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Documentary Photography: The last of the Spider Women

The last of the Spider Women

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

In June 2018 a small group of us took a 3 hour (one way) Journey on the Laymro River from Mrauk U to a remote Chin Village in the Chin State.
Located in the southern part of northwestern Burma (Myanmar), bordered by Bangladesh and India to the west, Rakhine State to the south, and Magwe and Sagaing Divisions
to the East.

It is here were only a handful of older women proudly display their facial tattoos and called the "Spider Women"  we discovered there were only six of them left in the area.
A dying tradition and the practice is now not allowed by the Burmese authorities hence the reason this part of Chin culture is dying out fast.

We arrived in Myanmar at the onset of the Monsoon season (my favorite time for travel) and the Laymro River was already running fast which made our journey to this remote region even more exciting. Providing us photo opportunities seldom seen in this part of Myanmar, lush green vegetation and the occasional storm made this trip an unforgettable one.

It was very visible once we arrived and climbed the steep river bank towards the village that heavy rain had past through the area recently, it looked like a small river had run through part of the village, but luck was on our side that day and the sun blessed us now and then.
We were welcomed by the village chief and after a while we got introduced to six charming old ladies who's age varied from approx. 68 to 80 plus years old, non of them knew for sure their exact age.

There was another "Spider Women "but she was bedridden and could not greet us, so in total there were only seven women left in the village wearing their spider design tattoo. 

Wow… what a sight, detailed tattoos over their faces and even the eyelids had been covered which must have been a painful experience at the age of nine when the Tattoos had been done.

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

The women told us how they were tattooed and how it was an old ancient custom to do so, prevent invaders from taking away the local women, well so goes one story. 

But when we talked to the man and ask them how they felt like it, and been married to a women who's face was tattooed they replied proudly with a smile and said…
we adore it and like it very much.

Another ancient Chin legend has it that when a Burmese king travelled to the region, he was so impressed by the women’s beauty that he kidnapped one to take as a bride.

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The Chin "Spider Women" Rakhine State, Myanmar

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The start of our Journey in Mrauk U, Rakhine State, Myanmar

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
The remote Chin Village and the erosion from recent Monsoon Rains, Myanmar

GDeichmann_Myanmar_Laymro River1540056
2018 © Gunther Deichmann
Our Journey on the Laymro River, Rakhine State, Myanmar

Amazing stories and we would have been lost without our great local guide who spoke the local language and kept busy translating for us non stop.

But what ever the story maybe, all of us felt very privileged to be with these wonderful people and once this generation is gone so will be their ancient culture and tradition.

It is worthwhile noting that different tribes in northwestern Myanmar have used tattoos to distinguish one hill tribe from another or indicate their martial status and social rank. People can tell where a Chin woman is from by the design of the facial tattoos.
Not all of them have this particular spider web design,
it was only in this village, hence the reason these women are called the "The last of the spider women."

Photography: Magic light, shadows and patterns in architecture

Magic light, shadows and patterns in architecture,
different views on Manila’s High-rise Buildings.

Happy New Year

The story behind the images:

One late afternoon in the week between Christmas and New Year
I ventured onto the rooftop of my Building only to be greeted by awesome light and a Rainbow. As the light became more intense
so did the Rainbow until it had formed a complete arch.

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light and Rainbow, Manila, Philippines, Dec.2017 (iPhone6)

It seems Rainbows keep following me around; it was only last year that I had a few in Cambodia with a spectacular one over Angkor Wat. I guess this beauty over Manila completed 2017 nicely.
Unfortunately this time I only had my iPhone6 in my pocket and I started to curse a bit …but then I remembered my favorite saying… “be content and appreciate nature and take home the memory instead”.
Well, at least I had my iPhone, so I bathed in the beautiful light spectacle right in front of me and made some frames with the iPhone.

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light over Manila, Philippines, Dec.2017 (iPhone6)

Later I realized that this was the trigger and gave me the Idea
to go beyond the normal
architecture images and create something a bit different a few weeks later.
I checked the weather now and then waiting for the right light
but I knew getting a Rainbow again would have been extremely lucky, but I was not after a rainbow this time, I had something completely different in mind.

Then on January 04, 2018 it all came together and I concentrated on those Buildings that lit up during the late afternoon creating an unusual light-show with high contrast and shadows. I love this light and contrast, and it was a great start
for 2018.

2018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light, shadows and texture Manila Architecture, Philippines, Jan .2018 (Lumix GX8)

018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light, shadows and texture Manila Architecture, Philippines, Jan .2018 (Lumix GX8)

I forced myself making images only using a long lens from
200mm to 800mm picking the best textures and patterns from
varies high rise buildings, highlighting the architecture seldom seen.
There is only a very short gap when the light is just right and the weather is absolutely crucial, cloud coverage can change things very quickly.
Time is of the essence since the light changes very fast, besides dealing with a long lens can be quiet cumbersome.

018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light, shadows and texture Manila Architecture,
Philippines, Jan .2018 (Lumix GX8)

018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light, shadows and texture Manila Architecture, Philippines, Jan .2018 (Lumix GX8)

018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light, shadows and texture Manila Architecture, Philippines, Jan .2018 (Lumix GX8)

I guess the recent Realestate Boom in Manila continuous changing the city skyline, and many more days for me to keep busy.
The few images I posted here are made with iPhone 6 in December 2017 and the architecture ones with the Lumix
GX8 using the Pana/Leica 100 to 400mm in January 2018.
You can view the complete selection in high resolution in my
Photo Shelter Galleries and Archive.

018 © Gunther Deichmann
Magic light, shadows and a commercial airliner, Manila Architecture,
Philippines, Jan .2018 (Lumix GX8)

I might mention also that during the Christmas and New Year Holidays Jason and myself made also some more improvements on my new website; tweaked a bit here and there, added some more images in the main gallery and completely updated the Photo Tours/Workshop section.
Thanks for stopping by,
Cheers GD

Travel Photography: Discover the undiscovered with new Photo Tours

GD PhotoTours and Workshops was selected by PHOTOLEMUR in Sept. 2017
15 Excellent Classes and Workshops for Travel Photography

I am very pleased to announce that PHOTOLEMUR included my GD Photo Tours/Workshops in their list September 2017, thank you.
Furthermore we're working currently and finalizing all our Journeys for 2018, but I can confirm already Myanmar with an extension to Cambodia.
Additional trips to Sri Lanka, China and Africa currently been finalized for late 2018.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
"I am watching you"

We're specializing in of the beaten track journeys
discovering the undiscovered, experience the real culture and life away from the tourist hustle and bustle, our journeys are usually not on the Tourist maps or offered by Travel Agency's. Everything is tailor made with a lot of flexibility, a real taste of adventure without sacrificing on accommodation and private transportation. Hence the reason for a more rewarding and unique Photography experience.

Excerpts from GD PhotoTours/Workshop Webpages…
Combining 55 years of experience … 35 years of Photography and 20 years traveling through out ASIA producing countless articles for international Magazines, we guarantee that you get the quality time you deserve on each and every location with Gunther. He has been leading and organizing Photo Tours and Workshops since 2007 and only recently returned with a small group from a Workshop in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
Participants are from all over the Globe; professionals and intermediate alike, check out their
feedback from previous GD Photo Workshops
Cheers GD

Documentary Photography: Gloves and Handbags, the beauty and the beast

The beauty and the beast…next time you put on your gloves or wearing your handbag,
think about how it got to this beautiful nice and shiny stage.…

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Not at all that glamorous when you look behind the scenes in the production
of high end leather products.

It looks all very different in the beginning; these products are not that glamorous and shinny, they require hard work, produced under harsh and extremely smelly conditions.
It was during one of my recent visits to India that I managed to get access to some Leather Tannery’s near Kolkata and getting access was not an easy task.
The main production of these Tannery’s is for leather gloves and handbags destined for the European Market.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Unloading the huge wooden drums, Leather Tannery, India

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Preparing the Hides for the next process, India

Upon entering the first Tannery the smell was absolute out of this world and it was extremely difficult getting used to it not to mention the place was dark like a dungeon.

Trying to keep a low profile I only tagged along one camera body and two lenses besides flash/strobe was not allowed anyway. No choice I had to crank up the ISO at times to 1600 on my Lumix GX8 and worked mostly with the fast 20mm1.4mm (equip. 40mm) and my trusted 12 to 35 mm f: 2.8 (equiv. 24 to 70mm) lens.

Workers tend to the huge wooden drums where the row hides tumble in a bluish bath of chromium sulfate and other chemicals. This chemical mix spills all over the floors and the walls, exposing also the workers.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Squeezing the hides using old machineries, India

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Spraying a chemical mixture, a type of repellant on to the Hides, India

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Barefoot… water and chemicals, India

In some other areas man spraying a chemical mixture, a type off repellant on to the hides, or squeezing the hides through old machines.
Without going into a more detailed description of the whole process the hides once dried (normally on the flat rooftop) they are sorted and made ready for shipment for the final production for many types of leather products. Workers carrying some 75 kg on their back unloading the Rawhide or the tanned finished leather sheets.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Carrying 75kg of processed Hides, India

After leaving the Tannery Complex we ventured to an area where the leftover leather pieces are cooked/boiled in very large stone basins and once this process is completed it will be mixed with soil and used as an organic fertilizer.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Boiling the leftovers near the Tannery, India

How many chemicals remain after this process is a good question; I am not convinced it is all clean after all the boiling
but in the process also
toxic smoke billows into the air, polluting our environment.
The small stream near this area certainly did not look inviting for a swim, I wouldn’t dare to stick my toe into it either.

I shall continue my quest and search for the production of beauty products and the impact it has on our environment.

More Images from the Tannery in India at my PhotoShelter Archives

Photograpy: Chaotic traffic jams and beautiful Nature

Chaotic traffic jams and beautiful Nature

A short visit to Subic and Angeles City last weekend proved to more then I had expected.

I was on assignment to cover some very specific areas in the Pampanga area and my good friend Hans from the
Filipino Travel Center joined me. (he actually did all the driving, thanks a lot Hans)

Under normal condition (but then what’s normal in Manila) it should not take more then 2.5 hours to reach Angeles City but unlucky for us Manila was in a gridlock with traffic jams beyond belief and it took us much longer to reach our destination.
But in the end it was all worth it and the next couple of days proved to be very enjoyable and rewarding. Discovering hidden waterfalls, hiking through pristine jungle with the super nice and friendly Aetas and rewarded ourselves by the end of the day with a very cold beer.

I had to cover a variety of different locations and subjects but thanks to Hans and his knowledge of the area we managed to get everything done that was on my shooting list.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
A spontaneous encounter with young Aeta girl, Philippines

I personally enjoyed our drive through the gorges leading to the Puning Hot Springs, created by the famed Mt Pinatubo eruption in 1991. It is a beautiful scenic and ragged terrain, a visual treat for Photography, Geologist and Nature Lovers.
An awesome landscape shaped by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption, with the river traversing through deep gorges lined with lush vegetation like huge fans and other plants, it was indeed unexpected and a pleasant surprise after the chaotic traffic in Manila.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Spectacular Gorges on the way to the
Puning Hot Springs, Philippines

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Spectacular Gorges on the way to the
Puning Hot Springs, Philippines

In other areas we did some Jungle trekking and chanced upon a group of Aeta women collection Takipan in the rainforest, a vegetable that can be eaten raw or is used in soup by the locals. Of course I had to taste it; again to my surprise the raw Takipan was very nice and I enjoyed it very much, this could make indeed a very nice salad provided by Mother Nature.

But there is so much more to discover and I upload a selection of Images next week into my PhotoShelter Archives but for now you can check out a very small preview/selection on my website.

2017 © Gunther Deichmann
Aeta collecting fire wood, Philippines

Thanks again to Hans from
Filipino Travel Center, a good friend and companion and I keep you posted since the two of us planning something you might find very interesting. (Photo Tour/Workshop)

After all getting out of Manila can be a blessing and Mother Nature is only 2.5 hours away, provided there is no traffic jam in Manila.