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Most photographers are a technical bunch, when they click on a link to a website they expect to see charts, graphs, the results of testing, and enough technical gibberish to require three special dictionaries.  Don’t dare write a piece with levity, humor, or especially satire because they’ll take it as a personal affront.  In their eyes if you can’t regurgitate the specifications for the most popular professional cameras then you’re not a serious photographer.  You’re a clown, a hack, someone to be avoided at all costs.  Lock up the kids!

But you guys are different.  To you photography is fun, a way to document your travels and share them with your family back home.  You wouldn’t be caught dead reading a technical website because that would suck all the fun out of your beloved hobby.  When you take a ‘photography workshop’ technical stuff is then okay, but what you really came for was the fun and to meet and learn about other guys just like you.  You know who you are.  You’re expat photographers.

Expatriate photographers in Thailand have completely different priorities.  Normal photographers have maybe one really fast lens.  You guys own them all, the faster the better.  Low light capabilities are a serious priority because all the fun stuff in Thailand happens at night.  You know what I mean.  Where else can you photograph elephants, katoey’s in drag, a legless one armed beggar dragging himself down the soi, and the most strange bunch of tourists anyone has ever seen, all without moving from the same barstool?  Only in Thailand!

When normal photographers pack their camera bags:  in addition to cameras and lenses, they pack filters, cleaning brushes, microfiber clothes, and extra body caps.  You guys pack the bare minimum of equipment, toilet tissue, several towels for wiping sweat, mosquito repellant, Imodium D, and an extra copy of your passport just in case.  You know what you’ll need here and you’re better prepared than an Eagle Scout.  You have a SIM refill card in your wallet and extra baht in your shoe.  You’re an expat photographer.

Regular photographers are usually tourists and carry phrase books and wear loud shirts and silly ball caps requested by your tour director.  Expats dress like locals, speak the lingo, and would rather be kissed by Oprah than be part of any tour.  We know the skytrain schedule by heart, which number buses go where, the best places to eat, and we avoid tourists like the plague.

Tourists filter off the buses in great numbers, line up side by side, and take 200 images of the same thing.  Usually a temple.  It takes them a few months after returning home and examining their 5000+ images of temples to realize they pretty much all look alike.  Expat photographers take pictures of tourists taking pictures of temples because it’s funny.  Especially if they’re soaking wet with sweat and still wearing a sweater because they thought 42 degrees was in Fahrenheit.  Expat photographers cue not on temples, but on the people visiting the temples, on the locals, monks, curious children, and any soi dog clever enough to con a tourist into feeding them their sticky rice.

Expat photographers don’t click on a link to read technical data.  They click on a link to be entertained.  Don’t tell us the technical specs of your camera, instead show us how well it works capturing interesting characters on Soi Cowboy.  We know a camera takes pictures, so when we click on your site tell us a funny story or show us a picture of a pickup truck with 12 members of the family, all in the back seat!  Don’t show us a meditating monk, instead show us a picture of a fake monk being chased down the street getting his robes ripped off by the good doctor.  Now that’s funny!

Regular tourist photographers go to places like the zoo and take pictures of monkeys and signs misusing English.  Expat photographers would rather go to the Nana parking lot and take pictures of drunk punters and the latest in tourist fashion accessories.  If we get lucky, we’ll spot a tourist wearing a thick gold chain, a speeding motorsai, and get a picture of the now bare necked tourist running down the street after the motorsai shouting in French, German or Caveman.

We’ve learned how to anticipate typical tourist behavior and can instinctively set ourselves up for the best shots.  It might be the western female tourist walking past a temple with her bikini riding up her rear, or the huge bellied shirtless male tourist in shorts arguing with the guard at the Grand Palace.  For fun we might sit outside MBK and photograph the natural interaction of two interesting species, the tourists and the litter police.

When expat photographers click on a site they’re not looking for the local news.  What they’re looking for is the latest exchange rate and to see how hot it’s going to get that day.  If there’s a 2-1 special for lunch at the local pub so much the better.  We’re not interested in tourist activities, we’re interested in all the stuff tourists can never dream about seeing.  We’re hardened, we’re cynical, we’ve seen it all.  We’re Expat Photographers.

Until next time..