I was very fortunate to live in Bangkok, Thailand from 1998 to 2003 (and previously from 1983-85). As an Asiaphile, I have a deep respect and affection for Asian people and their cultures. For this series of portraits taken between 1999-2002 in Thailand, Burma, India, Vietnam and Bhutan, I always asked permission first. These are more than travel images; I would describe them as environmental portraits, or portraits of people in their environment.
As an observer of these societies, I always want to know more about the people I see and meet. What I love most about this style of documentary photography is that it allows me to enter the lives of strangers, however briefly. If we share a common language, we always have a pleasant conversation; if we don’t, there’s always a feeling that we have, at least, spent an intimate few moments with each other.
Some of these journeys have taken me to places that are little known to outsiders (especially Ladakh in northwestern India; Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom between India and China; and northwestern Vietnam) and it is a privilege to have been allowed to meet with people there. It is also heartening to know that there are still some places left in our globalized world where people’s traditional ways of life are being maintained.
Life is an ever-changing journey, and in spite of recent events in our troubled world we must continue on our way. We have to keep moving, experiencing new cultures, learning and broadening our horizons. This is what keeps us alive.
I want to thank James who travelled with me to these fascinating and inspiring places, and who was with me when I captured the faces of many of these people. The experience of travel brings such joy – visiting, photographing and learning about other countries and cultures – and it is definitely what I enjoy most in life.
These photos where taken with medium-format film cameras — a square-format Bronica and a panoramic Noblex with a fixed-focus, rotating lens.