Photo Story: Migrant Baby
|Burmese mother holding her baby boy in Migrant worker housing complex, Bangkok Thailand 2015|
Near my hotel in Klong Toey slum Bangkok Thailand there is a migrant housing complex. Not really a complex more like a 2 story set of rooms (40? 50? total?) that is made of plywood with small doors that can be locked (no windows). There is also a washing area where everyone can wash clothes and take baths. I have been photographing in this area since about 2013. Through the years probably visited there 5 or 6 times. I need to spend more time there, I want to go back sometime at night to photograph when everyone is home from work, maybe next trip! Maybe I can make friends with some of the people who live there.
Originally all the residents were either Burmese or Cambodia. They were migrants (mostly legal I think) who came in from their home countries to work doing construction and other jobs in Bangkok. Thai employers can pay these migrants less money than they have to pay Thais. Also many of the jobs the migrants do Thais do not want to do.
When visiting the area I practise the few words of Khmer and Burmese that I know. I count or say hello in their language, sort of a fun way to make friends with strangers. Sometime it is hard to figure out who is Burmese or Cambodian. Everyone gets a kick out of it when you try to speak their language, most are surprised to hear it. My last few trips to this housing area I have met more and more Thai folks, poor rural people who had come to the big city and had no where else to live. The workers (some children) in this very basic type of living pay rent of course to those that own the building-land.
In the photography the baby and mother were sitting in the shade hiding from the sun as I was leaving one day. I asked if I could make a photo and did. The mother was so proud and loved her child. Wonder what the little boy was thinking? Probably something like "Who is the big white guy? I am not impressed!"
This photo was made on Tri-x using a Rolleiflex camera and close up attachment (Rolleinar). Developed in D-76 2/1 for 11 minutes 30 seconds at 20c. I have never printed the negative.
Update* One time when visiting the housing a Cambodian woman showed me her beat up wedding photos. She must have handled them over and over and over again as they were quite damaged, worn through from the touching. She gave them to me gently and with such pride. She had come to Bangkok for one reason to make money, money she could send home to help her children and parents. I can still remember her sadness, she had such a longing to go home and be with her family again. Neighbors gathered round and looked at the pics with me. We spoke Thai to each other, she told me stories of her special day and her current life in Thailand. I wonder what happened to her? Is she still in Thailand, far from her family back in Cambodia? Or is she home again with them?