Thai Analog Film Project

My original idea was to start a project in rural Thailand that was purley documentary and chronicle the changes here over time, of which there have been many. Some life changing , some good, some not so good, as rural Thailand marches headlong into the modern world of super shopping malls, mechanized farm machinery, and all the rest. I wanted to do the project with film stock as I believe film is more archival than digital. Computers get old and die, hard drives fail, but film properly stored will last hundreds of years. I found that quite a few people who follow my work also thought this was a good idea, and have given me moral support, and one man even gifted me A Leica M6, some film and two lenses to get me started, which was a huge boost, as I am almost as poor as the farmers I document, so equipment, such as a computer and hard drives, film, and processing is always a major concern.

The project has been started, but there have been a few snags along the way. Thailand is mostly the 3rd world, with a few patches of 1st world lifestyle thrown in. There are islands of high technology such as Bangkok in a sea of those struggling with even the little things, like electricity. This means finding film is limited, processing and scanning film is another story altogether. I did find a couple of places I can purchase fresh film. It is 20% higher priced than in the U.S., but this typical of anything to do with high tech. or hard to find items in Thailand. I haven’t had problems with film developing, the development and chemicals used seem to be ok. Scanning however, has been a nightmare. Scanning is necessary to show my supporters what I’m doing, where the project is going and to keep interest up. If I could put my thumb on the main problem it would boil down to knowledge and practice. Let’s face it, film is not dead, but it not used very much either, so this lack of experience. even using good equipment can produce some flat out ugly results. Setting everything on autopilot is not a good idea when scanning IMHO, film stocks and exposure require a good eye and practice to produce excellent results. I have yet to get excellent results, but have had some acceptable scans when the lab got lucky. This is an example of what I am talking about. These are scans from Tri-X negatives shot at box speed of 400 ISO. If you look closely the white artifacts are horrendous, and the grain – Tri=X has grain, but not this much if done properly. These would take a lot of work to post on the web as examples of my work.

Tri-X negative shot at box speed of 400 ISO.
Tri-X Negative Scan
Tri-X negative shot at box speed of 400 ISO.
Tri-X Negative Scan

On the bright side the scans are getting a little better, and I’m trying a several different labs to try and find a source that can produce excellent results. I try to look at the setbacks as a learning experience. I just keep shooting and keep my options open. The main thing is the bad scans can be redone when I find a good lab, or can afford to purchase a good scanner. So the project is coming along fine, it’s just my ability to show the work in digital form that has been hampered. Here are examples of better results. The film for all images is Tri-X 400, box speed. I made this first image at a dinner for men who were going to be ordained monks. The scan will never make a fine art print but will work ok on the web.

Dinner for men about to be ordained Thai Buddhist Monks in rural Thailand.
Dinner with the Boys

A Thai girl in the only window of her home in rural Thailand.

A Thai girl in the only window of her home in rural Thailand
Thai Girl in a Window

A Thai family in their one room home.

 A Thai family in a typical one room home.
Thai One Room Home

I ran into a group of men drinking beer for breakfast at 7 AM in the small village of Ban Na Thailand. They were having a great time. Rural Thais will drink any time of day or night, there are no social taboos against drinking.

Breakfast in rural Thailand.
Breakfast with a Friend in rural Thailand.
Breakfast with a Friend

The same morning I documented som young monks on their first morning alms walk. This walk began at a local temple. In the photo a young girl is giving alms of knom (sweets) to a young monk.

Morning alms.
Giving Alms to a Young Monk.

A young girl playing with a scooter in front of her home. you can see the dining table in the background. In rural Thailand all cooking and eating is done outside. It is usually cooler and this keeps and ants and other bugs out of the home.

Girl and Scooter
Girl and Scooter

For the last eight years I have documented farming in rural Thailand with a digital camera. you can view the project in these albums here:
I am looking forward to working with much more film this year. Planting season starts in a few weeks, and I’m more than ready to get started!

Harvesting rice by hand in rural Thailand.
Harvesting Rice by Hand

This is a small sampling of the project to give you an idea of where I am going and what I hope to accomplish. If you feel it is a worthwhile project and want to support it, you can click the PayPal link below. Your donation will be used for equipment like a computer (my 9 year old iMac died last month), film, processing and in the highly unlikely event there is money left over, I will use it for living expenses. (full disclosure).

If you don’t want to contribute, that’s OK, I do this as an act of love, I want people to see and enjoy my work. Speaking of which, please share this page with others.
Thank you

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