Reflecting on My Own Photography in The Year of Pandemic

1. I spent a lot of time shooting from my apartment window during the lockdown, then fell in love with looking at the sky. 

2. Also, I realized I probably would never be able to shoot complex street scenes…a kind of photos that drew me to street photography in the first place. You know, Alex Webb and the likes. You can say my agility and wit just don’t cut it. Gradually I stopped trying and instead looked for simpler scenes with a clear visual point of interest. Going back to the basics I guess.

3. My fear of getting close to the subject is still as bad as when I first started street photography. But now I stopped beating myself up for not getting the shot, and for not trying to go closer. I’m contented with being a distant observer. 

4. Being a distant observer, I like to get onto a higher elevation. Maybe a balcony, maybe from a parking lot. Perhaps you lose that emotional connection with the subject, but what you gain instead is the sense of scale. Somehow I feel more connected as if I’m a part of that scene. Being far and being close simultaneously.

5. I don’t feel that I have improved in any way as a photographer. Neither the technical nor the aesthetic sides of it. But I like to think that I am a bit wiser now, and perhaps more true to my own visual sense. Same time next year, hopefully I would have created something of value, and finally stop chasing for an illusive one-minute fame…

Thank you for letting me be a part of your photographic journey. Bring on 2021!

Roadside Memorials

Street signs, billboards, litters people discarded on the roadside are a common sight everywhere. My country, Thailand, is pretty notorious for hoards of street signs and advertisement boards. So when I first saw them on the way to the camp site in Basra, I didn’t pay too much attention. 

Roadside memorials are another kind of objects we often see along the road. They serve to commemorate a site where a person died in a car accident. They come in different shapes and forms, but mostly we would see images, statues, or symbols that represent a religious or cultural belief of the people in that region. In a way, one can learn a lot about local people  by simply observing these memorials, which are often ignored just like those street signs and billboards on the roadside.

Roadside memorials in Basra, however, are not for victims of car accidents. Instead, they are dedicated to fathers, sons, and grandsons - the brave men of Basra who lost their lives in the country’s many conflicts, the most recent one being the battle against ISIS. 

Portrait of Imam Hussain often adorns a roadside memorial. He died in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD, fighting against the army of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid I. Deeply respected among Shia Muslims, Imam Hussain represents a great example of martyrdom through an ultimate act of sacrifice. Such is a fitting description for the soldiers who died in the war to protect their homeland. Portrait of Imam Ali, the father of Hussain, along with Imam Abbas, Hussain’s brother, are other popular choices for the memorials.

Alternatively, many families simply chose to put up a portrait of the soldiers who lost their lives. I lost count how many of these roadside portraits I saw along the way. These memorials serve as a somber reminder of the human cost in a war.

Special Thanks to Ahmed Raad. 

For more photos, you can view the full image gallery.

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