In Thailand in Si Satchanalai at Ban Hat Siao on April 7th of every year young men as well as others are selected to become Buddhist monks. As is the custom in Thailand, men above the age of 20 are expected to become a Buddhist monk at least once during their lifetime. I have photographed other Buddhist ordination ceremonies but this one has a twist. After having their heads shaved, dressed in beautiful gowns the men are made up to resemble women, given a headdress and sun glasses to wear and then paraded around town on painted elephants. The entire town turns out, marching bands play loud disco music and local Thai women in traditional dress lead the processions. I have lived in Thailand almost 20 years and I still find the local customs and festivals amazing.
My recent trip to India reminded me that there is a time and place for color. My friend Philipp Jones Griffiths used to tell me that “color complicates things”. My last visit with him in Bangkok he handed me a plastic bag full of Tri-X, said he had been carrying it around for a couple years, always popping it into a refrigerator when he had settled in. Phillips images like Don McCullin were, brilliant, to say the least. I don’t work for anyone these days, retirement suits me fine, however I still love to shoot and sometimes it is in black & white.
Back in 1998, the Thai government declared the 13th of March to annually be the day remembered for it’s elephants. This date as selected because this was the day the “white elephant” was was added to the version of Thailand’s old flag. The day is set aside to show and remember how significant Thailand’s elephants are the need now to protect them.