For a little over a year now Bangkok Photo Rambles has sustained itself with help from the extraordinary talents, skill and overall charisma of photographers John Stiles and Jeremiah Boulware. When the editors of Dé Modé contacted BPR looking for photographers to shoot former Miss Vietnam for the cover of the magazines upcoming edition we were thrilled at the opportunity. While I was finishing up with our first short doc on
Klong Life John had begun communications with the magazines editor-in-chief Nikhil Rana who happens to have played a role in developing the Mars rover. Before we knew it Nikhil and his team had located a studio fitting for the graces of a former Miss Universe. John and I scouted out the studio the day before the shoot and discovered the peculier character who owned and operated Swing Studio & Cafe. It just so happens that this particular photography studio was run by a certified Spegehttologist. After going over logistics we felt confident we were ready for the shoot.
On top of getting some great shots of Huoung Pham, aka Miss Vietnam, we were able to put together an ad and tips page to go inside the magazine. To get the full story click here.
What is your Roller Derby name? Andy -War – Hole? Pussy Mulator? Josh Brawlin? From the professional endurance races dating back to the early part of the 20th century to the evolution of the contact sport we know today Roller Derby is a unique experience and if you have never been to one I highly recommend you experience it for yourself. Back in the day when it was basically an endurance challenge teams would race on a track for 57,000 laps,the equivalent of skating from San Fran to New York. Kinda puts the Daytona 500 to shame. The game today involves two teams consisting of Jammers and Blockers and the Pivots. Both teams simultaneously
play defense and offense as the Jammers try to break thru the opposing teams blockers. Once a Jammer gets thru the blockade and completes an initial lap scoring happens when the Jammer laps the opposing teams players. If you like American Football and/or Rugby then you will love Roller Derby.The history of this sport is as fascinating as attending a game in its modern fashion. Check out some Roller Derby Origins here.
This past weekend I was invited to come photograph the Bangkok Roller Derby match between the Mangogogos and Papayarrghs at the Roller Dome. My first Roller Derby ever. It was with great joy in taking on the challenge of capturing such a fun an unique event. My new favorite sport! Be on the lookout for the next Roller Derby near you. Enjoy the photos.
Bangkok Photo Rambles has begun! Photographer and extraordinary gentlemen John Stiles and I have been working together to come up with a way to share the unique experience of photo walks in and around the rush that is Bangkok. We wanted to take people onto the off-beaten path and truly immerse themselves into the daily cultural life. We want them to say to themselves,”I’m neck deep in it now”, with a smile on their face.
Our trial run was this past weekend taking two voluntary ramblers deep into the heart of Chinatown. We were to meet at Hua Lamphong station take a few shots ( or a few hundred shots ) and then make our way out towards Chinatown. With our senses already under attack from all angle we pass by Wat Trai Mit (Golden Buddha Temple) home of a massive golden Buddha.
I never tire of wandering the tiny alleyways of Bangkok’s Chinatown, with their blend of Thai and Chinese traditions and customs, the life of the residents played out in small shops and homes. There is nothing quite like the atmosphere there: the scents of charcoal smoke, incense and steaming pots of food; freshly caught fish flopping in their tubs; the sounds of motorcycles squeezing through on deliveries; neighbors calling to one another, and friendly waves and smiles enhancing each moment in a myriad of ways. It is never the same experience twice, even though the alleyways have become familiar.
My wife and I have been living overseas in South East Asia now for a little over five years. Four years in SE China and now we are on our second year in Thailand. It has been a great adventure and a wonderful learning experience. Every year has brought us closer to understanding the world around us as well as a better understanding of who we are as individuals and the relationship we have formed as partners in life. It hasn’t been easy. But that is a good thing. Whatever your views on life, from religious beliefs to scientific understandings, all value and meaning in life comes from struggle. Some struggle more than others but without it little progress can be made. So with this basic concept in mind one can better explore the mental and physical complexities of those struggles.
Now, the challenge.
Every year my wife and I take our summer vacation back to the states to visit friends and family. We manage to allocate time for ourselves but the main goal is to be with loved ones and share our stories, together. Now on a side note it should be mentioned that it takes time to truly appreciate the joy of having a meaningful conversation. As I have become older in both mind and body it is this catharsis of sharing ones self with others that is most desired. It also has the added benefit of changing you for the better. A personal example of this change I speak of is that five years ago I thought it was more important in voicing my opinion and giving advice that I thought was helpful. But what I finally figured out was that sometimes the most valuable thing you can bring to a conversation is to simply listen.
With all the political and social turmoil portrayed in the media recently I half expected to arrive in America and find everyone at each others throat. I even strategized with my wife (jokingly) how we should approach the hostile situations that we would inevitably be faces with. Well, after a few days stateside I turned to my wife as we were driving down beautiful American backroads and said,” I know America has it’s issues right now but everyone seems to be going out of their way to be friendly.” And I mean everyone. The great cultural diversity that makes America “Great” seemed to be dealing with its struggles just fine. Im not trying to downplay the problems we face but there are forces in this world ( I won’t point any fingers) that want to take advantage of our fears and use them to divide us.
So with all that said I will leave you with a scene I captured on the streets of New Orleans July the 4th where local authorities and local patrons of the French Quarter took part in a meaningful conversation discussing each sides perspective in the hopes of coming to a better understanding into those struggles of life. And all the while the bombs bursting in air. It was beautiful.
From the ordinary to the extraordinary it has become vital to capture the world around me. It is my hope that through these images I am able to offer a shared moment. A moment not unlike the feeling one gets through hearing a beautiful piece of music or being drawn in to the poetry of a “good read”. Each one of these images represents a symbol of an experience that has united both me and the subject in a way that, to a certain extent, only the photographic tools used could accomplish. However, it is important to point out that the camera comes second to the relationship that I build within an environment and those subjects that give meaning to it. It has taken a long time for me to fully understand that the root passion in my photography began long before I ever held a camera. The image of the boy in the barber shop was the only shot I took after I had witnessed about a half dozen other heads of hair fall to the shop floor. When the boy arrived with his mother I had already adapted to the environment and became familiar to those around me…except the boy. He could not take his eyes of me. It is this reflection of wonder manifested within the scene that teases the answer to those meaningful questions we all ask.
Look no further than the Yangon Railway Station to find the beating heart of daily life in Myanmar’s largest city. Here you can catch the Circle Train near platform 7. Clanking along at a snails pace the trip takes about three hours and travels to the small satellite towns around Yangon. Its a great way to get a close look at real poverty while remaining in your comfort zone. Unfortunately comfort zones and good photography don’t work well together so about an hour into the ride I hoped off at Aung San Station. Well it wasn’t much of a station, just a platform and a dirt road leading to town. In fact the train did not even come to a complete stop.
You know your in an area where not a lot of foreigners venture into by the way the locals react to your presence. It could just be that Im a 6’4″ beast of a man compared to the average body size of a Burmese. So I tend to smile a lot to counter that.
Now that Im off the train and out of my comfort zone its time to get to know the people and hopefully come away with some good shots. It’s important to point out that in theses kinds of situations one must always remember to be considerate of those around you. If you are generally a considerate person then you should have no problems being a respectful photographer. If I have learned only one thing from the master photographers who came before me it is this: The camera comes second to the relationship you build with your subjects. Explore your surroundings and try to communicate with those around you. It is possible to interact with people even if both parties understand nothing that is being spoken. Having good “charades” skills can be handy as well.
My last job was all about documenting the day to day actions of a school for Chinese nationals in SE China. It was a job so there came those moments where it felt like a job. However successful the execution of any given event it sometimes became mundane and I would question my existence as a photographer. Then someone from the past would say to me, “Wow, you’re a photographer for a high school in China…that sounds amazing.” And then I would feel bad and quickly realize how fortunate I was to not only have a job but I had a job that I had a significant amount of passion invested in. I was in love with the idea of capturing those decisive moment of any given situation that would reveal the genuine emotions and expression of those “faces” of a job.