next time.

Doo-Aye Does Not Rememner Me

Met Doo-Aye again for the first time after 2 years, she did not remember me. I am not sure how old she is now maybe 12 or so. I showed her some photos I made in 2013 and that seemed to jog her memory a bit. She was a child before but now is becoming a teen ager. A few more years (15?) and she will be eligible for marriage, her sister married at 15. I photographed that wedding back in May 2013.

I copied some video footage from one of my dump YouTube vids and will play it for Doo-Aye and her friends gang the next time we meet. Many of them are in the videos I copied that should jog a few memory brain cells.

I wonder why our brain works that way. Why do we have so few memories from when we were children?

Thinking In Thai

The longer I stay in Thai the more Thai I become. Today I was driving back from the Dump with Khun Noy in his truck. I saw a father driving with his 2-3 year boy on a motorbike, I immediately thought in my mind "Dek dek sai muak gun dad." (A child is wearing a motorcycle helmet). I am now sometimes even thinking in the Thai not English, weird!

Food Donation Bags 11-14

Just made up food donation bags 11 through 14.
Each bag contains:

- 2 kilos of rice
- 3 cans of fish
- candy
- 2 hats
- instant noodles
- a toothbrush
- 2 bars of soap

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Sadness Of Mae La Refugee Camp

There is an underlying sadness to Mae La Refugee camp. No matter how beautiful you make it, no matter how much work you do, no matter how happy the people are, a cage is still a cage. The refugees here are for the most part Karen, they belong in Karen state, not Thailand. They want to be in Karen state, they need and want to return home. Maybe at some future date the conditions in Burma will allow them to return.

The people in this camp and others have suffered greatly, they are often separated from their families, they have undergone all kinds of trauma, war, death, rape, loss. That loss, that sadness is part of who they are, it is not something that can be put aside easily or glossed over with a pretty/safe living environment.

The Beauty Of Mae La Refugee Camp


The Karen People Have Very Strong Sence Of National Identity

Just as Canadian, American, Cambodian and Thai people, the Karen people have a very strong sense of nationalism. I have always found the idea that one group of people is somehow better than another repulsive, countries and nationalism in my mind creates a negative that causes separation and division. It false concept can also lead to great suffering and pain. What killing, what destruction man has done and justified for country? It is appalling.

Why are we not first thought of as human beings regardless of where we are born? Why would a Karen be superior to a Burman or an American more important than a Iraqi or Vietnamese? We should all be equal to other, all be of the same worth as human beings regardless of borders, maps and past histories. We are human being and all of us of exactly equal worth. To say we are better or worse of more worth or less because of race, country or religion is a damaging falsehood that destroys in So many ways.

Donation To Mae La Refugee Camp

Today when I left TT and his wife after he drove me back to my hotel in Mae Sot I made a 3000 baht ($112 CAD) dontation to Mae La refugee camp.

A Pain In The Shoulder

My foot injury is mostly healed now. The foot is a bit sore and slightly swollen. My shoulder where I got a tetnous shot actually hurts a lot more. The skin around the injection area is firm to the touch and painful to sleep on.

The People I Met Have A Very Strong Faith In Jesus Christ

Everywhere and all the time in the C (missionary bible school) area of the camp there were references to God, Jesus and Christanity, You have to respect a persons choice of faith and the belief system they follow but to be truthful I found the absolute assuredness of those I spoke to obsessive and a bit disturbing. The 24/7 praying, Jesus song and constant references to God - Jesus in both written and spoken form was mind numbing at times. Before the ride back to Mae Sot today a pray was made in the truck (invoking my name) followed by a 35 minute discussion of Jesus and whether I was a "believer" and Christs teachings.

One of the problems I have with faith like this is how adults will indoctrinate a their children from an early age. How they can they not believe in something that was told to them everyday, maybe almost every hour since they began to walk and talk. Another problem is the 100 % non questioning faith the people had in the bible. Just as Muslims have complete faith in their religious book, as Jews complete faith in theirs, Buddhists in theirs, etc. etc. Each and every one of these groups of people believe theirs is unconditionaly the true path, theirs the one true book of worship (Buddhists I have found the most tolerant of other faiths).

A final problem as I see is a hypocrisy with some of the teachings of the bible and Jesus Christ. They bot say "Thou shall not  kill" l was told the 3rd rule of the Karen belief system was "Do not kill". Yet Christian Karen's do kill, many are soldiers in the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and have had a long and bloody war with the Burman people in Karen state (that conflict was instigated by the Burman). If you truly believe 100% in the teaching of Christ how can you cherry pick and ignore one of the most important things he taught, the respect for all life! To turn the other cheek and the belief that you should never kill? To believe some of what he taught and yet ignore this basic truth seems very hypocritical.

Jesus taught:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."
-Matthew 5:38-40

"Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself."
-Matthew 19:19

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you."
-Matthew 7:12

Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
-Matthew 6:14-15

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
-Matthew 5:43-45

A Night In Mae La Refugee Camp

The people I met were good people, people of love and faith people who have to a degree overcome the persecution they have suffered for many decades. Still it is important and proper for me to write with all honesty what I felt and thought of as a result of this Karen camp experience.

I am writing this after my recent return from a night in Mae La refugee camp TT picked me up from a restaurant in Mae Sot and drove me along with his wife the 60km to the C region of the camp(bible school). I was in  Mai La from around 4 pm yesterday to around 2pm today.

The many things I saw and felt over that 22 hour period are difficult to write down in a single blog. The thoughts stories and ideas discussed at times very complex and convoluted

The 3 strong truths I came away with were the experience are
1. The people I met have very strong faith in Jesus Christ.
2. The Karen people have a very strong national identity.
3. There is a deep distrust and suspicion to anything Burman (Burmese).

I think I need to write about these takeaways one by one.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Father Punishes Son


At Peace In The Dump

Today was my 4th day in the dump. I handed out food donation bags numbers 7 and 8. I also started distributing the colour digital photos I have been making. The acceptance level of my presence is much higher now. Those that once regarded me with suspicion and sourness now often smile and greet me as I arrive and say good bye when I leave. I am at peace in the dump now, I feel comfortable  happy to shoot there. Hopefully there will be no more spurting red liquid, nails, cockroach hat or helicopter gunship moments.
T
Note* I have 14 more hats left to give out in this first group. I plan on taking 4 or 5 with me to Mae La refugee camp.

On To Mae La Tomorrow.

Tomorrow I am off to the Mae La refugee camp for an overnight stay. I will be off the grid for a while. Many Updates to follow.

Update* I am being picked up at 2pm from my hotel tomorrow by TT and  being driven out to the camp. I wish we could leave earlier, 6am would be so much nicer but beggars can't be choosers. Hopefully I can wake up early the following day and make pictures all over the camp.

Bye Byes (Da Da) All The Way Round


14 Year Old Crush?


Poor Dogs


Handing Out Photos


Strange Sight Of The Day: Food Seller In Dump

This morning as the people were working digging through the garbage a man came through pushing a loaded down bicycle. He was calling out (sounded like chanting) his product trying to entice a sale. He looked to be selling a fried brad doe of some kind, it looked good. I was tempted to buy some and try it out but was worried about stomach problems for my coming Mae La camp trip. Entrepreneurs are everywhere.

Grumpy Gus To Smiling Sammy :))


Rolleiflex Portraits


Cockroach Love!

Already hobbled by the nail I continued to shoot this morning. At one point I returned to my tripod mounted Linhof 5x7 after making some Rolleiflex portraits. At the foot of my tripod a large brownish red cockroach was running about. I tried to push it way from my bag with my boot and with some effort it moved away.

A few minutes later I said "Min Gau Lau Bau" (hello) to a young man walking by. He looked at me with some alarm then quickly came up and tried to brush something off my shoulder. I did not understand what he was doing until I felt the sickly scampering of cockroach legs running up the back of my neck. He continued to try and brush it off and now I joined in. Mr. Cockroach eventually made it up to my hair and hat before I was able to fling it away.

Today was a rather difficult and dirty day in the dump but such is life there.

The one benefit of this icky event was that I learned the word (Burmese? Karen?) for cockroach, BOO-HUH.

Hospital Time!

After stepping on the nail in the dump I decided to finish out my days shooting. Making the photo is of paramount importance, what's a little blood and pain to further your art. :))

I inspected the nail after I rinsed the wound in the dump it looked newish and not rusty. I guess I should call the nail a small spike as excluding the board it was in it was around 3 inched long. So this non rusty mini spike went through my boot, sock and punctured my skin on my left foot drawing blood. This was not a deep wound but still a dump spike even a non rusty one has to be very dirty. Should I go to the hospital? If so how difficult would that be?

I was always told that if I step on a nail it is best to get a tetanus shot. So I decided it was better to be safe than sorry and made my way to the Government run public hospital of Me Sot. Now this turned out to be a long, and tedious 3 hour ordeal. in that 3 hour period between the time I entered the hospital and the time they stuck a needle in my arm I visited and spoke to people in 11 different offices, stalls, desks and windows. It was a frickin convoluted and maze like 3 hours fo confusion requiring lots and lots of patience!

Eventually after all those steps I was injected with a vaccine. I need to do a follow up shot in 1 month in Canada and a third needle in 6 months time. They also gave me two types of pills to take, one a pain killer (will not take that one) and the second I think is an anti biotic, 1 pill 4 times a day before meals.

The cost was only 144 baht (around $5.50 CAD)which means I paid the same amount as a Thai or Burmese person. The process is very slow and laboured but the costs cheap. It was quite interesting to see the mix of hundreds of patients waiting with me. Every size, colour , age, shape and physical condition (I was the only farang). Some folks spend an entire day like this 3, 4, 5 times a year to get their meds.

Stepped On A Nail In The Dump

Today around 730am as I walked forward quickly to get a close portrait of a young boy holding a panda bear puppet toy in the dump garbage I stepped on a long nail which was jutting through a wooden board. The nail went straight through the thick soul of my rubber boot, through my sock and into my foot. It as not a deep puncture but did draw blood. I continued shooting, got the photo of boy and bear then shot the rest of the morning until 10am.

Now many hours later as I write this blog the wound is still sore.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Weird Luck!

How many things had to happen to get me to the table in the restaurant to meet TT

1) Delay my trip to Mae Sot after back injury in Bangkok.
2) Choose to eat a the same restaurant.
3) Sleep in a bit and come later that day for a meal.
4) Sit close enough to over hear their conversation.
5) Meeting the right folks at the right time.

Luck, fate whatever it is. I plan to make the most of it.

I Am Karen!!


Going To Mae La Refugee Camp!

I expect to be going for an overnight visit to Mae La refugee camp, 60km North of Mae Sot. The visit should happen the day after tomorrow. I will take my 35mm and Rolleiflex flex cameras. This could lead the to a larger photographic series. Much more to follow!

Covered In Sweat

Gosh am I getting tired of sweating. It seems I am sweating 24/7! Tonight when I was buying more rice to donate I was leaving (after shopping one half hour) the air conditioned Tops super market. I had beads of sweat running down my back and dripping down and falling off the tip of my nose, ridiculous! As I type this I am leaving little droplets of sweat on the surface of my mini iPad. When will I acclimate and sto sweating?

Strange Sight Of The Day

A girl riding on the back of a motorbike as a passenger applying make-up with a mirror in the dark!

An Opportuniy?

Today fate took a hand in my trip and gave me a potentially important opportunity. Back home in Canada I sent out dozens of emails trying to get access to the border Burmese ethnic group refugee camps. I was mostly ignored, those that did reply either riddled me with red tape or were encouraging but unhelpful.

Tonight by chance my regular Mae Sot restaurant table was occupied so I sat at the table next door. During the next 45 minutes I listened to a conversation between a American and a Karen man. Realizing the Karen person worked at Mae La refugee camp I could not let you he opportunity pass. Before I left I introduced myself and got their contact info. They were very friendly and said a day visit or overnight visit was possible! I plan on making a donation to the camp.

Sometimes luck is on your side! I will send out an email tonight to Mr. TT the Karen man who is helping me. It will be interesting to see where this chance meeting leads.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_La_refugee_camp

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Burmese Improving

My Burmese is improving each day I am in the Mae Sot. Little by little in the dump, in town, with Khun Noy as we drive the vocabulary is expanding. The more I learn to say the better my interaction with. my subjects. I have for example got good at asking people their names NAUMAE BAU LAY? and how old are you, ANTHEH BEH LAO LAY (do videos of that process). Today I learned the words for don't move, NING NING and good GONG DAH.

Am not sure how polite my Burmese is, probably not very, but at least I can communicate. I might also be learning some Karen words thinking they are Burmese. An interesting fact I learned two days ago is that both the Burmese and Karen language share the same written script. I need to learn to read and write I. Burmese.

More Selective Shooting


Longer Boots Equal Deeper Garbage

In 2013 I used short shoe type rubber boots, this trip I brought longer (non safety) boots. These new boots allow me to climb most every where in the garbage to get better shooting opportunities and camera angles. Longer boots means I can now walk in deeper garbage.

Hard Working Man


Eating Corn


Photographing Children Is Tough


Frail But Strong

 I witnessed an amazing feat of strength today by a woman in her 50s. Her family works the all night shift at the dump. In the morning when I arrive they have a large amount of goods in large black plastic bags that they have taken out of the dump. They need to transport these large bags from the main digging area to an area down the road where that particular families work out put is stored (no one steals here from pile to pile, each is their own).

The bag she carried was filled with glass bottles etc. and very heavy. I tried lifting the bag and the thing weighed a ton. When the time came to carry the bag her her husband came over and together to waist level then they hauled it up all the way until it was on top of her head. She then started to walk while balancing the bag. To top it off she also also lifted and carried a large bag on her shoulder. Never seen something like this before, she was probably carrying more than 1/2 her body weight, an amazingly hard worker.

Receiving Many Thanks

Today and yesterday I received many thanks from the dump families for the small food  bag donations. The bag packages are bigger this time around. Maybe everyone likes the hats donated by the folks back home a my work company.

So far I have seen the kids hats being worn but not any of the other adult hats yet. I wonder if the people are saving theses pretty new hats for special occasion use. When my friend Larry and his wife Joanna donated hundreds of sunglasses for daily use to people in Nepal that is what happened. Instead of using them everyday the people kept them to use for fancy special events in their lives. The se items maybe cheap throwaway things for us but if you have very few possessions like the families these same items become quite valuable, special and important.

Making Gift Photos

I have started making digi photos for the dump families again, Doo-Ayes mother posed several children for me to photograph today, then asked for 3 photos. I took my SD card to the local photoshop next to my hotel and am making up 25 pics for them, cost 150 baht. They will be ready tomorrow at 4pm.

Shooting Routine

Over the last 3 nights I have set up a disciplined shooting routine.

- Wake up at 515am, get up have some bread and jam, prepare for the day, water, apply sunscreen etc.
- 6 am Khun Noy arrives, carry all my gear plus two donation bags of food out to his truck.
- Around 615-620 arrive at the dump, start shooting.
- 10am as the light becomes harsh leave with Khun Noy back to Mae Sot, pay him 200baht for the day. He has also been giving me cold water and some of his homemade ice cream each day.
- back in the hotel room I wrash down. First my boots, then all my clothes. Pants, underwear, socks and long sleeved shirt.
- Prepare the next day's food donation bags.
- Have some more bread, start my blogs, emails, web talk, then have a nice 2-3 hour nap.
- Go out and have my big meal of the day at a local restaurant run by a fellow Canuck.
- Back to the room, finish blogs.
- Clean camera gear.
- Change out film holders.
- Read a bit, TV news, snack.
- 11pm to 12am go to bed.
- 515am get up and repeat day.

Note* I need to buy more rice tomorrow as I am out.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Camera Bellows Repair

Out at the dump during my first set up today (landscape of shacks) I realized there were some holes in the outer lining of my camera bellows. This is not what you want to see on the first day of an important photo series. Here i am on the other side of the world standing in a garbage dump ready to finally make pictures and I see a holes!!

The bellows for the Linhof is made of two levels. The outer soft black cover layer and an inner harder yellow material layer. My hole seemed to be on only the outer black layer. I hope today there were no light leaks.

The black layer damage is now taped up and repaired. I used duct tape to fix things, hopefully there will be no light leaks. Imagine shooting 400 sheets under conditions like today and then losing them all to fogging! What a nightmare that would be!

It's OK Now

Now that I have met old friends at the dump I feel reassured. I always do better in my photography when I have a personal relationship and connection to my subjects. I have known and photographed the Karen people I met today for over 2 years now,. To be a part of their lives and to rediscover who they are as people again is exciting. Just as I photographed sex workers over many years I am now doing the same with the "Families of the Dump series.

Everything will be OK now.

"Ain't Photography Grand!!"

Covered In Garbage

Today on returning from the dump everything was dirty, my clothes, my boots, my camera, holders, lens, tripod and of course myself. I need to develop a nightly routine to clean up myself and my cameras. Dirty equipment could lead to damaged unprintable negs, a dirty self could lead to problems with those I interact with in Mae Sot.

Today's Photographs And Videos

Today was the first day of shooting the 5x7 at the dump. I did a series of vertical child portraits, a few landscapes and some shots of the bride with her young son. There were also a couple of mistakes made. One when I left the shutter open and removed the dark slide (Duh!) another when a child playing with my cable release triggered an exposure when my back was turned.

The children here get very excited and learn fast when I show them how the camera works. They are then all over the gear, cocking the shutter nod using the cable release, playing with the geared tripod head etc. Sometimes things can get carried away and you can lose a shot like today. Later I will post videos of the kids and others playing with the Linhof. Everyone who looked under the dark cloth was surprised the world was upside down.

Note* The children and others playing with the camera videos are quite fun to watch. Trying to explain how everything works without any Burmese-Karen language skills is problematic.

Run And Hide!!

Here is an email I sent out to friends and colleagues some of who made financial donations to the "Families of the dump.".
 ----------------

Hi J.., S..... and J....

What is compelling and surprising about these folks is their quiet dignity and grace. Yes they are extremely poor but I do not see desperation in their actions. They have a Inner beauty that I can learn so much from.

Photographed some young friends today, the bride and groom. She is expecting again and now has about a two year old boy. The bride is only 17 years old and will have 2 children soon. Back in 2013 I photographed their wedding day. I have built several long term relationships with these families, and have been rewarded as a result in many ways. Today many folks greeted me smiling, waving and saying hello (Ming Gau Lau Bau). Making the pics was easy as there was a level of trust already established. I was also able to hand out my third and fourth food donation bags to family shacks (have bags 5-6 packed and ready to go for tomorrow in my hotel room as I type this).

Had a surreal moment today.

It was early around 730am, I had my view camera set up on a very muddy dump path next to a big fat pig, roosters and dogs. I was photographing children for the "Forgotten Laughter""series when all of a sudden there is a lot of screaming people, many yelling voices,. The children and everyone else started running for cover into their shacks etc. Thirty plus people gone in a flash!! I have no idea what is happening, at first I think it is a Thai police raid (the people in the dump are illegals). The old man of the family I am closest to runs off and hides in the nearby sugarcane field. I grab my heavy camera gear and run into the field beside him. Then I hear it, the blades of a helicopter somewhere near by. The old man tells me "Burma"  and shakes his head with a sad expression. I realize he is referring to a Burmese military helicopter which has flown near the dump causing the families to scatter. Not sure why the helicopter was in Thai airspace, we are very near the border so it is probably a grey area. After a few minutes hiding the helicopter flew away and all was fine, everything returned to normal. The people smiled again and relaxed but for a time there they showed real fear.

What struck me most about this incident was how scared everyone got and how fast they responded. They went into some kind of hyper defense mode. These people are obviously more than economic refugees. They also have endured helicopter attacks and possibly many other types of violent persecution including killings, lost loved ones, rape, war. The dump families are mostly from the KAREN ethnic group and the Karen have been at war with the Burman (ethnic group) Generals-soldiers for decades.

The whole thing was surreal especially when all the yelling and running started, I stood there awkward and unsure it was like watching the scene of a movie but this was real life! I need to learn more Burmese language stuff, words like "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE A BURMESE MILITARY HELICOPTER IS COMING!!" might prove useful. We are so lucky in Canada, a helicopter to me means a local news station is covering a traffic jam on the Yellowhead, here with these people it means an entirely different thing.

Actually there was no real danger but it was an amazing day in so many ways especially meeting all my friends again. Being with these people is difficult in one way because of the appalling conditions they live in but great in so many other ways.

I plan to return here next trip and for as many years as I can. Maybe one day I can photograph the grand children of the bride and groom.

Gerry

A Shooting Adventure

Photographing a 3 year old Burmese child with a large 5x7 view camera is a real adventure. Just as you compose, focus and finally get everything set up the child turns around and wanders off quite bored with you.

Today I was shooting in some rather amazing conditions.
- Early morning mist.
- Smoke and fire from a burning plastic fire.
- Near very large walking pig, dogs, puppies, roosters, hens and baby chickens.
- Deep mud that my feet sank into above my ankles.
- A Burmese military helicopter scare.
- Greeting waves, wais and handshakes from old friends.

Met The Bride And Groom

An email I sent out to the curator of my last show in Rosebud.

Hey Valerie Gerry Yaum here, thought I would give you an update. I am currently in Mae Sot Thailand where I am photographing in the dump again after a 2 year absence. Do you remember the photo of the bride and groom? When I saw th bride last in Novemer 2013 she was pregnant. Today I photographed her holding her young son. She is also showing and is expecting a second child. She is 17 years old and has gone from a very shy girl who hid from my camera to a confident young woman and mother who poses with a confident smile.

----------------------

An Amazing Day, Day 2 In The Dump

I spent less than 4 hours in the dump today but none the less it was an amazing day. Once I shot all 24 sheets of 5x7 Tri-X I had loaded my day was done (did not have a second camera with me.

Today I was reunited with Doo-Ayes family! I met her mother, father, sister (the bride) and her brother-in-law (the groom). I also met the brides new baby boy, and several unfamiliar children that were part of the family group. Everyone I met in the family looked in good shape. The Karen people are truly a resilient and hard working group. Over the last 2 years I have had the easy life in Canada meanwhile they have lived in and next to garbage. How can they look so healthy and happy?

It was a great day. A day that allowed me to start work on "Forgotten Laughter" book project for dad.

Note* Tomorrow I plan on taking a second camera. I do not like the feeling of being With the families and unable to photograph.

Barefoot Baby Girl

Today in the.dump I photographed a young baby maybe 2-3 years old as she walked barefoot in the garbage. She looked so frail and vulnerable, my father would have been shocked and heart broken to see her that way. My dad always worried about children whether it was my sister and I or others he would see in public or on TV. That is why I am dedicating my proposed book to him, the subject of children living in poverty was important to him.

I made several 35mm and several 120mm heads of the young girl. She was frightened of me but I tried to sooth her by speaking softly and making funny noises. Not sur she got much of what I was doing but she did not cry much.

This same child I might have photographed two years ago as a  newborn. I photographed a young baby and mother from that same family, this young girl might be that same baby. The grandmother from that family (a bit older than me) greeted me warmly today. Back in 2013 I made 2 or 3 donations of food to their home which is located just outside the dump. She was sick at that time but seems to have gotten better now. This family works very hard, even all the young children. Every day when I arrive early they are already hard at it. I think they work during the night as several of the family group have head mounted flags lights. I will make another food donation to them in the coming days.

Such Beautiful Pictures!

So there I am in the local 7/11 waiting for the girl to toast my ham and cheese sandwich. A Thai man comes in and asks the other clerk to get him some cigarettes which are located behind the counter. The boy opens up a metal shelf cover revealing 5 or 6 rows of smokes. Each package has large and very graphic photos on the front of the box. They show photographs of bad teeth, throat cancer, lung cancer even a picture of a  limp cigarette between two long fingers (symbolizing erectile disfunction). All theses pics are big and in very graphic ugly colour. They have something similar on cigarrette packages in Canada but with smaller photos. The Thai guy was of course oblivious to all the negative photo imagery. Such is the power of addiction. Imagine paying thousand and thousands of dollars to poison yourself that way. Then to suffer for years receiving chemotherapy etc. It makes no sense.

Drying My Boots Now

Went and did some shopping after my meal. I picked some socks, shampoo, clothes detergent, fork/spoon and most importantly a hair dryer. I asked a couple of Thais how to say hair dryer (DAI BAOW PHOM) then went out in search of it at a nearby store. The small dryer cost 115 baht ($ 4.26 CAD) you got to love Thai pricing!

Am happy, now I will have dry feet tomorrow.

Update* In the morning before I left I inserted the blow dryer in a boot again to do one final drying session. Instead of drying the boot I managed to melt the dryer and start a small fire complete with black smoke. The boots are fine but the hair dryer is toast. Oh well!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

First Child Hat Handed Out

I handed out the first child hat today. The children of a lady I work with made a donation of some of their hats as well as $200 CAD. I am tracking those hats and making photos of the children I give them to. Later when I am back home in Canada I will meet up with the family and tell them stories of the dump and explain where their donations went. It should be a positive learning experience for the Canadian kids.

Getting The Linhof Ready

Am unpacking my Linhof 5x7 tonight. Tomorrow I will be making my first portraits for my"Forgotten Laughter" series. This should be fun and challenging. I will also do some adult portraits that I will include in my next "Families of the Dump" exhibition (wherever that might be!).

Will be carrying 40 plus lbs of gear in the field tomorrow.

Meeting Old And New Friends

I received waves, wais and smiles from several of the folks in the dump today. It was nice to hear them say MING GAU LAU BAU (hello) as we met again. People were surprised and happy to see me again. I told one family that spoke Thai why I was away last year and what had happened to dad.

I need to proceed slowly and cautiously with all these new people, I am the new guy on the block to all of them. Tomorrow I will wander the shack/housing areas on the edge of the dump photographing the people that allow me to make portraits. The process will be slow and steady until the light becomes too harsh and the day too hot.

Covered In Blood?

Today I went out to the dump  for the first time. I handed out 2 food care packages (4 hats) and also gave out one of the children hats. 

At one point as I was walking in a big pile of garbage a red liquid of some kind exploded up both
boots and both pant legs. I am not sure if it was some red juice of some kind or blood. It had a bad smell to it so it might have been blood. Basically most everything from about ten inches above my knees downward was covered in this red gooey liquid.

I did not see when it happened. In the dump your working around many people, flies, rats and cockroaches. Your surrounded by countless dogs, some fighting with each other and barking at you (diseased?). Today I was also photographing with a large back hoe mere feet away, a huge machine. There were many people digging in the garbage stirred up by the hoe. At one point one of the male workers almost got hit in the head by the giant scooping shovel (not sure what they are called). So because your surrounded by all these distractions while also making photos it is easy to become distracted and step on the wrong thing.

After red liquid thing happened I was not sure what to do. I decided to be wet with water was better than being wet with what might be human or animal blood, so I went down the dirty hill off the road and got water from a small well to wash myself. I did the best I could but ended up flooding the inside of my boots with water. I walked around for the next 2 1/2-3 hours with squishy boots and wet socks. This was not the most comfortable option but better than wearing the red  staining mystery stuff all day.

I am going out tomorrow at 6 am again but now my 1 pair of socks are completly soaked. I washed everything down including myself when I returned from the dump but it will take several days to dry properly. I will go out to see if I buy some new socks and maybe a hair dryer for inside the boots. I need to dry everything out as best I can.

Note* The liquid had the potential to be human blood as I often see hospital waste in the garbage, used needles etc.

First Day In The Dump

Today was my first day back in the dump. Around 5 or 6 people knew me immediately and spoke to me in Thai or Burmese (which I do not understand). One of the men even indicated that I was MUCH bigger now, hmm not sure that is true!

It was interesting to see the different reactions from the various people through out the dump today.The ones who knew me from before were at ease with me, the knew folks (probably a majority) watched me a bit warily. They were probably thinking who is this (or who the f-ck!) big white guys with all the cameras?

I did not see anyone from Doo-Ayes family, did not see her sister the bride, did not see the groom or her dad, mom or little brother. They might have moved on, hopefully to a better life. I wish I could have spoke with them they were the family I had the closest relationship to back in 2013. Still it is better they have moved away from the ugliness of the dump.

There.were 2 large physical changes to the land around the dump. There is now a large tall fence built around the green lake. They are also building a large probably multi lane highway right next to the dump. The road is basically right on top of some of the dump shacks.
I was told by a Thai foreman the road would be very large and would also include a power line system of some kind into Burma then India.

First Donation Bags

I made up my first 2 bags of donations for the dump today, will take them to the dump families tomorrow when I visit. Each bag contains:

- 1 bag rice.
- 2 cans of canned fish.
- 2 baseball caps.
- 2 bars of soap.
- 2 instant noodles.
- some candy.

These bag items will vary slightly day to day. The idea being I will donate a bag to a different shack each day I visit the dump. This is a very small thing I am doing but in the lives of people who do not have much every little bit does help.

Update* I might try and buy some soap to wash clothes next time I shop.

Many Questions

Tomorrow is my first day back to the dump in two years. What has changed? Are the bride and groom still there? Is there child in good health? Another on the way! How many families will be there? How many people? Will Doo-Aye be there, her family, her brother? Will people be in better shape? Will anyone remember me?

So many questions. Eight hors from now I will start to have some answers.

First Food Donation Buys

I bought my first food donations today

- 7 bags of 2 kilo rice.
- 15 instant noodle.
- 20 bars of soap.
- 3 tooth brushes
-  32 cans of fish.

Going to the dump tomorrow for the first time at 6am. Today I walked to several stores around Mae Sot in search of my food donations. Believe it or not one Thai grocery store did not sell rice! Figure that one out??!!

Lugging around all this food is difficult, carrying the rice was very heavy. I rented a motorcycle taxi for 30 baht to get me back to the hotel.

Lots and lots of work ahead bot to make photos and also to make donations. I have no one here on my team, it is just up to me, myself and I to get this all done. I have a responsibility to fulfill and I plan to live up to this challenge.

Now it is time for bed, I am waking up at 515am and going to the dump at 6am, first light is around 630am. How many days in a row can I visit the families at the dump?  Before I burn out. Time will tell.

Am In Mae Sot

Well here I am finally in Mae Sot. My contact (driver) is out of town so much have to wait until Monday to make it to the dump. I am splitting my Mae Sot visits into 2 trips which means 4 bus rides to and from Bangkok. I will be in Mae Sot from November 15 to November 24 then it's back to Bangkok for 4 or 5 days then returning to Mae Sot from November 29-30 to December 7-10.

I am returning to Bangkok for the Thai Loy Kratong Festival as well as the photo projection event night (some my earlier sex worker portraits are showing) at a French Cultural Centre building on the 27th (A Swanky Night), it runs from 8pm-12am. Not sure if I will be asked to speak or not on that night, probably not. Not sure how many other photographers being shown will be there, not sure how many are Thai how many Western.

It kind of sucks to be doing 4 bus trips not 2 but there are advantages.

- Can take 1/2 the donations to Mae Sot one trip and 1/2 the second.
- Can keep my big heavy camera suitcase in storage in Mae Sot Hotel between trips.
- Can attend the Bangkok events.
- Can take a break from the dump for a few days to reboot. The dump is so harsh that by the 3rd or 4th day I am burning out.

People in the dump should be wearing the hats my work mates in Canada donated by Monday. I will spend today (Sunday) buying rice, canned fish and other food stuffs from the local grocery store and hauling everything back to my hotel room. Will be using the money donations for these purchases. I will take photos of the food I buy and will try to get some photos of various groups wearing the hats. 

Dok Jai (Surprise)

The simplest things in Thai can be the most fun. Before getting on the bus at the station I ran off to the toilet (Thai English word for washroom). The charge to enter is 3 baht, I dropped down my 5 baht coin and the lady said ROR (wait, until she could give me change). I repeated ROR and she laughed with her friend. Then I as I walked in I was confused which direction I needed to go left or right to get to the right washroom. I heard some yelling behind me and turned to see some wild gesturing. I asked CHAI YOO NAI? short for POO-CHAI YOO TEE-NAI? (mans is where?). They laughed again and pointed me in the right direction.

On leaving the toilet one of the ladies said to me KHUNE MEE FAN PAK EE-SAN ROR? (You have a wife-girlfriend from Issan?). I told here MAI MEE (Not have.). She then asked TAUM-MAI KHUNE POOD PASA THAI GENG.? (Why do you speak Thai so well?. I told here POM REE-IN PASA THAI GUB PRAH ADJAUN TEE CANADA (I learned Thai from monks in Canada).

She understood what I said but remained standing with a surprised, bewildered look on her face as I ran off to my bus. It was all quite cute, a fun little conversational moment.

Note* The reason she guessed I had a girl from Issan was because Issan is the poorest province in Thai and where most Thai sec workers come from. Many Thais often assume that a farang male who can speak Thai is hooked up with a Thai bargirl who he learned the language from.

Blog Will Become A Book??

Been thinking lately that this blog might eventually be part of some kind of book project. Not sure how or when but a compilation of some kind could yield a effective hard copy book. A combination of both blogs and photos might be most effective.

10 Baht Honesty


Muay Thai Can Be Brutal

Like all fighting sports Muay Thai can be brutal at times. Tonight as I sit sweating in Bangkok's Northern bus station waiting for my bus I am watching Muay Thai boxing with a large group of Thais.

I just watched a tough match that ended in a knockout. At the end of the fight one fierce looking fighter lay semi conscious on the canvas with splattered blood all over his face, a deep cut over his left eye. The other boxer, the winner a very tough looking dude was dancing above his fallen foe spinning in circles with his arms extended like a bird.

A tough tough sport! I need to show of of that in my photographs when I am photographing in the slum gym.

Update* The current Thai reality TV show features a tuk tuk driver eating glass glasses, so far he has munched downed 2 complete glasses, he claims it does not hurt! His mouth looks all bloody.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Long Night Ahead

Tonight is my first of 4-9 hour bus rides to and from Mae Sot Thailand. I need to do this trip twice there and twice back to Bangkok to transport all my donations as well allowing me to attend Loy Kratong and the photo projection night here in Bangkok.

I can expect a long bumpy night ahead even thou I am traveling in a VIP bus. When I arrive in Mae Sot early tomorrow I will have no one to meet me as Khun Noy is out of town until Sunday. I will have to deal with aggressive tuk tuk and rot song tao drivers on arrival. I have been told the proper price is 100 baht to town.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fish Spa

Went to a Patpong fish spa last night, it cost 150 baht for 15 minutes. You place your feet in a aquarium filled with certain kind of sucker fish. The fish swarm your feet and legs supposedly sucking off dead skin. Kind of a cool feeling, tickly feeling. I wonder what would happen if you never took your feet out and if there was an endless supply of hungry fish. Would they eat you down to the bone?

The Thai lady who ran the spa told me the fish cost 20 baht (74 cents) each, and the fish who work everyday live around 6 months.

Soi Japan

Will soon be on the bus to Mae Sot but tonight I walked Patpong in Bangkok. For those that who do not know Patpong is Bangkok's original red light district dating back to the Vietnam war. American forces would travel to Bangkok for R&R, often visiting the Patpong bars and the bargirls who work there.

2015 Patpong 1 is more night market than GoGo bar but the side Soi's (road) Patpong 2 and Soi Japan still have major sex industry businesses. Tonight as I was walking, I visited the Japanese man only sex Soi Japan. On Soi Japan the girls work with only Japanese men so the do not talk to someone like me who is farang (a white skinned foreigner). It is sort of fun to walk the Soi's one by one by one. On Patpong 1-2 I am a very handsome man, I draw a fair amount of attention from the sex workers and touts "Handsome man come here, have a drink!", "Ping pong show!", "S&M show, come on in!". But when I walk the Japanese only customer Soi  everything is "Niab
" (quiet). The workers will speak Japanese trying to entice their customers but almost completely ignore non Japanese. One older (30?) working girl did talk to me but only in Thai quietly on the side about a Thai desert I had bought.

The two most interesting conversations I had on Soi Japan were with 2 older Thai men who worked as touts (guys who try to talk customers into visiting their bars). Both men were very fluent in English but backed off trying to work me after I spoke Thai to them. One told me the running story (joke?) on the street was that Japanese men will pay 5000 baht for shortime sex with a Thai girl for 2 hours (farang men usually pay about 1500-3000 in their bar areas). The story went that Japanese men were will pay for 2 hours then be with the girl for 2 minutes. The men also have a reputation for small penis's. So that is a trifector of customer greatness from a sex worker pong of view.

1. They pay a ton of money (twice as much as a farang maybe 3 or 4 as much as a Thai man).
2. They have small dicks (less vaginal pain and discomfort for the worker).
3. They cum fast and are gone sooner (can get free of their customer quicker and leave work early or work with more customers a night making more money).

Note* A ping pong show, is a show where a women (usually older, more desperate to earn money) inserts ping pong balls into her vagina then shoots them around the room. Not really sexy but still a rather unique skill. Various bars-clubs also have razor blade shows, banana shows, fish shows and even frog and eel shows that follow that same vaginal theme.

Note** I was told that farang can buy drinks for themselves and the Thai female workers to in the Japanese bars, and on the sly, farang can even take a girl for 2 hours. This is all done secretly because the Japanese customers do not want-like foreign males to have sex with their (Japan only) sex workers. I guess the racial (racist?) thinking there is that Japanese are clean (disease free) and farang and other foreign males are not.

I was told in years past that some girls who work the Japan clubs will go secretly after hours to work the farang sex areas for much cheaper prices as freelancers. So the whole idea that these girls only go with Japanese men is a fallacy. The female workers of course would usually also have Thai boyfriends, husbands, a family (children).


Today's Weird Moment

Weird Moment Of The Day

Today I had a rather weird occurrence. In my last blog I wrote of the differences between a 4 star hotel and the life outside. This event was very 4 star hotelish.
Why write about this? Has the heat finally got to me? This story is rather weird never wrote of something like this, not sure how I should word it.

So there I am sitting inside the fancy dancy toilet cubicle. Great start huh? Bet you cannot wait for the rest of the story after such a promising beginning.

The cubicle is in the mans washroom located in the lobby of a Patpong, Silom road area 4 star hotel. I noticed as I was sitting there contemplating the meaning of life that on both sides of the toilet there were full length mirrors. Mirrors that extended from the bottom of the stall to the top as well as a third mirror on the back of the door in front of me. Sort of weird to see yourself full length in all your icky glory with multiple mirrored angles while taking a dump! What a glorious view one of those visual nightmares that cannot be unseen. Are the rich so narcissistic that they want to watch themselves even when involved in this activity? Frankly I would have preferred to seen some Thai graffiti, graphically explicit pictures, and dirty language scratched into the walls of the stall.

I took some photos of my adventure as I always do but doubt I will post them :)), some things are best left unseen :)). Will leave this particular self portrait for my post death unauthorized biography and controversial biographical documentary film.

Possible archival fine art silver gelatin photograph title? "King Gerry on his throne!, 2015 Bangkok Thailand", #336 of 1000. It will become a best seller! The photograph I will be most remembered for.

Bought My Ticket To Mae Sot

Today I bought my bus ticket to Mae Sot. A VIP (more leg room) seat cost 594 baht, the taxi fare to and from Morchit bus station was 400 baht. Getting to the bus station was almost as expensive as a comfortable 9 hour overnight trip, go figure.

I will be in Mae Sot on the 15th. Will be in the dump on the 15th or 16th. Now that the back is strong it is time to throw myself into my photography full speed. I have jus over a month left in country. Going to make photos soon, FINALY!

Am looking forward to handing out the donations and seeing everyone. I wonder how much had changed? Will the same people be there? 2 years is a long time, many things might be different.

Tonight I will contact Khun Noy in Mae Sot, I hope he can help me with my transport again.

Extra Service

There is a huge difference in service between different hotels in Bangkok. I just checked into a 4 star +place on Silom Road in the heart of Bangkok for a few free nights of 1st class living. At the front door men run to open your taxi door for you. The same men insist on taking your 55lb bag out of the taxis trunk themselves along with all your other bags. As soon as you sit down another member of the hotel staff offers you a cool lemongrass drink in a fancy martini glass.

Soon I will be in the Mae Sot dump, photographing families, men, women, the old and young who live in waste. The differences in life quality are surreal. Here in my world class Bangkok hotel my every need will be catered to, yet in the dump the Burmese refugee babies and children eat food found in garbage. The children sit in bamboo shacks covered in flies and dirt. In many ways the world is really f-cked up place!

I should be at the dump in 3 days.

Long Lines

Today in Bangkok on the way back to mr room I faced rush hour again. There were long waits and overcrowded sky trains, the buses and streets were filled with people. The worse thing I saw were the long lines for a rot doo (public transit van). The ques were
multi lane and hundred people long, rather an incredible sight. Each person probably had a 2 hour wait followed by a long uncomfortable van ride (12-15 persons per van)closer to home then a motorcycle taxi to their actual house.

Imagine working a long hard day then facing multiple connections and that long rot doo line each and every workday. You might not get home till 11 pm, then a quick supper and off to bed so you had enough sleep to get to work early the next morning.

3 Days On

Note* This blog wasd posted late,I did not have acess to aaaaawaiafai.

3 days on from my back injury (muscle pull) I am still experiencing stiffness and limited movement. I feel like whatever I do I must do it slowly and carefully. Had a wonderful massage yesterday that seemed to help some but today I did a double jar to the back when
I missed some steps (Bangkok is filled with invisible steps).

I am going to spend 4 nights and 5 days in the night life town of Pattaya. I hope with a few more days of rest the back will come along, Maybe some oil massages will help. I am not that big on the whole oil massage thing as you have to strip down to your underwear and you end up all greasy and slippery.

I need to get into shooting shape by the 11th or 12th when I expect to be in Mae Sot at the dump. I might stay 11 or 12 days before returning to Bangkok for a rest during the Loy Kratong holiday, then going back to Mae Sot for an additional week.

I wish I had brought more 120 film, the Rolleiflex is a joy to shoot. 40 rolls of 120 disappears awful fast!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Amazing Race Gerry

Did something a bit crazy today, sort of a crazy amazing race thingy. It was part of a complimentary (free) lunch in a revolving restaurant. The restaurant was on the 55th floor of the Pattaya Tower. The food was OK not great but OK. I had Thai noodle soup, sashimi (one kind) and some ice cream. The free extra activities style exit from the TOWER was a bit unorthodox, see the attached video, the roof was the 56th floor.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Death Match?

Here is an email I sent to a friend. He asked if the cockfights were fights to the death.

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No the ones I saw were not. They treated the birds fairly well. One of the more dangerous claws on the back of the foot was taped up. It was done for two reasons one to prevent more serious injury, the second to mark the birds as white or black for betting.

When the round was over they took the bird over for a rest break. They would massage the bird, give it water, a wet compress to the head with a wet cloth. They would lift the wings get the birds to walk a bit. One time they removed the tape from the birds feet because blood flow was limited. They treated the birds like real boxers. At on point a rooster was overheating so they ran around looking for a piece of cardboard to fan him and cool him down. I grabbed my photo album book with dads photos and other Canada photos (I show the book to folks here to explain my background) and started fanning early before they found the cardboard. The guys were joking that the " Farang is helping". The bird cooled down and showed no ill effects. After the fights the roosters owner will sew up cuts to the animals head with a needle thread.

Maybe other events have fights to the death but that is not what I saw. There was a real respect and care given to these chicken boxers. It was bloody but not a death match.

Hotel A Mixture Of Folks

When I was in the pool today 5 middle aged Arab guys came in with there 20ish Thai girlfriends (sex workers). There were 5 men and 2 women so am not sure how those numbers work out. Later a third girl showed and one of the guys took her by the hand into a glass elevator up to his 4th floor room. Got to watch it all up close and personal from poolside. My hotel has a real mixture of types, I have seen many Thai families with very young children, middle aged Russians with older children, old age Indian couples and now these sex tourists.

Great Hotel!

I have been staying in a great hotel here in Pattaya. This hotel is one of the nicest I have ever stayed at. The hotel room includes a bedroom with desk, a living room with comfy sofa, chair and table, and a kitchen with a large fridge, sink, microwave, stove and oven. At 60 square meters this place is huge. The cost is 2200 baht or  $81.64 CAD.

Tonight after a swim in the beautiful round hotel pool I had a sauna for 20 minutes, the temperature peaked at 60C. After a day of sweating, a night of more sweating:))

How can people live like this everyday when others live like the "Families of the Dump"?? God life in a hotel like this is easy. Wouldn't it be cool to pluck a family out of the dump and give them a week in this hotel! I guess they could use the money in a much better way, but it would be great to watch them experience this lifesyle at least one time in their lives.

An Incredible Day! "Gai Chon"

Today was a long and rather incredible day, I photographed "Gai Chon" (cockfights). It started when I road on the back of a motorbike to a rural area about 30 minutes from Pattaya. After a bumpy ride down a highway and many dirt roads we arrived at the fighting ring, there were 14 fighting roosters  in a nearby shed. My new friends brother G- brought his own fighting rooster on our motorbike to the boxing site. It must have been a strange site to see a Thai man a big farang man and a rooster barrelling down the road on a tiny motorbike! We turned a few Thai country folk heads I think, some people I saw did a double take, a "What the f-ck was that?" moment. I will post a photo of the three of us n the bike later.

Everyone at the boxing site, around 30 people were a bit stunned to see farang there. I tried to make friends with all, saying hello, telling them who I was and why I was there etc. Today my Thai language skills helped a lot. I spoke and spoke until my head ache. I spoke more Thai today than anytime in the last 3 or 4 years. The fact I could speak some Thai and also answer all their questions seemed to relax most everyone. You need a certain amount of charm and joking to get people ( your subjects) to relax, that happened today. It was rewarding to just fit in and be almost forgotten and  just make pictures.

The actual boxing was violent for the birds, rather bloody but with no deaths. Gs rooster was the champion and he made money gambling on it. One of roosters in an early match simply ran away without fighting much to the amusement of the men present. The birds owner was rather downcast and a bit embarrassed .

The one thing I found rather surprising was the care, they gave their chicken boxers. The birds were treated like real boxers. They were washed carefully, massaged gently, fed rice and given water.
A feather was inserted down their throats after the fight to remove blood and a thick gooey liquid possibly saliva They also stitched the roosters head wounds after a fight. One thing the bird handlers did was surprising and unexpected. to remove blood (from swelling?) they would suck on the top of the head of the bird then spit the blood out They would usually do this 2 or 3 times. It was an intimate and caring act. The birds are property that are used to make money gambling in a bloody sport but you can see the respect and extreme care they give the animals as well.

It was a great day that gave me insight into a part of Thai culture I have never seen before. I got some phone numbers for a return visit, possibly  to make photos with a large format camera, maybe dads 8x10 Deardorfff. I also got a couple of guys email addresses so I can send back some scanned pbotos.

I am not sure how many good action photos I got on 35mm, the birds are rather small and move fast. The portraits I got with the Rolleiflex are probably the best shots of the day. Maybe a future project of mine will be called "Gai Chon"!! I can photograph the sport in Thai-Laos-Burma-Cambodia.

Swanky Night Out!

The fancy night out is set. The photograph projection show will be on November 27th, 8pm-12am at the  Alliance Francais de Bangkok. The event is being produced by the Toot Yung Gallery. My friend Myrtille Tibayrenc (Mimi) the artistic director of the gallery is the driving force behind the night. Several of my sex workers on white background photos will be shown.

http://tootyunggallery.com
http://afthailande.org/en/alliance-bangkok/

Update* This event was unexpected and I do not have the proper clothes or shoes with me here in Thai (only brought sandals). I bought some black and grey Rebocks today for $94 CAD, OUCH! I think these are the most expensive shoes I ever purchased. What a waste would rather buy film.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Praying At Temple For Dad

Today I went to a Buddhist temple to pray for dad and to make merit. The prayers involved praying to lord Buddha, lighting a candle with incense, receiving a prayer from a monk and getting a blessed string tied around my wrist. The string is called "Sai Seem", it is a bit of a  Buddhist superstition. The idea is the string which is tied on you by a Pali chanting monk will give you protection and good luck. You often see one or several strings on Thai people.

Thinking and praying to my father with 3 smoking incense sticks between my fingers was emotional. I thought back through our life together, many memories flooding back. I remembered walking and fishing with him as a young boy. I remembered all the times he cooked for me, arranging the plate so everything was in its proper place and the food looked beautiful. I remembered him looking at me when he played his drums. Dad played in a wedding band, he would stare at me and smile, it was our special moment together. I always tried to do my best for my father, l tried to help him and respect him during his life and to be there for him when he got sick that last year. I always tried to do my best for him but now I think it was not enough, now I feel guilty I should have, could have done more.

Today at the temple when I was saying goodbye again, it still did not seem real. How could my beautiful father be gone forever? I can still hear his voice and see his face, how can his death be real.

Gai Chon!!!

Today after spending time with Khun Dong yesterday during our meal together and after we sort of became kinda friends, Dong wanted to give back, first he asked me to play dug-broh with him and his friends. Dug- bro his an Asian kicking game which is like volleyball played with the feet. I wa not sure a 51 year old with a suspect back should engage in such things. Dongs second suggestion is that his older brother Gi (31) pick me up in his "Saul-ling" (a three wheeled old style vehicle) then take me fishing (with a net). That plan was more appealing as I thought I could make some photos. Then Dong suggested the best photo op of them all "Gai Chon"!!

Drivers, Making Friends

Like many people I have always tried to follow the motto, treat others the same as you would like to be treated. I have always felt uncomfortable about treating those that serve as servants. This is a topic I have written about before, the idea that those with more dollars those with less as some how inferior, is repellant. Most people who do this are not aggressive in their negative treatment, it is usually simple small things like the lack of a tip, friendly word or smile. Most often it is simply ignoring that person exists. They rationalize their behaviour by saying things like "I am giving them a job".

The non interest of the server as an individual. Who are the people that are taking care of you? What is their story? Their background? Their family life? What makes them who the are? Many buyers could care less about the servers whose time they purchase. They pay their money and expect service, nothing else matter.

When you do care, when you do make an effort into learning about that other persons life you are usually rewarded in multiple ways. I had such an experience recently.

I was in a tourist rot doo (van) in Pattaya.The van driver sat up front separated from the rest of us, professional but distant. Because of a weird circumstance of 12 tourists changing their plans I had the chance to share a dinner with the drivers of the 2 vans that would not be used that day. I introduced myself to the drivers speaking Thai and asked the first driver his name (he was surprised), his name was Dong (Khun Dong). I did the same thing for the second driver who was named Ooh. Both men were asked to join in and share in the meal. Dong being younger jumped right in, Ooh being older and more cautious took some convincing but eventually relented.

We walked up the big glass door I opened it up and held it open for the two drivers behind me to walk through. Ooh smiled and said thank you in Thai, Dong smiled and started laughing when he saw me hold open the door for them. We walked into the fancy farang hotel and start eating. They were nervous uncomfortable, out of their element. I have often felt the same when I go to some snazzy event out of my weight class. We spoke in Thai to each other, I learned Ooh had been driving for 13-14 years and Dong for 4. The food was made for farang palettes so did not really excite the drivers but they ate. After the meal all the food and cola from a second table that also went un eaten was divvied up, some of which the drivers took home.

It was a nice meal shared by everyone as equals with pleasant conversion. Dong who is 26 with a Thai wife and 2 children (girl - boy) and I became quite friendly, even a bit like friends. After in the van ride home he started offering me things to do. He wa no longer shy and quiet but laughing and very vocal and animated as hr drove. He first offered to play Duh-Goh with him and hi friends (sort of  a volleyball played with the feet). Then he offered to get his brother to take me fishing with a net the next day. I was interested but unsure. The third option was Gai Chon (cockfighting, chicken boxing) which I jumped all over. This was a chance to make some good documentary photographs, of an important subject.

If any good photos came out of that days shooting if any important Gai Chon photographs are made in the future it is all the result of treating others as you want to be treated. Being a decent caring human being is rewarded time and again. Whether it is access to a documentary photographic situation or simply receiving a returned smile, doing the right thing, treating every human being as important and as an equal is the only way to go.


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Next Customer Stare!

One of the thing I experience quite often in the bar areas of Thai is the "Next Customer Stare Thingy". Often as you walk by a bar worker with her customer, the working girl will stare you down as she sits next to her current customer (often he is groping her at the time). She has a customer with his hands all over her but she is already looking past him to the next guy in line. That moment says a ton about the shallow relationship she is currently involved in.. It speaks to how she does not give a shit about the all hands on deck drunk dude she is with. It also speaks to the need-search for the next pay check!

Photo Projection Night In Bangkok!?!?

To my surprise the Bangkok Projection night that was originally scheduled as part of the closing night Bangkok Photo 2015 (October 10th?) , has not happened yet. After a few days offline I received the email below today. I also received a personal email from Mimi asking for some large Sex Worker on awhite background files as well as a short artist statement and questions about the possibility of attending in Bangkok on the 27th.


Am not sure this is going to happen as all my large scanned files are on my computer back in Canada, I am currently in Pattaya. I did manage to grab a few larger files off some emails. I had sent large files to Thom in New Orleans several years back as part of my PhotoNOLA photography festival exhibition. Maybe those files will be large enough to project super large. If the pics I sent Mimi work  out I will make a special trip back from Mae Sot to Bangkok on the 9 hour overnight bus to attend-support the night. I am not sure if I will be asked to speak but if so that would be great. It is funny how things change, when I was younger I was extremely frightened to speak in public, I have now grown to enjoy it.

Here is the email:
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Dear all,

Please find enclosed the selected artists list for the galleries' Night projection.

The screen will be 6x4m so I will need quite high res photos from you. (around 4000pp would be perfect)

Please send me all your works by mail or We Transfer by this week if possible so I can start working on the slide show.

Also I would need from each of you : Your full name and a short text about yourself. And the title(s) of the selected series + a short text describing the work.

Ahead of each artists' slide show there will be one slide with name and short bio (4-5 lines)
followed by another slide with the title of the series and a short text about the concept.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.

I will also be sending you a short contract from Alliance Francaise allowing us to project your works during the evening of the 27, and to use some of your works as promotional tools for this event.

I thank you again for your very kind participation in this project,

Best regards,

Mimi
--
Toot Yung Gallery
www.tootyunggallery.com
Mimi

The Old And The Beautiful.

Update to follow.

Geeks, Freaks and Leaks

Because of its sex industry Pattaya attracts every type of male freak, beak and leaking (old man) in the world. Some of the guys you see here leave you standing in minor shock with your mouth hanging open. Fashion choices are off the charts. Saw an ancient wrinkled up old guy with brown tanned skin, white stringy long hair, a red and white striped shirt and blue plaid shorts with bright lime green runners yesterday. What a catch that guy would be, am sure he is every 21 year old Thai bargirls dream date (not!). They all come here led by their little guy head, lusting and chasing down their selfish needs regardless of the effect this has on others.