Monday, 13 August 2012

Shooting From The Hip On LK Road

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Whilst teaching at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop the past week or so, I've also managed to set aside some time to fit some of my favorite style of photography, and shooting from the hip with the Fuji X Pro-1 has been high on my list to do, especially at night.

Here's LK Road, a collection of street photography scenes made in one of the grittiest mainstream streets in Chiang Mai; Loi Kroh Road. The photographs are grouped under the title page of Katoey Or Not?, but I chose not to title this post with that particular name to avoid having visitors being referred to it by search engines for purposes other than photography.

Loi Kroh in Thai means "washing one's troubles away", and it's one of Chiang Mai haunts for tourists principally for the preponderance of girlie bars on its approximately one-mile length...some of these bars are staffed by young women, and/or ladyboys known as katoeys.

Apart from the bars, Loi Kroh Road hosts some restaurants, massage parlors for tourists with aching legs and feet, and tattoo shops. That said, I found its ambiance a little sad and melancholic despite the blaring large screen television sets then showing some Olympics sport event, the occasional clicks of billiard balls, the forced laughter of the young women (or ladyboys) working the bars and the ubiquitous and hopeful "sawasadee...massage?" yells at every corner.

The areas seemed to me to be way past its prime...perhaps it was the off-season as well...but the bars were less than half-empty, even when there were muay thai fights held at the seedy boxing ring. Most of the fights seemed (at least to me) to be staged, with spectators generally consisting of drunken middle-aged European men.

I was asked why I chose to shoot from the hip on Loi Kroh Road, and if it was because it was risky. Not at all...although I imagine some of the bar clients wouldn't relish being photographed. The real reason is the same as whenever I choose to shoot from the hip: it allows me to capture the subjects unawares with natural expressions.

Lastly, the ladyboy in the above photograph, extroverted and very "sociable", reminded me of Ru Paul. I was super prompt in buying her a drink to get rid of her unwanted and rather heavy-handed attentions.

Finally, the Fuji X Pro1 performed extremely well at night, and I have nothing but praise for its performance. Its auto-focus let me down a few times, but its overall performance at high and very high iso is nothing short of spectacular.