When I was in Chiang Mai, I did not find a fixer so instead I hired a normal tour guide to drive me around the northern hill tribe area. For the most part it was a great and fruitful couple of days, visiting villages, following whim and taking chances. There were a few times where he tried to take me to touristy shit: elephant training camps, waterfalls, etc.
The one place he did take me to that was a complete tourist trap was a Padaung Karen “village”. It was obviously a piece of show because there was a gravel parking lot to accommodate buses, lots of signage in english, the people springing up when I came by in the wooden shacks, tribal wares on display.
It was only afterwards that I did some research and realized how much controversy surrounds these “longneck” hill tribes. Please refer to this article on CNN for more information.
Putting these images up in the hope that people doing research for their trips to the hill tribes area can find this and stay away from any longneck villages. There are plenty of tribal villages to visit which are authentic and you can participate and contribute, even spending the night and doing work for and with them.
It’s a fine line. Did I document a people that are disadvantaged or was I exploiting these same people or was I even documenting their exploitation?
The gunners reached out into the open air and leveled their guns with a great slot and click sound. They trained them on the ground. I felt my hands tense up. I realized, for the first time, that both my hands were wrapped tightly around my Leica. Oh my god, my Leica! I have the greatest camera in the world in my fucking hands and I’m in the middle of this shit right here.
In that moment, ALL FEAR was gone. I was right where I wanted to be in the whole world. I reached into my pocket, which was difficult with the armor, and took out my light meter. I got readings out the window, inside, the floor under my feet. I did quick averages of the readings in my head. Now all my thoughts were of film. “Okay I’m at about 5.6 outside if I’m at 250 which is a good speed from a moving helicopter. If I want to get stuff outside, I’ll squeeze the fstop down to about 8. If I want inside the bird I’ll open to 2.8, 4 if I want a bit of both.” I set all these functions on the camera and started firing away. The helicopter leaned forward and we tore off across Baghdad.
– Louis CK
Apologies for the year long hiatus. I have been busy with the jobby job, but I have also been on some amazing trips. Will be posting those images soon.
So here we go.
Do not know why he took down the rundown of his gear on his old blog, but I only recently found out that the tremendous Louis CK is a Leica shooter. Hope he doesn’t mind me repurposing his post and an article excerpt, but it is fantastic. He’s not just a Leica fetishist like some well-known celebs, but a real film nerd.
Seriously. His stock just rises and rises.
I take a lot of pictures. I am very, very into photography and I was certainly going to take this opportunity to take some. I’m going to show you all the equipment I brought with me. I’m not showing off here. I’m not rich. I just spend all my money on cameras. It’s important to me. I am sharing it with you because to me it’s part of the story.
This is the main dude. A film camera. A range-finder. I only really shoot film, though I do use a digital camera just to record moments, to take snapshots. This Leica is handmade in Germany. It is encased in painted brass and has all mechanical parts. It has no automatic settings. There is a light meter but the battery was dead when I brought it on this trip so I shot the entire trip manually with a hand light meter. The Leica MP is made exactly the same way Leica made Rangefinders in the 60s. It’s not even an SLR. you have to line up images in the rangefinder and hope for the best.
The main reason to use a Leica is the lenses. Leica lenses are hand ground and they just do amazing things with images applied to film. I really love shooting film because there are an infinite ammount of combinations aof types of film (black and white, color, fast, slow, grainy, fine, high contrast, low), ways of exposing the film (pushing, pulling, over-exposing) and lenses to use. Small adjustments to the exposure, like changing the apeture, make dramatic differences from one picture to the next. Shooting without an in-camera light meter forces you to really look at the light you are shooting with, to notice when it changes and to think about what each apeture means and how it will effect your picture. Having prime lenses means you work with one focal length at a time and think and learn about the different characteristics and strengths of each lens and instead of zooming in and out you use your legs and body to frame the photo, which makes you do it more carefully. Comparing this to most digital photography, where you just sort of pump the lens back and forth till you get the framing you want, and snap, letting the camera decide how to expose it. Even with manual and more proffesional digital cameras, the sensors of these cameras are what they are. Theyr’e very limited and you can use photoshop later but it just ain’t the same. Not in my opinion. It’s just my opinion so save your long comments in defense of digital photography. Or don’t. I don’t care.
As I just mentioned, I only use prime lenses, meaning the lens has one size, fixed. It doesn’t zoom. If you want another focal length, you have to change the lens. I brought three lenses with me. The one on the camera is a 50mm Sumilux. It opens to f1.4 which makes it very good for low light and takes incredible daylight pictures when wide open, because of the extremely low depth of field, meaning only the object you focus on is in focus,the enviroment around it is not and the way a Leica Lens treats that area is part of what makes them great.
The other two lenses were an old 90mm lens and a new 35mm aspherical lens. Aspherical means it’s not roundish and so you can take a wide angle picture without getting a distorted rounded image.
This is the light meter I brought, very basic..
Seconic light meter
The last thing I want to say is that Leica cameras are stupid expensive. even really old ones. But you don’t need one to take film pictures. You can get an amazingly good Nikon SLR, (I reccomend the FM2) and good Nikon lenses for very cheap.
– Louis CK
- Thailand | Chiang Rai
- Werner Herzog | On Celluloid
- Chiang Mai | Hmong Hill Tribe
- Chiang Mai | The Karen Hill Tribe
- Arthur C. Clarke | The HAL – IBM Myth
- Chiang Mai | Palong Hill Tribe
- Ridley Scott | Kubrick Footage in Blade Runner
- Chiang Mai | Longneck Hill Tribe
- Louis CK | Leica Shooting, USO Tour
- Chiang Mai | Akha Hill Tribe
- Louis CK | Leica MP
- Bangkok | Siyamon
- Bangkok | Siam
- Bangkok | Ekamai
- Bangkok | Pom Prap Sattru Phai
- Born Yogis
- Chiang Mai
- dougKIM photography
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Francisco
- São Paulo
- Washington DC