Jeremiah Rogers

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Mon, Aug 24, 2015

Monks becomes a tree. Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2015.

Once I’d travelled for a while I found that things didn’t feel strange anymore. I said that they didn’t feel exotic.

I said that Asia felt “normal”. That it wasn’t interesting to me anymore.

My friend Gareth responded, aptly, that “exotic” is a dirty word. Exotic is something we look for to mark what’s foreign. It’s a box we can put things in that are unfamiliar. It may give us an excuse to avoid exploring them further.

When something stops being “exotic” it really just means that it has become “normal”. What isn’t “exotic” is now a part of myself.

The world is better — I certainly think — when people understand things instead of labeling them as foreign or exotic.

Thu, Jul 30, 2015

I’ve been slowly switching back into color photography over the past few months. At first my photos looked garish and off. All of the colors haphazardly spread around the frame without any sense to them. I’m just starting to get a bit of an understanding of how the colors should be arranged, and as an exercise I’ve composed some two-by-two grids of basic color compositions. I’m a total amateur at this, and it’s really hard.

Here are two recent compilations of yellows and blues and reds and blues that I’ve found around Thailand over the last few weeks.

Tue, Jul 28, 2015

Novice monks gathering alms. Chinatown, Bangkok.

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.

Woman selling flowers. Chinatown, Bangkok.

Workers. Chinatown, Bangkok.

Praying. Chinatown, Bangkok.

Praying. Chinatown, Bangkok.

Feet and yellow chairs. Chinatown, Bangkok.

Fri, Jun 26, 2015

The six hour Bangkok to Aranyaprathet train, which takes you just up to the Cambodian border, is only 48 baht (about $1.40). I recommend it as an easy and affordable way to see the country. The train leaves every morning and afternoon from Bangkok and schedules are easy to find online. Once arriving in Aranyaprathet a tuktuk offered to help me find a hotel 100 baht (just under $3) and the hotel itself cost 350 bath (about $10). There will likely be less expensive rooms available, but I arrived late enough at night and was tired enough that the $10 was a decent price to rest and use solid wifi for a Skype meeting.

In the train station a few nights before departure.

Outside of the train. Nicely labelled with removable placards naming the route.

Departing Bangkok by train at one of several rail crossings.

The train is definitely local and for the first few hours passes through small sections of Bangkok carrying local commuters.

And shortly after leaving the city you’re greeted with green fields and cattle for hundreds of miles.

Inside of padded seat cabin (left), inside of non-padded seat cabin (right).

Tuktuk from the train station to a guest house in Thailand. I spent the night after arriving late at night instead of pushing on to Siem Reap (another 3-4 hours)

Crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia by foot.

The crowded tourist ghetto of Siem Reap at night.

Morning in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Driving through the dust clouds outside Phnom Penh.

Onward from Aranyaprathet into Cambodia and then to a major city like Siem Reap takes many hours. In the past two days I’ve spent six hours on a train, about 30 minutes in a tuktuk, two hours waiting in a bus station, and three hours on a bus. Tomorrow again is another six hour bus ride onward to Phnom Penh.

As with driving across the United States it doesn’t make much economic sense but does make the size of the planet more tangible.

Wed, Jun 10, 2015

Monks cleaning a pagoda in Chiang Mai, Thailand 1.

“I have to shoot three cassettes of film a day, even when not ‘photographing’, in order to keep the eye in practice.” – Josef Koudelka

Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Practice matters in photography and it matters more than I like to admit. I have tried to escape practice by inventing excuses: not having the right gear, wanting to travel more, needing to write or needing to take an item off of what can seem like an endless list of tasks.

I’ll get almost ready to go out photographing and then remember this thing that I have to do and make up an excuse not to go. It’s far easier when the weather sucks or when I’m in a bad mood, but just about any day a good excuse can be found.

Lately my productivity has been dropping. I’m not making enough pictures and certainly not enough pictures that I actually like. Based on past experience, from about one in a hundred or one in a thousand pictures comes something I really enjoy. The math isn’t firm — and I could shoot a thousand pictures and totally waste time — but it leads to a fairly obvious conclusion: shoot enough photographs and something good will come.

So I’m changing my routine. I’m trying to make photography one of the things that I have to do every day. Around 3pm — even if things aren’t done for the day — I tell everyone I’m responsible to that I’ll be gone for the next few hours. I put on some music, grab my camera, and head out the door to shoot pictures.

The pictures aren’t always great. Especially starting out again having not shot many photographs in the past few months, the pictures have been just terrible. In the past week I’ve not taken even a single photo that I’m proud of… but I’m getting my legs back.

Just like in road biking, weight lifting, distance running or even basic cardiovascular training there is legitimate practice and then there are just miles and hours. Sometimes the picture taking resembles miles and hours more than any kind of deliberate exercise. For me it is a process rather than a formula.

Yet just as the process really starts to drag on — just as I get really bored with the same scene again — a light clicks and I start looking the scene through a different view. I finally get frustrated with being afraid of people and just take pictures. I start to get the photographs that I really enjoy again.

So if you feel stuck in photographing, I say get back out there. Try to take pictures consciously for a few hours per day. Know that it rarely comes easy. See the footnote if you need proof.

  1. I took thirty exposures of this same scene before the framing of the pagoda and the monks lined up nicely. There were a few frames of the pagoda not showing the whole thing, a few of the pagoda with no one in front of it, some with the pagoda perfectly centered and the monks working below, and then this, my favorite. Being off center let the pagoda and the monks fill more of the picture. While the photograph might look exotic, monks are among the easiest people in the world to photograph. They won’t get angry at you or run away. So it’s kind of like hitting a softball. 28mm lens at f/16, ISO 400, 1/125th of a second on a Ricoh GR. [return]