For it's fifth year, the Foundry photographic workshop was held in Chiang Mai, a laid-back and diverse city in Northern Thailand. The week-long program was an opportunity for photographers to take classes with seasoned-professionals working in the fields of photojournalism and documentary photography. In addition to the classes, there were lectures, panel discussions, portfolio reviews, and mini-workshops. The programs were held at the newly established Document Asia Arts center and a couple of buildings at Chiang Mai University's art school.
My teacher for Foundry was Mike Chavez. He's a great photographer who has shot all over the world but has done a lot of work in Peru and other South American countries. During the week we shot and edited our work in class. The goal: to work on a story to be presented in 10-12 images during a final-slideshow on the last night. A lot of people come to the workshop already knowing what they're going to shoot. In my class people were working on the usual array of photo-story subjects; sex-workers, animals, kids, small business, and religion. Despite the conventionality of these topics I was impressed by a lot of what I saw and what people were able to produce in a very short amount of time.
I was really into the work of my classmates, Barat Ali Batoor, an Afghani photographer who did a great project on the dancing boys of Afghastan and the practice of Bacha Bazi. Batar talking about his work said,
This practice is very common in Afghanistan. It's used a lot by the former warlords and powerful people and they use boys, very young boys. They make then dance and have sex with them, usually they live with the boys. Sometimes they buy the boys from their parents or sometimes they are kidnapped. It was really dangerous, anytime I could have been killed. You never know, big people are involved in this practice so I was never safe. “
Batoor's photo story was one of the first hard looks inside this secretive and predatory practice. It had an impact too, more people began to take notice of the issue after Barat's work appeared in the Washington Post and Batar got to meet with top officials form the UN to discuss his work and what he witnessed. Eventually the UN got the government in Afghanistan to sign into a effect a National Action Plan to combat this practice.
What I enjoyed most about Foundry was getting to meet some of the other students who came from all over the world to. Foundry creates a special environment for photographers to exchange ideas and information and get inspired by each other's work. I was especially happy to make connections with photographers living in parts of the word I'm eager to visit, namely Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Next year foundry will be held in Sarejavo, check out the Foundry website if you are interested in participating.
To see daily instagrams from Thailand check out my blog.