Notes: I never went to photojournalism school to learn my photography. So in that way, I don’t have the code in which most of those types of shooters live by, the presenting of images unedited, without personal bias. I don’t know if I could live by that photojournalistic prime directive. I guess you could say I’m more of an artistic documentarian. A photograph is in no way a representation of real life, regardless of what school of thought it comes from. Even when you take a series of photos at every occasion like I often do, sometimes words can only further illustrate the point.
I’ve been covering Lao New Year events in many places for a while now. I usually take pictures that I personally like, interesting and visually striking people, compositions and color, or anything else that makes a good time marker of our lives and customs. Perhaps I do too good of a job of sugar coating the entire thing. Back to the whole documentarian angle, I purposely show others how I would want to be seen and remembered.
If you go to a Lao New Year festival, sometimes the real thing isn’t as nice as you see it here. And this goes for pretty much all of them, not just the one pictured above. I opted not to take or post photos of the sea of trash and beer bottles, the cacophony of deafening noise, the ironic juxtaposition of party minded folk on the grounds of a place of meditation, the questionable attire, the underage drinking, our youth’s admiration of thug culture, drug use, and alcohol. No, I don’t want to do that, never have, because it’s always been one of my missions to paint our people in a good light. Growing up a minority and immigrant, it was hard enough to gain acceptance, we really don’t need further fuel for someone else’s preconceptions.
If you want to really experience Lao culture, get to know a Lao family. They’ll probably ask you into their home, humble or otherwise, and feed you, and accept you like a close friend or relative. I think that hospitality comes from our humbleness, of being low on the totem pole so to speak, when compared to the other Asian nations that make cars and computer chips. None of us really come from money, but we tend to have more mixed marriages, so something’s got to be working on that end. Share a meal, some conversation, and perhaps some commonalities, and that experience might be lovelier than any outfit you see or trinket you can buy at the “temple.”