The Long Neck village of Northern Thailand.

A few years ago I (Small) spent some time in Thailand on the way back to Australia from a year long trip. I totally fell in love with Chiang Mai with its misty mountains and wealth of culture. One of the most unique things I did while in Chiang Mai was visit the Kayan Tribe. The tribe’s home is nestled between rice paddies and pineapple farms, surrounded by picturesque scenes of water buffalos and mountains.

It was incredibly peaceful!

The Kayan people originally came from Burma, escaping poverty and violence in their own country seeking refuge in the North of Thailand. Because of this, Burma and Northern Thailand are the only places in the world where you can see them. What makes them special is their women who adorn their necks and legs with golden rings. For every year from when they are 5 until they are 21, they add a golden ring to their necks – the longer the neck the more beautiful the woman. This, along with their bright clothing and village way of life, is something really special to see.

The photos I took during my time at the Kayan village are absolutely some my favourites from my time in Thailand; especially for the colours! However, last week when I came across the BD Community Photo Challenge with the theme of black and white, I decided to challenge myself. Never have I processed photos in black and white. It’s something that I’ve always seen as a shame for the beautiful colours captured. To put this to the test, I decided to take some of the most colourful images I have (from the Kayan Tribe) and re-process them in black and white. It was a lot of fun! A creative challenge is always worth the effort – I learnt some tricks in Adobe Lightroom I didn’t know and I’m pretty happy with the results.

This competition also gave me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on an experience from almost 4 years ago.

I remember walking through the village in the searing heat of midday wondering whether the curiosity of tourists was not damaging the authenticity of the Kayan Tribe. Our guide on the day informed us that the Kayan, once farmers, now earned their livelihood from tourism. The village was full of women selling their handmade goods from their modest huts which was a breath of fresh air after all the commercial markets of the bigger cities.
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While on their land, I always asked permission before making photos, careful not to invade their private spaces and I urge anyone in a similar situation to do the same. It’s so important to respect the privacy of these rare cultures and to help sustain their traditions. While tourism is the means for their lives, it’s important to remember that doesn’t mean they’re zoo animals and to treat them with respect.

Lastly, my entrance for the black and white BC community photo challenge organized by @zaku and sponsered by @bdcommunity is a woman who holds years of stories and experience just in her eyes. Who sat silently working in her beautifully textured space and who I can’t thank enough for allowing me to document a small sliver of her life.
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Thank you all for reading and allowing me to momentarily reminisce about the wonderful time I spent in Thailand almost 4 years ago. I’m curious if you think I made the right choice for the photo challenge – was there another photo that you thought was stronger? Lastly, if you have any tips for black and white processing, I’d love to know! I might even start processing more of my photos in this way!