Feature Photograph

This week's photos are not necessarily wonderful technically correct photographs, but instead bring with them special significance which makes them worthy of being a Featured Photograph on merits other than being a pretty picture.  Both of these photographs were taken about eight years ago, and captured with a very basic digital compact camera.  In both cases I didn’t even recognize the significance of the photographs until months later.

An old lady in Chiang Rai

The above photograph I captured north of Chiang Rai during the rice harvest.  I was spending time in the countryside getting to know more about the local farmers, how they lived, how the business of rice farming worked, and about their backgrounds.  During one stop I came across two elderly ladies who owned what looked to be about 20 rai of land, most of it rice paddies with a modest home centered on the land.  I was amazed and filled with admiration when I learned these two ladies took care of the place themselves and did 100% of the work.  I asked the question “how did you become friends?”  I flipped on my tape recorder and listened to her talk on in a mixture of Thai and Lao which I could barely understand.  My assistant was helping to translate my questions.  I remember how serious she was, and how some of her explanation looked painful for her to recount.  My assistant looked sad, both ladies looked sad, and I was mostly clueless.

Some months later I was working on something where I wanted to find and interview victims of sexual slavery.  My assistant told me she thought the lady we interviewed north of Chiang Mai would be a good feature.  I was taken aback, I had no idea this is what they were talking about.  I’d finished that particular project and closed it before I got to her transcripts which is often the case.  My assistant pulled out the transcripts so I could read along while she told me the story.

“Do you notice how her wrist is deformed in the photograph?”  She goes on to tell me that as a young teenager she was taken from the street and found herself chained to a steel framed bed in a room with others.  She was forced to service customers many times a day.  This treatment went on for many years and many of the ladies held captive in the same place died, none were released.  Some were traded, she was traded herself several times.  The lady she now lives and farms with was also a victim and they became friends and managed to stay together.  Finally, when they were too old to be of value to customers they served some years cleaning and cooking, and then were released during some event I still don’t understand.  They applied for a program to get land and grow rice, and have worked hard for years building their small rice farm.

Rainy Floating Market

I’ve been to the floating market with friends, family, and clients almost 50 times.  In all the times I’ve been, and the thousands of pictures I’ve taken, this one taken with a simple digital compact camera remains my favorite.  It provides a feeling I’ve been unable to duplicate in the eight years since.