Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“Cross-cultural Connection” Photograph

As well as foreign tourists and ex-pats, Chiang Mai has its fair share of ethnic hill-tribe people from the surrounding mountains. Culturally the two may have little in common but there is always a universal connection with children around.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Monday, January 30, 2012

“Sun-shy” Photograph

If I was taking pictures by bringing the camera up to my eye then I would expect this kind of reaction from some camera-shy young Thai women but I’m sure she hadn’t noticed me. In this case she was simply shielding her face from the sun which was still strong even at 5pm on a January afternoon.

In Thailand, dark, tanned skin is associated with people who have to work outside such as farmers and laborers, so many people try to avoid the sun to keep their skin light as a kind of status symbol. This has been boosted by the popularity of the youth culture from the generally lighter-skinned Korea, so the cosmetics industry is now steam-rollering the fashion with their promotion of skin-whitening products.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

“Content Couple” Photograph

To me this couple just looks content.

I noticed them again the next day at the Sunday Walking Street on a different road and they still looked content. They also sounded French.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Eye Shadow" Photograph

A pretty young Thai woman partially caught in sunlight and partially shaded by me.

One thing I do not like about taking photographs at these street markets is that the sky is almost always crisscrossed with telegraph wires and poles. Usually it’s a minor irritation but here I felt it was a serious distraction so got busy with the clone tool in Photoshop. If you look just to the left of her you can see a telegraph pole cut off at the edge of the roof that originally reached above her head.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Friday, January 27, 2012

“Brothers” Photograph

If these two men are not actually brothers in real life then they certainly are in spirit. Such beautifully choreographed matching attire looks casual but must take some effort. It’s tempting to wonder if the distribution of hair on head/face/arms is also part of the arrangement.

I admire such closeness but hope I don’t end up dressing like my brother.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“Friendly Shadows” Photograph

I had walked down to the end of the “Walking Street” market enjoying the sun behind my back and the good photo opportunities that that produces but then had to turn around and walk back the other way. The sun was low but still too strong to comfortably look straight ahead so I concentrated on the ground.

There were lots of people and lots of shadows but they were all a bit too confused and overlapping for good photography until this moment when things opened up a little and these six shadows angled towards me.

Although the walkers here are not perfectly level, walking in a line next to each other like this along one of these street markets is not the most convenient arrangement and it seems to me that only groups of friends (where everyone is equal) try to do it. Families are much more likely to be in a huddle usually with the young kids at the front and the father at the back. 

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Two Pairs” Photograph

Sometimes things just suddenly fall into place nicely.

I had noticed the couple coming towards me both holding their hand up shading their eyes so I got ready to take a picture thinking there was potential for a good photo. Then just as these two got into perfect step together the two girls in matching uniforms walked passed.

Such moments are so fleeting and often unpredictable that I miss far more than I capture, which is okay as long as I do occasionally get one right.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

“Wanted” Photograph

Another tee-shirt where I guess the wearer (and her boyfriend) do not actually understand the English written on it. Or maybe she does?

Five minutes later I saw another woman wearing a shirt with the text “I’m available” across the front. Perhaps I should have introduced them, if only to get a photograph of the two together.

This reminded of a similar shirt once seen by a friend in Bangkok. It was being worn by a woman and said, “My boyfriend is also gay”.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Monday, January 23, 2012

“Skull shirt” Photograph

What interests me about this photograph is how the large white skull affects the way we look at the man and woman. It is almost unavoidable to make some link or comparison between this shirt design and the way they look.

This, of course, is a normal function of composition as the viewer assumes some intention behind the elements of a photograph that has been selectively isolated from its wider context. There is truth in this as it was the skull design that caught my eye to be photographed but I do feel a slight sense of guilt in leading how people view this couple who I’m sure have lovely, unskull-like personalities in real life.

This minor guilt has now been relieved by writing these comments.

Photograph taken at “Sunday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

“Bath Time” Photograph

Don’t you just hate it when the plughole gets full of hairs?

These two young long-tailed macaques were lolling around in this dry sink at a temple in Khao Takiab just south of Hua Hin but apparently they had not yet learned how to turn on the water.

Many troops of these monkeys have been habituated to people and become tourist attractions in return for food but they often learn that being aggressive and intimidating towards people gets them the food prize even faster. They also usually end up living as an unnaturally large troop all squashed into a small area which causes stress and poor health. However, the entertainment value they provide means the practice of feeding them will continue.

Photograph taken at Khao Takiab, Prachuap Khirikhan Province, Thailand.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

“Perfect Woman” Photograph

A bold statement to make but who am I to argue?

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Friday, January 20, 2012

“Young Love” Photograph

This young girl saw the boy walk passed with his family. For her it was clearly infatuation at first sight and she toddled after him with several people including myself stopping to watch. She caught up with him and confronted the young lad with her charms. He looked slightly scared and sought parental protection. With him cornered against his father’s legs she took her chance and lunged. Her embrace was strong and his wriggling desperate but help was at hand as his father lifted him from her clutches. She watched them depart, her affections repulsed, then waddled back to her lair and waited…

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

“Novice Monk” Photograph

The first time I saw a photograph of somebody I knew from when they had spent a short period as a Buddhist monk it took me a while to work out why they looked so strange. It wasn’t the saffron robe nor his shaven head, it was the fact that his eyebrows had been shaved off.

The tradition amongst Thai Buddhists is that at some point a son will usually be ordained as a monk, at least in part to earn merit for his parents. Over the years the usual period spent in monastic life has shortened from a few months to a few weeks to in some cases only a weekend now but still the tradition continues. 

The boy on the right has clearly just done his duty and made his parents proud.

Photograph taken at “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“Contentious Sign” Photograph

Perhaps it is the language difference but this sign does seem starkly blunt in its message. 

In Buddhist temples in Thailand the most sacred parts are off-limits to women which is what this sign is trying to indicate. Arguably it does help male monks in their aesthetic ways but I am not here to defend the practice and it does cause offense to some visitors who have to swallow such a cultural difference that would be unacceptable in their own land.

It also touches on the controversy in Thailand about only men being allowed to ordain which in turn touches on the wider status of women in the country. The problem is that only female monks can ordain a woman and the line of Thai female monks disappeared many years ago but the exclusively male religious authorities do not recognise woman ordained in another country. The stubbornness with which they hide behind the letter of Thai Buddhism rather than the spirit may well end up damaging both the religion and the country.

When it comes to the upper echelons of Thai Buddhism “Women are not allowed” actually seems quite accurate.

Photograph taken at Wat Gate (temple), Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

“Silver Stray” Photograph

I’m not sure whether it is right to call this animal a “stray” or not. It lives at one of Chiang Mai’s many (many, many) temples where it gets some food, care and attention, but also the chance to spend it’s days as it wants and socialize with other dogs. It may have started life as a household pet that was abandoned and in that sense is a stray but now seems to fit a niche that is not quite pet, not quite stray.

When I visited this temple there were about a dozen dogs living there, all looking quite fit and healthy. Only one of these didn’t like my presence and nervously approached me barking. It came out of the caretaker’s hut where it clearly lived and was the only one that could be called a pet in the usual sense. All the “strays” were more relaxed and ignored me even when I knelt down and took photographs (they also ignored the slightly neurotic pet when it started barking).

If you are interested in the stray dog issue then you might be interested in my other blog http://strayview.blogspot.com/ .

Photograph taken at Wat Mueng San (temple), Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Monday, January 16, 2012

“Gray Shirt” Photograph

A portrait without a face. Not being able to see the face in this photograph makes you look at other details, such as the hand on the ground and the twisted shirt creases held there by his bulging torso. If the face was there these would be secondary elements.

Ideally photographs shouldn’t need to be explained and I was tempted not to say what is going on here, but on the other hand knowing some extra details can add to a picture’s value. So, this man is one of the blind buskers who sit in a line on the ground together to perform at the Chiang Mai Walking Street markets. Here he has just lowered himself into position as they get ready to play.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

“Self-tripod” Photograph

Who needs a tripod when you’ve got two feet and a knee for 3-point stability plus another knee as a camera rest? Even with a pocket camera, taking such care over a photograph will help to ensure that you get the best quality out of the camera and also help a lot with composition. It was good to see somebody else put more thought into the photograph they were taking and actually change the angle by getting down low. The viewer screen on most modern cameras makes this so easy.

This man may use a point-and-shoot camera but he clearly doesn’t just take snapshots.

Photograph taken at the “Sunday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Smile Bitch" Photograph

So often I see people in Thailand wearing tee-shirts with messages in English that they clearly do not understand and seem inappropriate for that particular wearer. However, in this case the shirts fit the girls’ expressions well enough to suggest it was a deliberate choice on their part.

Another possibility is that what’s written on our tee-shirt alters our state of mind accordingly and thereby our persona changes.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Street Couple" Photograph

I like this photograph as a portrait of a trendy young couple strolling along a street market in Chiang Mai but it is also one of those pictures where my shadow has been cast onto the man’s shirt so that it’s almost a self-portrait as well.

The fact that my face is in profile is revealing of the technique I use whereby I am often not actually looking at the subjects as I press the shutter release button. We are well attuned to noticing people who are looking at us even in relatively crowded situations and have an automatic reaction to make eye contact. This eye contact would change the nature of my street photography so if possible I look the other way.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Pack Animals" Photograph

I’m not sure exactly what produce this mule was carrying, possibly onions or one of the several types of fruit grown in the area, but it was clearly the most suitable transport option available along the rough mountain trails around this village in northern Thailand. Whatever it is the chances are that this crop will travel in a pickup truck, at least one lorry, maybe an airplane or two and then a private car before it gets eaten.

I was half-expecting the two men to straighten their legs and lift the mule off the ground. Unfortunately it didn’t happen like that.

Photograph taken in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Powergirl" Photograph

It is rare to get a photograph where the action fits the tee-shirt so well, and I have to admit that this was another occasion where I got lucky but had made my own luck. I hadn’t actually noticed exactly what the girl was doing and hadn’t noticed what was written on her shirt either. However, these two girls did look lively enough to make me think there might be a good photograph so I moved over into position in front of them and took a chance on something happening.

This unpredictability is an exciting part of street photography and you have to try to be ready for things falling into place at any moment.

I also quite like the young woman in yellow who has two heads.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Head Pat" Photograph

A nice moment between man and child. The gesture of putting his hand on the boy’s head is interesting in Thai culture as it is usually taboo to touch somebody else’s head. However, two things in this case make it more acceptable: the age gap, particularly with a young child, and the apparent closeness of the relationship. So in this case the gesture indicates an intimacy even more than it would in a western culture.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Canal Homes" Photograph

In bygone times the canals in Bangkok and many other parts of central Thailand were the streets. Their importance for travel and commerce has declined but they are still vital for drainage as was highlighted during the severe flooding at the end of 2011. Poor maintenance, irregular dredging and indecisive management made for inefficient drainage which was compounded by the communities of canalside homes such as these that had spilled over into the canals themselves.

These dwellers are the amongst the poorest of the city’s residents and have little other choice for a place to stay but there are signs that they will be encouraged or forced to move. On the other hand, the roads, industrial estates, housing estates and other structures that formed more solid barriers to the water will stay.

Photograph taken in Don Muang, Bangkok, Thailand

"Into the Sun" Photograph

People walking into bright, low sunshine make quite good photographic subjects for me as they are much less likely to notice me taking their picture which means they usually keep whatever natural expression they are wearing at the time.

You can see the shadow of my shoulder and arm on this woman’s shirt as I take her photograph with my camera at belly-level.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

"Grumpy Old Man" Photograph

Maybe he’s grumpy because somebody made him wear a name-tag, green scarf and red bobblehat. Maybe he noticed me and doesn’t like being photographed. And while I’m making up possible reasons, maybe he stood in some dog droppings and has just spotted the culprit.

More likely, he is stuck with the expression as a result of tooth-loss and old age. I hope I get stuck with an expression just like this at his age. Then, any smile from me will be such a relief to others that it’s sure to make them happy.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

"Drunk-in-charge-of-puppies" Photograph

An early end to the working day for this mechanic in Bangkok who had clearly been drinking beer for a while before I passed by one afternoon.

For puppies like these that spend their time outside with access to everything happening on the street it is just another part of the broad experience that forms their education and will hold them in good stead throughout their adulthood. In the often bustling, confusing situations that they will find themselves in they will probably cope far better than would a more cosseted pet with a much more limited background.

Photograph taken in Rangsit, Bangkok, Thailand.

"Pondering" Photograph

verb think about, consider, study, reflect on, examine, weigh up, contemplate, deliberate about, muse on, brood on, meditate on, mull over, puzzle over, ruminate on, give thought to, cogitate on, rack ones brains about, excogitate

He definitely looks like a cogitator.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

"Waiters" Photograph

Pattern and repetition often makes for a good photograph and human stance is no exception. A small detail that I enjoy in this photograph is the fact that the repetition here is mirrored as one man’s arms are folded left-over-right and the other right-over-left.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

"Face Slap" Photograph

Many of my favorite street photographs are ones where people have interesting expressions. Our interactions with each other depend so much on facial expressions that we are experts at picking up nuances and even quite subtle expressions can make a good picture because the viewer can identify and relate to it.

This is amplified with a combination of two or more people interacting with each other which not only gives facial expressions to be interpreted but also offers an extra dimension and the possibility of telling a story. I think the fact that we have no idea what these young men are talking about actually helps to make this photograph more interesting because in our socially-driven behavior we naturally try to interpret the interactions between other people.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

"Eyes Down" Photograph

As with any photograph of people in dynamic situations the way it looks as a frozen moment might not actually reflect the reality of what was happening. A brief glance can look like a stare, an innocent licking of the gums can turn into a meaningful expression and without the benefit of three dimensions angles can be deceptive. However, in this case it is hard to think of an alternative explanation than the obvious one. 

The chances are that she will never see this picture and he won’t get into trouble but let it be a lesson to all of you: I'm not the only one with a camera so you better behave yourself out there on the street.

Photograph taken at the “Saturday Walking Street”, Chiang Mai, Thailand.