Me and my camera taking pictures of truckloads of motorbikes in SE Asia
To see the full gallery MoTorCyCleMaDneSS please click here
I got slightly obsessed with the motorcycle culture in SE Asia and it really became the focal point of my photography over there…
In Bangkok, as I mentioned before, motorbikes are really the only solution to get around the diabolical traffic. The main reason it has got so bad is the population has prospered creating much more car ownership which has glutted up the roads. It might be more pleasant to drive around in air conditioned SUVS but they have almost brought the city to a standstill. Although there are still tons of motorbikes everywhere and when they all line up at the traffic lights they look like giant motorcycle gangs are going to take over the city.
In Hanoi in Vietnam, where I took a lot of the photographs in this gallery, motorbikes & scooters are still very much the dominant form of transport and every street is chockablock with them. What is mind blowing to witness is that nobody pays any attention to anything. They do not stop at red lights, they do not stop if pedestrians are walking across, they do not stick to any particular side of the road and incredibly no-one crashes into one another. There is also not a single instance of road rage. Angry London drivers please take note…
Despite the seeming carnage, everyone moves in vague unison at roughly the same speed and just weave around each other & miraculously it works. It was seriously scary crossing the road but our friend Nat who had been there before advised us that the way to do it is just to keep walking at a steady pace and not to hesitate even when motorbikes are swishing past you left, right and centre. They will work around you he said, and they did. It was crazy.
I was also drawn to photograph this 2 wheeled frenzy because it felt like some sort of impending future reality. There will come a time in the not too distant when cars just won’t be practical anymore. Gridlock is becoming a regular occurrance in most cities around the world and it feels like it we are fast approaching the end of the road (bad pun for a bad situation)
As is so often the case with the modern world, progress is not always progress and 4 wheels are now the problem and two wheels might just be the solution. Cities like Bangkok & Ho Chi Min City perfectly demonstrate the overwhelming and unsustainable increase in the populations of the major cities around the world. The problem is there are just too many of us and the slender motorbike & its ability to slip through the gaps in the gridlock shows just how we trapped we have become by relentless growth.
Add in the damaging, catastrophic impact of unrestrained use of fossil fuels and we might find the car becomes an impossible form of transport. Even if everyone went electric, over-population will eventually render cars unworkable in the mega cities of the planet. So could motorbikes and their eco friendly versions the bicycle & the electric bike be the way of the future?
To end on a slightly more frivolous,less doom & gloom end of the world we’re all going to die observation is that everyone looks cooler on motorbikes than they would on any other form of transport. Doesn’t matter if you are old, young, hip or not, you will definitely look better. In Hanoi especially, everyone was kind of dressed like 60s French Mods so they all looked super fucking cool bombing around although capturing their finesse is a little bit tricky as they are mostly in motion.
The downside, as I discovered, to taking pictures of things on the move is that most of the time they are moving faster than my camera could focus which is fine as you long as you are willing to embrace the blur. For me this is never a problem. I like fuzzy. Fuzzy seems more like reality to me than pinpoint sharp high def but that is possibly just my eternal state of mind or maybe my failing eyesight. Proabably both.
Hope you enjoyed the last few weeks chronicling of SE Asia, next week, I will be back on the streets of London..tally ho!
Me and my camera taking pictures of truckloads of motorbikes in SE Asia
Everywhere you look on the streets of Vietnam and Thailand are families on motorbikes. You constantly see kids & even babies, either clinging on to the handlebars or sitting on the lap of either the driver or the passenger, restrained by no more than than a human grip. I even saw motorcyclists with one hand on one handlebar and the other clutching a toddler. It is jaw-dropping when you first see it and looks like a horrendous accident waiting to happen but everyone thinks nothing of it and acts as if its ok and so you feel like it is too.
And yet, if you saw a child in the U.K strewn on top of a speeding motorbike in such an unprotected way, they would be reported to social services and the parents prosecuted in a second. The health and safety brigade would blow a fuse if they saw what I saw but in these cultures it is not considered in anyway wrong. It is necessary so it happens. Who are we to judge?
One of the great things about travelling is that when you visit another culture that does certain things completely differently you realise your way is not necessarily the right way, its just one version of what’s possible or acceptable and alternatives to your set of norms not only exist but function equally as well in other societies.
In our society currently, we attempt to shield children from everything in an effort to protect them but there is enough research and evidence to suggest its possibly not the best solution. You can’t protect kids from life nor do you want to. Exposure and experience are their schools. That is how they learn. That is how they develop their skills. That is how they stop being afraid. The motorbiking parents of SE Asia do not care or love their kids less. They would be no less devastated if anything happened to them but what they know is that it’s essential to expose them to potential danger in order that they become used to how motorbikes move and weave around each other. They need to be on board so they can observe from a young age how everyone does it so that they will be capable and cope when they are grown up.
What would be considered insanely irresponsible in this country is in fact just a necessary method to future proof them and make these kids grow up into functional adults who aren’t scared of being on the road. Their methods might be different, but the aim of these parents is still the same as parents in Western society and indeed the same as parents of all cultures and even all species: keep your offspring alive at all costs but if it’s at the expense of learning how to survive, it could be counter-productive…
Me and my camera in someone else’s home town, my SE Asia trip, my Bangkoknites
This was taken at Studio Lam, which is a bar/club owned & run by my friend Nat. It is a very cool place and lost many hours dancing and drinking there till the early hours. The above musicians are part of the band Paradise International Molam Band who got the joint jumping one night with their unique blend of traditional Thai sounds from the past with a more modern dance groove. Check out their albums here
To see the full gallery MYBKK please click here
I will be continuing to bring you photographs from my trip to SE Asia so stay tuned…next week – MoTorCYcle MAdneSS!!