There’s a lot to process from this trip, so for now just photographs. The words will take a while to digest and figure out and all that. Tonight we leave on the overnight bus to Bangkok. I’ll be back in Vietnam in a few days. Which is bitter sweet after being here all week.
A somewhat random selection of images from the past few days running around in Phrae, Thailand. We’re having an awesome time and getting some great work done. A huge thanks to my fixers/partners-in-crime Jang and Caitlin. And Jack, who’s like the mayor of this town. More later. I’m off to enjoy the great outdoors.
Today’s theme is golden I guess. Or yesterday’s, when all of these photographs were taken. All from around Phrae, in northern Thailand, a few hours south of Chiang Mai. It’s nice here in a way that you sometimes forget the world can be nice. Everything is soft edges and sunshine. And cool breezes at night. I’ve been meeting lots of people in the local ladyboy community, drinking Beer Chiang on porches and rooftops like it’s going out of style. Life can be tough but I’ll take it on.
We arrived in Phrae at 5am this morning on the overnight bus from Bangkok. Since then I’ve circled the town at least twice. It’s not large. But it is nice. Some of the best weather I’ve witnessed in recent memory. I’m finding the nearest rooftop as soon as I’m done typing this entry.
The photograph above is one of the first I’ve taken on this trip, for my Some Girls project. We were chatting with a local hairdresser and looking through some of her old photo albums when I came across this spread. There was something immediately striking about the juxtaposition of the pictures–the fantasy beach vacation and the reality of small town life, even within the local transgendered community. It was sad and strange and completely normal all at once. We all want the same things out of life, and we all return to the same homes.
When I asked about the images, I was told that the girl’s name was Ning Nong, a ladyboy who had grown up in Phrae, and that she had passed away over a decade ago of AIDS, at the age of 40. The album, open as such on the table, became even more saturated. It was life and death. And it was still sad and strange and completely normal. To the left, a head thrown back in a bikini, putting on a show for the photographer, maybe her lover. To the right, a different person behind the camera, a mother or father or brother or niece, shooting a cold bored gaze beneath a slate gray sky. Both horizons flat and infinite and unknowing.
I’ll be returning to Thailand next week to continue on my Some Girls project, about the transgendered community in Bangkok and beyond. In lieu of the trip I’ve been going back through my first round of images, taken a few months ago, and re-arranging and re-editing the current work, finding holes, seeing what’s working and what’s not. As with most photographers I think, I’m my own worst editor. I go back over work and find new images that I ignored the first time around, or I fall in love with things that were better off left alone. But that’s just the way. You can see an updated edit of the work HERE.
Not big changes but changes enough. I’ll be traveling into Isaan province this time around, exploring more of the rural communities and the women who have chosen to either remain in or return to their hometowns. I’m hoping to move away from portraits and cabarets and backstage-type shots and into some more natural settings, even domestic settings. We’ll see.