Apsara Dancer. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 2015.
One year ago.
One of the things most amazing about Cambodian culture is that women do this apsara dance so frequently, almost casually. My Cambodian friends would bend their fingers back constantly so that they could do the dance better – and anyone I asked would be able to bend their index finger back far enough that it touches their wrist. Try it – it’s really hard.
This woman by the river had almost no idea I was there. She was I think on drugs, dancing to herself, wrapped in a carpet. It’s really sad, but in black and white it becomes this very elegant scene showing a bunch of contradictions from modern Cambodia.
Arriving at the airport in Dhaka was so intense. The men at customs interrogated me: how long will you be here, what are you doing here, why have you been to so many countries, why do you have so little luggage? There aren’t a ton of tourists visiting Dhaka, and my usual “only two weeks” excuse meant I got exactly 15 days on my visa instead of the usual 30. The man selling visas sensed my frustration at paying a $7 tax on top of a $50 visa fee and handed me a $1 coin from the USA. “I have no idea what this is. Is this your money? Take it.”
I exited the airport by foot. Since my Canon 6D had drowned in Chiangmai, I only carried the tiny Ricoh GR. My first photo was of family members of people arriving clinging to a fence outside the airport. But there were so many police around, seemingly everywhere, that I was afraid to get close. The photo didn’t work, but this second one of a man also exiting the airport in front of me did.
Woman in Union Square. San Francisco, California. 2015
I still love this picture from earlier 2015 in Union Square. It’s simple, and it’s almost too easy, but I love the textures. Her hair, her sweater, the butterflies in the window, the man framed in the window of the building across the street. It’s not such an absurd picture, just a nice one.
Watching this documentary about William Klien earlier in the week, Klien thought it was interesting that Americans so readily play along with advertisements. That we like them and accepted them as part of popular culture. In San Francisco some of the best public art is from businesses. This window is gorgeous, facing out into the world, and sure they want to sell me something… but from this photo I have no idea what that is. So it’s not so bad.
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.