Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Life Goes On

Bringing the kids home from school in Pom Mahakan. 

I've gone back to Pom Mahakan a couple of times since we got back to Bangkok. There were more evictions in the fort while we were in the US but there are still 30-35 families living inside the walls of the old fort. Bangkok authorities still plan to evict the other residents and build a park on the site. 
An architecture student sketches inside a home. The family that lived in the home was evicted in April but a few of their belongings are still in the house. 

There's a sort of ennui among the residents of the fort now. They know their time is short and there's nothing they can do about it. What is most distressing (for me anyhow) is that there's also no apparent time line. The final evictions could be next week. Or maybe next year. No one knows. At one point in April, while we were in the US, Bangkok media reported that city officials wanted to open the park this month (May, 2017). That seems optimistic but not impossible. 
Tourists walk through Pom Mahakan. 

Interestingly, as Pom Mahakan's story spreads (there have been recent stories in the New York Times and other western news outlets) more and more tourists, both Thai and foreign, are coming down to the fort. An architect's group is busy making sketches of the historic homes before they're gone. It's like a closeout sale on history is taking place. 

And through it all, residents try to live their lives. 
A back to school haircut in a home in Pom Mahakan. Thai schools' "summer" break is in April. The school year starts in May.  

Even as the residents hang on, the city is going ahead with the construction of the park. The debris of the homes torn down over the last nine months (about 1/3 of the homes in the fort have been demolished) has finally been removed. Some parts of the fort have been newly landscaped and there are piles of new dirt and potted plants awaiting construction crews. There's even a small community garden on the site of a demolished home. 
A new community garden on the site of a demolished home. The city government hung a PR photo at the back of the garden. 

Some of the old home sites have been turned into public space where residents gather to gossip in the evening, after the mid day heat has abated. 
People gather to gossip in the evening. There used to be two homes on this site. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Powwow for Hope

(This is the last blog entry from our trip to Minneapolis)
A dancer performs during the Grand Entry at the Powwow for Hope at the Base Camp in Ft. Snelling

The last thing I photographed before we left the Twin Cities was the Powwow for Hope, a fundraising powwow sponsored by the American Indian Cancer Foundation. The powwow was an intertribal with hundreds of dancers, most from the upper Midwest. 
One of the youth dancers gets help from her grandmother while she gets ready for the powwow. She said three of her uncles battled cancer, and one, a Vietnam era veteran, died of lymphoma traced back to Agent Orange exposure. 

I covered a lot of powwows when we lived in Arizona, which has a large Native American community (the Navajo Nation, in the northwest corner of Arizona and crosses into New Mexico and Utah, is the largest reservation in the US), but I haven't covered a powwow since moving to Thailand in 2012. 

This powwow was unique because it was a fundraiser for cancer research and to support Native Americans (and their families) battling cancer. I think when people consider the health issues facing Native Americans they generally put heart disease and diabetes at the top of the list. 

Certainly in my time photographing Native Americans in the Southwest, a recurring health theme was heart disease and diabetes, which is rampant on reservations. Generally for the same reasons they're rampant in inner city communities and poor rural communities - the low cost, high calorie, processed food diets of people in poverty lead to so called lifestyle diseases. But according to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, cancers are actually the leading cause of death for Native Americans (at least in Minnesota). 
Dancers line up for the Grand Entry.

The powwow lasted most of the afternoon and featured intertribal dances, dances for survivors, team dances, healing dances and healthy food (i.e. no frybread). It was a good way to spend an afternoon. 
A slowish shutter speed exposure of dancers in the Grand Entry.

On a technical note, I photographed the powwow with my Olympus E-M1 Mark II bodies. I traded in my several years old E-M5 Mark II bodies and bought the new bodies while we were in Minneapolis. They performed very well but what I was happiest about was the autofocus, which in single shot is very fast but even the continuous autofocus worked nearly as well as it did in the Canon 5D Mark III bodies (that I stopped using in 2014). I was very happy with the E-M5 Mark II bodies, but I thought the continuous AF was their Achilles' Heel. 
Dancing during an intertribal. 

It was not an exhaustive test of continuous autofocus, but it was much better than the C-AF on any of the other mirrorless bodies I've used. I will be testing it more in future weeks. 
A tribal elder talks to kids and encourages them to join an intertribal dance that didn't require fancy dress.

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.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Protecting Their Right to Choose

Women and men who want to protect women's right to make their own health care choices line the hallway in front of the Minnesota State Senate in the State Capitol.

We spent a lot of time at the Minnesota State Capitol during our trip back to the US in April and May. There were several protests at the Capitol that I wanted to cover including the Science March, May Day and a Planned Parenthood protest against the Minnesota State Senate GOP, which passed several laws to restrict women's rights to make their own health decisions. 

About 50 people responded to a last minute call by Planned Parenthood to come down to the Capitol and rally in the hallways in front of the State Senate. 
People chant in front of the Senate chambers.
A black and white photo of protesters made with my Pen F in the monochrome mode

At one point, more than 100 ecumenical progressive Christians joined the group. The Christians were in the Capitol to protest GOP efforts to roll back workers' rights protections (like sick leave and child care) that Twin Cities municipalities were passing as local ordinances. (This is a part of a national trend of state legislatures, controlled by Republicans, trying to roll back or prohibit local ordinances passed by Democratic city councils.) 

As expected, the State Senate passed the laws, which, as expected, were vetoed by Minnesota's Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton
A woman dressed as a "Handmaid" from Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" (and Hulu series) climbs the stairs to the Senate Chamber. Women dressed as Handmaid's are coming to more and more rallies for choice as the dystopian novel becomes more relevant with every passing day. 
Progressive Christians pass the Handmaid. 

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.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day in Minnesota

Immigrants' rights supporters in the Minnesota State Capitol. 

Hundreds of immigrants' and workers' rights supported came to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul on May Day to demonstrate against attacks on immgrants and workers.

They stopped at the Governor's office before moving on to the rotunda of the building. 
Marching through the building. 

Minnesota has a reputation for being one of the whitest states in the country. This may have been true early in the 20th century but now it couldn't be further from the truth (and it ignores Minnesota's Native American community, that predates, by centuries, European arrivals in the state). Minnesota communities have opened their doors to refugees and immigrants from around the world. In fact the Twin Cities are a very diverse place with thriving immigrant communities from around the world.
Somali immigrants demand housing rights in the rotunda (Glendale is an affordable apartment complex in the Minneapolis suburbs that is being "gentrified" which may push the Somalis out.)
Protesters in the rotunda. 

The march, like the March for Science, was ostensibly non-partisan. But like the March for Science, it was clear for whom the barbs were intended: Trump and Republicans who are making immigrants unwelcome in America. 
An immigrants' rights activist waves a Mexican flag on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. 

A boy who attended the march catches snowflakes on his tongue. On May 1, not February 1. It's a Minnesota spring day. 

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.