What goes into writing my statement and descriptions

830 pm Monfai pow wow

Piecing together a body of work from concept to show in 26 days is no easy feat.  I cannot possibly put into words how helpful it is to have the right people for the job helping out along the way with all the details.  Now that the work is completed and the files have been sent off to the printer I have begun putting together my statement and descriptions of each piece.  Below is my timeline for yesterday (Saturday).

9:00am  Wake up and get dressed.  Dev and I have a 10am “leave-the-house” time set in order to pic up breakfast to bring to his friend Mike’s home who we are meeting for a last minute critique

10:00am  We leave Monfai and ride a bit out of town under the hot morning Thai sun to a bakery.  We get rosemary bread, carrot cakes, and croissants.  We ride out to Mike’s house.

10:30am We arrive at Mike’s house, indulge in breakfast, and talk art.  Mike is an art professor from London who has made a home here in Chiang Mai for some time.  His house is custom, made of concrete, and is an artists dream.  I’m instantly inspired.  Mike looks at my work, offers some input in display options.  We start talking about time and quantum physics.  He brings out a book which is of particular interest to me.  There’s gold in there which I will mull over for the rest of the day.  This will ultimately help me articulate my statement.

12:30am  We leave and I go to CAMP at Maya to finish making some final edits to the images I have before I send them off to print.  I also do some client work while I’m there.  In some odd way it aleviates some of the pressure I’m starting to feel about my first solo show.

6:00pm I return to Monfai to get dressed for an event being given.  It’s proper etiquette and expected of you to dress appropriately (Lanna Style) when you attend events.  This event will feature professional dancers who attended a university devoted to teaching dance.  They will be able to help me with writing descriptions for each of my images because they know the names and the philosophical meanings of each posture.

8:30pm  The dancers finish performing and are ready to meet with me.  They don’t speak English.  My Thai is conversational and NOT academic.  I enlist the help of a dear friend I’ve made at Monfai to help me with translation.  She is absolutely wonderful to work with and gives me all the information I need.

9:00pm My meeting is finished.  I’m exhausted.  The party at Monfai is still in full swing.  I join Dev at the bar and do two shots of Yaa Dong which is a mixture of herbs and rice whiskey.  I make a Monfai cocktail which is Yaa Dong mixed with something else.  I don’t know what I’m mixing it with.  I just drink it.  Ahhhhhhh

10:00pm  Join the rest of the crew back at Baan Chang (Elephant House) for some live music and some Chang beer and Laap

11:00pm Return back to my room and proceed to put my notes together (in English and Thai) into more structured notes for Dev to look at and edit for me.

11:30pm I get a text message about a private art related event going on at a gallery I was at before.  Fantastic…another opportunity to publicize my show.  I graciously accept and head out on the bike.  The air is dense and cool.  It feels good to be in the wind.

12:45am I’m done and head back home to crash.  I literally pass out as soon as I hit the bed.  I have a weird dream that my girl adopted a cat and my sister aided in the conspiracy.   It wakes me up at 3am.  I chalk it up to too much Yaa Dong and go back to sleep.

And that’s how I got my statement and descriptions.


Post production is a breeze. So how about printing?

I’m 6 days out from my first solo show and have made it through the post production phase of the project.  If there’s one thing in my arsenal of tools I know that I can do well, it’s work in post production.  Between Photoshop, Capture One, and my trusty Macbook Pro I was able to nail down 12 finished images in approximately 24 hours.  I spent 4 days at the internet cafe in Maya (the mall here) in 6 hour shifts drinking iced coffees and eating pad-gra-pow-gai and noodle soup all the while.  Maya is a great place to get work done.  It’s set up to be a work space so you have really fast wi-fi and everyone there is working on their own projects.  A lot of artists too.  They have huge collaboration tables where you can lay out your work and discuss with your group if you need to.  Open 24 hours. What more could you ask for?

So now that post is done it comes down to the biggest bottleneck in every photographers workflow; Printing.  It’s the ONE thing that everyone seems to struggle with. You spend countless hours on your images getting the colors right only to run a job and find that all those colors have been wiped out mysteriously by the printer.  I spent years at home trying to get this right and was only able to nail it down when I purchased my own printing setup and calibration tools.

Coming here to produce a body of work from start to finish had me a bit on the uneasy side.  I had researched high end print labs before coming and was not coming up with a whole lot of choices.  Regardless, this is Thailand and as culture has it, when you don’t get exactly what you want you work with what you have.  Fortunately for me I live in a place that has just the right accessories to help me complete the project and work around any shortcomings of the print labs.    Actually the print labs are probably just fine.  I just get really picky about this last stage of work.  This is where I sign my name and well, if you’re an artist, thats pretty much all you have.


Production started and guess what? It’s a lot of work

 

One thing I needed to continuously clarify to my friends back at home was that even though I was taking this sabbatical to Asia, I was going to be working while I was here.  For some reason everyone kept thinking I was taking some sort of vacation.  And while it is true that the vibe here is way more chill than back at home and I’m having a great time, there’s a whole other set of circumstances to deal with that can cause stress, and slow your project just like back at home.  Fortunately I haven’t hit many roadblocks at all in production.  My biggest roadblocks were getting myself sorted and getting my concept nailed down as well as the technical aspects that surrounded it.

I left home with a very loose concept called “Untouched by the hands of time.”  If anyone follows my posts regularly you may recall me mentioning that it was broad enough to encompass anything which gave a lot of liberty but also alot of space to get creative ADHD.  When I came to Monfai and Ne’Na I immediately met with Dev and Khun Shukit to discuss the project.  Khun Shukit offered encouragement and recommended getting the staff at Monfai to help me in any way I needed.  Dev and I had a few back and forth conversations on the topic, each one pushing a little bit further until I came to a fork in the road which presented two distinct avenues.

My thought process back at home was to shoot photo-journalistically.  This is a style very foreign to me.  I don’t have a whole lot of experience working this way and while it seemed like a great idea, and still could work for a project I realized that it simply didn’t do justice to the resources I had available at Monfai and Ne’Na.  Dev really helped me dial in my thought process, mentoring me and explaining to me how to refine my idea.  While I’m continuing with the same theme of being untouched by time, it has been narrowed down to a very specific subject within a very specific culture.  This was a lot of work to arrive at and once I nailed this down, I had to begin to think of how to express it.

I can’t go into too many details about the project but I can say that it’s centered around dance in the Lanna culture.  This allows me to take advantage of the resources available to me at Monfai and Ne’Na and still stay true to my original idea.  After spending a few days working through the technical aspects of how to produce images that would tell this story I was ready to begin production.  My presentation meeting with Arjan Rampad and Khun Shukit went extremely well and I was given their blessing to proceed with the project.  After a few informal meetings with some of the staff at Monfai we set a meeting date for last Sunday to begin photographing.  This part felt a lot like what I do at home in my commercial career.

To be quite honest the whole photoshoot felt A LOT like what I do at home.  Skilled professionals show up, do what they do best, I run around alot, sweat, make discerning faces at the back of my camera and say “Ok, one more…” when I really mean 10 more. Soon enough everyone was laughing and having a good time.  They made me dress up in some of the costumes, try some of the dances, basically make myself look like a big oaf for amusement.  Indeed fun times.


Chiang Mai, Monfai, and Ne’na. You’ll hear these alot in the next 30 days

Mawn Faai

 

Saturday I wrapped up in Bangkok and made my way north to Chiang Mai.  Upon arriving in Chiang Mai I grabbed my bags and was met by Khun Shukit.  He’s the curator at the Ne’Na Contemporary Artspace where I’ll be staying for the next month to produce this body of work.  After a brief ride from the airport to the artspace I was given an orientation of the place and left to go on about my business.  This month I’m the only artist living here in the house so it’s kinda like home, a big huge open space with me (usually) all by myself.

What’s unique about Ne’Na Artspace is that they work very closely with Monfai Cultural Center.  The culture center is basically a living museum which aims to preserve Lanna Culture.  Lanna was a kingdom which existed in Northern Thailand, Laos, Burma from the 13th to 18th century.  They have their own culture which is separate from the rest of Thailand and even their own dialect of which is distinctly different from the rest of the Thai language.  You can still get by on every day Thai language here but you WILL miss some things if you aren’t familiar with the northern style of speaking.  For what it’s worth, I’m not super familiar with it.  I just know there’s a bunch of gaps now where there used to be words I knew.

Monfai Culture Center is right next door to the home I’m staying in so I have access to this treasure trove of artifacts, costumes, and perhaps the most important part, PEOPLE who work there preserving the culture.  All this works very well for the theme of my project.  I’ll be able to make a good chunk of work here…I think. You never know how a project will go until you begin it.

Here’s a few snaps shortly after I arrived.  More to come soon.

 


No alcohol by law, now that’s a lent

Distinctive smells of Thailand

 

Today marks the beginning of what would be akin to Buddhist Lent.  For the next three months monks will reside at one temple and will not travel to others unless it is an emergency.  Traditionally, the purpose of this was so monks could avoid having to travel during the rainy season.  Nowadays it’s less of an issue since we have transportation.  Crowds of people flock to the local temples to make offerings and merit.  This is known here as “tham boon”.   It goes a little something like this.

Get to your local temple or temple of your choice and don’t forget to take your shoes off before you enter.  Most locals wear some sort of slip on shoes since Thai culture is big about taking shoes off before entering homes and temples.   As if I don’t stick out enough, there’s my bright white size 9 Pumas sitting in the middle of all the flip flops.  Make your way over to the offering table and grab a candle, 3 sticks of incense (thoop) and a flower.  Light the candle and the incense from the large cauldron sitting next to the shrine.  Place the candle in the offering tray, kneel down and put the three sticks of incense and flower between your palms in a prayer gesture.  Now say your devotions.  When you finish, place the flower at the foot of the Buddha and put your three sticks of incense in the bowl amongst the others.  Finally go strike a gong three times and you’re done.  Bonus points if you inconspicuously capture some photos for your travel blog.  Believe me when I say I’m trying to do everything I can to not look like a foreign jackass.

Headed back to my hotel to enjoy the rest of the day off from the toil of heat, crowds, and high emission vehicles.  Upon entering my room I came across a note which gave me a good chuckle.  Perhaps what I found most amusing wasn’t that today was a “no alcohol day”, rather the civil rights uproar a move like this would cause back at home.  As “The Most Interesting Man” would say….”Stay thirsty my friends”.

Be well and Buddha bless _/|\_

 


Getting inked Thai style

Finally getting around to posting up images from day 1 activities.  It’s been a long ride ride the past couple days.  I’ve been getting used to the weather, the congestion, sleeping weird hours and getting tired in the middle of the afternoon.  This is one of the many reason I planted myself in Bangkok for the first week.

Before I continue with this post there’s a few vocab words I should clarify so that the story makes sense to everyone.  I’ll keep it simple and in English

Sak Yant….it’s a tattoo performed in a traditional manner.  By hand with a long metal rod.  It’s blessed at the end and infused with magic powers.  Very popular in South East Asia.

Arjan…a person who is a senior level teacher and often a master in their craft

Rusei…A Sak Yant master.  Someone who has studied the art of Sak Yant for many years and has perfected the craft.  Most likely served as a monk at some point in their life while learning the craft.

Less than 24 hours after landing in Bangkok I met with my friend Paul and Gluay who took me for my first yant in 2014.  After a brief catch up on whats been going on in our lives we were in the car and off to see Arjan Fu who lives about an hour outside of Bangkok.  On the way we picked up Robb, a young guy from Texas, who was interested in receiving a yant as well.  Upon arriving at Arjan Fu’s home we were greeted at the door and offered cool bottles of water after our long ride.

We discussed the yants we’d be receiving.  I explained to Arjan Fu (as best I could in my broken Thai) that I was at the beginning of a new chapter in my life and that I was here in Thailand working on a special project that would help me to launch my art career.  I already had an idea of the yant I wanted which just so happened to compliment my existing one.  We agreed and began the work.

During the preliminary discussion I asked Arjan Fu if I could photograph some moments during the course of our day for my project. He kindly gave me his blessing a I proceeded to capture a few images (film and digital) of him before we began.  The image at the top of this post is one of them.

The images at the bottom of this post were captured by Paul and Robb who were wonderful to assist me with capturing moments for my project which I was physically unable to do.

In the images below, you’ll see my new yant with the gold leaf around it before the blessing ceremony.  Gold leaf is used to channel the energy and magic into the yant itself.  The image with the cords wrapped around Robb and I is the actual blessing ceremony.  It lasts about 15 minutes.

After receiving my yant I had prepared to give Arjan Fu a gift which I had made a few years ago.  The image  was created on my first trip to Thailand in 2012 while visiting Chiang Mai.  Ironically enough that’s where I’m headed after my week here in Bangkok.  It has now come full circle and now resides in the workspace of a master.  This is a true honor for me and one of the highlights of my day.

All in all, another great experience.  I really enjoyed seeing Paul, Gluay, and Arjan Fu again and meeting Robb.  I feel as though people come into your life at certain times for very specific reasons.  I was glad to be able to share this experience with him.

 


Dippin’ in the travel stash

I like stashes.  I like keeping stashes.  Sometimes I purposely stash shit in places I know I’ll forget about only so I can stumble upon it again one day and surprise myself.

So what DO I stash…ha…chocolate, pharms, clove cigarettes, mementos from special occasions.  Oh yeah…foreign currency.

Today’s capture of the day is just me diggin thru a bunch of left over money from places I’ve visited trying to scrape up enough Thai Baht for a taxi from the airport to my hotel when I land in Bangkok.  And maybe enough Korean Won for a Starbucks when I transfer in Seoul.  Since I’m considering a side trip over to Cambodia it wouldn’t hurt to grab some Riel outta the stash either, huh?  Although USD is always the preferred method of payment in Cambodia.

On to digging…


Great idea. Now how am I going to pull this off?

Endearing Yourself

One week out from leaving and I’m still wrapping up loose odds and ends related to work I’m doing here.  I haven’t had the time to actually sit down and formulate a plan on how I’m going to execute the project I’m heading overseas to do.  I mean, I have a very developed idea, it’s not that.  It’s the part where I actually pull it off.  The project in and of itself is loosely centered around the theme of being “untouched by the hands of time”.  That’s open enough where it allows me creative liberty to explore a variety of interpretations.   Yet also so wide that without a focus it could just get all A.D.D leaving no connecting line between images therefore making for a choppy story.

It’s going to require that I interact with people.  It’s going to require that I make myself understood and endear myself to the people I’m working with. Fortunately I’ll have access to the cultural center all day and night during my stay.  Hoping to maybe start around there and see what type of connections I can make with the locals.

I guess most important is going to be my need to communicate that I’m working on an art project.  Just brushing up on some pre-flight vocabs.  To any of my Thai friends out there reading this….I apologize in advance for my poor spelling.  I’ve probably written something offensive somewhere.  ขอโทษนะขรับ

 


2 weeks out from 6 weeks out. What would you bring?

Two weeks from today I leave for sabbatical.  There…I said it.  It’s real now and it’s getting more real as each day passes. I wanted to pickup on my travel blog in an effort to train myself to create at least one capture per day.  Since I’ll be working on a special project while I’m traveling this will ensure that I have a daily deadline to meet and that I stay focused on the project; or at least on photography.

I went and fished out my bags today and I’m here staring at them trying to figure out what to pack in which bags.  There’s necessities of course, and then there’s the valuables which you always wanna make sure are in your carry-on.

The current plan has me traveling for at least 6 weeks.  At the end of 6 weeks, I guess I’ll decide what comes next for me.  I’m keeping an open mind about this project and journey.  Inevitably, I’ll get lonely and miss the comforts of my home since I’ll be traveling alone.  So that being said, I’ll toss this question out in the open forum….


Apsara

 

Before I left for Asia the first time I had been communicating with a designer who was working on a project which was heavy in Eastern artwork.  I was assigned the task of coming back with some raw images which could be stylized for a lounge type environment with dim but very direct lighting on wall hangings.  I must have photographed near 30 temples in a span of 48 hours while I was in Chiang Mai.  They are literally everywhere so it’s not [too] hard to accomplish.  One temple I found particularly interesting had doors with gold leaf figures pressed onto them.  Thai artwork has always intrigued me.  The spindly shapes of the bodies and the delicate curvature of it’s limbs creates lines for my eyes to follow which feels like it draws me into a story.

The figure in this image is called an Apsara which is the rough western equivalent of an angel living between the heavens and the earth.  They are know for their beauty and are particularly well-versed in dance and song.

This is a highly stylized photograph of the temple door I described above.  As I worked with this image and added layer upon layer of digital color I began to notice that it was keeping most of it’s metallic properties.  When I created the print for the final I used metallic paper and covered it with sheet of acrylic.  Metallic paper combined with hard direct halogen lights from above gave this image a three dimensional effect.