Blognotes from a photographer life...

May 20, 2010

HOME

I landed in Bangkok in October, on a humid sunrise at the end of the rainy season. Now, after over seven months, the rain is not coming back yet. Instead a revolution has taken place, leaving an uncertain situation. Bangkok is burning: the future at risk. It is time to fly home. But where is "home"? What is "home"? An proverb says that "home is where the heart is".. partly it's true, but it's not all.
For me the feeling of being "home" is a little more complicated, maybe because I try to live, as Theroux indicates, traveling, and "Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life".
The places where I feel home are more then one: Tuscany, Sicily, Bangkok, Bali, Brazil.. Besides Tuscany, where obviously I was born and have my house and work, I came to realize that what makes me feel "homely" are the people more then the environment. I'm Latin, I love a positive approach to life. Even in tough times I'm conscious that I was born in a lucky time and place, and I should always look at the "half full glass", having witnessed other's many empty glasses until now. In those places people share the same philosophy. And love. (With some obvious, tragic, temporary exception.. of course).
So, here comes the time to board a plane and pass from a summer to the other. But are only the seasons of life that are shifting.. I hope peace prevails in this "other home" of mine...

May 19, 2010

THIS WAS A BIT TOO CLOSE...

They finally crushed the protests. This morning the Army attacked, with a relatively low number of casualties. But the real mess is starting now: Bangkok is on fire, the rest of the country seems to have the same situation in various places. We are under curfew here. I guess they want free ground to wipe out the groups of arsonists and looters. What will happen from tomorrow is the most uncertain and tragic of forecasts. A bloodshed is not a far possibility.
The Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi went in with the first wave and was killed. Other reporters were severely wounded. When I followed, about an hour after, I thought the ground was safe. But in a second a big exchange of fire started, and I was blocked among soldier that were hiding on the ground. The worst place to be. Me and other reporters followed the troops when they could leave the bad spot, after two grenades exploded nearby.. Fortunately we made it back. This was too close.
I am very sorry for Fabio. The crazy reality today is this professional situation that pushes the photographer to search for the extraordinary image to make a living. In this war environment the push can easily take you to death. I don't think this sacrifice will make the people that should (the editors and publishers) reconsider this profession problems.
I'm not a war photographer. I have followed this revolution because I consider Bangkok a second home, and I feel very involved. The cultural aspects of this major event were too compelling to me: that's it. But for all the young guys that risk their lives to report, please give them a serious support.

May 16, 2010

ON THE BRINK OF TRAGEDY

The situation in Bangkok is on the brink of tragedy: should the Army attack the protesters ground the number of casualties will be great. In the meantime the Red Shirts are fighting in the streets around, trying to escape the siege. Scenes of violence, on both sides, are changing the perception of this land and people. I'm not surprised: Asia is famous for smiles transformed in atrocities in the blink of an eye. The worst part, for a Westerner, is that predict that moment is impossible. The number of deaths is over 60, with over 1700 wounded until now. And the battle goes on in the soi of the city. The greater fear is that such a situation, should it create the martyrs that many people wish for, will leave a condition where terror and violence could linger for the years to come.
I have now posted a multiple selection of images that resume the revolution until now. You can see it on the web site. And will keep following..

May 14, 2010

SEH DAENG

The one thing I mostly despise is violence, especially State organized violence. And the Army is the obvious incarnation of it (should I add the oddity of ranks, orders to be followed without personal discrimination, and so on?). And war, to cite Bertrand Russel again, "does not show who is right, only who is left".
But on a personal point of view, I admire people that stand their ideas, whatever these ideas are, even if they are opposite to mine.
General Seh Daeng was shot last night, almost certainly by an Army sniper that received orders to decapitate the Red Shirts military wing. This man, who spent his life believing in force, violence, military strategies (he even proposed to bombard opponents with poisonous snakes!) made the mistake to choose the rebels side and was finally "terminated" by his own side: the Army. That same Army that has shown an incredible level of incapacity on the ground and has even refused to follow (fortunately!) the Government orders to crackdown the protesters.
I last sow him a couple of days ago, training a group of would be militia armed with bamboo sticks to go inspecting the barricade he had designed. He went with them in the open ground and when he faced the police, that was supposed to arrest him, was yes surrounded but by policemen that were asking for his autograph and taking pictures with him.
General Seh Daeng was not a nice man, but he was the only military man on the scene.
The situation is on the brink of tragedy. The Red Shirts leaders are divided and have no real control. Large posters announce a non-violent movement, but from the stage they promise to "fight" not to "resist" until the end. And they have arms. And they are now completely surrounded by the Army. Gandhi would disagree on the whole strategy: but this is not British India.

May 13, 2010

SHOWDOWN TIME? OR MORE OF THE SAME...

The talking, the guessing, the (Western) logic, the magical predictions and political analysis, all went to hell.. The proposed solutions were rejected, the requests avoided.. My sensation is that the Red leaders and the Government are now playing with the life of the people: of the many people still protesting for right reasons but with a questionable leadership. Is true that compromise is not an easy dish for the square, and many wish to push the confrontation to the definitive showdown. But, I repeat myself, after the fight, the blood, the deaths, who will be left will be the same leaders, on both sides, talking of the need to compromise for the common good. They all still have time, but it look like they don't want to use it..
New images of the ongoing confrontation are now on the website. But may need an update soon..

May 12, 2010

LADIES & GEORGE WORKSHOP

video
It's Revolution in the afternoon and Photographic workshop in the morning: Thai oddities are endless and contagious.. Take five nice Italian ladies and an English gentleman with a great passion for photography. Add some very basic digital cameras (I mean, compact single lens, 200$, snapshot cameras!) and the will to brave the almost 40° temperatures of Bangkok afternoons. Give them a direction, some adjustments, a little help, and you may get the results you can appreciate in the final 5-days-5-pictures-each projection. Not bad, not bad at all! And thanks!

May 4, 2010

THE BORING TIME OF A REVOLUTION

I had an English teacher in High School, Mr Carlucci, an expert in Hemingway prose, that told us what were the major obstacles to a Revolution: mothers and wives! He said they would ask sons and husbands to stay home after the first days with casualties. This was over 30 years ago, in the West. In Thailand today it's obviously another story.
Are still men to wear uniforms (Reds militia and Army), but women are present everywhere, and they are really passionate, on both sides of the barricades. Now that the standoff is lasting days between threats and conciliatory proposals, the real risk for the Red Shirts revolution is boredom. Fewer people are left in the besieged Bangkok intersection, and the rain season is beginning with sudden downpours that are not an easy challenge when you sleep in the streets. The rebellion leaders are not talking from the stage anymore, a precaution against the snipers placed on the buildings around: they have been replaced by singers and comedians. Yesterday afternoon the public jumped and danced when the first notes of "I will survive" started from the stage. Women have not only left home: they are defying boredom!
But the threat of a military crackdown is still real, and dangerous. If only the hardliners will be left in the square the "non violent" movement may have his martyrs.

May 1, 2010

XXI CENTURY REVOLUTION: WHAT'S THE SENSE?

Being May 1st, and being myself in the middle of a revolution (well, sort of), I feel like a reflexion is needed. What is the sense of this popular revolution? But, above all, what is really moving and driving it? Maybe the real question should be "who" is driving it..
Although I feel empathically near the red Shirts reasons (for the first time in the history of this kingdom the neglected masses are acquiring a "class consciousness", are discussing the philosophy of undiscussed loyalty to the noble rich oligarchy) I remain deeply suspicious of the leadership that inspired and still controls the movement. Thaksin is closer to Berlusconi then to Lenin; he never discussed the economical system of the country, being one of the richest tycoon on earth: he merely gave some economical benefits to the large countryside population to obtain a solid electoral base, to be transformed into power. The subsequent turmoil was a power struggle among rich and powerful, not a popular revolt: a confrontation deeply rooted into tradition and religion more then in ideology and politics.
Even in these days, when thousands of people are fighting for their new social identity, the signs of this "controlled rage" are clear. The Red Shirts are occupying the business centre of Bangkok, barricaded in a large intersection, an area that has become a village, like the "Paris Commune". They sleep in tents in the streets, shower behind veils, get ready for a fight: many truly believe this is their occasion in history.
But there are questions. Who is paying for the electricity generators, the television broadcast, the freely distributed food, the countless printing and gadgets? And more then this: on the sides of the camps are the largest, most up-market shopping malls and luxury hotels in Thailand. They closed, of course, but not a scratch has happened to the properties (in any other country the people would be sleeping in the rooms of the Four Seasons by now).
The conclusion is clear: "You shall fight, even be ready to die (over 30 till now), but you shall not discuss the economic system, the private property!"
It's so strange when you see the flow of thousands of motorcycles riding the streets of the capital, with red flags and shirts, chanting slogans and calling for change, stopping at a red traffic light! I guess this is a XXI century revolution: to stop it takes little more then a traffic policeman.
My wish is that not many people will be killed and wounded from now on. This would be an useless sacrifice since (as history shows) in a few months everybody will be back to it's life, with social roles unchanged. Only a few gadgets added to their wealth. Whoever the "winner" will be.