The layers in Asia are fantastic. Spaces are so crowded that people stack on top of each other. Scenes like this exist in America but they’re much harder to find.
This small market near my house in Phnom Penh was a warren of activity. People kept their stalls so crowded with merchandise that walking through you’d have to duck under and around things. A section in the front sold watches, an expanse in the back was where my friend Oun Neth got her hair and nails done, and in the center under a torn tarp were the food sellers. Cooking over boiling pots, steam light pouring in through the holes in the ceiling.
I used to hate this picture because part of it is blown out and it wasn’t exposed properly. But images like these area hard for everyone, the difference between light and dark is so extreme. Canon 6D at 28mm.
Two weeks ago I spent five days in Dhaka, Bangladesh. On my second day in the city proper I made my way down to Shadurghat port by rickshaw. Shadurghat is a fantastically busy port with over 1.5 million people arriving every day by boat.
The almost one hour long ride to Shadurghat cost such a small amount of money, only 100 taka (about $1.28) that I felt badly for the rickshaw driver. He was happy to get the money and my small tip, but it shows just how poor some of the people in Bangladesh are.
At Shadurghat port I was quickly mobbed by curious locals, repeatedly asking me “What country?”, asking me if I had cigarettes for them, and men in blue shirts with red sleeve markers asking me if I wanted them to show me around.
One man stood out from the crowd, a man who’s name I would later learn is Juwul. Juwul asked me if I’d just like to accompany him into the port and look at a few of the boats — a hard offer to turn down — but then he led me on a kind of magical two hour tour through the boats, across the Buriganga River in a small dinghy, and through the ship destruction yards and propeller manufacturing plants of South Dhaka.
This wasn’t a reporting project. I had no specific goals in mind except seeing what was in the city that I may find interesting to come back and photograph later.
This was the beginning of what I’d hoped was a one month long road journey between Dhaka, Bangladesh and Chennai, India. I ended up cutting that journey short because of illness.
My primary lesson from this trip, which I think was incredibly valuable, is that I want to be operating from a home base going forward. I love travel, I love the open road, but the fortitude needed to push into more and more remote areas comes more easily to me when I know that there’s a home and friends to return to. Being sick in Bangladesh and wanting to go home and not knowing where home is was tough.
On the technical side, all of these images were captured with a pocketable Ricoh GR camera. In this series they’re all shot at 28mm and uncropped. The Ricoh GR is a marvelous camera for something that fits in your pocket. I’m stunned at the image reproduction it creates. I’m also in love with the mechanics of the camera.
Operating the Ricoh GR:
When I first arrived in Bangkok in 2013 it seemed so fascinating. I stepped out of the airplane and thought for a while about the insanity of people standing upside down on the other side of the planet. I had never been so far from home.
Things were odd at a micro and a macro levels: different looking food, buildings, and transit. A different language with an unusual alphabet. Monks walking everywhere in gorgeous orange robes.
Now after many visits to the city and a lot of time exploring or visiting I actually have some difficulty photographing Bangkok because it feels so normal. That’s a strange mental place. Compared to Cambodia, Bangkok feels a solid 50 years into the future. Cambodia has one big shopping mall. Bangkok has dozens. Cambodia has no metro. Bangkok has at least two, and perhaps four or five, depending on how you count. It feels like a major place.
Like Cambodia, Bangkok’s Chinatown is hectic with a lot of action in the streets. Also like Cambodia this seems to peak at night — when everything is a bit too chaotic for me — and the mornings, when the air is cool, people are moving slowly, and I can see the city beginning its day.
I find that things are more collective and beautiful in the morning than at night: praying at temples, monks gathering alms, women selling flowers, people unloading trucks or cooking or sweeping. It feels like a rebirth.
Here are just a few photos after many days taking pictures. On one particular morning more things came together than had before.