Friday, September 30, 2011

Quote: Greg ( From An Internet Debate On the Legality Of Killing American Anwar al-Awlaki)

" I pray for the day that all of humanity comes together as one with the understanding that, all is one and the one is the all. "

Video: Youtube Interview With Kenro Izu





Possible "People Series" Portrait Subjects

I have been thinking of where I want to go with the portraiture after the latest boxing portraits.

- Tuk Tuk and motorcycle taxi drivers
- Fisherman
- Security officers
- Photograph an isolated temple and monks, learn and understand more about the Buddhist way.
- Street vendors
- Chon Gai ( rooster fighting) trainers, gamblers, rings, crowds etc

I think the Chon Gai subject is the most interesting to me at the present. I found one man who did it in Klong Toey maybe I can photograph him and make contacts through him. JJ market in Bangkok also has birds for sale, that might also lead to photographs and contacts. I am not a fan of such a brutal sport but I would like to learn more about the people, and the lives of the people involved in it, to try to record and interpret something I do not understand is important.

I would also like to return to the gym and continue working with the Muay Thai people I met this month.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Sex Worker On White Photographs?

I did a series of sex worker on white backgrounds portraits in the years 2007 and 2009, I have been thinking lately that it might be time to photograph another 25 people. I need to cut some corners and save enough money to buy film so that sometime in 2012 I can return to Thailand and add more photos to this series. 8x10 Tri-x is expensive $65 for a 10 sheet box, I would need probably 400 - 500 sheets so that's like $3250.00 plus taxes.

If I make more of these photos in 2012 I want to concentrate more on the workers from the gogo bars (both men and women). I would also like to continue to photograph people from years past if I can find them and also more ladyboy workers.

I need to start buying film little by little as I have the money and build up my 8x10 film stock for 2012 or 2013.

More Muay Thai Training


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2 Digi Photos From Klong Toey Slum

I made these 2 digi photos so I could find the entrances to peoples homes to give them back portraits I shot of them. This is the area I worked in last year the railway track part of Klong Toey with peoples slum shack homes on each side.





Wall Of Champions

The gym had a wall of photos of champions who had trained there.




A Couple Of Very Short Vids

These were made by accident when I was trying to take a digital photo to remember the names/ages of the people I photographed with my 4x5 camera.

The first very short video is of Nu 12 the young boxer from the earlier training video.


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The second is of a young girl who lived in a shack behind the gym with her family, Dong 7.


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Young Boxers

A couple of digi identification shots of the younger boxers at the gym.

Bop 13 and Nu 12

Tong 17 Bop 13 and Nu 12

Jet Lagged

Am back at work but feel out of sorts, jet lagged I guess. I lost my voice for a while in Korea and have a cough so need to recover from that also.

On Monday my first day off next week the "Fading Lives" show has continuing education adult students (14) coming for a visit. All 3 of us (Larry, Jonathan and myself) are going to talk about our work and answer questions from the students. Jonathan is going to show a video and I will bring my 8x10 camera to show them, I doubt many have worked a large format camera and in the age of digital photography old school stuff like a camera with a bellows and dark cloth might be fun for them to see.

First things first thou I need to get through this work week and recover from my coughing/throat stuff. I am quite excited about developing the Muay Thai film, I need to get started on that soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Video: Joh The Monkey Grooming Milo The Dog

The top vid is of Joh the gyms monkey grooming one of the gyms dogs, Milo. The gym had 3 dogs and 1 monkey, each dog was tied up or caged but was walked daily, they all got cared for and attention from everyone. The monkey Joh was also chained but would be walked around the gym, hugged and petted by various people. She was a local celebrity of sorts, Thais from the neighborhood would come and give her food (she was quite fat). Joh was also a highlight on the slum tour that farangs would take with a Thai guides on bicycles (mentioned in an earlier blog. One day when I was there making pictures Joh got free and quickly gathered up her chain in her little monkey hands so that no one could catch her then proceeded to climb up into areas where she should not be (one hand holding the gathered up chain and the other used for climbing), eventually she came down and surrendered, a tough little lady.


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Video: Training At Klong Toey Slum Gym

The first video is of Bell and Gaew skipping rope in the gym, its part of the warm up before the more serious training begins. The second video is of Gaew 17 working out with trainer Bong later on in the 3 hour training session. This video is not as intense as some of these workout gets, on some of the training days I saw Bong really push his boxers to work hard so that they would be ready for the ring. He would scold them and challenge them to be the best they could be, slapping them (with the training glove firmly) if there was an opening but also praising them and encouraging them when they did something right. Bong is a former champion Muay Thai boxer and has also won the trainer of the year award in Thailand, he wants whats best for his boxers. Muay Thai is a serious sport with potentially deadly consequences, you need to train hard so that that you limit the danger you face in the ring. For many of the young men and boys at this gym boxing is the only thing that prevents them from being pulled into a life of crime or substance abuse, Muay Thai, the gym, and the trainers give them the love and discipline they need as well as a firm foundation to build a life on.


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Video: Nu Training with Bong at the Klong Toey gym

This is Nu a young Muay Thai boxer at the Klong Toey gym training with Bong, Nu is 12 years old and a talented boxer. Bong was joking and having fun with Nu who is a very serious young man (when it comes to his boxing!), but he let his guard down and smiled-laughed after these videos were shot (you can also hear Nu laughing in the video #2 at one point). When Nu smiles his whole face lights up, I shot several 4x5 portraits of him, hopefully some will turn out. The trainer Bong (Khune Kai Sri Wit) loves Muay Thai and the young boxers he trains, he tries to the best he can for them so that they can be good boxers in the ring and good people outside the ring. When Bon one of the older boxers from the gym was knocked out in a professional match Bong was very upset about it (I shot photos of Bon recovering from the knockout, will post those later).

Sorry for the low quality unedited vids, they were shot on my last last day with my cheap digital camera. I had a better quality video camera in my room but it was just to much to carry, I was already carrying a 4x5 camera, 2 lens, 25 film holders, a Leica rangefinder with 28mm lens, along with a spot meter, 35mm film, portable flash, tripod, reflector etc. Next trip I might try to get the higher quality video camera out and shoot a few vids, I would love to do some interviews, thou I am not sure my Thai is up to that.

Note: the knockdowns are part of the training and something that happens often in real matches, the boxers need to learn about it at a young age. The floor of the gym has a 1/2 inch thick layer of well used rubbery material to help the boxers avoid injuries. The gym is built in the open air under a freeway, the roof of the gym is the underside of the concrete freeway (you can see this in the second set of training videos above where the boxers are jumping rope).


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Back In Canada

Back in Canada after about 24 hours in the air, 3 airplanes, Bangkok to Taipei, Taipei to Vancouver and Vancouver to Edmonton. I got 3 seats and was able to sleep for about 6 hours on the Taipei to Vancouver run (12 hour flight).

Tonight am back at work, I feel a bit jet lagged but not to bad so should be able to work the next 5 nights without to many problems. I have the first student night at the "Fading Lives" show Monday at 330pm, my first day off, so I need to be awake for that.

This first student night will be continuing education photography students coming to see the show, ask questions. We all might do a short lecture on the photographs, Jonathan will bring a video to show and I might take my 8x10 camera for the students to see and play with, they are all digi people I believe so might never have operated a large format 8x10 before.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Last Day In Bangkok

I got up early and took a taxi down to the slum shacks on the klong I photograpohed last year with the xpan (see link).

Klong Toey slum shacks and canal

 This year I felt much more comfortable shooting there, it was very noisy with cars, trucks, taxis, tuk tuks and motorcycles wizing by. I felt at peace and was able to concentrate on making the photos even waved at 5 or 6 people who came out of their shacks to say hello or to do some work. At one point I even was crawling around in the muddy areas under the freeway pillars trying to get a more telling composition. Gosh I love this country, it is so filled with life, so filled with activity, so filled with photographic stories to tell.

Now its back to the room to pack away todays film, then pack my bag a quick shower and I am off to the land of ICE hockey.

Back In Bangkok

 Back in Bangkok after a 5 hour flight and a crazy drive in a Taxi back from the Airport. The constant noise of Bangkok has my ears buzzing. I feel very much at home here thou. I helped 2 Korean girls on their first trip to Thailand at the airport, its like I am part Thai, I feel very comfortable. Speaking Thai again and being in this world again seems so easy after the confusion and isolation of Korea.

I hope to get up early tomorrow (its now 2330 hrs) and shoot a few slum shacks (18 sheets of 4x5 film left) next to a  Klong Toey canal. I only have a few hours to do the photography as I depart for Canada tomorrow evening.  So its to bed as early as I can, then getting up early, shooting, back to the room, a quick shower, packing then back to the airport. I hope tomorrows Taxi driver does not try to set a land speed record like today's did! The driver I got tonight must have been on some kind of drugs (yabaa? an amphetamine) he had wild eyes which kept darting about paranoia like and at one point got into a heated argument with a motorcycle driver he cut off.

I only shot 11, 35mm films in Korea so do not expect many good photographs, I was not inspired by the country photographically. I did enjoy my time in Korea thou, lots of nice food, and to see an entirely new country/culture/society was exciting.

Excuse Me You Forgot Your Money

Today in Seoul before I left I visited a bank machine. At the machine a young man hurriedly worked the buttons before sprinting off. The Korean girl next in line, looked down at the machine then yelled out to the man who was 30 meters away by this time. The young man man had forgotten to take his money!, from what I saw it looked like about $200. He came back thanked her and walked off shaking his head.

Korean people like Japanese are very honest. I have been told that if you leave your bag somewhere on the street in Seoul no one will steal it, it will be there when you return. You have to admire a people that create such a safe harmonious world.

Shy People

On the elevator today when I was leaving the Love Hotel a very shy attractive young couple got on the elevator. They were obviously embarrassed to be in the hallway of the hotel ( they were standing in front of the dildo sex toy vending machine!). I think the reason everything is done so secretly at these hotels is because of the tabooish nature of this type of behaviour in Korean society. Even the car park has ropes hanging down like drapery to hide the expensive cars in the hotel parkade. They try to make the coming and the going into love hotels along with your stay there as comfortable and discreet as possible.

Stare Down

In Thailand there are always women looking at you and staring you down, they just keep looking and looking till you look away. In Korea I did not find any staring, all the women tended to look away. I got a boost to my fragile male ego thou on the last day on a bus ride to Seoul. A 27ish  pretty Korean women stared at me once when I was sitting in the bus, a second time when I got back on the bus after a 15 minute break, and a 3rd time in a stare down where I shyly looked away first. It all means nothing, I am not looking to chase women but it is still always nice to be noticed by the opposite sex especially when your heading into old age as I am, 47!

Bowing Boy

Went to a supermarket yesterday filled with hundreds of people. At the entrance to the market was a young boy who would give a bow (45 degree) as each person walked in. Gosh this guy must get worn out bowing like that all day long. Bowing for hundreds of people possibly thousands daily seems much more difficult than the Thai custom of waing people at the door of a restaurant or after a purchase. A tough gig!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Massage In Korea

Men in Korea often come to massage shops for not only massages but also for sex. There are many types of massage parlors in Korea, some with foreign workers from Thailand, China etc. The going rate for a massage here is $50 for an hour, $70 for 1 hour 30 minutes and $90 for 2 hours.

Some shops allow their workers to do sex but many do not. If a man wants to get masterbation its costs about $50 and for sex its about $100-$150. Many men will come into the shops that do not sex and still request it from the giirls, men of all ages will ask for sex often men into their 70s will request it. For the girl who does not do sex its a constant battle keeping the man in line and staying away from his wandering hands. Some men will even pay to touch a womans body. The girls in these places tell stories of how the men will come in drunk and unwashed, how they do not want to take a shower before their massages, how their feet and other body parts smell.

Heard one story about a man who came into a massage shop and was very drunk and unclean. The girls in the shop refused to do what he requested, even one of the girls who did masterbation regularly did not want to to perform for him. Finally the last girl in the shop a 40 year old but who was still pretty and had kept her figure (so looked younger) accepted. This lady had a family, no husband with many children in Northern Thailand and was desperate to make money so did sex with her customers. She did sex with this man and made $70 (cheap price), afterwards the man was very generous and ordered a whole table of food to share with the girls.

Soju

Soju is the Korean equivalent of Japanese saki. I do not drink but I have been told that soju is stronger than saki and has a similar taste to vodka, it has an alcohal content of 18.5 to 45%.

Everytime (6 times) I have gone out at night to eat I see Soju in small green bottles on the tables around me. Tonight over a pork, shrimp grill meal I saw upwards of 7 drunk Korean men at the same restaurant. Drinking seems to be very very common here, sort of a national pastime, among both men and women but more so among men.

Smoking is also very common, you see smokers in restaurants and all over the streets (men). The smoking problem does not seem to be as big here as it is in China but going to internet shops or restaurants filled with smokers is still a pain.

Love Hotel Part 2

Checked into a higher class love hotel in Seoul tonight.

- hard wood floors
- very clean large room
- large double bed
- air conditioner
- water kettle
- fancy mirror next to bed
- 45 inch flat screen tv with cable ( watching The Mummy)
- small fridge
- sterilization machine (for cups, glasses)
- surround sound stereo
- cold, hot water machine
- blow dryer, 3 towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair spray, hair gell, combs, toothpaste, tooth brush, shaver, shaving phone, q-tips, after shave, perfume, comb, brush
- house coat
- there is also a very large bathroom complete with a jacuzi bathtub.

I got a package given to me at the rececption (again no passport check)

- 3 condoms
- various gels and lubricants
- bubble bath

I also am online for free, the room comes complete with a pc plus internet connection. The hardest part is getting all this stuff to work, all lights, buttons, keyboard are in koreon. I think there is a dvd machine here also that I am trying to track down.

The price for all of this? $40, I think thats a discount its Sunday and they originally asked for $50. Korea might be expensive in someways but a room of  this quality would be impossible to get in Canada or even Thailand at this price.







Saturday, September 24, 2011

Liking Korea

Photographically I do not find Korea to compelling but I like other parts of this society. I had a wonderful meal of shellfish at a night marker here last night. Being with hundreds of Koreans eatcing and relaxing was refreshing, fellt less like a tourist last night.

I have the feeling Koreans are extremely nationalistic. There is a chain of hamburger franchises here that are obviously modeled on McDonalds. Even the design of the picture menues is exactly the same as McDonalds designs, as is the red and yellow logo. Koreans go to the copy cat Korean owned franchise much more than they go to the McDonalds version of the same food.

I also wonder about racism in this society. Since I have been here I have not seen one interacial couple on the street. From what I know its taboo for a Korean girl to have a Western boyfriend. You would think a few girls would rebel and have them but I have yet to see. I probably have to go to more Western male areas of Seoul to see that. In the cities I have visited I am might see 1 or possibly 2 Western people each day.

Flying back to Bangkok tomorrow, kind of wish I had more time here to explore the country and this culture, maybe I can return to Korea at some future date.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sitting On My Ass

Not finding much interesting to photograph here, been laying around sleeping and visiting the beach. I did a few shots of water running through rocks with the Leica but there is not much that catches my eye here photographically.

Korean society in general seems like a slightly poorer version of what I saw in Japan in 1999. The people are polite  but the only time they seem to really come out of their shell is when they have been drinking. Everything seems pretty well controlled here, even the cars in parking lots fit into boxes (4 sided lines). I get the feeling that most people here conform and fit into boxes just like the cars in the parking lots. I see a few people dressing and acting differently but for the most part everyone seems to dress and look mostly the same, simliar clothes, haircuts and glasses.

I am not sure what the deal is but a very high percentage of Korean men where glasses here, it seems like 70% of them wear glasses. People are also completely obsessed with their cell phones, on the subways it is not strange to see the 7 people seated opposite you to all be doing something on their cellphone (not talking but playing games, music, tv, movies, internet etc).

Will be going back to Thailand in the next few days before returning to Canada. I will be well rested so the flight home should be a bit easier. I am looking forward to getting into the darkroom and developoing the Klong Toey portraits. If I have anything good I plan to do muliple submissions.

Korean Gentleman?

So there I am on a Seoul subway train, a middle aged Korean couple in front of me standing and chatting away. A seat in front of them opens up, without asking or even looking at the woman the Korean man sits down and gets comfortable. The Korean lady looks at him and then lovingly adjusts hi hair with her fingers, a smile and laugh in her eyes, true love! 10 minutes or so pass then another seat opens up and the lady is able to sit beside her man.  Being a gentlman Korean style?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Korea

Been in Korea a few days now, not much photogaphy going on but am enjoying the R&R part of this trip. I was sort of burnt out lugging the 4x5 around Bangkok with 25 filim holders etc. Now I am only carrying my Leica and doing a few street and subway photos.

I stayed at a motel last night in Seoul. The motels here are a lot cheaper than the hotels. The motel I stayed in last night was a love style motel (big mirror opposite the bed, dildo machine in the lobby etc.) The room cost $35 which is not that bad a price, quite a nice room outside of the black pubic hair on one of the white towels, ICK!

Wanted to go to see the DMZ line seperating the North and South but it seems quite complicated. I need to apply for a security pass that takes 48 hours then pay for  tour from a company for the trip up North and back. I only have 6 more days in Korea so not sure I will do this, might just got to the rural areas of South Korea and maybe see some of the beaches etc.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Off To Korea

Tomorrow I am taking a plane to Korea, I should be there until the 26th. I am not sure what kind of Internet access I will have in Korea, I might not be posting for a while.

This trip has been great so far, I am tired but content. I got to meet people and to see into a world that I had never seen before, and I had the chance to make photographs of what I found, life does not get much better than that!

Yauk Doo!!!!!!!!!

At one point today after I arrived at the gym I decided to see if I could go to the gyms running area and take a few photos of some of the children. I wanted to do some heads, upper body and heads of the children. Lets flash forward about 10 minutes, I now have children all around me, they are playing with my film holders (not touch, please do not touch!), they are swinging from my tripod, and everyone is trying to take photos with my cable release. At one point I start lifting a lineup of young boys and girls aged 9 to look through the camera. The camera is to high for them mounted on the tripod but they all want to see through the 4x5, so one at a time I lift them up so they can look through the camera. Every time I think I am done, I look down and there is another little one saying to me "Yauk Doo!" ( I want to look!). I think there must have been 20 of them and they got heavier and heavier! All saying to me "Yauk Doo!!!!!"

Thai kids are a joy to be around, so curious, polite and usually smiling and laughing. I tried to make some honest portraits of them, they were children of the slum after all, hopefully they will rise above their circumstances and live long happy lives.

I still can see their faces in my minds eye, darn cute kids, so full of life. I hope the photos do them justice. Making pictures in that crowd was difficult, I had to try and control the attack to be photographed. The children asked my name and later on one young girl named Dong and one young boy Bank both remembered my name and asked when I would return, I told them 2 months. Later on Dong told me, "2 months right?" I said "Yes will come back in 2 months." I think a lot of people say they will return but never do, I plan on keeping my promise to her.

I want to come back in 2 months and give them all some nice photographs. I will have to work my butt off when I get back home to get all this film developed and to make free prints to give out. I only have about 6 weeks between trips, when I return to Canada I go right back into my 12 hour night shifts. I would like to laminate the RC prints if possible, in the humidity and dirt of the slum normal prints will not last long.

Saying Goodbye

I said goodbye to the people at the gym today, I told them I would return in about 2 months. I also donated another 1000 baht to help pay for food etc to Khune Dti the gyms boss. Wai's were given all around, I hope that in 2 months I can give these people some good photographs and hopefully make some more that are even better.

They want me to try and promote the gym in Canada to try to get farang boxers to come and study there. I am not sure I will have much chance to do that but if the opportunity presents itself I will do anything I can to promote the trainers and gym of Klong Toey, 96 Pi Neung.

There is a place I know of in Edmonton that does Muay Thai training maybe I can go there and talk to some people about the gym.

Videos

My last day at the gym today I made some low quality videos of some of the training. I hope to post them when I get back to Canada. I have a wonderful little video of Khune Pong (head trainer) working with New a young Muay Thai boxer with real promise, they are both working hard and yet also having fun joking and laughing in the video. I also made a video of the gym's monkey Joh grooming one of the gym's dogs Milo.

Hopefully the quality of the videos will be good enough for people to enjoy online.

Exhausted

Today was tough, I enjoyed making the photos as always but lugging around my 4x5 through the slum on motorbikes, in taxis, up and down stairs is wearing me out. My 4x5 kit is as follows;

- Linhof 4x5 2000
- carbon fiber tripod with Manfrotto head
- 25 4x5 filim holders
- Flash for the 4x5
- reflex viewfinder for the Linhof
- Pentax spot meter
- 150mm Nikon lens
- 75mm Schneider lens
- 300mm Nikon lens (did not bring it on today's shoot).
- silver/gold folding reflector

I also took my Leica with 28mm F 2 and 11 rolls of Tri-x today.

Lugging all that STUFF in the heat/dust/noise of Bangkok wheres you out. In the future I have to work on my conditioning before doing trips like this. I am 47, I will not be able to continue to do this in the future unless I get into better shape.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Charge Of The Joh Brigade

So there I am today taking pictures of the trainers at the gym sitting at a table talking and playing with Joh (the gyms pet monkey). I am shooting away, I guess Joh did not like the flash because she took a run at me. I am looking through my 28mm on the Leica when all of a sudden the whole viewfinder is full of Monkey eyes and teeth! Luckily it was more of a bluff attack because before I reacted she had already pulled up and went back to the loving arms of the head trainer.

Worthwhile

This trip has already been sucessfull, I feel it has been worthwhile even before I have seen any of the photographs. I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people, and to learn a bit about the life of a Muay Thai boxer. I got to hang out where they lived and trained, and to spend some time with them, talking, joking, watching and making photographs.

Ain't life grand!

Bot

Today I photographed Bot 13 as he was working with another young boxer acting as a training. They had Bot going hard for at least 30 minutes, doing multiple kicks and punches at the trainers hand pads. Bot is a nice boy with huge smile, when he laughs his whole face lights up. I photographed him as he punched and kicked at the trainer and afterwards when he was covered in sweat.

Muay Thai gives these boys a chance to make something of themselves. It disciplines them and keeps them out of the booze and drugs that is so common in the slum. Boys like Bot who might have no one looking out for them can come to the gym, learn, be cared for and feel pride in their accomplishments.

One More Day in Klong Toey Slum-Gym

I have one more day to shoot in Klong Toey this trip. I will be traveling to Korea on Sunday afternoon so tomorrow will be my last full day of shooting in Thailand.

I am going to try to get out earlier so I can photograph the canal houses I photographed last trip as well as people along the railway track. At 3pm I will return to gym to make my last training photographs, portraits.

Today went well, did lots of portraits including some of a veteran champion boxer named Khune You, who is 30 years old and studied Muay Thai for 22 years.

Joh the female monkey bit an old women who works at a restaurant across from the gym this afternoon. I want to try and photograph this old woman tomorrow if I can, she has a kind face.

There is also a man named Khune Bao I hope to photograph, he speaks English and was a sailor when he was younger, he traveled the world and said he had a women in every country.

Lum Doy

Lum Doy is a young boxer at the gym, he is 17 years old with a shy smile that comes out at any opportunity. He seems like such a sweet boy I wonder if he has the anger and drive to be a champion boxer. All the boxers I have met are polite to me, all like to joke an smile and laugh. You can see thou that some boxers have a bit of Mike Tyson in them a intensity, an anger that can drive them in the ring, I wonder if Lum Doy has this quality.
I want to have both intensity and kindness in my photographs. Typically boxing portraits are rather harsh and show the predator nature of the fighter personality, I hope my portraits can also show the more human side, the more human qualities in these people.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Gym Photos

Took more photos at the outdoor gym today. I feel part of a family now, people know my name, sit down and talk to me. I was waied maybe 10 times today which is nice. People are not really surprised to see me (today was my 5th day), they seem almost to expect me to be there.

Today I did not speak English at all, that seems to happen more more to me in Thailand. In the last week there might have been only 1-2 days where I spoke English. What is kind of cool is that you start responding to people without thinking of what your saying, it just starts flowing naturally out of your mouth. Before when I spoke Thai I would think of each sentence before I said it, now many times something happens and it just comes out naturally. If I could live in Thai long term I am sure I would become fluent, my problem is I keep getting to the stage I am at now then returning to Canada and forgetting everything.

I also learned more about Khune Pong's life, how he trains farang and Japanese children at another gym. I also learned his wife is Khune Gop (the lady that runs the store across from the gym). He seemed subdued today so I went and talked to him. I asked him if he was tired, he said he had a tired heart (family problems).

I took more photos of the younger boxers today but am unsure how successful they will be. I have little experience using the 4x5 with direct flash. I am worry about the shadows and the depth of focus (shooting at f11 with a 150mm).

Hopefully the photos will turn out if not then I will just re shoot them with the razzle (Kermit) 4x5 I should be getting from Australia soon. That camera is handheld with a 90mm lens so should be a bit easier to handle in fluid situations like the gym.

!!!!!!!!Noise!!!!!!!

Whats with all the noise! I feel like Thai people must be deaf. Today as I was taking photos in the empty gym I counted the noises

1) Dog Barking, and not stopping, continuous barking for 30 minutes (from cage in gym. There are 3 dogs and 1 monkey in the gym)
2) Loud Thai music and singing (from a few shacks down)
3) Roosters crowing (from rooster storage area next door)
4) Cars and trucks, some without mufflers Ifrom overhead freeways, 2 nearby)
5) Train and train horn (on tracks 50 feet away)

I love Thailand but damn its noisy here, I hate the noise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Different Worlds

I had 2 conversations tonight with 2 very different people living in the same city but in completely different worlds. I spoke English to X and Thai to Y.

1) Sex pat X....who I have known for 12 years. X, has been a sex tourist in Thailand since the mid 90s and before that for 10 years in the Philippines. His whole life is about sex and finding new girls to take up to his room. Today X was talking to me about the good old days when this bar was open and that disco had so many beautiful girls etc. He talked about how the prices for the girls was cheaper, how life back then was so wonderful. When I left him he was going upstairs to his room with a 18 year old girl who was half his size and maybe 1/3 his weight. (X is about 68).

2) Taxi driver Y...Y is a man with 3 children (2 daughters and 1 son) he supports by driving a taxi in Bangkok. His children live in Issan province on a farm where everything is cheaper. He works 12 hours a day driving taxi and in the good old days (10 years ago, about the same time period sex pat X was talking about) he told me how he used to send 5000 baht a month back home but now he could only send 4000. He talked about how the price of various foods had doubled or even tripled in price and yet he was making less and less money.

2 men, same city, same night but 2 very different worlds.

Rats!

So there I am having my last meal of the day in my favorite restaurant. Everyday I go to a restaurant on a street near my room that serves Issan style (Issan is the Northeast province in Thailand) foods. Everyday I try a brand new dish I have never eaten before, I can read Thai well enough plus they have pictures so I have a pretty good idea what I will get. Today I ordered a new kind of som tom along with rice, sticky rice, water and fried chicken wings. The meal was good I was enjoying it and was about 1/2 way through when I look to my left and see a rat the size of a small cat be herded out of the open air restaurant by one of the staff with a long metal stick. Now I have seen rats in Thailand before many times and even seen rats in restaurants but this rat was huge, dirty and had some kind of anal related issues/problem! It kind of put me off my feed a bit but the Thais were joking about it, I guess I am not quite at that Thai level of comfort yet with some of the less savory things, am still a farang at heart.

Working With Child

Saw something yesterday I thought would be worth mentioning when I was leaving the slum. I decided to go to a nearby mall to let an hour pass before trying to get a taxi. To get to the mall I took motorcycle taxi, the motorbike driver was a women (rare) what was stranger and something I had never seen before was that she worked with her young son maybe 4 years old. When we were about to leave the young boy came over and jumped on to the front of the motorbike after his mother called to him. I asked her if he was her son and she said yes. I guess what happens is because she does not have any kind of child care she takes her son to work. He crunches down in the front of the motorbike without a helmet holding onto the steering wheel. It was almost like a baby kangaroo in his pouch. It must be quite a thing to do this on a daily basis, to have your child on your bike as your weaving through the pollution and the cars of a Bangkok traffic jam. I must try to get a portrait of the 2 before I leave.

When I heard a sex tourist farang tonight bitching about the Thai motorcycle taxi drivers, I thought about this woman and her child. The woman did not talk much and  she seemed very depressed, her life must be very diffiuclt, what future will her son have?

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Tomorrow I hope to get to the slum early and shoot more than 50 sheets. I want to do some head portraits of people I have already talked to in available light then shoot in the gym later on with flash. I have 200 sheets of 4x5 film left so need to shoot at least 150 sheets of that in the next few days. I want to make a submission of the boxing work to galleries back home and might try submitting some of those portraits to the Foundation For the Arts in Alberta and possibly to the national program as well.

Hopefully all will work out well and some good work will come out of this, I so want to bring back some good photos to the people at the gym.

616pm now, got to go back out into the bar world now, its getting dark, wish me luck.

Hello Sexy Man

I came to the Sukhumvit  farang bar area of Bangkok to day for a change of pace, cannot wait to get back to the slum! This world of farang chasing sex is tiring and after a few hours here I am bored with it. I just want to touch base with a few people I know but then I am outa here!

I get tired of the non Thai nature of this area of Bangkok, the hunger for money and the anti Thai feelings many farang here here. I met an American man today who was  72 and quite large who told me he wanted to find a Lao wife but she had to be at most 40 probably 35 or 30. This man was fat but told me if the girl is pom puey (fat) he does not want to be around her and would tell her to go away.  Then there was his theory on why Thai women work the bars mostly according to him to breed the next generation of 15 year old girls who will work till they are 30. The Amercian had lived 8 years in Bangkok but had very little understanding on the true nature of Thailand or the Thai people. He talked a lot about the girls he had sex with and how over time he grew bored with it, at first it was like 3 girls a day now its 1 or 2 every couple of weeks.
Get tired of this crap talk, I get tired of this negative understanding of Thailand and Thai culture. Here in the bar scene I meet rich and successful farang that travel the world. Yet I would much rather sit with Khune Pong in the slum as he trains a Yong Thai boy to become a Muay Thai boxer, a man like that does real good, he helps change the lives of the people that surround him for the better. The farang guys in the hotels and bars of the area I am in now are only into selfish self gratification.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Orphaned Boys

Many of the boys in the gym are orphaned or have mothers and fathers who gave them to the gym so that they could lead a more disciplined life free of booze and drugs. They go to school, then come to the gym and train everyday but Sunday. The kids are polite and well behaved and most of the young bodies of boxers, very lean with muscle tone. They have very limited knowledge of the outside world, today one boy was surprised when I told him that if you drove from my city Canada to the Southern USA it might take 3 days.

Yesterday I donated some money for food to the gym owner and head man Khune Dti, I will have to try and save a bit more to donate when I leave. I am so blessed to be born into the life I was born into in Canada. To have the opportunity to see the worlds I see now and to chase my dreams with my cameras is all a result of just being born at the right place to the right parents. So many of the children in the world no matter how hard they work will never have the opportunities I take for granted.

Very Happy I Came

I was worried that my 3 week trip might be to short and to expensive. I am very happy I came thou, things are working out wonderfully. I have met some amazing people and the Klong Toey Muay Thai gym has taught me so much about the sport, the trainers and the young athletes that work toward their dreams. It has also taught me about the brutality of what can happen when things go wrong.

When I watch Khune Pong train his fighters he pushes them, yells at them, fights back smacking them when they leave an opening. He also laughs and jokes and encourages them when they box well. I can see he loves the sport and loves the boys he is training, he wants them all to do really well. He is a simple man who does not have much education (and is embarrassed and shy about that fact) but I think he is a good man with the heart of a lion, I am not surprised he was a big time champion in Muay Thai.  I hope today I took a portrait worthy of him (last night he told me he had a record of 90+ fights).

Back Making Photos At The Gym

Arrived late at the gym today but still managed to get all my film shot about 50 sheets of 4x5 film. I hope this flash photography works out, its the only way I can shoot the 4x5 in the gym there is just not enough light. I shot most of the boxers as they worked out and the head trainer Khune Gai Sru Wit (Pong). I wish I had the 90mm Razzle camera now, it might work very well in this situation. Hopefully it will be at my home when I get back to Canada and I can bring it to the gym during my November Thai trip.

Lots of people are learning my name (today was my 4th day shooting day), I even have some of the boys calling me over to photograph them. I lost the use of my pen today so sort of screwed up my naming system but hopefully can catch up tomorrow, I need to pack a back pen. I had back up batteries, cables etc but no back pen. Its always something!

I asked Khune Pong how long Bon would not train for he told me that after the knockout they would not train for 1 week. I did not see Bo there either so after his fight loss by decision he must be taking a few days off as well, no doubt he is quite sore.

They did one thing quite interesting today. Khune Gop the lady who owns the shop across from the boxing ring (not sure what her exact connection to the gym is), came into the gym and starting spreading/sprinkling/flipping water around. She used some kind of plant leaf that she dipped in a water container then spread water droplets around the gym. I asked Khune Pong about it and he told me that the ritual is called "Naum Mon", it is a Buddhist ritual designed to purify the gym. I think it is also done because of the violent nature of Muay Thai, the ritual cleanses the negative spirits associated with Muay Thai.

Malaysia Hotel

The first time I came to Thailand I stayed at the Malaysia hotel in Bangkok the year was 1996. In the years since not much has changed. In 1996 I did not realize it but the Malaysia was mostly a gay farang tourist hotel today it is still mostly by gay men from around the world. When I went to the hotel restaurant today their were four older men with very brown skin rubbing suntan oil on their bodies and laying around the pool. Guess these guys had not heard of skin cancer because they were just lopping up the sun, it would have been interesting to talk to and photograph these men thou the g-string bikini swimsuit with potbelly was a bit much.

When I woke up today I had a sore left archilles tendon again and had problems walking. I thought if I went to have a massage it might help and it did help. I also got to meet an old friend I had not seen for maybe 8 years. The lady that gave me my first ever Thai massage still worked in the shop, she now has aged 22 and 19, and is a relationship with a 50+ year old farang male. I was happy to see her but also a bit sad, she had aged and had some kind of problem with her hair, she seemed to be going bald hopefully its not the sign of a bigger health issue. Its strange to meet someone you know but have not seen for a long time, I no doubt have changed as much to her as she has to me. She took extra care of my injury and the massage seems to have helped it quite a bit, the wonders of Thailand! A 2 hour massage is not something I could afford in Canada.

Monday, September 12, 2011

All Night Service

You got to love big cities like Bangkok. I arrive back on my street from the stadium at 11pm, go to have a meal at Foodland (a all night grocery store and restaurant), then I buy a bunch of cheap Thai fruits. Instead of going home I go to the Internet cafe and type out these blogs at 1240am, all on a Monday evening- Tuesday morning. Hundreds of cars are racing by the cafe as I type, you got to love it! This city is alive!

From An Email To A Friend

...today I was photographing chickens on a garbage strewn railway track...photographing training (the smell of sweat and garbage in the air)..photographing a guy who was cleaning a fighting rooster he washed them down...photographing young children in the slum (cute)...old ladies gossiping and sleeping in the slum...photographing Thai boys playing La-Goh (the kicking volley ball type game sport).. and just about 2 hours ago I was photographing Bon one of the boxers from the gym out cold as the medical staff was giving him smelling salts...

this place is so different from the Pattaya bar world, .....I am really starting to feel part of a Thai family..

Shot a lot, anything good?

I shot a lot of film today but am sure how much good stuff I got, used the flash for maybe 60% of the photographs but I had no choice as the light was low, boy am I glad I brought it! I was thinking that I might not bring the flash but it has been extremely important for me, both the Leica flash and the flash I use with the Linhoff.

Tomorrow I plan on taking the 4x5 out again and shooting a bunch of portraits of the boxers. I am getting close to the people at the gym now, I am no longer that farang to many of them but instead they are asking and remembering my name. I also know the names of about 1/2  of the boxers and trainers, maybe 15 people.

Many of the younger boxers smile and wai me when they see me (a sign of respect) and I am even being boxed at. The people in the gym always play box, had that happen to me 3 or 4 times today. Khune Gai Sri Wit even showed me how to block a round house kick with my leg. I am really starting to feel like part of the family. Thought today how great it would be to do a documentary movie on the people and the gym, I am not really a movie maker, but heck there is a first time for everything! Maybe something to think about!

Chon Gai

Met a man today in the slum who told me about chon gai which is rooster fighting. The mans name was Khune Boo and he showed me several of his large roosters, one was especially beautiful, a golden color that was bred from a Cambodian rooster it was larger than the Thai roosters which are black in color.

I hope I can do some portraits of the people involved in this sport. I asked him if they attached knifes to the rooster legs when they fought and he told me they do. He also said they can only fight/gamble in a certain place, if they try to arrange matches outside these areas the police will arrest them. There is lots of gambling etc. Thai men love to gamble.

This last saturday during the Muay Thai matches on Tv the area around the gym was filled with yelling and betting as men gambled on the outcome between the red and blue fighters. In the gym there is a snooker table that is always being played, gambling is a must 2, 3 or 4 players compete with bets going back and forth money flying around the table.

Bon Knocked Out

There were 2 boxers from the gym at the Ratchadamnoen Stadium fights tonight, one fighter named  Bo lost by decision the second fighter was Bon 20 years old who had been training for 14 years since he was 6. Bon fought well through round 1 and 2 and I thought he was dominating the other Muay Thai boxer. Then in round 3 WHAM, Bon was on the canvas knocked out cold and the other boxer was dancing around the ring and jumping up on the ropes with his hands in the air.

The medical people ran into the ring with a stretcher and quickly placed Bon on it and whisked him out of the ring to the medical room. I was not sure if I could follow but since a Thai photographer and videographer ran after the stretcher so did I. They took Bon to a medical room and when I got there were splashing water on his face and putting smelling salts other his nose, he was slow to wake up it took about 2 minutes before he could sit up. Bon had been out cold, they asked him a few questions and he answered and that was it, out of the medical room and onto a chair outside. Then within 2 minutes of him being taken out of the medical room the videographer starts filming and a media guy sits down and starts interviewing Bon, he asked him a number of questions I could not hear but it looked like the interviewer was not getting much out of Bon because after 5 or 6 questions he stopped the interview. This is the first time I have ever seen a concussed athlete being interviewed so quickly after being unconscious, did they expect him to be able to speak fluently on what the right hook to the chin did to him? Bon was half awake and confused he did not need to have a microphone pushed into his face.

Khune Gai Sro Wit said on the ride home that Bon left his chin open when he through his right hand and should have had his left up at his face protecting his chin. Muay Thai is an extremely tough sport, I watched Bon train and this guy went all out, he was tough! but he made one mistake and he was out cold.

Everyone was down after the knock out, one of the trainers from the gym even said "Sorry" to me, like they let me down or something. I was not let down! being part of this has been extremely gratifying. So many farang come to Thailand and just live on the periphery, I feel like tonight I was right in the mix of what life is like for the people of the Klong Toey slum Muay Thai Gym (96 Pee Nang Boxing Camp)

Another Cool Day

Whenever I take these trips and try to learn and understand by being with the local people and experiencing a bit of their lives, good things, and strange things happen.

3 days ago I knew no one from the Klong Toey Muay Thai gym, today I was racing through traffic with 7 other people packed into a Toyota car. There were 4 people in the back, I was given the preferred passenger seat, a young boy from the gym was sitting on my lap. These people who had no idea who I was just 3 days ago not only drove me to a Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium they also drove me back. 2 of the boxers from the gym were on the card and they asked me to attend, they even got me a discount admission price.

During the matches everything was explained to me by one of the trainers Khune Gai Sroo Wit. Of course everything he told me was in Thai so I only understood a portion of it but  I did get some of what he talked about. One of the nights matches was for 300 000 baht about $9900. At one point I was sitting between 2 trainers and they were both shadow boxing and kicking as a fight went on, yelling and shouting techniques to the boxer, I was pushed and slapped back and forth, I got into it also and was calling out stuff, jumping up and down etc. My position was ringside next to the red corner, the match was a bit to far away to photograph with my 28mm lens but I did try to shoot the excitement of the trainers, the yelling and the shadow boxing.

It was a fun night, knowing people from the gym, both the trainers and the boxers and knowing how hard everyone worked also added a extra element, it felt much more personal.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some Good Food

Got back to the room and packed away the exposed film and loaded a bunch of film in holders and cassettes. I was thinking of just going to bed early but I only had 1 meal today so was quite hungry. I decided to go to my favorite restaurant just down the road, had some dom yum goong with rice, water and a dish of fried chicken pieces for 122 baht ( about $4),  The waitress could not cash my 1000 baht note so I gave her the 100 baht I had in small bills then told her I would go to the 7/11 to get change and return, she was ok with that idea.  On the way to the 7./11 I managed to find (finally) 2 of my all time favorite street stall foods in Thailand, gai tod (fried chicken) and moo tod with kaow nee-ow (fried pork and sticky rice).

You got to love Thailand for its wonderful food! Better get home and to bed now, I got a long day tomorrow.

Oh yeah I dropped off the 20 baht I owed at the restaurant and got a big smile and thank you, khope khune KAA!

The Importance Of Politeness

The importance of politeness when speaking Thai cannot be underestimated. Many times I have found that if I say things in the politetest form I get a much more friendly reception, which is the way it should be! If I use the term Khune (Mr) before a mans name I get a very friendly response from that person, when I referred to one of the boxers as Khune Bon, I got a positive reaction later on from Khune Ti (Khune Poh) the man who runs the gym. Today I when I was at the restaurant I asked for some water and said "Koh Naum Khrup" and got a big smile from the waitress. Both the terms Koh and Khrup are used to ask for something in a polite way, its like "Please can I have some water, thanks."

For me being a farang politeness is a definite added bonus. First off its just the right thing to do but because so few Thai speaking farang actually speak Thai politely, when a farang like me does use the polite terms it sort of super sizes the politeness compared to what a Thai person might get in the same situation using the same language. People are surprised a farang can speak Thai and also like it very much that a farang is making an effort to be polite, to treat them with respect and to treat Thailand and the Thai language properly.

The key is to be respectful and polite in all situations, if you do your most likely going to be treated that way in kind. Today when I was walking through narrow dark pathways in the slum to Khune Rain's home today I was a bit worried, I was carrying maybe $6000 of camera equipment, more than people there might make in 5-10 years. There were men in front of me and behind me some of who smelled of alcohol. I had no problems thou, everyone was polite, everyone treated me well.

It has been another lucky trip to Thailand for me. I hope the photos turn out well, I want to return and give them to the people I photographed today when I return in November.

Tomorrows Plans

I think I will take the 35mm Leica out tomorrow and put the 4x5 away for a day. I want to shoot some more 35mm Klong Toey stuff in case I get a show at the Kaasa Gallery next year (have made a submission of last years 35 work). I also want to take the 35 to shoot at the Muay Thai gym and possibly use it at the stadium later in the day if I am able to watch Bon's match (unsure how much this will cost or if it will happen).

With my day cut short today I should be able to get up very early and get out of the room by 6am, I am not sure when first light is but I want to try shooting some early day stuff with the Leica, my friend Larry suggested I do  this, I want to give that a try this trip.

Not To Hot! Yeah Right!!

So today I am in the taxi heading to the Klong Toey market, from there I take a motorcycle taxi the rest of the way into the slum (most taxi drivers do not like to take their cars into the slum). I am sitting there in the back seat of my taxi during my 30-50 minute ride thinking, hey I do not feel its as hot this trip!, maybe I am getting used to it! I have not sweat much, am not drinking to much water! Maybe I am coming closer to  being a Thai person, maybe the heat does not bother me to much.

Flash forward about 1 hour, I am walking down the train tracks of the slum, have set up my 4x5 camera and am doing a few photos of the tracks, when Wan Chai comes up to me (see earlier blog). I start to photograph Wan Chai and the sweat is just pouring off my face! The sky is overcast there is no sun but I am sweating up a storm, its dripping onto my camera from the tip of my nose, meanwhile Khune Wan Chai is not sweating at all. I have sweat pouring down my forehead into my eyes, running down my face, no mater how many times I white my face with my shirt it starts up again, I have become the sweating falls of Gerry. I am actually wiping down my camera viewfinder for the Linhof, its so wet, drip, drip, drip.

That its not to hot stuff was just wishful thinking on my part, Thailand is hot, damn hot!

Good Day But F-cked Up!

With my day off from the Muay Thai gym I decided to visit some old haunts in Klong Toey, places I photographed last year. I hoped to meet and talk to some of the folks from last year and make some more pictures of them. I got to slum with limited problems, included in the journey is a 10 minute helmet less motorcycle taxi ride to Mercy Center in the heart of Klong Toey. These helmet less rides through Bangkok traffic tempt fate but I have few options as most drivers do not have helmets for their passengers. Today as we drove into the slum the driver and I spotted an accident on an adjacent road, 2 motorcycles had collided and 3 or 4 people were laying on the road not moving, other ran to help carry them off the busy road (hopefully no spinal injuries that could lead to paralysis).

The good part of the day happened now.  I walked to the tracks where I photographed Khune Som Jit last year lugging 13 4x5 holders, my Linhof, tripod, meter, 3 lens plus other odds and ends. I only got part way up the track before I had a semi drunk man start laughing and doing model poses for me. His name as it turned was Wan Chai 40 years old and a Klong Toey resident all of his life. At first I was a bit frightened to talk to him but I launched into Thai and told him who I was and that I was doing, he calmed right down and acted politely and respectfully. I photographed him and another man in that spot named Lek who later apologized to me for being drunk ( the photos were made at about 12 noon on a Sunday). As I was photographing Wan Chai and Lek a third man approached he seemed more of authority in the area, his name was Same 48 years old, he had a job as a driver and made 5000 baht a month (Thais are pretty quick to talk about personal information to strangers). I told him what I was doing and why and he asked me to come to his home. I made a few photos of the group then went with Same to his slum home. In the slum home my plan was to learn about his life a bit and he told me stories of how when it rained the whole bottom floor of his house (slum shack with slanted floor) flooded and he had to sleep upstairs. I also met and made a few photographs of his gf Jao a older women who seemed very responsible (as most Thai women are), she was making flower strings that could be sold on the street to drivers for good luck (they hang them on their rear view mirror), the flower strings (not sure what they are called) are also given to worship Lord Buddha and the monk hood.

So there I am sitting in Khune Same's slum shack, having shot some of my film I ask him if I can change out my holders and put in new film. He says no problem and talks to me as I set up my changing tent. As I am setting up the tent people from the neighborhood all come a running to see the farang, they all peer in the doorway, 4 or 5 different people. One younger lady who can speak English a bit comes in and is all suspicious of me, what are you doing here? What do you want? she asks me in English. I tell her the truth, "I am interested in learning more about Thai culture (I speak both Thai and English to her but more Thai than English), I am photographing people through out Thailand, I photographed monks last year in Chiang Khong, this year I am photographing Muay Thai boxers (gave her a card to the gym that Khune Gai Su Wit had given me). Her mood was softening, then I showed her my picture book, where I learned Thai, pics of mom and dad, me working security etc. This calmed her right down she smiled and left. I think she was just looking out for the well being of the locals, they must get lots of know it all farang showing up trying to religiously convert folks or exploit them in some other way.

So now the f-ck up part of the story, I put my holders in the tent take out the exposed film then wanting to reload the holders I reach into my bag to get the new new film box, F-CK! its not in the bag, I forgot it back at the room! The day was going well, I was getting people to pose, meeting and learning and I run out of fricking film! I still had 5 unused holders (10 shots) and had promised Khune Same some photos (in 2 months) so I asked him if I could take a few more shots of him, we went out into the light and I did some heads plus head and shoulder shots, I also shot several photos of his young stepson Auh who was 10 years old. Out of film I left Klong Toey and came back to my room, it was only 130pm I could have shot for another 3 hours!!!!!. I ended up making only 26 exposures.

Even thou the forgot film mistake kind ruined my day, I am still reasonably happy.

- I am more comfortable carrying and using the 4x5 in the field to make portraits.
- I am more comfortable approaching and photographingh people in Klong Toey
- My technique is becoming smoother and faster (thou I still stumble about a bit)
- I was able to make some good portraits (I hope) and meet new people in the slum, I also got to go behind the scenes and spend time in a slum house and learn a bit about Khune Same's life.

Hopefully these experiences will help future portraits. I feel hings are progressing nicely, everyday becomes easier. I can see how people like Jock Sturges, Fazal Sheikh and Sally Man can just flow with their equipment. You just need to be dedicated and work constantly with the same tools and the tech part fades away, you can just concentrate on creating the right photo mood, you can just concentrate on what you feel and interact and respond to your subject. Hopefully this all eventually leads to a portrait that has something real to say about the person being photographed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Getting Names And Ages

I am getting the names and the ages along with as much history as I can of the persons I photograph. I am following Eleanor Lazare's advice on this, I think she is right it adds to the photographs, humanizes them even more. To accomplish this, I am taking a small digital photo of each person I photograph, and then writing down the number of that photograph next to their information in my notebook. I should be able to file the digital photos/numbers and then refer back to them months-years later when I am naming the successful 4x5  portraits.

Sunday, What To Photograph?

The gym is closed on Sunday so I will not go down there but I still need to make some pictures, where should I go? I thought about doing some sex worker shots but do not think I will do that, I thought of re-photographing some slum housing and canal with the 4x5 but am not sure I want to do that tomorrow (maybe next week).

I finally decided I would like to go visit some of the Klong Toey people I met last year. Khune Som Jit who drives a motorcycle taxi might have tomorrow off work (not sure if he does) but I would like to go down to his home and meet and photograph him again. I think I will revisit old haunts and try to photograph some of the same peole again.
Carrying the 4x5 holders, changing tent, lens, meter etc. in the heat is quite difficult but at least today my achilles did not act up. Last night I tried stretching it several times which seemed to help. I wonder if being dehydrated also contributed to the problem, I have been drinking lots of what lately and I have been feeling better.

Mr Som Tum

Have gone to a local Issan style Thai restaurant 3 nights in a row. Each night I go I eat a different kind of som tum (spicy papaya salad). The first night I had a type I had eaten before, the second night I tried a type with fried pork, then tonight I had som tum with raw pickled crab. All 3 versions were delicious! I eat it with kaow nee-ow (sticky rice) Thai style, you roll up the rice in your fingers and then dip it in the som tum juice, boy is it good!! I usually get lots of stares from the locals (happend 2 times tonight) when they see a farang eating som tum, the spicey part of the meal usually stops most farang from eating it. I have grown used to the spices over the years and eat lots of rice to offset that spicy feeling! Great stuff!

Tonight had normal rice, sticky rice, water, som tum with crab and 6 deep fried shrimp with a nice sauce for 142 baht, about $5. Boy am I going to miss Thai food when I go back to Canada soon.

My Superstar

I have made Thais laugh before when I try (in Thai) to say something funny but today I got the girl Weaw laughing for 3 or 4 minutes (she did that cover the mouth thing as they laugh that many South East Asian girls do).

I had photographed the lady who runs the store opposite the gym (Gop) one time and needed to photographed her again because I set the Fstop incorrectly. The second time I photographed her I did a head and shoulders portrait. When I asked her to come back and do a second series of photos she got excited laughing etc. I said to her and Weaw and another young woman there  that "I want to photograph you again, your my superstar!"

Now I guess you might need to know that superstars in Thailand are like super beautiful women who sort of become celebrities, very sexy girls. I think it was a bit risky to say it but my tone and smile told her I was teasing.  Weaw thought it was very funny and laughed for 3 or 4 minutes. Later when I asked Weaw if I could photograph her as well she was a bit shy but I asked her politely and she agreed. Humor can definitely break down cultural fears and barriers.

I guess my Thai is improving if I can make locals laugh. That is something a French Canadian friend back home told me,  he said "When I told a joke in English and people laughed I knew I was becoming more fluent." This seems to be happening to me a bit now, its also fun to joke around and make friends.

Possibly Some Good Work

Today was a very good day, I felt more comfortable photographing the boxers and the people in the area of the training center. I arrived fairly early around 11am, it was raining softly with overcast light, but under the freeway in the gym area I was able to make some photographs of the gym area. I photographed mostly with a 75mm and was glad I brought it, the exposures were up to 2 minutes at F45. I did forget my watch, so had to use the second hand on a wall clock to time the exposures.

I then reloaded film and did some head and shoulders portraits of some boxers and and other locals, a young woman named Weaw (19) and a older woman named Gop (43) who runs a small store opposite the gym. These portraits were the first I have done here using the zone metering I worked on in Canada. I placed their faces on Zone 6 which might be a bit overexposed but I am not to worried about that. The exposures were a bit long between 1/4-1/2 at F11.5-16, hopefully there was minimul movement. The overcast soft light was beautiful, the expressions seemed so full of life, I want to continue to work this way this trip and into the future (a bit Fazal Sheikh like but with my own subjects). I would like to photograph both Cambodians and Thais this way in the hundreds.

I then reloaded film a second time and waited for the 3pm training session to begin. A bit bored I wandered out into a play area and photographed a young child named Doh (7) as she sat on a rope swing. Saving my film even thou I wanted to photograph more children, I went back to the gym to photograph the boxers training. They were wearing their Muay Thai shorts and all wet from water and the workout, I made a number of portraits of various young boxers putting on their hand wraps, jumping rope etc. Because the light was so low in the gym I had no choice but to use flash so all the exposures were at 1/60 and F11 with the 150mm Nikon. I hope these turn out, I do not have much experience shooting the 4x5 with direct flash.

After I ran out of film I stayed an extra hour or so chatting and watching the training, it was fascinationg. Some of the boxers would round house kick (wonder what the Thai name for that is) the trainers 15 times in under 30 seconds, with power!.

Overall a good day I think.

Farangs Tour The Slum

The last two days I have been in the gym I have seen farang (white skinned Westerners) ride by and stop in from of the gym to take photos of Joh (the gyms female monkey, sort of a mascot that everyone loves). I was told that the farang are part of a tour, that a couple of enterprising Thai guides have set up. Their is one Thai person at the front on a bike and one at the back, with the farang all bunched up in the middle (for safety?) they stopped both times at the gym so the farang could take a quick photo of Joh. Not sure where else the guides take the farang but I guess the slum tour is a daily event. The locals take the touring tourist farang for granted and do not seem to get upset. To drive by on a bike stare at the poverty, the living conditions and then just cycle off seems wrong to me somehow (are the people of Klong Toey creatures in a zoo? a form of entertainment?), they should at least stop and spend time with the locals (talk if possible)and get to know a bit about their lives.

Part Of A Family?

This was only day 2 at the Muay Thai training center (96 Pi-Neung) but I already feel part of a family. The people today offered me food as Thais will do, I got Waied numerous times on arrival. I just felt really comfortable. The head man of the facility Khune Po (Dti -60) talked to me for over 1 hour. I did not understand everything he said but he told me about his life and and the history of the gym. They house 18 young boxers, many of whom do not have a mother or father, no drinking or smoking is allowed and they get a free room and meal. Khune Po told me he used to be a boxer when younger and had a successful career that included 4 years in the USA. He set up the training center to help young children and to make merit (tum boon, making merit in Theravada Buddhism is very important).

It was great to be sitting with these people today, I had my film changing tent out on the table and changed my 4x5 holders as they ate and laughed and told stories next to me, it was fun even thou I only understood a small percentage of what was said.

I was also asked if I want to come to the match one of the boxers Bon (20) is having Monday night at a large Bangkok stadium. I would have to buy an admission ticket but Khune Po gave me his phone number etc that I could use to help me pay a cheaper rate. Not sure exactly how all of this will play out but I plan to go to the gym on Monday and then see how it all develops, the natch is scheduled for 630pm. I hope I can go see it after watching how hard Bon trained. Today he did light work, wore a plastic suit (to drop weight?) and got an oil massage from a trainer. Bon was a bit stand offish to me at first (yesterday) but today he was a bit more open, and even posed for some head and shoulder shots.

I hope to return to the gym in November and give out prints, I hope they turn out well.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Strange but Blessed

Strange to be in this world again, a few days ago I was working nights security in Edmonton and today what am I doing? Standing outside a Muay Thai boxing ring in a Bangkok slum photographing boxers. I am meeting people who have trained their whole lives as boxers, and meeting young boys who dedicate themselves to the sport.

This world is so different than when I photographed the young monk in Chiang Kong or the ladyboy in Pattaya, what a diverse and splendid culture Thailand has. I am so lucky to be able to come to places like this and meet people like I met today, I feel blessed.

I so want to make good portraits, portraits that show the heart of the person. I have to live up to my responsibility to the people I photograph, I have to make important pictures, pictures that will last.

Good Day

The day started out tough but turned out to be quite a good day. I went to bed last night at 8pm and woke up this morning at 9am (13 hours!), when I tried to get up out of bed I could hardly walk, my left achilles tendon hurt like hell. Both achilles on my right and left feet have hurt for a few years but today was the worst its been. I am not sure it was the change in environment or what but I had a hell of a problem. I stretched it for maybe 10 minutes which helped but when walking today I was limping like an old man.

The good part of the day was I was able to find the Muay Thai training gym that I linked earlier from YouTube. At the gym area of Klong Toey I met and talked to upwards of 30 people. In the gym I met 10+ boxers of all ages (8 years old and up), I met 4 trainers, and the man who runs the place. I photographed as best I could but the light was limiting so was not sure how well the shoot went, I shot both hand held availble light 35mm and Leica with a flash on a cord (do not have much experience shooting this way)

Tomorrow my hope is to come back with the 4x5 and to make portraits all day with that camera. I also want to photograph the gym and the surrounding area. The gym is actually built directly under a freeway, the roof of the gym is the underside of the freeway. They also have a boxing ring, gym equipment and various types of bags that all look very very well used. The sit up bench is so well used that its down the foam, no upholstery any longer, the coverying has been all eaten up! The boxers use the same linen to tape their hands everyday, the boxing gloves and other equipment is very well used, the place looked old but also seemed like there was a very high level of dedication by the boxers. Later on in the day when I saw them train live, you could see why all the equipment looked used.

I was surprised how friendly everyone was, I know Thai people are friendly but these folks were super friendly I got 2 pops bought for me during my 6 hour stay, I was offered food etc. I was treated very well and soon felt quite comfortable. I did my best to be polite and learn, thou I wish I could speak Thai more fluently so I could understand more of what they told me.

Watching these boxers go to town on their trainers, with earth shattering kicks and punches was something to behold, you cannot help but be very impressed by it all. The boxers are smaller but powerful, one man Bon, who has been studying Muay Thai for 10+ years  (54 kilos) has a match on Monday, he was downright scary kicking the trainer, he has some kind of POWER.

Going to try to get up tomorrow a bit earlier, thou its already 832pm and I have to eat yet and prepare tomorrows film so not sure how early I can get up. The boxers train very early before there is good light  and again at about 3pm when the light is better so I plan to be there during the day to photograph the 3pm session with the 4x5. Some of the younger boxers train very early 3-5am then go to school, then  come back and train again. At least thats what I think I was told, will check again tomorrow to makesure I am understanding everything.

A good day, hope the achilles is better tomorrow. I think this could lead to some good portraits. I learned so many names today and spoke so much Thai my head feels like exploding! It was hard to get back to my room, had to ask 8 taxis before one would accept the trip.

Going to eat some Issan Thai food then back to the room, a nice shower, prepare the film and camera gear and to bed!