Blognotes from a photographer life...

Nov 29, 2009


Time do head to Myanmar. Two weeks in the beloved land of smiles, of shadows, of fear. My travel plans there are not clear, and even if they were it would be better not to announce them on line. They will change daily anyway, given the punctual obstacles created...
Just to say that I'll be back in Bangkok around December 13th...
Oh, yes: Max has a new apartment here in Bangkok. This is HIS private view... Don't jump!

Nov 24, 2009


We (me and Massimo Morello) were really enraged last night. We were told on how some colleagues, or kind of, and obviously with a larger wallet and narrower experience, on a well paid assignment in Cambodia, were asking to visit the "brothel area" in Phnom Penh (there is not such thing here, although prostitution is widespread) possibly to catch pedophiles in action..
How can a professional be so narrow minded? How can he fall into such superficial reading of a tragic reality that is not unique to this country? What is this, "pedophiles wonderland"?
Reading the Italian newspapers these days one should think that trans-gression is as common in our Catholic nation as it is in here... At least here they post large billboards advising against it: do use child prostitution and you'll end in jail.. for good!
It's the same common place I have to face every time I say I'm based in Bangkok for months in a year: smiles, chit-chat, requests of practical indications. Like if the Orient has one thing only: long strips full of brothels. And brothels full of children for sale. Come on!
Yes, this is a tragic problem (of which, by the way, our magazine refuse to talk because it's well too known, and not interesting anymore!!) but is common to many parts of the world. To our cities suburbs, per instance (see my post on Vigevano, for once).
But this problem has a different background in this part of Asia (also different dimensions, I agree) and is part of a cultural reality that deserves to be analyzed. Asia, and South East Asia are a complex reality that is more vital, both economically and socially, then the west. They are overtaking us, guys!!!
So, stop thinking of this part of the world as a gigantic open-air brothel: this is the Asia Century going fast.. with a lot of problems and contradictions yes! That's the larger story! Dear colleagues, read more and open your mind..
(By the way, for those who need indications.. this picture was taken last Friday, in remote Koh Kong. There there is a brothel alley, with huts hided in the countryside, full of young, destitute girls. They wait for Indonesian sailors, and costs 4 Euro an hour. No telephone though.)

Nov 23, 2009


"Nice nails, miss... but keep that passport behind... please?" She pushes her way to the hole in the customs window, on the Thai-Cambodia border. Standing in line is not the national sport here, but the farang (foreigners) still gain some respect, or contempt... enough to keep your position anyway!
This may be one of the many growing contradictions in today's Cambodia: pink fake nails change the look, not the attitude...
Cambodia is changing, yes, but how? The hundreds of NGO, that have been creating for years now a kingdom of privileges inside the kingdom of poverty and desperation, are finally achieving some evident results. Something eventually ended to the Cambodians too. To some Cambodians, at least. Lexus and Hummers are to be seen in the jam of motorcycles and Tuck-Tuck, and elegant villas are visible behind trees, high walls and tons of barbed wire. Elegant malls are appearing, but small shops still prevail. No big names in the windows, yet.
Land has it's own quarter in the capital city: small "boutique" hotels and trendy cafes respond to the young "volunteers workers" need to feel comfortable -like modern colonialists- but not guilty, patronizing large estabilishments.
The Phnom Penh contradictions are on every corner and every street. You don't need to go in the suburbs or in the countryside (that would make an easy target for critics like myself). The fact is I don't really grasp the sense of the place: sitting on the Mekong riverside, in the French-style bistro, I feel comfortable, like in the old-backpack-smart-times. In the Silver Pagoda walls I see the frescos falling and decaying: how nice for pictures. And then there are shops, boutiques, Chinese stands, food... If it was not for the guy walking on his hands, reminding me that we are in a country where arms and legs are an optional, I would wonder... Where am I? In the heart of Asia's transition? Transition?

Nov 14, 2009


Got the Visa to enter Burma, once again... This time it sounded less obvious, even if they say the country is "opening"... I really thought they would deny me the possibility to go back into the land I really love, as photographer as well as traveler..
My first time there was in 1998, and very little has changed. Practically nothing for the Burmese. This may be a photographer paradise, but represents a drama to the population. We know and understand why. I have some difficult program there: let's see what I'll be able to achieve..
At the same time we keep working on the magical tattoo practice between Thailand and Cambodia: and this is considered a Visa stamped on your body for protection, or for a straight passage to heaven!
Hard to believe how easier it is to get a Visa for Heaven instead of one for Hell..

Nov 7, 2009


When the sun is hot (really hot) and you need a break, you seat and drink.. Here, in Malacca, the day was really hot.. They say that a Coke is as good as Polase to reintegrate your salts.. But even a Coke is no help when the heat cooks your brain. So my mind wanders as my iPhone takes pictures of the melting ice, but with little avail..
With Massimo we talk of ideas, projects, coming travels.. and then we realize the desolation of what we left home, the scarcity of stimulus, the absence of counterparts.. But, we tell ourselves, with indomitable optimism, that this is the time to chase new ways and evolve old ideas.. This is the time to put our many years of experience at work.. It's on us, the experienced, the task to trace new ways, eventually new patterns.. But is it worth, is it required, is it wished for?
And so we keep cooking our brains until they melt like my Coke ice.. And finally it's time to stand up and go back to shoot. Colonial Malacca is out here, full of the global stereotypes.. What a drag!

Nov 4, 2009


Well, sort of.. romantic! Walking again in (what is left) of the original forest in Cameron Highlands, in the heart of the Malaysian peninsula, allows my thoughts to flow.. and they flow far, probably as far as they can from the daily reality..
Ok, I could talk of those buildings emerging from the trees (destruction of the environment, disappearance of the forest).. Or I could remember the desolation I find back home when I try to communicate these stories (crisis: editorial, economical, cultural).. Or, well, more empty glasses..
But I rather talk of the Dragon I found in George Town, Penang, exactly 31 years after.. Still on the tile of the Chinese Clan House, still looking with a mix of compassion and longing the other Dragon swallowed by the waves.. Still sweet and reassuring in it's kindness..
Well, we live in a age of snakes, but some are dragons, and it's worth looking for them.. Keep look for them..