Rice Planting 2019 – Times Are Changing

A hand tractor was used in 2013, and by 2019, a modern tractor is used to plow the land.
A hand tractor was used in 2013, and in 2019, a modern tractor is used to plow the land.

I started documenting life in rural Thailand in 2011, with an emphasis on one particular rural farming family. One of the reasons I started this project was to record the changes I knew were coming to this small farming community. I have to admit I did not expect the changes to come as rapidly or be as dramatic as they have been. Major changes have occurred in all aspects of life in Nakhon Nayok, not just farming. Another reason I started the project was for the images I could make. A farmer in the hot sun, using a hand tractor, with muscles straining to control the heavy machine, made for some dramatic photos.

A Thai farmer using a hand tractor in rural Nakhon Nayok, Thailand.
A Thai farmer using a hand tractor in rural Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, 2013.

The changes, for the most part, have been good for the local farmers. Nien, the man in the above photo was able to retire from hand plowing at the age of 67, and let the men with modern tractors plow the fields. His retirement probably added years to his life, as many Thai farmers literally work themselves to death at an early age.

Plowing the fields and spraying rice seed in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand.
Plowing the fields and spraying rice seed in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, 2019.

For me, speaking strictly from a photographic angle, the changes are not as welcome. One of the things photographs had from six years ago was a uniqueness that show a Thai culture, and were easily identified as Thailand. Today it is difficult to produce images in the fields that say “Thailand”. The images could easily be many places in the world today. Globalization plays a large role in rural Thailand today.

A man loads rice seed into a motorized rice spreader in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand.
A man loads rice seed into a motorized rice spreader in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, 2019.

Since I am, and have been a member of the family, and local community for nine years, another large part of me embraces the changes, as they are generally good for the family and locals. As a documentary photographer I must live with the changes and do my best to faithfully and accurately portray life here in rural Thailand. I’m sure there will be many more major changes in the next few years.

Nein, a Thai farmer plants rice seed by hand in the fields, Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, 2013.
Nein, a Thai farmer plants rice seed by hand in the fields, Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, 2013.
Siri, planting rice by hand in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, July 07, 2015.
Siri, planting rice by hand in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, July 07, 2015.
Spraying rice seed on the fields in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, June 24, 2019.

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