Hope not heartbreak

April 20 2009, 0 Comments

I came to Thailand looking to photograph the raw sex that this country has unfortunitely become known for. What I have found instead is a thriving hope that NightLight Design Co. is giving sex workers. Even flying over the pacific I had no idea what to expect from NightLight. Actually when my dad met me in Vancover he had heard that I would probably not be able to photograph the women at NightLight at all.

NightLight has blown me away. Initially I thought NightLight was an NGO. It turns out that it’s actually NightLight Design Company a full fledge jewelry design company who hires sex workers as an alternate job. Through the company they provide education, healthcare and counselling to their employees. What an ingenious way of providing a way out of the sex industry. The jewelry is high end stuff too. (I’m writing this on my phone so I can’t add a link, but I’ll post information on all of that when I get back.) They are just starting to scale back their designs, which sit at just over 200, so they can start to design for the mainstream fashion seasons. Currently they have a an exclusive line designed for a highend client in the UK, and eventually wanting to expand to stores like Neman Marcus in the US. Annie, the president, has an amazing vision for the company and a huge heart for these women. I sat in with my dad this afternoon as he got the chance to interview two of NightLight’s women. Just amazing life stories. I was able to pop off a couple of frames. I guess the annoying part of shooting film is the waiting, I would have loved to post them right away.

A couple of nights ago I ventured out to the three major red light districts in Bangkok; Pat Pong, Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. Usually I’m not shy about taking pictures in public places, but I definitely had my guard up. Nana Plaza especially, a three story outside plaza with only one way in and one way out. Scared the shit out if me to be honest. I’m not quite sure how I am going to pull off shooting in such a “client” aware area without being noticed. And really, forget about getting into the nitty gritty part of the sex culture without having some sort of exclusive inside edge. I really wish I could. I think it would make for amazing images. A “day in the life” would be such an eye opening and brutal story, and yet I think the images would be amazingly powerful.

I am hoping to be working with NightLight in the future. They are currently working on new branding and marketing. It would be awesome in the future to bring a small team to Thailand to photograph new collections, maybe even use some I the NightLight women as models keeping everything local.

That’s all for now. Here are a couple of iPhone snaps.

[update]
A correction really. NightLight is a Christian NGO, NightLight Design Company is not. There is a notforprofit side but it’s completely separate from the jewelry design company. The women’s salaries are soley paid by the design business. So inorder to support the women jewelery must be sold since none of the NGO donations can be transferred. Annie was telling us that a lot of people expect NightLight’s jewelry to be cheaper because part of the overall organization is a NGO. But to her business is business. You have to make money to pay your staff a fair and good wage, buy quality supplies, and have proper marketing and distribution. Makes sense to me.

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