Sex, Drugs, and Agent Orange
May 6, 2006 3:53 AM   Subscribe

On at least one occasion, Jonathan Taylor's photographic studies of the seedy side of Southeast Asia have featured in Time Magazine, but thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can view his photographic take on Thailand's drug problems, sex industry, and hired killers, as well as moving and disturbing images of the legacy of US involvement in Southeast Asia.
posted by bcveen (26 comments total)
Fantastic links, thanks!
posted by BobsterLobster at 3:56 AM on May 6, 2006

Brilliant work! Shows that military 'activism' leaves deep wounds that won't heal so easily.
posted by homodigitalis at 4:08 AM on May 6, 2006

Some people have the ability to find and take a picture. He is most assuredly one of these people.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 4:26 AM on May 6, 2006

...because Southeast Asia is still all about prostitution, crime, drugs and the U.S. war.
posted by enakaja at 7:00 AM on May 6, 2006

Yeah, keep your head safely in the sand, enakaja.

posted by drstrangelove at 7:07 AM on May 6, 2006

Enakaja isn't saying these photos are lies, just that there is more to SE Asia than these disturbing images. That seems like a very reasonable observation. So don't call him names, retard.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:17 AM on May 6, 2006

posted by fire&wings at 7:23 AM on May 6, 2006

I'm liking all these recent photography posts. Good stuff.

(Also, I don't think anyone is saying that this is all of Asia. They're pictures.)
posted by blacklite at 7:57 AM on May 6, 2006

Paging Eddie Said.
posted by docgonzo at 8:18 AM on May 6, 2006

Nice links. Very powerful images. Thanks.
posted by nickerbocker at 8:43 AM on May 6, 2006

I was just out with Jonathan last night. I'll have to tell him he's on Metafilter when I see him again.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:44 AM on May 6, 2006

Very stunning! The people affected by Agent Orange are definitely a forgotten generation of folks and I hope that stuff like this will help disemminate history in an effective "Web 2.0"-way.
posted by dkhong at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2006

"Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments ... not at other members of the site."
posted by wumpus at 9:22 AM on May 6, 2006

That being said, i agree with drstrangelove, this sort of thing is rampant in SE Asia compared to our comparatively cushy western societies. makes me feel lucky, but shitty that there's so little we can do about it aside from considering the worldwide implications about every little thing we do on a daily basis.
posted by wumpus at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2006

I'm humbled by his ability to capture just the right moments. Beautiful stuff in a dirty kind of way.
posted by fenriq at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2006

Unsettling and moving. Very powerful work.
posted by marvin at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2006

my god. thanks.
posted by shmegegge at 10:10 AM on May 6, 2006

thirteenkiller got what I was saying.

Believing that Southeast Asia is all about prostitution, drugs, the U.S. war and crime IS, in fact, keeping your head in the sand. There's more going on there (and it's not temples, beaches or good food either, the "pretty" flip side of the grittiness). I'd also question whether there's more prostitution, drugs or crime in Southeast Asia than in Western societies. Are there really more drugs in Bangkok than in, say, Los Angeles?

Looking at these photographs just led to an observation (which maybe Susan Sontag has expressed better): the camera doesn't present reality. It clearly can't. It's just interesting how it reinforces what we already think we should be seeing, and how we praise it when it does.

I sometimes think this is why photojournalism is really journalism: more often than not, it tells us what we already expect, and doesn't shake too much our view of the world. Flip through Time and National Geographic and ask how much any of those photos really change your world view or just confirm them.
posted by enakaja at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2006

[To make clear: Not going after the photographer or the post, just expressing thoughts triggered by the photos.]
posted by enakaja at 10:19 AM on May 6, 2006

It's sad that Time magazine's use of the photo of the young girl in the brothel makes it look like a staged stock photograph, when Taylor implies he put himself in some danger to get it. Which is a shame.
posted by fire&wings at 11:20 AM on May 6, 2006

Believing that Southeast Asia is all about prostitution, drugs, the U.S. war and crime IS, in fact, keeping your head in the sand.

Looks like you are the one reading something in. The FPP says that the images are the LEGACY of actions of the US of A.

Not 'this is SE Asia'.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:28 PM on May 6, 2006

I can't get this girl out of my head.

This picture is wonderful.

And this is miserably ugly and yet glorious.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:29 PM on May 6, 2006

Illuminating FPP, bcveen. Thanks.

The text that went with Jonathan Taylor's excellent images about Thai assassins.

More about "Thailand's Charming Assasins".

Until seeing Taylor's photographs, I had no idea how devastating the impact of Agent Orange was, so many years later in Viet Nam. It's utterly heartbreaking.

..." on March 10, 2005 Judge Jack Weinstein of Brooklyn Federal Court dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange against the chemical companies that produced the defoliants/herbicides that they knew were tainted with high level of dioxin."

"Southeast Asia is now host to 70 percent of the world's methamphetamine trade, according to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board. The epicenter is Thailand, where 3 million people -- 5 percent of the population -- are addicts.

Thailand is the world's largest consumer of meth, the U.N. says."

There are practical things one can do to help children exploited sexually in Thailand or other countries, such as supporting ECPAT, Human Rights Watch or other helpful organisations.
posted by nickyskye at 2:15 PM on May 6, 2006

You could find pretty much the same thing here in Iowa if you went looking for it, Ya-ba = methamphetamine.

The fact that you can take a few grody pictures dosn't mean all that much.
posted by delmoi at 5:13 PM on May 6, 2006

I never normally never do this but one of the comments made on this Blog actually addressed an issue I feel strongly about. I agree to some extent with what I think Enakaja is saying. The western media does only seem interested in the cliche's about Asia and unless the story conforms to the preconceptions of the region they won’t run the story.
I was featured on a BBC TV programme where I mentioned over and over that my work isn’t all about Sex and Drugs or Homicide. But it was that work that was selling and therefore I was recognized for covering only those subjects. They cut all my comments about my frustration over this and just used the bits where I was photographing the darker stuff.

Not to say that these issues should not be covered by the press because they are often stories about people in adversary being abused in someway and this needs to be told too. For instances Thailand seems to be entering a new phase of violence as the Thaksin Government in an attempt to keep power has declared a new “War On Drugs”. If you know anything about the first occasion he used this policy you will understand my concerns for the country. Foreign media coverage is vital and hopefully the world will take note if the death toll mounts up again.

So why have I so many negative features posted on my flickr website you may ask! No one was visiting the web page until I posted the first of my massage parlor photographs. Then the visits went haywire growing exponentially. My website has a more balanced look at the region. I have only just put the thing up and it still needs lots of work but I will place many more positive stories about South East Asia soon, a region I love and care for deeply.

Thanks for all your comments and whoever it was that said they were out with me last Friday give me a call.

posted by Photography at 11:59 PM on May 25, 2006

I guess my view, particularly of Thailand, had been rather naive compared to others who have commented. The mental image I had of Thailand, as a place which had largely escaped the worst upheavals of the Cold War years, was the idyllic one of floating markets and ancient temples. For me, these photos didn't so much reiterate a negative view of the country, or even belie the positive image I had, as much as provide a bit of balance. And they also, as someone with my own private sympathies toward Theravada belief, provoked a lot of hard thinking about the apparent disconnect between what seems to me an elegant and relevant system of thought and some of the realities of life among the laity in one of the only countries where that remains a dominant philosophy.

And, as someone who's taken my own, albeit amateurish, stabs at street photography, I had to appreciate the sheer ballsiness it must have taken to capture some of those images. Thanks, Jonathan.
posted by bcveen at 1:12 AM on May 26, 2006

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