What started out as a normal day quickly turned into a full day of photography projects. In fact, today was chaos… our groups where all over Thimphu on assignment.
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We started the day with the normal routine: a review of yesterday’s photos (great stuff), Thomas’s and Sarah’s slideshows on their professional work (amazing), and then a talk from a couple of the local producers we were going to work with for today’s assignments. After a brief introduction to the products, our groups split off and headed in all different directions.
Sarah and Thomas took their group to a craft paper producer. Here, they make paper for creative use as well as paper for creating holy texts. They manage the whole process on-site, from processing raw materials, to creating the pulp, and finally to pulling and drying the paper. The facility was fairly large and poorly lit, with only a few windows on one side of the building. The students handled it expertly, dealing with the dark and difficult exposures to create some really nice, atmospheric images.
Arthur took his group to a maker of Ezay (Ay-Zay), which is a local condiment that is somewhere between a Tex-Mex style salsa and Indian pickle. And it can be pretty spicy stuff! In their facility, the women who run this small business do everything from drying the spices, to grinding the chilies to cooking and jarring the mixture. They even handle the labeling and shipping from within their apartment-sized workshop. (All this…and the pickle tastes amazing!) If Sarah and Thomas thought their group had tough light, though, Arthur’s group had some real challenges…but they pulled it off nicely and told the story of Ezay production with sophisticated imagery.
Wendy’s group got to visit the farmers/crafts market down by the river, and they had the opposite challenge. Instead of being confined in a small space with dark light, Wendy’s group had to work in an enormous space filled with a thousand vendors all in dramatically varied lighting situations. Their subjects may have been a little easier to interact with, but the range of possibility was very difficult to overcome. Her group practiced isolating stories and being very intentional in their exposure choices. Again though, the group performed wonderfully.
Fred’s group had the honor of traveling the farthest distance for their assignment. While the other three groups shot at locations in town, Fred’s group had to go about 35 minutes out of town to where a couple of neighbors had set up the town’s best woodworking shop and brass foundry. The group split its time between the two shops, beginning with the woodworkers and ending at the foundry. In the woodshop, carvers sat in groups and worked on masks, wooden screens and small intricate designs. These guys had carved everything from temple adornments to the king’s bed and the queen’s shoes! There was great light, with about 12 craftsmen all working on different projects, and our students made the most of it.
The brass foundry, in contrast, was a tiny room where five craftsmen all hammered, soldered, and filed away at different brass pieces. Some were temple pieces, some were ceremonial instruments and some were silver or tin accent pieces. This place was so small that we had students standing on top of one another, and even poking their heads in through open windows just to get an angle! Another great day, challenging though it was for the students… and of course they adapted, climbed through windows, and did it with a smile!