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Street 21
Street 21
Yangon, Myanmar
By Timothy M. Leonar...
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Entries in documentary street photography (2)

Sunday
May052019

Feel Experience With Camera

How many tourists see only through their phone camera? Millions, said Rita.

She is a tour quide, archeologist and author of Ice Girl in Banlung. She continued...

They feel the experience of 8th century Angkor artistic splendor only with their cameras, cold impersonal little tools. Their experience is defined by camera. Obscura.

Do you remember Li, the trek leader in Sapa, Vietnam talking about Hanoi day trippers with cameras? How she said, it’s fucking hilarious? Same here.

For the majority of tourists it’s not about understanding the Khmer people, culture, food, art, music, and language. It’s about feeling with a camera. They are in a big fat hurry.

Rita (L) and friends

They’ve learned through hard fast lessons to trust the machine. It is their weapon against mediocrity and boredom and shallow emptiness. They don’t comprehend the intricacies of the machine. They believe it can and will save them. The machine controls them. They gratefully accept this reality.

They press optical machines tight against their faces, piercing retinas, flickering lids. Point and shoot. They lower the device and stare with hard lost eyes at the image of their faded memory. They judge it. Crimping. Evaluate. DELETE.

Shoot again. Point. Shoot. Delete. Repeat. A snapshot. Snap a shot. Preserve this moment forever. Quick. They must go. They must move to the next great big thing. They are in a hurry. Death is closer than white on rice.

The tuk-tuk driver is impatient. He wants more money for his time. He waited when tourists slept, while they screwed. He waited as they stuffed eggs, watermelon and soft bread into tired bored faces. They ate like animals. They point and shoot. They delete.

Hurry. They have no time to see their obscurity. This loss, this sense of amnesia envelops them. It accompanies them through radioactive meltdowns. It is a dark cloud of forgetting. They remember to forget. They are on a Homeric quest of infinite proportions and magnitude. 

Their memory card is full. They attach electrodes to a cerebral cortex and press the DownLoad switch. Memories of Apsara dancers, elephants, monkeys, celestial deities flicker on a screen behind their eyes.

Avalokiteshvara - the Bodhisattva of Compassion smiles.

Thursday
May022019

Danger! Mines!

One morning June traveled along another dusty red road and stopped at a village shop selling the usual bags of soap and bananas. A young girl wore a t-shirt. It had a picture of a skull and bones.

It said:                      

Danger! MINES!

She wore a permanent tear on her left cheek. She was not smiling.

She said, here I am. I communicate my reality to the world. Do you like my shirt?

Can you read words or do you need a picture? How about a picture of a picture?

I don’t know how to read so I like to look at pictures. My country has 14 million people and maybe 6-10 million land mines. Adults say there are 40,000 amputees in my country. Many more have died because we don't have decent medical facilities.

Mines are cheap. A mine costs $3.00 to put in the ground and $300 - $1,000 to take out of the ground.

I'm really good at numbers. Talk to me before you leave trails to explore the forest. It's beautiful and quiet. I know all the secret places.

I showed my picture to a Cambodian man and he didn't like it. They call this denial. He said it gave him nightmares. He’s seen too much horror and death in one life. So it goes.

My village is my world. Where do you live?

*

Reports from the killing fields indicate there are 110 million land mines buried in 45 countries.

It will cost $33 billion to remove them and take 1,100 years. Governments spend $200-$300 million a year to detect and remove 10,000 mines a year.

Cambodia, Laos, Angola, Iraq and Afghanistan are among the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Weaving A Life Volume 2