Thursday, November 1, 2012

James Whitlow Delano: Pattaya

Photo © James Whitlow Delano-All Rights Reserved
"Why, if Thailand is so prosperous now, doesn’t sex tourism fade away?" -James Whitlow Delano

To say that James Whitlow Delano's resume is impressive would be an understatement. He lived in and documented Asia for over a decade and a half. His work has been awarded internationally, and his photo essays and books have been recognized with prestigious awards and prizes. It has been published  in New York Times Magazine, National Geographic Books, GEO, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Time Asia, Internazionale, Le Monde 2, Vanity Fair Italia, and others. His "The Mercy Project / Inochi" charity photo book for hospice has been cited with a PX3 Gold Award and the Award of Excellence from Communication Arts. He also was an instructor at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Chiang Mai, where I met him.

The question he asks is a thoughtful one, and resonates with me after my own experience in Chiang Mai documenting the bar girls on Loi Kroh Road. I always considered the sex tourism in Thailand (and certainly elsewhere) as exploitation, and viewed the Western men who indulged in it, and anything associated with it, with much revulsion. I still do, but understand the circumstances that drive these women to it. It's poverty, plain and James' question is spot on. It's a macro economics issue rather than a micro one...and it's facile to criticize its protagonists, but it goes much beyond that.

The level of intimacy and connection that James achieved with his subjects in this photo essay is here's Pattaya, Sex Tourism.

(Note: I avoided mentioning the full name of the photo essay in the post's title to avoid getting viewers that are looking for something else)

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