Our friend Daniel Tepper just left for Thailand to take part in the fifth annual Foundry Photojournalism Workshop. Foundry gathers some of the top photojournalists and documentary photographers in a different country each year, where they teach classes to an international collection of students. Basically, it’s a panel of 20-30 grizzled war photographers who teach the younger generation how to hit the ground running in a foreign country and do photojournalism right- hands on.
(Editor’s Note: The Foundry workshop is dear to my heart, as I participated in the first one in Mexico City. I rolled deep with a gang of anti-racist skinheads, an adventure which ended up being an 8-month photo project which we published in Chief Magazine.)
Daniel will taking a course taught by acclaimed photojournalist, Michael Robinson Chavez. Michael has been a photographer at The Los Angeles Times since 2007 and has previously worked for other newspapers and the Associated Press. His work has taken him all over the world and he recently published a book of his photographs from Peru: “Awaiting the Rain”.
Daniel will be documenting his excursion in a weekly column here at Superchief.
Words and Photos: Daniel Tepper
There were few things I had to take care of before leaving for Thailand, everything from researching the refugee situation to getting some Thai money. Here’s a little peek at the last couple weeks before I left…
1. There are nine refugee camps run by the Thai government along the Western border with Burma. These camps hold around 87,000 refugees, the majority of them are Karen, an ethnic-minority that has faced violent persecution from the Burmese government. It’s estimated that over 400,000 Karen have fled into Thailand. After the Foundry workshop I’m staying in Thailand for a month and want to take a closer looks at the refugee situation and the plight of the Karen people.
2. Getting immunizations can be one of the biggest pain-in-ass steps when preparing to travel. The medicines can be pricey whether you have insurance or not. My health-plan paid for my Malaria pills but this Typhoid vaccine wasn’t covered and cost $90. The vaccine to protect against Japanese Encephalitis was even more expensive, $250 per injection with a two or three regimen to ensure immunity. The rates of encephalitis infection are pretty low so I skipped getting those shots. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and wear a lot of insect repellant instead.
3. This is my friend Jeff, I’ve known him since the seventh grade. He’s already been to Thailand a few times and has travelled extensively in the region. He’s got friends all over the country and is going to be my guide/fixer/photo assistant throughout the trip.
4. Jeff has been studying Muy Thai for the last 6 years and recently began teaching his own classes at Wai Kru, a muy thai club based in Boston. He’s hoping to get some serious training in while in Thailand and I’m hoping to get some footage of him getting his ass kicked…it’s a win win.
5. I knew that a laptop was going to be necessary during my travels but bringing a nice computer to a tropical country during one of its rainy season didn’t seem like such a good idea. I bought a windows computer for the first time in ten years and was quickly reminded why I’ve been using macs; windows crashed promptly upon the first startup and the thing ran so slow that I knew within 5 minutes that this computer was no going to cut it. Fortunately a friend of a friend was trying to get rid of an old Macbook before he went on tour so now I have a nice little beater-laptop to drag around with me.
6. I always make a lot of lists before I travel. Packing lists, to-do lists, lists of places to go and things to do. This one was for a medical-kit I was putting together for the trip.
7. This is part of an epic drug-store run I made for the trip. I was building up a couple of first aid kits and wanted to be sure I was prepared for just about everything. Think I’m covered…
8. This is Thai money, the Baht. It’s about 31 to 1 US dollar. All the money has pictures of the king on it. The King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, has been in power since 1946. This makes him the world’s longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. Some people consider him a deity and talking trash about him or the royal family, in conversation, email, or texts messages can get you sent to jail.
9. Here I am figuring out the best way to carry all my bags with everything that I’m taking with me for the month. I’m glad I got all my gear to fit into three packs. I’m probably taking too much stuff with me but it’s good to be prepared.
Next stop Thailand!