Siam, You Say?

I’ve traveled to Southeast Asia each of the past two years. (I wanted to go back this year, but the recovery from my October 2006 foot surgery prevented it.) In February 2005, I went on a general tour to Hong Kong and Thailand. In February 2006, I went on a tour, lead by a photographer, to Laos and Vietnam. Why is it that I’ve posted 45 images from Laos and Vietnam on my website (plus some here on the blog), while I have posted none from Hong Kong or Thailand?

I had to think about this one for a while, but finally I remembered why. I develop my own film. I mostly use Kodak TriX320 in the 220 size and I develop it with Ilford’s DD-X developer. Unfortunately, DD-X was unavailable here for several months following the 2005 trip. I’d go to B&H to ask for it and they’d tell me “next month” – so I’d go back the following month and was again told “next month,” etc. Eventually, “next month” did arrive, but by then it was around early summer – and I can’t develop film in the summer because the cold water here is too warm!

So, I had to wait until the autumn to develop my backlog of winter (and spring and summer) film. By the time I finished all of the 2005 film, it was just about time for me to embark on the 2006 trip. I was able to develop that film relatively quickly, but was left with two years worth of travel photos to scan and post. I guess I chose Laos and Vietnam over Hong Kong and Thailand because those places were just fresher in my mind. So, with this blog entry, I’m going to try to catch up on things by posting some Thai photos.

All of these four photos were taken in the north of Thailand, a place with lovely mountain scenery that’s home to a number of ethnic minority groups generally known as ‘hilltribes.’ The top photo shows a young woman who belongs to a “Long Neck” tribe that lives mostly across the border in Myanmar (fka Burma). Only the women wear the rings that elongate the neck, and no one seems certain of the origin of the practice.

What is certain is how we got to see these people. A woman on the tour had found out that we could visit a village of the Long Neck people for an admission fee of $15 per person. She wanted to see them, and everyone else decided to go along. I figured that it would be something different to see and photograph these people (and it would be easier than visiting Burma!). So, we walked down a steep road lined on both sides with souvenir stands, and then descended a series of steep steps to the bottom of a valley. I was expectant of the site of this village, but instead what I saw was………more souvenir stands!

I’d thought I’d be seeing a place where people lived and worked (like any village), but this was nothing like that. It was just souvenir stands. True, they were souvenir stands of Long Neck people, but I was mightily disappointed. Still, given the situation, I just tried to make the most interesting photos that I could. In the top photo, I tried to show a Long Neck woman in profile, juxtaposed with the Long Neck women in profile on the souvenirs. The next photo shows how young the girls are when the neck rings are first applied.

The third photo is of a woman from a different ethnic group. I photographed her outside of a restaurant where we had stopped for lunch. As is often the case in such places, there were local people outside trying to sell souvenirs – and when I saw this woman I just knew that I had to photograph her. I think she had one of the most wonderful faces I’d ever seen in my travels – or perhaps anywhere else. As I often do when I want to photograph a vendor (and as I’ve explained before here), I usually buy a little something and the person is normally happy to pose – and that’s what happened here.

The fourth and final photo here was made in the Chiang Mai, the principal city of Thailand’s north. I was walking around late one afternoon when I came upon this man. I’m not sure why, but he just seemed to look interesting to me. (Perhaps it was the hat?) As I do in such cases, I held up my camera and smiled. I could see that he agreed, so I I focused and pressed the shutter release a few times. As it was late afternoon and getting darker, I had no trouble using a wide aperture to blur the background. (In fact, I think I had no choice but to do so!)

As for the man in the photo, I think he became something of a star for a moment. While taking the photos, I could hear and see the people around him commenting, laughing and smiling in regard to what I was doing – and I could see that he was getting a kick out of it, too. I guess it’s not every day that you strike the interest of a foreigner with a huge camera, is it?

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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3 Responses to Siam, You Say?

  1. I very liked blog very funny and sexy;)

  2. Nemesis says:

    I love your work, especially the tours around Asia. Why you’re not working for NG or one of those magazines is beyond me. Take good care,Erin

  3. Dave Rudin says:

    Thanks, Nemesis, but when you’ve got bills to pay it’s kind of hard to drop everything to become a full-time travel photogrpaher. I’m very glad, though, that you like the photos.

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