This project is a long-term project that I am developing with friends from Bangkok Vanguards, Bangkok-based urban explorers, anthropologists, documentarians and experience designers who have teamed up to craft and share stories that showcase and support the diversity of Thailand’s heritage and the resilience of its people. Transitions is a documentation project that documents communities and heritage. We capture images of daily life, products, space and people. The focus is on neighborhoods in Bangkok that are threatened by redevelopment. We want to keep the memory for future generations alive by producing exhibitions as well as a photo book. We identify urban communities and preservation initiatives that are struggling against developers. We’re working closely with local families and individuals to take images of their crafts, products and work spaces to create a documentation and archive of these places before they disappear.
Follow my Instagram.
On the border between Thailand and Myanmar, in the mountains covered with dense jungle, there are many villages that are almost unreachable. Often there are no communication routes, you have to walk in the forest and climb along untrodden paths. More often the roads are there but they are passable only with an off-road vehicle. These small villages are mostly made of wooden huts, occasionally some brick building appears, built by the Thai government to host a school. As in this case, in the village of Doi Vave in the mountains near Chiang Rai. The population is mixed, consisting of Thais, Karean tribes who populate the mountains and kids, a lot of kids. Many children who come from Myanmar and don't speak a word of Thai. This is because they are refugees, refugees or orphans who have fled their country or been sent by families, through the jungle, away from Myanmar. They flee the villages out of fear, because children are often kidnapped and used to work and never return. Even very small girls are placed at the service of the kidnappers to satisfy sexual needs or to clean, cook and transport things. Males are normally trained in the use of weapons. Families are afraid and, while taking enormous risks, they send the children, even very small ones, to the Thai border and entrust them to the border police. The orphans instead, perhaps survived a raid in a village, set off hoping for a better future. Not everyone makes it, but those who come here have safe haven. The local population accepts them willingly and the Thai government, with the help of some foundations or simple private individuals, builds small schools, run by the local border police. Good people who take care of the kids. This is the story of INSEE Arsa Border Patrol Police Education Center school, with nearly 150 children and few teachers. Obviously it is not easy to get here and the teachers are often young women from the village who put themselves at the service of the children to teach the basics of Thai language and some math. The path for the children will not be easy or short, they are undocumented and many of them do not even know the exact age. The border police, at the end of the course of study, will give each child a kind of certificate that will allow him to stay and study in Thailand until high school. Then some of them will be able to return to Myanmar and request an official identification document from their government. Often to then go back to Thailand to work, since at that point they will have grown up and have learned the Thai language perfectly.
"A tomboy is a girl who exhibits characteristics or behaviors considered typical of a boy. Common characteristics include wearing masculine clothing and engaging in games and activities that are physical in nature and are considered in many cultures to be unfeminine or the domain of boys." Not everyone knows what the girls who work in bars and go-go bars do after they have finished working. Around two o'clock in the morning in Pattaya open the Tomboys bars. Hidden from the tourists eyes, a hidden city comes to life. In the Tomboys bars, the girls go to choose a Tomboy and spend the night drinking and talking. Dance and kiss. To have sex, why not. A Tomboy is in fact a girl, lesbian, with the appearance of a boy. He dresses and behaves like a man. Toms loves beautiful girls and knows how to entertain them. Toms are paraded in front of the eyes of the customers and are coded with numbers, some have fixed customers, others have chat rooms with customers who have paid a drink online and just want to videocall. Around five o'clock in the morning these places are full, the girls order drinks and Toms always have a kind word, a stile ora a caress. An underground world closed to tourists and men who in these places are not well seen or can not enter. A world entirely dedicated to sex workers and women who after a long day spent in the company of foreign tourists want to enjoy a little entertainment. Or find the Tom boyfriend who can keep them economically or possibly marry them. Tomboys are a sure support for many girls with young children. Tomboys work hard and bring home money. Do not get drunk like men and do not beat. This is why they have become a viable alternative for many girls. My reportage, which lasted almost two years and is still ongoing, wants to show this hidden side of the LGBT world.
Last April I initiated to portray the food producers and sellers in my neighbourhood in an effort to show how their lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. All bars and tourist enterprises are closed, but wet market and street vendors have been allowed to remain open since they provide essential services. Still customers are few since there are no tourists and locals are expected to stay home if not with for some work or urgent reasons. And this only in the day, as there is curfew at night.
Every day I go out of my home on my motorbike with the camera and a recorder and visit with proper social distance measures the stalls in the area. I wanted to document and show to the general public the strength of people in the area, who despite the many difficulties get up in the morning to supply the markets with fresh food and bring food to our tables. The farmers and breeders but also the small traders who find themselves living in a deserted city with few profit margins. I wanted to focus on food, being a primary necessity, but also because food is part of a chain that starts from the bottom and moves many gears in an economic and productive system. I wanted to understand how the farmers were managing the situation, how the fresh markets and the few customers continued to operate in the midst of the crisis.
To initiate the conversation with the sellers, I devised few questions starting from their names and other generalities and proceeding to their work, their experience with the COVID-19 situation, the impact on their work and what they hoped for the future. I approached many sellers, but not all wanted to respond. There is often ‘shame’ in having to show others a difficult situation at the risk of ‘losing face’ and distrust in having to tell a stranger about their difficulties. Those who replied, however, did so with the heart, often with anger or with a desire for revenge against a situation that is causing them great hardship and they still struggle to understand.
From the talks it became clear the importance of the family as an entrepreneurial and support unit to resist adversity even in the most critical situations. Also, a great capacity to adapt and re-invent came out naturally in the conversations. To overcome the sharp reduction in buyers, the sellers add other merchandise –like Suphalerk Lungtong who now sell roasted meat besides vegetables to try to incentivize sales—or add extra hours — like who has to drive longer to sell his fresh fruits and/or reduce prices and supplies. For instance, Nid Sala-ngam (Mae Nid) who after 10 successful years of running her somtum (papaya salad) shop in a prime location, now is confronted with few customers.
Everyone is eager to go back to the ‘normal’ although they are aware that it may take longer than they wish and that it may not be the same as before. In the meantime they react, resist and help each other. Misalor Klaykrueng (Misalor), for instance, in spite of the difficulties as her customers from hotels and restaurants near-by are gone, discount the rice she sells to help people who do not have incomes. To them all, I dedicate this visual story in the hope that the reader will be moved to buy from the small shops near his/her house to support them. The big chains will always be there tomorrow, Big C or Tesco are probably making money from this crisis. But the small chicken farmer or the small vegetable seller may not be able to overcome the storm. Together we can help: Be Local.
I've seen the (a possible) future, and it's scary. If you know the charming island of Koh Samui you will recognize the places. I traveled all over the island for 4 days. And this is what I saw. Silence was the thing that struck me more than any other. There isn't much more to say. -According to some data, the province of Surat Thani, of which Samui is part, welcomes almost 7 million tourists every year-
Pattaya is deserted and appears to have turned into a huge parking lot. Everything is close down and quiet except construction sites. Which -in my opinion- buys at bargain prices and preparing to collect golden profits in the coming years. The transformation of this city into a destination different from how we know it is getting closer.
I was not on assignment. Here in Thailand the obligation to stay at home has not yet been taken and you can freely walk and travel. But bars, clubs, discos and many restaurants are already closed and the city of Pattaya is deserted and dark as it has never been in the past 50 years. No tourist ventures into the streets. Last night, wearing a mask, glasses, gloves and camera, I went out to see with my own eyes. Spectral. A reflection on how much an economy based solely on a single business, tourism, can collapse dramatically overnight. Is it appropriate to rethink the economic structure of certain places?
HONG KONG. THIS IS NOT A PLACE
SEOUL. THE CLUBBING TRIBE.
In Seoul everything has a price. Everything has a time and everything has a dimension. The dimension of work, study and the dimension of fun. Of clubs. Of the night. Where the price to detach from the rhythms of the city is to get lost in the streets and nightclubs. Without more memory. The solitude of a bottle of beer, a hundred cigarettes. The light of a cellphone. And then ready to dive again in the bars and nightclubs. Looking for a parallel life. Or maybe just to survive.
LIKAY. THE GLITTERING FAMILY
ลิเก What is Likay? Likay it is a glittering dream. It's life, death, music, and all the joy and sadness combined. Likay it is a traditional Thai dance theater. The actors sing, recite and improvise. With their colorful makeup sometimes they are princes kings and warriors. They speak of past stories and epic battles. Extraordinary costumes and precious stones make this incredible show more magic. It is not the classical theater, is a popular theater did for fun. I followed these extraordinary actors who have allowed me to learn about their art and love this piece of thailand little known to foreigners. They are a big family.
POSSESSED BY THEYR SACRED TATTOOS. SAK YANT WAI KRU CEREMONY.
A quick preview after a very very long day. Each year over 10,000 people gather at Wat Bang Phra, a large Buddhist temple about an hour outside Bangkok to recharge the magic of their sacred Sak Yant tattoos. Thousands of devoted have gathered to renew the powers of their tattoos at the Wai Kru, and for some, the power overcomes them. Sitting cross-legged under the hot sun they enter a trance called Khong Khuen and become their tattoos — the Tiger, Crocodile, Old Man, or Hanuman the Hindu monkey god.
FAREWELL TO THE KING.
Bangkok. State funeral for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej 1927 - 2016. Five days, two cameras, three nights, so much rain, stifling hot, so much sun, umbrellas, raincoats, blacks, shoes, foot pain. Being with the people.
THE LAST STAND
It's five o'clock in the morning. Nobody sleeps in the fort. There are those who stands guard. Portable radios on. They are arriving. Old people and children know that today is not a day like any other. Today they are coming to destroy their homes. Today someone will come to harm. Bad for the heart and too bad for the soul. These people live under siege for too long. They are calm, but beneath the skin I can feel their nervousness. Their eyes tell me everything, we do not need to speak. We hug and we salute and then everyone is ready to do its duty. My is to document. Take pictures. But I can not be impartial. I am one of them, I feel like a citizen of Pom Mahakan. We wait. Silence, then the sun. Then the noise of many trucks. Many people who arrive in uniform, come in... there are many, like ants. Destroy, carry away, load rubble. Reduce the houses to ashes. Nothing will be as before, I can read on the faces of the people. They feel defeated, I know. All the strength and all the energy spending in recent years, too many years, always in the hope of being able to remain in peace. Peace. Let them alone, please. I want to scream to the bureaucrats. If this world was on the side of the good people and the weaks, their battle they would already have won. But this world it does not do anything of the weak, the poor.
KAREN TIBES. THEIR JOURNEY TO PEACE
Coming soon: my long-term project to discover the Karen tribes who have fled in the mountains north of Thailand. An ancient people coming from Mongolia through Tibet, China and Burma.
WHEN A NATION TURNS IN BLACK AND WHITE
I dedicate these photos to all the Thai people, their strength and their courage, Their devotion and their joy, Their pain and their memory, Their past and their future. Because "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people". Mahatma Gandhi
Thailand is famous for its colors. But what happened here is really extraordinary. An entire nation mourning its King and is tinged with black. Blacks clothes, black and white television and black Internet. Black bands on the uniforms of those who, having to work can not wear the clothes of mourning. Even the cities are darker. Every day thousands of people line up to visit the resting place of the dead king. So many people that seem to never end.
GROWING SOUTH KOREAN PROTESTS DEMAND PRESIDENT PARK'S RESIGNATION
More than one million of protesters have gathered in South Korea's Seoul for the fourth in a weekly series of demonstrations aimed at forcing President Park Geun-Hye to resign over a corruption scandal. Saturday's (12-19 november) protest came as Park's approval ratings plunged with prosecutors planning to interview her, making her the first sitting South Korean president to be questioned in a criminal case. The scandal centres on Park's shadowy confidante Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of using her ties with the president to coerce local firms to donate millions of dollars to non-profit foundations that Choi then used for personal gain. -aljazeera-
IN THE FIELDS WITH BUFFALO
A journey to discover the Asian Water Buffalo and people who raise them in the Golden Triangle. Today fewer communities take care of raising the water buffalo. At least here in Thailand. The breeding of the buffalo is for meat which, however, is mainly sold to Laos merchants. The few remaining communities, breed water buffalo as they did a thousand years ago. Follow them is an extraordinary adventure.
LIVING BEHIND THE WALL. THE PEOPLE OF MAHAKAN FORT.
For over 300 years the Mahakan people live behind the big wall. Located in the heart of the city, The Fort is one of the last two forts remained intact. In this little hidden paradise, closed between the mighty walls and the river is a community that for more than six generations takes care of this special place. For many years, however, they have to fight for their own survival. The city administration's plan to transform their space in a public park is taking life. In recent months many homes have already been demolished. But the community does not want to give up, they wants to fight in order to stay. It would be a shame to miss this magical place. "Community leader Tawatchai Woramahakun told they would not leave the homes they have lived in for several decades. He said the residents did not object to the city’s plan but would like a community model for the fort where they are allowed to take part in managing and conserving the fort as a tourist attraction." Is a piece of Bangkok history about to disappear?
PIRATES IN THE INDONESIAN SUNDA ISLANDS
Indonesia. Sunda Islands . Among the hundreds of islands that make up this archipelago, there are dozens of small shabby villages. Tin roofs and walls of paper and wood. They call them "Fishermen Villages" but they are not. Sure they are fishermen, traders and sailors, but once they were pirates and sometimes they still. Should be approached with caution, they are accustomed to tourism, which is becoming more mass in these parts, but that is why they want to maintain their privacy. Far away from habits that are being imposed by force on their culture. Poor people , tough life, villages who live in close contact with the deadly Komodo dragons, dozens of children have grown up from sand, sun and sea wind.
Free as a birds.