Salvation Mountain near Niland, California is pure America. Seems Lenoard Knight decided to build a shrine to God one day back in 1984 and never left. Made from desert sand and donated paint, Salvation Mountain is a huge tourist attraction in the desert near Niland, California, which is not far from Palm Springs. From Los Angeles it is about a three hour drive. While you are in the area the Salton Sea is a popular attraction as well. For me it was an excellent day trip for myself and my daughter and a great way to celebrate my birthday.
Kanokporn and Montri Thi got married in Ta Pra Mok, Thailand on Jan. 2nd, 2015. For them and many others it was a chance to begin the new year in a special way. Ta Pra Mok is a small village in northern Thailand about three hours drive by car due south of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second biggest city. Like most events or rituals in Thailand it is all about having fun. Plenty of spicey food and drink combined with loud electric piano and singers. For me it was yet another chance to photograph one of the many rituals of Southeast Asia with my Fuji X Pro 1. It also gave my 10 year old daughter a chance to dance with old ladies.
Fuji X Pro 1… “Year in Review”
The New Year is staring me in the face, just a couple days away. I have no clue what I will do, what projects I will work on but lately I have the strong feeling that working for anyone other than myself will be pointless. Perhaps this is why I am turning away and going back to a simpler time. It might be more black and white. It might even lead me back to film.
The gallery shown are some of my favorite images of 2014, the year of the Fuji X Pro 1. When I laid down my DSLR’s I wanted something different, not sure this is it but I have the luxury now of being able to experiment.
All images were taken with the Fuji X Pro 1. All taken on manual focus.
Ten years ago on this date a massive tsunami struck Indoensia, Thailand, and many other places. The loss of life was unprecendented. Some 250,000 people were killed, billions of dollars in property was destroyed and countless lives damaged forever. I entered Khao Lak, Thaland early on the morning of Dec. 28th, 2004 and was stunned at what I saw. Certain details never leave you, the smell to me was one I could never seem to escape. My senses went into hibernation much the same way they did following the Oklahoma City bombing. I am retired from news photography now, my days are spent looking for exotic festivals to photograph and interesting places in Southeast Asia to visit. I feel it is important to remember however.
Cambodia is a Brutal Land. Since early in the 1960’s there has been almost constant war or civil war. I first arrived in March of 1997 on a two week trip that began in Siem Reap and ended in Phnom Penh. There were few tourist, not much food or much of anything else. What Cambodia had in 1997 was problems and still does today. But the people and their faces and especially their spirit captured my heart. Smiles were genuine and they were eager to reach out. Under the muderous rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and others the Cambodian people suffered a staggering 1.7 million deaths from 1975 to 1979. Most of them were just worked to death, or died from disease and starvation. Often I have listened to accounts from men younger than me on how they watched mothers and fathers , brothers and sisters die at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. A recent account came to me during one of the current geneocide trials being held in Phnom Penh. “We were young and poor, our families were gone yet someone a group of us, all friends today, survived. We just had each other. There was nothing left of Cambodia, other than gridning poverty and we ate plenty of that”.
Today the average age of most Cambodians is 21. High School students are taught little about the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot is grandpa or grandma’s boogeyman. I am nearing the completion of a collection of black & white photographs from Cambodia that I have taken since 1997. Many still haunt me today. Many also make me smile each time I view them.
Book is out now on “Blurb” http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/5283257/8cab8084f04b65f1674415ca7d068d2ec83c7540
Most homes in northern Thailand do not have heaters. Outside and a wood fire is how most warm themselves after a night of temperatures in the low 50’s. Then you can just pull up a chair, face the east and just warm up which is what the head Buddhist monk of Ta Pra Mok chose to do this morning.
The scale of human misery brought by the Asian tsunami of 2004 is beyond the scope of most people. In Thailand alone where I live the numbers were in the thousands. In Indonesia the total was in the hundreds of thousands. I visit Phuket, Thailand often, usually at least once a year for the Vegetarian Festival and I marvel at how fast the tourist areas bounced back. While there are several memorials to those who were killed, not many tourist stray far from the beaches to visit these shrines to the dead. I have many memories of the tsunami. I worked then for a wire service as a photographer and arrived on scene a day after the wave struck. In Khao Lak, Thailand, the public were not allowed in until the 28th, seems someone of importanced had perhished in the tsunami and authorities only opened the roads I was told until he was recovered. I waited on the costal highway and then at 6am the road opened. In that early morning light, the sky a pale pinkish color, myself and a driver drove through area the destruction. The bodies of the dead were everywhere. For the next six weeks I spent almost everyday working in Khao Lak, also in Phuket and other tsunami damaged areas. It has been ten years, the damage was long ago cleared. Yet my memories remain the same, much death, much misery.
I have driven past the road to this hilltop shrine countless time over the past 15 years. In the rainy season the top of this hill near Ban Pin, Thailand vanishes in a sea of green as the trees gain foliage. In the dry season, currently underway until late May, you can see both the stupa and the Buddhist statue. Traveling with my 10 year old daughter, Selena, we decided to drive up the hill and explore this mostly hidden place. I will return, at night to see if I can shoot star trails soon.
Very few westerners understand what it is like to be poor. Governments in the west provide safety nets and while there are poor living on the streets, poverty in places like Southeast Asia is different. In place like Phnom Penh, Cambodia, people are routinely thrown off their land to make way for a block of apartments they will never be able to afford to live in. Once displaced they become a family living on the edge on what little if any handouts supplied by non governmentals orginizations. As the festive season nears perhaps we all should think more about our fellow man and less about “selfies”.