Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ketchup

As I wrote about before the whole bathroom thingy here in Europe is strange. Another weird anomaly if the VALUE they put on ketchup. They dole it out like it is a precious metal of some kind. If you ask for it sometimes they grudgingly give you some at other times they will ask you for 10 Euro cents per package.

I just ordered a #5 meal at a Burger King in the Milan railway station which cost $7.90. The lady (older workers here at fast food joints) gives me my food on the tray, when I ask for some ketchup she asks me for an additional 20 cents. She was nice thou, when I made a bit of a face while reaching for my wallet she smiled and said it was OK, waving me off. I got my precious metal for free.

Soon Back In Thai

Being back in the dump again after all my experiences travelling through Europe will be surreal. While I was away listening to Mozart, eating fettuccine with basil and fresh tomatoes and viewing God giving life to Adam at the Sistine Chapel. The people at the dump, dug in garbage, ate rice with dried fish and used the field across from their lean-tos as a toilet. While I experienced many wonders and many new things they saw dogs fighting over dump bones and flies crawling on their children’s faces.

I need to get back into a zone photographically and fast. I have a vision of what I want the photographs to look like, now it is time to make those ideas a reality. It is one thing to think of things, it is another to do them. To have the finished that finished photograph in my fixer tray later when I return to Canada and then on a gallery wall somewhere is the goal. I cannot allow the moments the families share with me not to be captured visually. I owe them a debt that must be fulfilled.

Dazed And Confused

Frescos at the Sistine? What Frescos? After spending about 1 hour at the Sistine just staring up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece I also started to watch the people in the chapel. You could see that some got it and some did not, there was seemed to be 2 looks a look of wonder or a look of “What the heck is that?”

The strangest thing I saw the dazed and confused look on the faces of many very tired folks after finally making it to the Sistine. They had been on their feet moving forward for over 2 hours through the endless and complicated Vatican museum many people did not even seem to know where they were. I saw one 50ish Korean man walk passed me with a tired face and walk. He never once raised his head to look at the miraculous fresco above him.  He walked right past God creating the Earth, god giving life to Adam, and then creating Eve. He never noticed Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise or the panels detailing Noah’s life. This man just walked straight through and out, never noticing the glory directly above his slouched forehead.

Vatican Museum Madness

I visited the Vatican museum today, a wonderful and terrible experience. The terrible was the thousands upon thousands of people that visited with me. There must have been over 100 000 folks who spent time in the museum with me. At times it was absolutely suffocating and claustrophobic. Is there a limit on how many people they allow into the museum? I visited on a non high season day, how much worse would it be in the high season? Could they possibly fit more folks into that space?

At times it was impossible to see the museum exhibits as people were stacked 4 or 5 deep in front of what you were trying to get at. Part of enjoying art is viewing it in an environment where you can be alone in your thoughts, alone with the art. You need the space and solitude to figure things out. When there are as  many people as I was with today it is almost impossible to find the tranquility of though necessary to get the most out of the piece. Many of the people who were at the museum seemed to not be terribly interested in the art but instead just following the queue robot like. This was especially evident in the tour groups, where people would just follow their tour leader who carried a flag on a poll. These tourists seemed to be lemming like, almost oblivious to what was around them and obediently followed that little flag wherever it went from place to place. Occasionally they would take a photo or pose for a selfie.

After a day of crushing Vatican crowds it was so nice to get away from it all, to have some empty space around me with enough room to think and breath.

Van Gogh's Pieta

One of the truly wonderful pieces I saw today at the Vatican museum was a wonderful little painting by Vincent Van Gogh, his small and delicate "Pieta" (Mary holding her dead son Jesus). It was hidden away in a small room off the beaten plodding tourist track and I almost missed it. I ended up going back twice more to spend some more time with it. One of the most memorable parts of the trip was finding and viewing this wonderfully simple yet dynamic study in love. Thanks Vincent, you made my day.

The Sistine Chapel


 

Rome Versus Florence

Rome is a bigger more busy city than Florence as expected. Even thou there are lot more cars crossing a road here is so easy compared to a place like Bangkok. Bangkok is kaos, and at times it is near impossible to get across a road, here with a bit of effort it is quite easy, even in Rome.

My favourite city in Italy so far is Florence, there was a piece there, a calmness that I enjoyed. Being in the birthplace of Michelangelo was also quite special. All of Italy seems to have great unexpected architecture, you will turn a corner come a immense beautiful church that is not even listed on your tourist map. In other places in the world it might be a key tourist destination, here it is just another church that is misplaced and a bit forgotten.

The small architectural treasures I discover here remind me of the Van Gogh PIETA I saw yesterday at the Vatican Museum. It was sitting in a little side room with almost no mention, most tourists walked by it without seeing this small beautiful masterpiece. The Van Gogh like much of the  architecture here in Italy was hidden and missed behind a greater volume of other art works and beautiful buildings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Voice Over Video

At the Liu Xiaodong exhibition “Migrasioni” one of the best parts was a video of the artist working, explaining his process and telling stories. I think it would be a very effective and informative for me to do up something similar for ”Forgotten Laughter”.

I could show dump video in combination with darkroom printing video. Show color dump snapshots in combination  along with b/w exhibition prints. I could do a voice over giving project background details and do a more personal stories related to my feelings about making the photos.

Creating a video like this that could be watched on a Large TV at the gallery with headphones would add so much to the viewer’s exhibition experience. They would come away with a lot more than the still b/w photo experience alone would give.

What About Me! Me!! Me!!!

Why do people have such a preoccupation with themselves? Everywhere I go in Italy there are great works of art on display, but quite often instead of enjoying that work the tourists do the me me me thingy. They pose in front of “David”, they do selifies in front of the "Leaning Tower of Pisa". Why is it important to include themselves in the scenario? Enjoy the art instead!. Enjoy the feeling the art gives you! Stop with the I am what matters most stuff and then dopily standing in front of great masterpieces and them focusing on themselves. Instead of it being about YOU, let it be about the art.

Note* I wonder if my photo blog is my version of focusing on myself.

Italian Cafe, Mafia Guy?

The Italian café where I ate my sandwiches today was a joy. The place was small but filled with animated Italians, even a possible Mafioso dude. The café was in a big city everyone seemed to be friends, the 2 young guys behind the counter and the people sharing their morning food, espresso. It was entertaining to just be there and eat quietly and observe from my stool.

Not sure the mafia guy (a second man showed up after) was a mob dude but it sure seemed that way. Maybe I have been watching too many Soprano episodes but the guy I thought was a mob person even looked like Tony Soprano.  It was sort of weird, this guy walks in hands the person behind the counter a white envelope, the worker then makes a gesture with his eye (pulling down his eyelid with his finger). The man then hangs around, sticking his nose into everything and gets free food and a drink without paying . The Tony Soprano look a like also goes in and out of the back room a few times (not sure why customers would do that). What was the deal? Some kind of protection racket pay off? The staff at the Café seemed slightly pissed that he was there, especially when he kept asking for free stuff. Am I reading to much into this? Maybe so but it sure seemed like a mafia type thingy to me.
Note* When I was in Venice I saw anti Mafia graffiti 2 times spray painted on walls. The mob came from Sicily and Italy so it makes sense that they are still ingrained in Florence society.

Florence: A Contemporary Art Show

Outside of “David” my favorite work of the day was a contemporary painting exhibition by the Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong called “Migrzioni”. His group of mostly large paintings was created in 2015 and 2016, you could still smell the freshly laid down paint. The show had a social documentary feel to it and dealt with Chinese migrant workers in Italy and Syrian refugees at the Vienna train station and surrounding areas.

The creative process of this artist was fascinating. Several of the finished works (at least 3) were very strong. I made numerous photos at the exhibition and also bought the book. The gallery staff prohibited photos upstairs at the Pollock show but allowed them downstairs in the Xiaodong space. There was a lot of understanding and compassion in the work, a real humanistic side to it. The paintings were equal if not better in some ways than straight concerned photography.

Here is a link to the show and artist:
http://www.palazzostrozzi.org/mostre/liu-xiaodong-a-firenze/

Syrian Refugee Painting By Liu Xiaodong
 

Florence: A Modern Art Show

The second show of the day involved Modern Art. The show includes paintings by Jackson Pollock, Wassily Kadinsky, Francis Bacon, Willem De Kooning. I was a bit indifferent to much of this work but someof it was quite beautiful, especially the denser drip paintings by Pollock and one particular painting by Bacon. My favorite piece thou was by an artist I have never heard of before, Leonora Carrington's "They Should Behold Thine Eyes”. This was a small work made in 1959 which I found extremely haunting, I came back to it 3 times.

This exhibition was made up of art work from the Peggy Guggenheim collection. Here is a link:
http://www.palazzostrozzi.org/mostre/guggenheim-2/?lang=en

Florence is a city of art, everywhere I went in the city I was bumping into creativity and beauty.

"David"

David took my breath away! He was so human, so bright and much larger than I thought (16 feet). When I entered and walked into the newly opened gallery at around 830am I made a right turn and there he was at the end of the room, lit by a large glass skylight. When I first saw him he surprised me, I let out an audible “Ohh!!” What a beauty he is, what an amazing and sublime creation, what a tribute to man. Michelangelo captured the feeling of beauty, youth, confidence and strength in the simple graceful nude form of this young man. They say he saw the figure in the stone before it was carved.

There were only a few people around him when I first saw "David", so we had a quiet moment together for the first 10 minutes or so. Michelangelo carved him from one piece of marble, incredible. I did not cry but did tear up a bit, it was a wonderful experience to spend some time with him. I visited the gallery for 1 hour 30 minutes before moving on to an exhibition of Jackson Pollock and other Modern Artists.

Foods

I have been eating some wonderful if simple foods of late. In Florence I had Fettucine (pasta) with basil and fresh tomatoes have had 2 different types pizza one with a round meat on it (salami?) and the second with 4 different kind of cheeses  and no meat. The pizzas I have eaten here so far are made with a very thin crust, it is almost like a nan bread type crust, super thin. I saw one thin crust version at a restaurant that even had raw spinach leaves on it, have to give that a try before I leave. They also have a thick crust variety similar to what I eat back home in Canada.

A Wonderful People

Most people I meet here in Italy are so friendly. My personality is not as outwardly emotional as most of the people I seem to find here are but I think if I learned some of the language I could adapt to this country quite quickly. I am starting to speak a few words of Italian here and there, today I did my first “Prego” (your welcome).

I was getting off the train at the Roma Termini (Rome Terminal) after coming in from Florence. An old, small, grey haired old lady with a heavy bag was at the train exit door in front of me. She was kind of struggling with her bag so I made a gesture that I would carry it off the train for her. She looked  up at me surprised and exclaimed something posiitive (I think) in Italian. I picked her bag up by the handle and carried it out of the train onto the platform for her. She almost yelled out a “Gratsi” (Thank You) and I got to smile and say my “Prego” for the first time.

Florence Versus Venice

I enjoyed Florence more than Venice. Venice is a more beautiful city with its canals, islands and ancient architecture but it also seemed tourist driven. Florence seemed more like a real Italian city filled with Italians living their day to day lives. Florence was also where Michelangelo came from, being there, in that world was comforting. The streets of the city were a bit busy but in the areas I visited you could basically cross any street anywhere at easily. The car traffic seemed minimal. The car traffic all over Europe actually seems rather minimal after the chaos in Bangkok.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Email To Friend About "David"

This is part of an email to a friend back in Canada:
........

Have to do "David" tomorrow as the museum is closed today. It is surprising how average how non descript the building is on the outside (saw it last night). It is beyond average, slightly below average, it is mediocre, looks a bit run down. Yet inside this big ugly building is one of the wonders of mankind, one of the most beautiful works ever created. "David" speaks, no yells out the sublime beauty, the power of, the greatness and strength of man.

My excitement grows, I will finally see "David" with my own eyes. Will it bring a tear to my eye? What impact will Michelangelo's marvel have? Tomorrow morning when the gallery opens at 815am I will be there waiting to run in. Life is truly beautiful.

Gerry

In Florence Italy


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Traveling To Europe

In 2016 traveling in Europe is relatively easy. With cheap comfortable trains and no borders, things go fast and easy. The train I am currently on as I type this is a Frecciarossa ETR 500 train capable of speeds up to 360 km/h. The ticket for the 2hour trip from Venice to Florence only cost 21 Euros.

This trip is an education and an eye opener. I will travel to Europe again in the future.

Venice

Only spent 1 night in Venice and the weather was lousy (rainy) but what a beautiful city. I can understand why it is one of the number 2 destinations in the world. Life is a bit different here for example they have boat buses and boat taxis that shuttle locals and tourists from island and to island. Venice is made up of 117 different islands connected by canals, bridges and boat transport.

Italian People

I have noticed a big change in the way the Italian people are in public versus the German speaking peoples I met in Germany and Austria.  This is from a very small sampling and only a few days of experience here and there but Italians seem much more outgoing. The Italian people I have met are polite and emotional. Load laughing and speaking in the streets both happy and angry you find everywhere.

Today as I was running to catch a boat bus to take me from the island I was staying at to the Train station on another island, I got locked out. I just missed the boat and was tuned back with a chain, the next boat came in 20 minutes. The Italian man I was with started angrily speaking out, almost yelling in Italian at the boat worker who did this, even as the boat bus sailed away and was out of hearing range he continued to complain in a load vocal (beautiful sounding) Italian!

That is something II have noticed everywhere here, load vocals from the locals, often accompanied by grand gestures with hands and arms. Back in Canada I have an Italian neighbor and I often here him complaining and yelling with his wife. Now I get that behavior more, I hear that everywhere from most everyone here. It must be part of the culture, part of the norm here.

Dreaming Of Dad

The last two nights have dreamt of my father, both dreams were peaceful, even happy. No more begging him not to die or seeing him looking ill and white faced. In last night’s dream he was normal and happy and with mom. I climbed down from the apartment floor above to share a dinner with them. Dad did not speak but seemed content, I spoke with mom about what we were going to eat.

I am glad the dad dreams of late have been less disturbing than my dreams soon after he died.  I am happy I still dream of him, when we share dreams, it is like he is still alive and we are together.

Differences

Yesterday as I walked the streets of Venice with thousands of tourists I kept thinking back to the lives of the people back in the dump. What would the bride and groom think of what I saw yesterday? Rich fat tourists shopping Guchi, Rolex, Prada etc. Pretty young Japanese girls dressed in the latest fashions complete with high heels looking for designer sunglasses in high end shops. Meanwhile the Chemenko the little boy of the bride is shitting in the dirt in front of his small lean-to garbage dump home.

In the dump naked babies sleep with flies and cockroaches next to garbage and here in Venice people pay 2800 Euros for a simple jacket with a fur lined collar or 10000 Euros for a watch. That’s pretty fucked up! At the dump I give people a $3.80 CAD headlamp so they can work digging through garbage at night and they are so happy. Here you need to buy grossly overpriced designer goods to find happiness. I will be seeing lots more of this later this trip, especially on my last day in Italy when I visit the fashion central city of Milan.

This travel experience photography has brought me into two very very different worlds, sometimes it is hard to deal with these conflicting experiences side by side.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

In Venice Italy


A Truly Surreal Moment

The truly surreal moment came at the classical music performance, a mix of Mozart, Strauss, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky and others. They also had a couple of opera singers, a handsome man and pretty woman who sang opera (Mozart?) in Italian and  German. I had a seat in the front row center, could literally touch the performers, mere feet away. The last number the two opera singers sang to each other while dancing. She was especially good. I did not know what she was singing but it brought a tear to my eye.
 
At the end of the night the male opera singer chose a young lady from the audience and started dancing and singing to her. The female singer looked for a male partner. I tried to not make eye contact, turning my face down but she chose me anyway. So I got up and danced with her while she sang, looking me directly in the eye she sang  to me as we danced. There were 62 people watching the performance  plus the musicians. A fricking wild moment, I can still see her eyes and hear her voice, it was inspiring. I got to figure out what that opera was about.

A Great Day In Vienna

I had a great day in Vienna today, visiting a photo show, a modern art show and also a contemporary art exhibit (some of my favorite stuff, social documentary paintings). This is the type of day I dream of back home in Edmonton where access to art is so so limited. Here in Vienna Austria it was easy, all I had to do was figure out the tram system and that was it, art was everywhere! A truly great day. Highlights included the wonderful self portraits of Egon Schiele along with work by Klimt and Edvard Munch.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tomorrows Plan

Tomorrow I plan to visit a photo retrospective exhibition by a Magnum photographer named Kubota. It should be a strong show, he had his b/w 35mm negs made into platinum prints and his color stuff into dye transfer photos. Am really looking forward to it, the exhibition site also has a 360 camera museum which should be fun.

Opera In The Streets

I was walking past the Vienna Opera house tonight and saw some chairs with people waiting in front of a very large LCD screen (the size they use in NFL football stadiums). I sat down and waited, after countless commercials the OPERA started up! Yes that's right Austian Opera in the streets of Vienna. It was a live feed from the current opera being shown inside the theatre. This is after all the home of Mozart who wrote some of the greatest operas ever created so I guess this all makes sense.

I did not really understand the story that well, it was being sung in Italian with subtitles in German, both languages I do not know. The nearest I could figure was that it was a story about a rich older man being used by a younger pretty girl. He seemed a sad desperate sort, she seemed haughty and full of herself. I did not watch long as I wanted to catch the tram back to my hotel before it got to dark. What I did see and hear (30 minutes or so), I quite enjoyed.

You got to love a city that shows free high art like Opera on its streets! I wish they did that kind of thing back home in Edmonton.

Vienna Versus Prague

I found Vienna to be a beautiful city filled with art but much more confusing to navigate as compared to Prague. I ended up doing a day trip around the city and managed to figure out their tram system with some effort but got lost several times along the way. By the days end I did tons of walking and had to rush back across the city (running to catch 2 separate trams) so I could make my overnight bus to Venice Italy.

Austria as a whole seems less old world and more new world compared to the Czech Republic which is still no doubt recovering from their Communist occupation period. If I had to pick a location for historic beauty with less tourism, it would be Prague, if I was choosing for the arts, museums etc. it would be Vienna.

Dali And Warhol

Saw a quite good exhibition of Warhol and Dali work last night in the Old Town Square in the old section of Prague. The 11 Euro price for both shows was well worth it. I had not viewed much of Dali’s work before and liked the range of it that was on display. I preferred the Warhol stuff, especially two works on paper titled “Lenin” and “Red Lenin”. Both the Lenin pieces were done in 1987, a month or so before Warhol’s untimely death after simple gall bladder surgery.

A Spaniard and an American been shown in the old town section of Prague Czech Republic. Their work being viewed and influencing locals and tourists from around the world, such is the beauty and power of art.

Prague Versus Munich

My impression of the Czech Republic was good, the prices a bit cheaper, the history and architecture, memorable. Most importantly I found most all the people het friendly and polite. In Germany at times folks seemed rather, loud, blunt and dismissive (sometimes bordering on rudeness). Here in Prague most everyone engaged with you and took their time.  I only met a very small sample of folks, one day in Munich and two days in Prague but if I had a choice of where to live it would be Prague.

Running For The Train

Am on the train from Prague Czech Republic to Vienna Austria. Barely made the departure time, I had to do a run through the station and down the platform, got on with a good 2 minutes to spare! Even the cheaper 2nd class tickets are quite nice. I have a big comfy seat, plenty of room in a quiet car and a table to type on. The only negative is there is no WIFI like on the bus trip. I will have to post this on the blog the next time I am online.

Hard To Pee In Europe

One of the weird things I have learned about Europe is that it is hard to pee here. You usually have to pay a fee before you enter any public bathroom, 50 cents or 1 Euro. Quite often you will see people dancing from one foot to the other while trying to dig through the pockets and purses for change so they can enter the bathrooms to relieve themselves. Sometimes its a bit funny to watch focus frantically trying to find money so they can relieve themselves before any accidents happen.

Today when I was at a MacDonald's I had a equally weird toilet access experience. I bought a double cheese burger and asked how to get into the washroom. The boy hands me a receipt from the meal. What do I do with that? I figure the code 033 at the top must be for the high security bathroom door with combination lock keyboard that locked me out the last time I tried to enter. I go and try the code 1, 2 and then 3 times, nope cannot get in. Then I try 33, no that does not work. I go back and ask the boy what code to use? He points at some small hard to read numbers at the bought of receipt under the title "Toilet Code 2687A". I go back feeling a bit like a cat burglar with the secret combination to a high security vault filled with diamonds and rubies. I bend down and type the numbers and letter into the low silver shiny keyboard and pull hard, finally the door opens startling a young boy who was just coming out. Thank goodness my case was not an emergency. It took so long to enter I might have had an accident next to the dude eating his Big Mac.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nazi Museum

In Munich yesterday before coming to Prague I voted a Nazi Museum. The museum had interactive video, photos and a included audio tour for 5 Euros. To be in the place where Nazism got its start, to see the buildings that once held giant red black and white swastika flags was rather haunting.

Meeting the kind German people I met yesterday you wonder how what happened did happen. What underlying human traits, underlying evil led to so much death? The museum was with seeing here is the link for those who wish to visit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On The Bus To Prague

On a speeding bus to Prague Czech Republic from Munich Germany as I type this. The bus costs 20 Euros, it is frickin awesome, WIFI, table  and chair, toilet and vending machine . This is riding in style at a cheap price. Will be doing several buses and trains over the next days as I travel in Europe before heading back to Thai and the dump. What a major shift that will be.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Going On A Visa Run

Am going on a visa run! This run will not be a cheap affair, I will be traveling to Europe. The flight over, the cheapest available ($900 CAD), is on 2 planes running a total of 12 hours travel time, landing in Munich Germany. I will then take trains and buses visiting a few more locals. It might look like this, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy.

I have always wanted to see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Rome. Plan on doing that this trip if possible. Will also do his "David" and "Pieta".

This is a bit of a departure for me, it will be very different after the dump! I wonder what the people there would make of Michelangelo's work. Need to rest up after the foot issues recently. I will go back and continue the photographic work in the dump beginning in May, still have roughly $700 to donate, plus hats and boots etc.

Intrduction "Forgotten Laughter" Email

I cleaned up and rewrote the introduction to "Forgotten Laughter" email. Here it is:


 I am sending you this email for two reasons. One to make you aware of my social documentary photographic project "Forgotten Laughter: The Families Of The Mae Sot a Garbage Dump" and two to ask if the ------------ and consider showing social documentary style work. I a film photographer using large format cameras etc. Is documentary photographs detailing the human condition acceptable for the gallery?

Here are more details myself and on the project, please advise if you think I should move forward with a formal submission.

My name is Gerry. I am Edmonton born and raised and have my home there. I am writing you from MAE SOT THAILAND.

I am currently working on a documentary project "Forgotten Laughter: The Families Of The Mae Sot a Garbage Dump" which deals with Burmese refugee families living and working in the garbage dump here. They survive by scavenging off the dumps refuge. I have been photographing here for 3 years off and on and want to tell this story back home to the people back home.

The idea would be to show large traditional fiber b/w photographs along with video shot at the dump (and in the people's homes), excerpts from a heartfelt written diary (my online blog) and found objects taken directly from the garbage dump back to Canada. I want to exhibit all these parts together to really bring home the life the people (my friends) live here in the Mae Sot Thailand dump. I want the gallery viewer to really understand their existence in the dump, through the visuals both stills and video, though personal first person written blog excerpts and even through the smells and feel (touching) found dump items. I want the viewers experience to be hard hitting, memorable and true.

Here are some links:
my blog with many stories
www.gerryyaum.blogspot.com
Video of life here at the dump
https://vimeo.com/116513737
YouTube channel
https://m.youtube.com/user/gerryyaum/videos
More photo look under Galleries, Forgotten Laughter
http://gerryyaum.wix.com/photo

Thanks for your time, please advise if you think I should make a formal submission. I hope we work together to tell the families stories.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bus From Hell

This bus was a ride from hell or at least halfway to hell. It took 8 hours to travel from Bangkok to Mae Sot but the trip back last night from Mae Sot to Bangkok took over 10 hours. The first bus was a special tour bus almost VIP the second a squishy 2nd classer. The problem was not so much the lack of leg room which was tough but the constant stopping and waiting for no apparent reason. Every hour we seemed to stop and wait and wait, heck sometimes twice an hour. I had no idea why the bus continued to stop and wait, no one ever got on or off except the first time. We seemed to be stopping for the sake of stopping. After a while I got the feeling that the driver was just stopping to show the bus to his friends.

As a bonus on arriving at Mochit bus station in Bkk I had to que up with hundreds of people and wait 45 minutes for a taxi.

Bus Of Death?

Well I made it 10 minutes early from my hotel to my bus back to Bangkok. Is this the bus of death? Over 200 people killed on the roads of Thailand so far this Sonkgran season. A number that is a bit down From last year at this time. The bus is not as bad  as expected, air con with a small blanket. The seating is a trifle cramped, not a lot of leg room. Still not that bad for only 290 Baht ($11 CAD). 11 bucks for Not sure this is a subject for the blog but I wanted to show you all how very very basic everything is for the families at the dump.


On all my previous trips to Mae Sot I never saw where people go to the bathroom at the dump, this trip I have. As would be expected they just walk off to an isolated area squat and do their business, no paper, no drama. The young children of 1-2-3 years old just walk outside their shack squat in front and deficate. I saw the bride today use. a garbaged CD and a piece of thin cardboard to clean up two droppings by her young son. She took it all and threw it into a nearby less traveled area.
an 8 hour overnight trip back to Bangkok, try that kind of pricing n Canada.

If this thing does not crash and burn and if the lady in front of me does not recline her seat, all should be fine. The seat next to me is even empty for a time! The bus will probably make multiple stops and pick ups on its journey. Here is hoping we all make it to Bangkok, wish us luck!

Update* The empty seat beside me lasted 10 minutes, it is going to be a long night! On the bright side I am now closer to the emergency exit when the bus burst into flames.

Update ** Not dead.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Today's Donations

Today's list is:
- 2 bags of food
- 4 headlamps
- 2 extra hats
- baby first aid kit

Crying Chemenko

Today I did another series of difficult photos of a crying baby. This time It was young Chemenko 2 years old.  He is the son of the bride and groom. His mother had left him standing alone outside their poor lean-to, he immediately started balling. He does know his name thou, when I called out to try and cheer him out he turned and looked at me strangely. I could hear him thinking"Who are you and why are you calling my name?"

This type of photograph has always troubled me ethically. To take it or not? The reality is that children often cry here, that they suffer and are deprived. Not showing that grim reality would make my work as a documentary photographer invalid. I need to show what life is like here for the families in the the dump, the true unvarnished reality.

Toilet Time

Not sure this is a subject for the blog but I wanted to show you all how very very basic everything is for the families at the dump.

On all my previous trips to Mae Sot I never saw where people go to the bathroom at the dump, this trip I have. As would be expected they just walk off to an isolated area squat and do their business, no paper, no drama. The young children of 1-2-3 years old just walk outside their shack squat in front and deficate. I saw the bride today use. a garbaged CD and a piece of thin cardboard to clean up two droppings by her young son. She took it all and threw it into a nearby less traveled area.

Baby First Aid

Delivered the first aid rolls, band aids and such to the mother of the young baby girl. She was quite happy to get the stuff. I could not find any anti infection cream. Hopefully if she cleans the wound and wraps everything up, changing the dressing occasionally everything will be OK.

A Photo With His Pig

Today as I was leaving the dump a bit early I was asked to do a special photo op. The old man form the shack near the school who I had photographed many times in years past asked me to do a portrait of him and his pig! The pig was fat and huge the man fragile and old, they made quite a couple! He must really love that pig, wanted to have a keepsake. Will get a print to him later.

The Sadness Of The Groom

There is an underlying sadness I have noticed with the groom this trip. In the past he was almost always smiling but now there seems to be a sadness a burden on his shoulders. With 2 children and a wife to take care of he must worry and think too much everyday. He is only 19 or 20 but has so many responsibilities and only a the limited difficult and very uncertain future.

I have given them food, clothing for the children, money for a working tool, but it all adds up to not much.. He asked me for a radio that cost 300 Baht ($11.40 CAD), will try to get him that.

Families Happy With Their Food

The two families I left food for this morning as they were sleeping were both quite happy. As I was working off in the distance making photos a father and mother from each lean-to came out to thank me with a smile, a wave and a wai.

It is a great feeling to make people smile. I am glad I made the effort to go out for the short time I did this morning (6am to 830an). Now a few people are eating a bit better, working a bit easier and I think I made some important photos.

Babies And Their Futures

I think now of the faces of all the babies and children I have photographed here. What futures will they have? Smiling babies-crying babies, Working children-playing children, the loved ones and the forgotten ones, what will their tomorrows bring?

Visa Run

Am off to Bangkok and a Visa run tonight at 8pm. Khun Noy will be picking me up at the hotel at 730pm the all night 2nd class bus leaves at 8pm. I will leave a suitcase in storage here and take it back with me my next trip to Bangkok. I am going to go to Europe for my Visa run. I was going to do the Czech Republic but a non direct flight of flight to Munich Germany is quite a bit cheaper. Will give updates later as things happen. 

Tai May Sau B-B Lah

Was asked multiple times by families in the dump over the last if I had eaten. "Tai May Sau B-B Lah" Thais will do this all the time "Gin Kao Roo Yung?" In the past I was never asked this question in Burmese, now it is starting to happen. This is a sign that we have gotten closer, that I am not so much the outsider as before. I have not had a full meal with any of the families yet but now have shared food 3 times and been given water  (once with ice) 4 or so times. Not sure I would know exactly how to eat a meal with a family as the people eat directly with their right hand and fingers, no eating utensils are used.

It's Hard To Work Injured

Gosh is it hard to make photos when you not moving well. The last two days at the dump I stumbled about struggling to move forward, backward and up and down quickly. Mobilty, something I have always taken for granted simply was not there. I need to do research on this gout stuff, eat differently, get medication, whatever is required. I am 52, much too young to be hampered in this way.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Burmese Words

Here are some new Burmese (I think) words taught to me by folks in the dump over the last 3 visits.

Stand up -Nah Bauhaus
Sit down - Thain Bauh
Did you eat? - Tai May Sau, Tai May Sau B-B Lah
Radio - Guh Bao
Doll - Au Yoh Mx
Very Hot - Auh Shaum Boo Day, Ney Boo Day
Chicken - Jet
Pig - What
Biked rice soup (yellow) -Hin Gah Yai
Tomorrow - Mau Neh Peh Yeh, Meh Neh Phau

Introducing The Bride And Groom

Today I finally got the first names of the bride and groom plus their 2 children. I wrote them out and recorded them on video. Burmese names are so tough to remember. Here they are :

Groom - Oong Goo Lau
Bride - Nai Nai Kai
Son - Chemenko
Daughter - Moz Auh Bay

Goodhearted? Stupid?

Today after my meal I walked a bunch more than I had to. I walked to the shop that sells boots and to the 7/11 to get bandages-tape etc. My foot was in very rough swollen shape, each step hurt in different and special ways. Was I good hearted? Trying to keep my dump promises from the day. Or was I just being plain stupid and simply damaging myself further? Probably the latter.

How We Spend Our Money

This morning I photographed the groom in his very small filthy lean-to shack next to the garbage dump. He had just woken up and came out from under his red mosquito netting. I gave him the headlamp he had asked for then started photographing, half way through he adjusted the netting and revealed his to young babies Chemenko his boy about 1 year and 1/2  and Moz Auh Bay his girl about 2 months old. They had all been sleeping together in that small space under the same small net. The 2 month year old looked oh so fragile, so vulnerable.

Later that same day I was having my super at a Mae Sot restaurant. There was story about the last game of NBA player Kobe Bryant. Some fan paid a reported $27500 USD for a single seat to the game. What kind of fucked up world do we live in where paying over $30000 CAD for a basketball game makes sense? Where that is our money spending priority. What kind of fucked up world do we live in where babies grow up in garbage dumps? Where we close our eyes to that awful reality.

Email To UofA Museums

Here is an email I sent out about a submission opportunity. I hope something comes of this. I have to tell the story of the families back home, someway, somehow.

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

Hello my name is Gerry. I am Edmonton born and raised and have my home there. I am currently writing you from MAE SOT THAILAND. Am laying here in my hotel room after a day of shooting when I came across your photo submission theme. 

My question is this, are you looking for pretty scenic postcard type photos? Or is my harder edged social documentary work OK to submit? I am currently working on two social documentary projects called "Families of the Dump" and "Forgotten Laughter" which deals with Burmese refugee families living and working in the garbage dump here. I have been photographing here for 3 years off and on and want to tell this story back home to the people in Edmonton and Alberta.

If this story does not fit into "Show Me Something I Don't Know" can I make another type of submission for a possible exhibition at the museum? The idea would be to show large traditional fiber b/w photographs along with video a written diary (my online blog) and found objects taken from the dump back to Edmonton. I want to really bring home the life the people live, the look, the movement and even the smells of this place.

Here are some links:
my blog with many stories
www.gerryyaum.blogspot.com
Video of life here at the dump
https://vimeo.com/116513737
YouTube channel
https://m.youtube.com/user/gerryyaum/videos
More photo look under Galleries, Forgotten Laughter
http://gerryyaum.wix.com/photo 

Thanks for your time, hope we work together to tell the families stories.

Gerry

Sent from my iPad

A Greasy, Smelly Hand

At one point early this morning I watched and photographed as a father loaded up two bicycles with the nights scavenging of found cooked rice. On one bike he somehow tied and bungied three 5 gallon size pails to the back of the first bike (rather ingeniously) and a large sack of more old cooked found in the garbage rice to the second bike. After the loading was complete the father pushed the first heavier bike himself and the second he gave to his young son, a boy of about 10.

The photo op being over I turned and slowly walked away. I had not gone far when I heard the father say something loud and angrily in Burmese. I looked over and the boys bike had fallen over. There was a little hill leading up to the roadway and when trying to make it up that hill the boy had lost control of the bike. He tried one time, then a second but could not stand the bike up. The large bag on the back which had luckily not spilled out was too heavy for him. I put down my bag and the camera I was holding and limped over to help. Working together we got the bike righted, I pushed it up the hill and they were on their way.

Nice little deal right! Turns out the bag that I held when lifting the.bike up was very smelly and slimy. My hand was covered in some kind of sticky, stinky goo now., it was rather repulsive. I used up some of my precious drinking water  to rinse my hand then I dried it on my pant leg before touching my dusty cameras again. Being a spoiled Canadian boy, I do not have to handle the ingredients of places like the dump often. The young boy I helped today will probably spend his life dealing with this ugliness, an ugliness I will never have to face, simply because of where I was born.

Bandages For A Baby

Today when I was photographing at a dump family home I am very close to there was a second family group there. This second  family was made up of a young mother, husband and baby girl who is just over 1 year old. I think I remember the mother from 2013, I believe she is the woman I wrote about who had very scared eyes. At that time I wondered if she had been seriously abused somehow, she was so frightened of everything, just a blank confused stare. Now 3 years later she seems much happier, she has a husband who seems to love her and a beautiful child. This lady speaks some Thai so we were able to communicate, then and today.

The woman's young daughter had a bad cut, scraped skin on the heel of her right foot. The poor little girl cried quite a bit. It did not look to be a serious injury but the home, the area and the cloth the baby is wiped with are all very dirty. I worry that this young girl might get an infection of some kind. Tonight when I limp out for my meal I will stop by the 7/11 and buy some bandages, anti septic ointment and clean dressings for the family to use. I told the mother I would drop them off tomorrow before I go back to Bangkok. I will also some size 9 boots for a young boy of the first family of the home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Today's Donations

Today's donations included:

- a bag of food
- a pair of safety boots
- 4 headlamps
- photos
- girls clothing

Concerned Women

Today I had a group of 6 middle aged Burmese mothers concerned and talking about me. They were all squatting down gossiping in the lean-to area of the dump when the subject of my limping about came up. They asked me what was wrong and I did my best to act things out. First I did my bad pain face while pointing at my right rubber boot. Then I blew up my cheeks to indicate swelling, then the pain face thing again. I think they got what I was getting at, as there was a 10 minute talk after I finished acting job. They all seemed quite concerned which was comforting. Maybe tomorrow a herbal soup made from tree bark and wild herbs I'll be waiting for me. :))

Offered Many Things

Today during my vist with bride and groom I was offered many things. First part of a can of Taiwan beer, then some Betal nut with paste, green leaf and mystery bark (?) to chew on and finally some dried chicken or fish. I do not drink so did not do the beer, never done Betal nut before and was curious to try it but thought it might make me vomit so sai no to that as well.. I did take the offered dried fish which was chewy, flavorful and quite good. I passed n the chicken beacause I had seen it the day before drying in the sun covered bin flies.

Boy Sleeping Near Road

One of the saddest things I saw today at the dump  was a young teenager of around 14 sleeping in the open near the road. If he had moved less than 10 feet in the wrong direction he would have been run over by a passing car as he slept. Out in the open like that, bitten by mosquitoes all night, flies on his face must be unbelievably difficult but he appeared to sleep so well. He did not wake up until about an hour after I arrived, snoring, flitting and changing position often, a look of contentment on his young face.

Latest Found Item

One benefit of going out today was finding an intriguing found dump item for any exhibition. While making my way to a family who lives near a pond. I stumbled upon a small stuffed toy dog. This item should work well in any exhibition as it retains the putrid smell everything eventually gets here. The viewer at the Canadian gallery can see as well as smell life in the dump. I took a color digi photo as always to document where it was found.

Dressed Up For The Temple

It being the Sonkgran Festival (water) some people at the dump dressed up to visit the local Buddhist temple today. One family had their 2 young girls dressed up in second hand but pretty red and pink dresses. I made photos before they went out to "Tum Boon" (make merit).

Handing Out Headlamps

Have been handing out lots of headlamps, today I did another 4. Tomorrow will hand out the last 3 making a total of 12. I will buy anther dozen maybe 2 dozen on my return to Mae Sot. These things are much prized as most families work at night. The discount cost I get is 100 baht each ($3.80 CAD) from the seller in Mae Sot.

Today when I gave one out, I had an old man run to me and reach way up to take it from my hand (I was on a raised roadway) so that I would not toss the box to him and potentially damage his prize.

6AM Photos

Making photos at  6am today was invigorating. The light so soft and low (many exposures at 1/60 and f2.8.. The temperature hot not crazy, eyeball melting hot. There were 5 different families sleeping  in the Lean-to's and one boy in the open near the active road in the area where Pee Noy dropped me off.

This was my first time out early this trip. I need to do this many times with the 5x7 when I return.

Rest And Ice

I need as much rest and ice as I can get. My foot is very swollen and sensitive. This is as bad as my gout has ever been.

Pain!!

After my gout attack I made the right choice not going out yesterday. Today even after over a day of rest and hours of ice making photos and donations was extremely painful. I have never had more trouble or been in more pain walking in my entire life. Even the relatively short walk from the dump to the school took me 30 minutes at a very slow limp. Going out yesterday would have been near impossible and caused more damage.

Today after my first half hour of shooting  I wanted to quit. I was having fantasiies of placing my foot under running water and icing it down with a beautifully cold block of ice. Imaged to stick it out for the entire 4 hours I had planned with my driver Khun Noy. I am glad as I was rewarded with some good possibly important photographs.

I have been back from the dump now and laying with a iced foot in my room for 6 hours now but my foot is still strobing. How can I go out tomorrow morning? I might have to do it in my sandals as my right foot is too swollen to put on my rubber boot.  I have to deal with the pain and get this done. I have one more day and need to do two more food donations, boots and  make photos.

Tomorrow evening I also have to deal with the dangerous 2nd class bus back to Bangkok.

Weird Fact Of Day

One new and kind of weird thing I have had to learn this trip was the ability to do boot sizes in both the Thai and Burmese language. I sorta half knew the Thai words but had to learn the Burmese. I speak Burmese sizes with the dump families and Thai sizes with he boot shop in Mae Sot. The lady at the shop gives me a discount because I buy from her everyday and maybe because the boots are for the families at the dump.

So in the dump I speak Burmese "Dah-Say Gweah" (10 1/2) at the Mae Sot store I speak Thai "Sip Krueng" (10 1/2). I still need to learn the Burmese word for boot. I learned stand up and sit down yesterday (important for portraits).

A Night Off

I took the night off, feel bad about, like a loser. I did not keep the promises I made yesterday. Rescheduled with Khun Noy for 6am tomorrow, will do the same my last day on the 15th before the cramped long 2nd class overnight bus back to Bangkok. 

Maybe I should have fought through the pain today but I was worried about making a small problem bigger. I need to do a visa run soon, tackling the gout and being causous seemed the smart choice. It may be the right decision but it still sucks big time. I will try to make up for it later, stay an extra day, do another dump day on my next trip to Mae Sot after the run.

I spent a boring day in my hotel room resting and icing the foot for hours. Have a two ice bag system going, while one is melting on my foot the other is freezing in my fridge. The foot is feeling better now. Not sure what it will feel like after no ice and 5 or so hours of walking in the heat tomorrow.

Going to go out soon, I have to buy some boots before the shops close here. Only ate bread and weiners so far today, a good meal is also needed.

Today was a bad day! I do not care if I have to hop on one foot all day long. Tomorrow morning, I AM GOING NO MATTER WHAT!

Sonkgran Dead So Far

This years Sonkgran dead on the roads here in Thailand number 116 far with many more days running in the festival. Last years total was 364 after 7 days. Most of the deaths are a result of drunk driving it happens every year here. My second class overnight 8+ ride back to Bangkok on the 15th is looking a bit more scary. Hope I am not foreshadowing here!
http://www.khaosodenglish.com/detail.php?newsid=1460532933

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Gout Returns?!!

I think my self diagnosed gout has returned. I woke up itchy from mosquito bites and with pain and swelling in the joints of my right foot toes down from the big toe. In the past the only ring that helps is to ice the painfull area. Had some look on that account. My doo-yen (fridge) had some ice in it from a previous occupant, over the last several hours I have been icing the bottom and top of my toe joints. Have a double injury there, first the nasty blister now the gout. Both these issues make difficult to walk, not a problem you want on a dump donation p-photo day. Walking is essential to everything I do.

I have not had gout issues for over 1year, not sue why they have returned, maybe a result of the physical stress and so so diet (1 1/2 meals a day) over the last week. Hopefully I can fight my way through this.

Today's Found Item, Kitty Cat

Today's found possible exhibition item is a white ceramic cat with a broken right ear. This item is rather heavy and fragile. Getting it back to Canada will prove difficult but the item is symbolic it is worth a try.

Head Flashlights

Today I went to a local market and bought 12 head flashlights at 100 baht each. The total cost was 1200 baht. These are hot items in the dump, much prized. A few days back when I was shooting at night I counted about 60 workers digging in 3 fresh mounds of garbage. The families.need the head style lights to work in the dark at night. The 3 lights I handed out today were much appreciated.

The strange part of the purchase was that the  woman who sold me the lights spoke better English than I do. She is Thai raised in America, was from LA and spoke English with no accent at all.

Note* I got a discount when I bought the head lamps because I bought in volume and also because it was for a good cause, the families working the dump,

Flies On A Babies Face

The saddest photo of the day was also the best. That is the way it often works out with social documentary photography.

The sad best pictures of the day were made of a young malnourished looking baby with a dirty face covered with flies (1to3). It was heartbreaking to see this poor baby living in those conditions. The year is 2016 certainly the world if it was run right could provide a decent life for its children. Even later when I tried to take a cute digi color baby picture for the mother, I could not.

It is always so hard to make photos like this. When shooting up close with the Rolleiflex you see every detail I can still see that babies bulging brown eyes in my mind. I will not forget this experience soon. Now as I type this I lay in my air conditioned hotel room of luxury. Why do I have what I have and yet that baby boy is now sleeping with flies and garbage a few kilometers away? Why is my life so privileged and his so forgotten?

Maybe the pictures made today will help somehow. Raise some more money, raise general awareness, educate in some way, motivate the next generation, shame the exhibition viewer into helping in anyway they can.

I will try to find that babies mother again and at least donate a food bag.

Children Fishing #2

Today in the hot sun of the afternoon I again photographed the children feeling (fishing) through the shallow pond for fish. They would walk about and feel there way through the mud with there hands catching fish by touch. There were 8 young kids today the oldest maybe 10, working and sometimes playing in the water. The slewy 10 inch deep water they were fishing in was filled with all kinds of garbage, bottles, styrofoam, plastic bags and broken pieces of pretty much everything people use.

I was accepted more than yesterday, guess they are more used to me now. I have sort of become part of the club. They even started to play games with me. There I am carefully wading in the muddy water making photographs trying not to slip and fall with all my gear, when I hear giggling behind me. I look back and the kids ran away. I return to photographing, concentrating hard on my composition when I suddenly feel my pant leg getting wet. I look behind me again and see a laughing 6 year old, she had been putting water in my boot! Great fun! Lots of laughing. I made a noise and she ran off splashing water left and right and giggling loudly. The little devil!

Cell Phones X 2

For the first time in the dump I have noticed cell phones. I saw a lady stop working to answer a call yesterday and today I was using the cell of another families mother. It happened like this. I was standing around looking for portraits near the shantytown lean-to area of the dump. When one of the ladies handed me her cell. To talk to someone? I guess so! I take the phone and start out in English, nothing much happens on the other end so I switch to Thai (speaking Thai on a cellphone is a bugger!). After a bit of stammering about trying to figure things out I ask "Who are you? Why are you calling me?,  He laughs at his end. Then the lady who gave me the phone shows me a photo (she understood my confusion). The photo is nicely framed and is one of my color shots from December 2015. Now I get it, I am talking to a man I photographed many times before, the woman is his wife. I gave them some boots last trip. We then have a nice friendly short chat, he thanks me and I wish him good luck. Not sure exactly where he was, off working somewhere I guess. I will give his wife and child a food bag tomorrow.

A rather weird experience to be standing in a garbage dump next to a dozen Burmese woman and children while speaking in Thai on one of their cellphones to a Burmese man in another Thai town.  Everyday in the dump brings on new surreal moments.

Tomorrow's Orders

I have to type this out before I forget. Tomorrow requested items include:

- food bag
- size 10 boots
- 2 head flashlights
- little boys clothing (only have little girls)
- photos

Today's Donations

Today I carried and distributed a ton of stuff, quite heavy to walk with. The donations included:

- 2 bags of foods with hats, soap etc.
- 2 young girl dresses
- color photos for multiple people
- 2 sets Chinese made rubber boots
- 3 head flashlights

Hot Shower

One of my highlights of the day here in Mae Sot is the hot shower I take on returning from the days shooting. I strip down wash my clothes and my rubber boots then just linger and soak under the hot spraying water for as long as possible. After all the sweat, filth, flies and cockroaches of the dump, a shower cleanses you.

I bet you many of the people, both young and old in the dump have never had a hot shower in their life before. It would be great to give them that gift but how exactly do you go about doing that?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Digging .For Jewellery

Last night after dark when I was photographing the garbage digging I came across a old couple. The couple had discovered a stash of costume jewelry in a white plastic bag. There were some damaged items but some were still in good shape. There was a bunch of old glasses and sunglasses, earring still mounted to the plastic display pieces and a few bracelets. The couple excitedly dug through it all and I helped out, we pushed aside the dump garbage and broken jewellery pieces which were scattered on the moist ground. Another lady joined in and 7 hands (one of my hands was holding a camera and shooting) dug about the garbage looking for the good stuff. This was all done under the illumination from our head flashlights.

I ended up taking a discarded key chain for the found objects part of my proposed exhibition in Canada.

Hidden Treasures

Yesterday I was shown 2 hidden treasures by 2 different women yesterday while sitting with them in a lean-to. One lady who's family I have photographed extensively showed me an carefully folded up 1000 (?) Vietnamese bill. She took such care folding and unfolding the bill into a tiny square of paper, rather incredible how delicate the procedure was. The second lady showed me 4 very very small red cut stones (rubies?) folded up on white paper. She opened, handled them and let me take them from here with great care.

Both ladies let me handle their treasures, a certain amount of trust there. Not sure why they did this maybe they were looking to sell them to me.

Children Fishing

The best photos of the day might have been the full body and half body portraits I did of several children fishing. They were walking and crawling in very shallow water feeling through the mud for the tiny fish.  Everything they caught they kept even if the fish was only 1.5 inches long. I shot with both the digital and the Rolleiflex, the Rollie work was much better.

I hope to continue to make good photos with the 120 cameras tomorrow. I need to do 12+ quality rolls of film.

A Pain In The Foot

I have been fighting with a bad large blister on my right foot big toe. Last trip I stepped on a nail and it went throw my bout and into my foot. So I decide to play it safe and bring safety boots this trip. As a reward I now have this large painful blister!

Today when I left for the dump I could hardly walk, the blister had gotten progressively worse over the last 3 days. During the day when the photos were being made I tended to forget the pain, photography has that power. Hopefully this blister issue will not interfere too much with the dump work, heck it's such a tiny thingy. What's a blister in comparison to what the families face?

Working In The Dark??

Working in the dark has become quite difficult. Focusing my cameras is the hardest thing to do, the autofocus on my Canon 5D is having difficulty focusing and I am having difficulty focusing when I switch to manual. Another problem is how do you compose for the action when you cannot see it? Working in the dark is tough!!

I need to shoot more film, tomorrow I will return to my two 120 film cameras. And leave the digi camera in the hotel room.

Gerry x 3

The Gerry stuff continues to mushroom. Today at one point while I was on top of the garbage shooting down on the workers in the dark one person (not sure who as it was pitch black) said "Gerry!" and motioned me to step back so that they could dig at my feet without hitting my toes.

Now the."Gerry" thing has become a safety word.

Second Big Food Buy

I did my second big food buy today. The total cost was 1525.50 and included:

- 7 bags of rice
- 20 cans of fish
- 7 bags of clothes soap
- 4 bars of soap
- 6 instant noodles

My New Superstar

Every new time I visit the dump I seem to find a child that I photograph a lot, that becomes my superstar. My new photo superstar is not a young child but a 74 year old grandpa. I spoke my first Burmese kinda sentence in the dump today to him.

Oo-Lay Antheh Beh Lao Lay? Uncle How old are you?

He is 74 and over the 2 days I have photographed him 3 times. He loves it! A star is born.

In People's Homes?!

I had the opportunity to photograph in one of the dump family homes today. After I gave the young girl her barbie doll I asked the father if I could enter his home, he told me yes. He even offered me a cup of well water which I thanked him for and drank quickly. Being inside the shack was a relatively new experience for me. I had done it one time before back in 2013 when I was loading 4x5 film holders. Inside this second shack allowed me to make photos from a new perspective.

The digi camera was ideal for this type of shooting. I did my best Larry Louie impression (an out handing photographer friend of mine) and shot horizontal photos with my 24mm f 1.4 lens at 2000 ASA.

I will try to gain access and shoot more family home interiors in the coming weeks. I need to be carefull moving my 245lb frame about a small fragile bamboo home is perilous. I do not want to crash through the floor and onto the dog and chickens living below the shack.

Barbie Finds A Home

Today I photographed a very cute young girl outside and inside her family home. I think I made some point and shoot photos of this same child in front of her grandfathers home my last trip. I gave her one of the Barbie dolls that was donated by the young daughter of a co-worker.

The girl was thrilled with her new toy and she immediately became my best friend playing to the camera with big eyes and a great smile, a future super model there. After watching her introduce her new mini Barbie to her original very beat up almost hairless old Barbie I watched her play with tem both. It is moments like this that make up for all the difficulties faced this trip lugging very heavy baggage about the world. As I type this I can still see her laughing and giggling with her new second hand toy.

Tonight as I lay exhausted in my room memories of the day's giving make my foot and back not so sore. Making a child happy, sand giving out food makes up for a lot of back pain.

More Requests

Got lots more requests today. Boots and food and flashlight for people's heads. The workers wear the flashlights when working at night. Will go buy 2 more sets of boots and some head flashlights tomorrow at the Mae Sit market. Am keeping track of all these buys, they are starting to cut into the $1065 CAD that was donated back home. Am happy that money is directly benefiting the families here, the folks back home should be very proud of what their donations are doing.

Handed Out Girl Clothes

The second hand little girls clothing I got from co workers in Canada went fast and furious today. Basically the first time I opened my bag to give some little dresses to the bride and grooms new bay girl child other people came and got the rest of the clothing for their own children. I still have several pieces in my hotel room will try giving those to the Barbie doll family I met today.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Link: The Magic Bag

When I was a young child I used to watch Mr. Dressup on CBC TV. Mr. Dressup was a wonder to me. He would draw wonderful creative pictures and create handicrafts but what I loved most was his "Tickle Trunk" . The trunk was filled with all manner of clothing, hats and costumes. Mr. Dressup would open the ticket trunk vetted dressed up and all manner of fun would ensue.

Yesterday as I was giving out things at the dump I opened up my very large camera bag, the children and adults gathered round to see what as inside. At various times I handed out photos, hats, rubber boots and small dolls. Everyone smiled laughed and had fun. When I first arrived one 30ish lady ran over to get her boots smiling from ear to ear. When I handed out the dolls the children started playing first fixing up the hair.

Today the magic bags wonders will continue. I will hand out more hats, boots, a doll, photos and children's clothing. The kids of the dump eye my bag with wonder and excitement just as I did in my much more privileged background while watching Mr. Dressup's "Tickle Trunk".
Mr. Dressup 1986

Time To Put On My Mosquito Cream And Sleep

Gish there is nothing more exciting as taking a cleansing hot shower feeling great the covering your body with cancer causing, stinky, burning bug cream before sleeping. I just did that, ickity ick, nighty night folks!

Hope I do not wake up at 4am covered in itchy swollen welts.

Whats With All The Yelling?

As the years pass and my visits continue. I have come to know more and more people in the dump and am more trusted now. I have noticed a change. My first trips to the dump, everyone was sort of quiet with me, they sort of warily watched me from a distance. Lately I have had lots of older woman yelling at me. I cannot speak Burmese or the various dialects but I think the yelling is a friendly thing. A cultural way to push and tease-joke. Quite often I seem to be the center of attention (even though I try to avoid it) with a group of ladies speaking very directly at me, usually to the amusement of their friends. I will be walking about making pics when all of a sudden a lady 40+ (younger girls too shy) will stare at me and start speaking loudly, almost yelling. This has happened dozens of times over the last 15 or so dump visits.

I need to learn me some Burmese so I can figure out what the heck is going on. I think I am part of the family now or at least a bit closer.

Night Shooting

Did my first night shooting in the dump, sort of surreal experience. At one point there I am stumbling about on top of the garbage, people singing, very young children working with lights on their caps. Four large files of garbage being fevorously worked over by 60 or so people. I guess it makes sense, it is a lot easier to work at night than the day when the heat is so oppressive.

Seeing the very young. children working was sort of a Lewis Hine moment from the early 1900s before child labor laws came into effect in the USA.

I originally shot with the 6x7 film camera but was having trouble focusing in the dark so switched off to the autofocus Canon digital. Will go back tonight and continue the work.

Dehydrated

Gosh I was dehydrated on returning to my room from the days shooting. I went through 5 bottles of water and an ice tea before I lost my thirst. I need to take better care of myself, ran out of water 2+ hours before I got back to my room. I only had one bottle with me all day. I sweat tons here, even a 10 minute mid day walk leaves me soaked. Today towards the end of the day I felt quite bad, I need more fluids.

It is so difficult to carry extra water. Today I hauled two heavy bags of food, all my camera gear and two sets of boots to the dump. I will take a second bottle of water with me tomorrow as I plan to shoot pics till 8pm or maybe 9.

Boots And Money

Handed out 2 pairs of the cheaper style Chinese today. Have to buy a size 10 for a grandma tomorrow. Also gave out money to 2 families so they could buy some new working tools (a metal hook device on a wooden handle).

"Gerry!"+

Getting called "Gerry" by more and more folks n the dump. It is happening with more often each visit. Today I met the groom and he called me Gerry, also the bride I think, an older person and several children. I got asked my name a few times as well.

"Mod-Day!"

On seeing me all red faced while huffing and puffing and covered in sweat today an older grand motherly women looked at me and said "Mod-Day?".  I had heard this Burmese term before but never quite understood it. Later on I asked JKhun Noy (my Thai driver) To translate, he said it meant "Noo-Iye" which is the Thai word for TIRED-EXHAUSTED.

So basically a much older and in better shape non huffing or puffing  Burmese grand ma took pity on me today. She probably thought I was going to collapse with exhausion right in front of her while foaming at the mouth. Hope I did not frighten her too much.

New Exhibition Items

Picked up two more possible exhibition found items today.

- A old rigid tanned hat (made in Thailand)
- A few child super star cards

Bride And Groom And Family

I met the bride and groom today, the first time this trip. They called out to me when they saw me from one of the dump shanti town lean-tos. I got to meet their second child a young baby of 2-3 weeks I think. When the bride was breast feeding her child she was a bit shy, it was rather cute as she covered her breast from the camera and smiled. I will give them some food tomorrow, bag #1. A very happy couple, fun to be around. Took a photo of the bride as she was looking over my shoulder at pictures I had taken, will post that later. Will also post some pics of their new baby.

Later in the day I met the father of the bride who greeted me very warmly. It was quite dark when I met him and he was wearing a toque so it was hard to recognize him. It was a nice meeting, we have become old friends in a way (the man I gave boots to last trip).. He told me he lives in a different location now, not sure exactly where that is. His old home was in the area that has now been demolished.

It seems that most of the people who lost there homes still work in the dump so their new places must be geographically close.

Larger Food Bags

With the larger amounts of money raised this trip I have been trying to take larger bags of food to the dump. The problem is that more food equals more for old (52) Gerry to carry. I have also had to double bag everything (ran out of bags). Tomorrow I will have to do a second food buy either before or after the days shooting.

An average donation food bag contains:

- 2 bags of rice (heavy)
- 3 cans of fish
- 1 bag of clothes soap
- 1 instant noodle
- combs, toothbrushs, hand soaps
- 3 hats

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Covered In Welts

It is 3am, I woke up covered in very itchy large welts. I counted at least 6 mosquito bites. It is quite is tough to sleep when your so itchy. There is lots of malaria in Thailand now, heard stories of people dying, I hope this does not lead to something worse. Put on mosquito repellant  cream will try to sleep asleep again.

Gerry

Today as I was walking with a sore foot from a blister in the heat of the dump I heard from behind me "Gerry". I turned to see the slightly familiar face of an older Burmese man. I think he is one of the leaders in the dump. He smiled at me and said "Ming Gau Lau Bau". Not sure how he knew my name or remembered it but he did.

 Note* One new family that I do not know referred to me as "English" maybe in reference to Fred Stockwell who is English and does a lot of good work in the area.

First Found Items

I picked up my first "Found Items" in the dump today. I want to include some of these pieces in any future exhibition I have of the work. I want to drive home this story to the show viewers in Canada. Today's objects include:

- Two small bottles of caffeine drink
- A stuffed child's toy
- A old comb

I also photographed the item before picking it up, CSI like.

Handed Out Two Dolls Today

One of the very young girls who was quite afraid of me last trip became m friend today. Gave her two dolls that the young daughter of a coworker back in Canada donated. After I gave her the dolls she followed me about very closely, smiling and staring at me silently. Her young brother combed the small dolls hair with a toothbrush then tied it up with a elastic band before giving it back to his sister. Made some photos will share then later.

Boy Covered In Flies

For a second I thought he might be dead but he was only sleeping, One of the young boys I photographed back in Nov-Dec was laying in his family shack with flies all over his mouth and eyes. When he moved to brush them away, I knew he was still alive. I have seen flies here before but this was a whole other level. How can he live like this day to day? Made a video and took some photos but I think I failed to tell this poor child's story properly. This is the ugly, ugly part of the lives the families have here.

Boots Better Late Than Never!

Today my first day back in the dump I kept a promise I made back in December 2015. I gave some size 11 boots to a family that had requested them. That day back in December when they asked for the boots was my last day in the dump. I had hurt my back and was rather exhausted, I was unable to get the boots to the. before I left Mae Sot.  I always felt bad about that, felt I owed the family, that I let them down. Today I made up for my screw up, the mother got her boots.

Who? Me? Fatter!! No Way!

Now I could be completely wrong on this, Burmese is not my language but one of the ladies today who was working the garbage seemed to be teasing me that I had gotten fatter! Now like I said I am probably 100% wrong on this one but several of the ladies were laughing and pointing at my ever so slightly more chubby face and stomach! In between "Ming gau lau bay's" (Hello's) there was plenty of giggling and joking. :(( They were probably actually saying how unbelievably handsome I had become, almost Brad Pitt like! :))

Dr. Gerry?

I heard about illnesses from multiple people today. One man showed me his swollen right knee and spoke of his inability to walk. Another grandma told and acted out stories (the dropping ohf a pail from her head) of the pain and difficulty her 14 year old grand daughter had with her right wrist.

Not sure what they expect me to do.  Maybe I need to do some medical training, Dr. Gerry to the rescue?

Will Photograph At Night

I have decided to try and photograph after dark in the dump. I plan on using a flash with the Plaubel Makina 67. Not sure how well this will work. Focusing should be difficult. I also do not wnt to blind the workers or interfere with their ability to do their jobs. What they are doing for their families is more important than my chasing photographs. I have a head band flashlight and a small hand held unit hopefully they will help me from falling on my ass and allow me to work.

Big Food Buy

Did a big food buy today after the dump visit. Bought 10 bags of rice, 19 cans of fish, 6 bags of clothes soap, 6 instant noodles. The cost was 1641 baht. Will start delivering the food tomorrow. Not sure where I will start as many of the homes I donated to in 2015 are now gone. I might have to start giving to areas farther inside the garbage dump or on the dumps outside edges. Many workers live in these fringe areas. This all means I will have to carry the goods and my camera gear farther. It will be difficult. Today was only my first day back but my whole body hurts.

Requests For Boots And Rice

I got multiple request for supplies today. Got asked for two boots, size 10 and 10 1/2as well as rice. Will deliver that stuff tomorrow.Word has definitely spread that I buy boots.

Children Sledding On Garbage! AMAZING

Saw something amazing today, something I have never seen before. Two young boys wearing old beat up motorcycle helmets sledding down a hill of garbage, incredible! Children will find joy and fun in the most difficult environments. When I was. A child I used to sled down clean cold hills of Canadian snow, here in the dump they do it on garbage. The boys used a shiny piece of metal possibly from the wheel trim area of a car to ride on.

I made a few portraits and a far off wide angle video, will post them later.

You should have seen the joy on the faces of these young children. The feeling of the beauty and the ugly in this scenario is mind boggling. Why do children have to live and play in worlds like this? People in the West are more in concearned with their cats and dogs than the young lives I saw today. And yet even in this most difficult of situation these young boys found a way to laugh and have fun.
The human experience is so deep and confusing.