Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Year That Was

A picture from October. A girl on the beach in Kao Seng, Songkhla, Thailand. 

It's that time of year when every photographer goes through his archive to pull out his "Pictures of the Year." It gives us a chance to look back on what we've done and consider our hits and misses. 

2012 was a year of change for me. After 28 years of work as a photojournalist for daily newspapers, I struck out on my own as a freelance photojournalist based in Bangkok, Thailand, fulfilling what has been a lifelong dream. 

I've been on a wild ride since leaving the newspaper on June 1. I've made more photos that matter to me in the last six months than I did in the last six years at the paper. I started my "unemployment" with a quick road trip to Ft. Defiance, AZ, on the Navajo Nation and didn't stop after that. 

Here are some of my favorite photos from the year that was. There is a slideshow of all my favorites at the end of this blog entry.

A preacher (right) delivers an altar call during the annual Camp Meeting in Ft. Defiance on the Navajo Nation. 

Driving back to Phoenix from the Camp Meeting I stopped at a bull riding school on the "rez."I used a 50mm f1.2 lens to make this picture.  

Politics is one of my favorite things to photograph. In February, the GOP Presidential candidates met in Mesa for one of their seemingly endless sequence of debates. I took time off from the paper so I could photograph the debate for myself. 

Republican Congressman David Schweikert reaches out to a supporter during his primary election night victory party in Phoenix. I photographed Congressman Schweikert several times during his primary campaign and he was comfortable with me being around, so I was able to make some candid frames of him, without handlers and PR people getting in the way. 

In May, I went to the National Cemetery in Phoenix to photograph Scouts placing flags on veterans' graves. I used the 24mm f1.4 wide open at f1.4 to get the narrow depth of field. 

Back in Thailand, in November, I photographed an anti-government protest for Getty Images. In this photo, anti-government protesters run from tear gas fired by riot police. (Photo used courtesy of Getty Images. © Jack Kurtz/Getty Images) 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Singapore - A City of Many Faiths

Singaporean Hindus pray at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore's Little India

Singapore's history and location practically guarantee its status as a melting pot. An island at an important trading crossroads off the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia, it was first settled by Malay Muslims and colonized by the British. The city-state has four official languages: English, Tamil, Malay and Standard Mandarin. 

The British, as was their colonial tradition, imported laborers and civil servants from India and China. The imported workers brought their faiths with them, whether they were Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, Hindu or Sikh. When the British left, the workers, now Singaporeans, had put down roots and stayed to run the new city-state. Singapore, like the United States, is a nation of immigrants. 

Today you can see the diversity on every block of the city. Indian, Chinese, European, Malay all share space on the city's futuristic subways and teeming streets. 

During our time in Singapore, we made it a point to visit several houses of worship. We visited a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque. All were open to people of all faiths. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Day Done

Workers kick back at the end of their day tearing down the buildings in Washington Square in Bangkok.

I've been photographing demolition workers in the old Washington Square district of Bangkok, a mini project of sorts, for the last few weeks. It's interesting to me because you used to see "Washington Square" used with "infamous" on a pretty regular basis. The area has been featured in a series of "Bangkok Noir" mysteries (there's a whole genre of fiction dedicated to foreigners dying in the City of Angels).

The square used to be home to a small cadre of American, British and Australian ex-patriots, all men, all older, most veterans of various Southeast Asian wars. Most of the businesses were bars and / or brothels, cabarets or travel agents (because in Thailand eventually everyone needs a travel agent). There were even a couple of legitimate and, by all accounts, very good western restaurants in the Square.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Reds on the Move

Red Shirt protestors ride their motorcycles down Petchaburi Rd in Bangkok during a motorcade calling for constitutional reform in Thailand

There was another Red Shirt protest in Bangkok Monday. It was the latest in a series of protests calling for constitutional reform in the Kingdom, it started at the Royal Plaza (near Government House) and wound its way through the city, bringing traffic to a standstill, stopping at Parliament, the offices of the ruling Pheu Thai party, Government House and other public buildings before ending up at Democracy Monument. 

By Thai standards it was a pretty small protest, probably only 2,000 or 3,000 people. But 2,000 to 3,000 people on motorcycles and in tuk-tuks are still an impressive sight and can bring Bangkok's always congested traffic to a complete halt.

Covering these moving rallies presents a challenge. You can't do it on foot because they cover too much ground and move too quickly. Renting a car is out of the question because there's no parking along the route. Even in a taxi, which would be really expensive, keeping up with the rally, jumping out at stops and then finding your cab when the motorcade moves again is very problematic. 

The easiest way to cover it is to hire a motorcycle taxi for the day. But I have a serious aversion to moto taxis. They're fast and nimble but they're also very dangerous.

So, like Blanche Dubois, I rely on the kindness of strangers. I took a taxi down to the Royal Plaza for the start of the motorcade, walked along for the first couple of blocks photographing people and then, when it really got rolling, ran up to the truck and asked for a ride. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Honoring His Majesty

A woman bows her head in reverence to the King during a candle light vigil in his honor at Sanam Luang in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok Wednesday night

Wednesday was the 85th birthday of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand. The old part of Bangkok, the area known as Rattanakosin, was a sea of yellow* as the King's subjects showed up in the hundreds of thousands to wish His Majesty a happy birthday. 

When I started planning my move to Bangkok back in May, I set aside this week to stay in Bangkok. The King's Birthday is arguably the most important holiday in Bangkok. Thailand is split along political lines (Red Shirts vs Yellow Shirts), economic lines (the poor vs the very rich) and even religious lines (Buddhist vs Muslim in the Deep South), but the one thing almost all Thais agree on is the importance of the King as a unifying factor in their country. Young or old, rich or poor Thais come together in support of the King.