The day started out quite rainy and though most Photogs seem to dread the Monsoon rains, I love them. People tend to stay indoors on even the threat of rain so it is a perfect opportunity to go explore a place that would otherwise be too crowded -hard to see through the wall of bodies. So I grabbed my gear and headed out with only vague idea of what I hoped I would see.
At first light (and first boat) I headed up river to one of my favorite markets for the obligatory cup of coffee. The local ferry passes several temples along the way and each time we passed one this man would, very discretely, offer a prayer. The practicality of his silent prayer was also a way to steady himself agains the choppy waves the rain and wind had stirred up.
Just before the market, the smells and sounds give away its exact location, I came across a little food stall and this young woman totally lost in thought. She had no problem with me capturing a few images of her and after a brief conversation she was gone again, into some distant place with only the smell of the clams in her soup to bring her back form time to time for a sip.
I was so intrigued by the smell of those clams that I had to have some as well, just the thing to start the day.
There are places and cultures that are very resistant to having their image captured. Though rare in most of Asia I find that by involving the people I am shooting and showing genuine interest in their lives that resistance quickly dissolves. More often than not a few minutes of shooting and showing them what was captured is all it takes to strike up a friendship, a cooking tip, a good contact, or a lead for some other great place to explore. This woman used the same technique to out-sell her neighbors. She was so engaging and enthusiastic she had sold several dozen of her chickens well before any one else had sold even one. I later found out that this image I made of her was the first time she had ever seen her own image in anything other than a mirror.
Something about the morning rain seemed to have a relaxing effect on everyone. The usually urgent need to try and make the day’s income had given way to relaxed conversations and laughter, usually at the expense of the guy out in the rain taking their image.
Most communities on the Mekong Delta revolve around rivers and boats are a very important form of transportation. Neak takes obvious pride in his boat and claims it is one the fastest on the river. Given that the motor to boat ratio was disturbingly out of balance I had to agree but diplomatically declined his generous offer to show me just how fast it was. Keeping the cameras dry from the rain was challenging enough.
On the ferry back down the river I met Kosum. Her sense of serenity and peace was so intriguing it seemed to pull my lens to her.
A quick bite of lunch and it was time for……
When it’s nap time - it’s nap time.
Another great way to get around town and explore alleys and neighborhoods. Raucous, chaotic, and colorful, Perfect!
Another advantage to the rain is that it makes the temples much more available to the monks to come and pray, meditate, and enjoy some places that normally are almost inaccessible to them.
In an earlier blog post I describe a phenomenon I call Photo-Grafting. The story of making this image is a perfect example of that. I was sitting in a doorway in this temple when a young Japanese couple came by and asked if I would please take their image. They wanted the usual shot of them standing in front of the Stupa and gladly I obliged. Then I asked if I could take Aiko’s image. They agreed and off we climbed. On an upper level was this narrow passageway. I got her to stop making that “V” sign, stop posing, and instead just relax and look around at things nearby her. This is one of the resulting images. When I turned around I was surprised to see a line of people behind me all queuing up to take the same shot of their travel companions. In a spot that just moments earlier was almost totally deserted there were now dozens of people clamoring to copy that shot. Photo-Grafted!
After about an hour I went back to that Stupa. There were still a line of people up on top all angling to take that shot. This monk was at the base of the Stupa, off in some corner, watching the fracas. He just kept chuckling to himself and when he turned around and saw that it was me making this image of him he just broke out laughing. After a few minutes we both had tears running down our faces from laughing so hard and decided to make a quick retreat to some other corner, out of sight, before a new line formed to shoot us.
Fortunately the rest of the temple was almost completely deserted and so I had it largely to myself. Just a few ancient guard dogs to keep me company.
Even the sitting Buddhas seemed to be enjoying a break from the masses.
Someone else chuckling at the show high up on the Stupa.
With the light fading quickly, rain seemed to form patina tears on these bronze sentinels, it was time to go.
The motion blur of this woman on her way home seemed like the perfect image to end the day.
I look forward to seeing you out there.
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