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History of The Photographs

Sex Worker 2007: Um 22

Sex Worker 2007

This series of photographs was made in Thailand in 2007, the subjects are male, female and ladyboy sex workers. The workers come from various areas of the Thai sex industry, some are freelancers, some worked gogo bars and some came from shortime sex bars.

The photographs were made in a small studio with speedotron blackline flash equipment and a 8x10 Kodak Masterview camera on Tri-x film. The photo sessions were conducted in the Thai language which forced me to improve my rather basic Thai.

The goal of the work was to document and create a record of these often forgotten people. I started visiting the bars of Thailand in 1996, I was often surprised at how quickly people came and went. In 1999 I did a series on freelance sex workers in Bangkok and in 2003 did a series on bargirls in a shortime area of bars. What was surprising was that even thou I might know upwards of 100 ladies in the bars and streets I would come back a few years later and they would all be gone, I might know less than 5 people. They came went and were forgotten, the turnover was very high. I wanted with these white background large format photographs to create a permanent record, to document who they were, these people are important and should be remembered.

Sex Worker 2009: Oew 28 and Bla 21

Sex Worker 2009

The 2009 series of white background sex worker portraits is a continuation of the 2007 work. I tried to create a broader series (more male workers) along with revisiting some people that I photographed in 2007. Jock Sturges advised me of the importance in getting to know your subjects and photographing them over a period of years. I was able to find several people in these 2009 photographs that I shot in 2007. Ti, Long, Mat and Bee were all old photography subjects of mine. Many of the people from 2007 had disappeared but the ones I could find I re photographed.

Ladyboy Sex Worker: Cake 22

Ladyboy Sex Worker

My first trip to Thailand in 1996 was a emotional adventure. I found the ladyboys a bit shocking at the time, and was uncomfortable with their aggressive behaviour. Over the coming trips and years I grew to appreciate their strength and independent personalities. I suppose it is like anything else, once you spend time with people, make friends and learn about their lives you stop being afraid and feel comfortable with them. People are people, if we all overcome our own fears and prejudices we will be the better for it.

In 2008 I only had 5 weeks to make photographs in Thailand and decided to concentrate on one subject. I did a series on ladyboys who worked in shortime bars and rooms.

These photographs were made in the shortime rooms used for sex with the ladyboys customers. I used 2 cameras a Mamiya twin reflex and a converted Polaroid 4x5 Razzle camera (Banarama), both cameras were used with flash. The series was physically difficult to shoot as the camera equipment was very heavy. It was fun to visit a world that I knew little about, I hope in the future to do more portraits of ladyboys in Thailand and elsewhere.

Portrait: Cambodian Baby


The portrait section of the webpage is where I put photographs that do not seem to fit into the other galleries. You will see everything here from portraits of my father to images from Cambodian slums. Many of the photos here are in a style I plan to use for my next major project "Khon Thai", which will be a series enviromental photos of people from across Thai society. The photograph above of the security guard is an example of what I hope to do with "Khon Thai".

Street Life: Homeless Man

Street Life

The street life photographs were shot on the streets of Bangkok in 1999. I used a Mamiya 6 with Tri-x, the 35mm photographs were shot with a Nikon F5 with tri-x/tmax 3200.

Bargirl: Nit 43

Shortime Bargirl

The shortime bargirl series of images was made in Thailand in 2003. I shot the series of photographs over a 1 year period on a road of shortime sex bars. These bars were places where the customer chose there girl on the ground level and then paid a fee and went up into the upstairs rooms for sex. All the portraits made in this series were shot in these upstairs shortime sex rooms.

The photos were made using a Mamiya 6 camera and flash along with Tri-x and Agfa Optima color film. I wanted to convey the life these women lead, to do a series of honest environmental portraits. I was unsure of whether I should include nudity or not. The dilemma I faced is how do you show someone being exploited without exploiting them? How exactly can you show what their lives were honestly like without the nudity. Photography is a visual medium, you have to be in the room with the girl, you have to show her reality, it is all real. I wanted to photograph her reality but I also did not want to exploit her. The commodity a prostitute sells is her/his body, I decided that if I wanted the photos to be true and honest I would have to sometimes include nudity to tell the full story. I tried to make and choose photographs that were not exploitive, photos that were true to her reality.

Bargirl: Nit 43

Bangkok Freelancer

Bangkok freelancer was shot in 1999 using a Mamiya 6 with flash and tri-x film. I was new to the Thai sex scene when I made these photographs. I photographed freelancer sex workers who hung around in various clubs, hotels and the street looking for Western male customers.

My method of working was to leave my apartment at 8pm or 9pm to travel the red-light areas of Bangkok. I would wander the streets and make photographs all night getting back to my apartment at 5 or 6 am. I would take a sleep then develop the film in a small (very small) darkroom I had in my apartment washroom. I would then make contacts of the 120mm negs cut the contact sheets up into small photographs and place them in white envelopes. When I went out shooting the next night or a few days later I would hand out the photos to the people that allowed me to photograph them as free gifts. Often I would be chased down by someone asking for their photographs or asking to be photographed.

During this time I also started my Thai language studies, which have helped me enormously in my various Thai related photograph projects.

Cambodian Brothel: Vietnamese Sex Worker

Cambodian Brothel

The Cambodian brothel images were the saddest photographs I have ever made. I can still see the girls in my mind sitting on plastic chairs outside the brothel waiting for customers (mostly Cambodian men), it was such a sad depressing sight. Many of the girls in this world have been sold into prostitution, sometimes sold into it by their family. It was a sad sad place to make photographs. I wanted so desperately to tell their story, to show the lives of these forgotten women, living these trajic lives.

Making photographs in the brothels was difficult, I had to shoot in almost completely black rooms using autofocus with flash on a Contax G2 camera and Optima color and Tri-x film. There was also a certain amount of danger involved. The brothel papa and mamasons and the corrupt police make money off these women and do not want anyone or anything to interfere with their cash cow. They do not like people making photograph that speak to the truth of the brothel world.

Communication was a major problem, most people did not speak English or Thai and my Khmer was very limited, many of the women came out of Vietnam and I spoke no Vietnamese. Now that I look back at these photographs I made in 2003 I wonder how many of these brothel workers I photographed are still alive. I have read and been told many of these women have upwards of 10 customers a day. My guess is most of the women I photographed in 2003 are now HIV positive or have died of AIDS.

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