When we first moved to Thailand I was constantly in awe of how many beautiful things there were to look at. The plants are all so different from what I grew up around (Colorado); the colors are the kind I’d see on those iconic 1990’s binders and folders for school, with pastel and neon dolphins on them, but they’re real life colors on flowers and birds and insects that probably can kill you. The trees are different, with these enormous blossoms that look made out of wax or fondant, or some of them have these long tendrils like Weeping Willows but with no leaves and red. It was a sensory overload. I took photos of these things when I could, but it’s hard to carry a camera with you when you’re running and you start to forget to capture these things as a normal routine sets in.
Over time I stopped seeing these things so much. I became accustomed to them and the surprise of a different, exotic plant or animal has come fewer and farther in between. What hasn’t diminished is the way I watch the people in my gym. I see faces and forms, I watch the interactions between trainers and the kids, or the boys clinching with each other. I see it and I love it, it still inspires me, but you can’t capture it. At least I couldn’t with the options I had available to me: a camera on my phone and a Sony Cybershot that was on the edge of broken for the better part of a year before finally crapping out two months ago.
It took a lot of deliberation, but Kevin and I decided that since we had to buy a new camera in any case, in order to keep filming and uploading my fights and training videos, that we would take a risk and make an investment in a more expensive option. It’s a risk because we don’t know how long we can stay here; it’s an investment because we are trying to make it as long as possible and having quality footage and content to put out is part of what makes that a possibility. We needed to raise the quality bar for Patreon Only content.
For my 13th birthday my dad bought me a camera. A real SLR with exchangeable lenses (although I only had one) and a few rolls of black and white film. Yeah… real film. I wanted to be a photographer in those days and I took that camera everywhere. Once I got to high school I learned how to develop my own film and print my own photos. My hands constantly smelled of the “fixer” chemical bath. I loved it. And in those years my eye for framing and composition developed itself, which is maybe why I still see these moments when I’m watching my gymmates, capturing it in my mind’s eye as if it were a photograph but never actually capturing it.
Our new camera is pretty awesome. It’s a Sony Cybershot again, but a newer model that allows the user to mess with the f-stops, aperture, shutter speed, etc. I was very shy at first, because it’s been so long since I flexed my photographer muscles (those who are well practiced can virtually disappear and get incredible photos from their invisibility cloaks; my friend Ying Ross is like this), but with Kevin’s encouragement I promised to take photos every day in order to learn more how the camera worked and figure out how we can share more of the mundane experiences of living and training here. For the last 4 years most of the photos you see are Kevin’s, as he’s the one filming my fights, my training, my “Sylvie’s Tips” technique videos and snapping photos of training when he’s around. I haven’t been behind the camera in a long time, so there was some serious rust to clear off in order to start taking photos of the gym, to take myself out of the routine in order to actually capture it myself. I dry my sweat-soaked hands and grab the camera, then hop up on the ring and creep around to various vantage points outside the ropes while the boys work with each other and with the trainers. I mess around with the different features and options on the camera to learn how it works, what makes a double-image, what blurs, and what’s sharp. In the process of shooting hundreds of photos, I capture a handful of moments that I’m so grateful can be shared. Kevin is giving himself points all the time for knowing that my “photographer’s eye” is still alive, but I’m convinced that my eye is better than it was when I wanted to be a young photographer. It’s better because I know these people, I see them every single day, and so I think my eye is trained on finding aspects of who they are and expressions of their character and position in the gym. That I can capture some of that that is incredible. That I can keep it and share it is truly satisfying. As I keep shooting my subjects and sharing will likely only grow.
So this post is an introduction to the new, better images I’ll be putting out on 8limbs.us and my in albums like this on my facebook page, as a way to share more of my life here.
Also, the new camera means that video quality should go way up. Training videos for Nak Muay Nation, for my Supporter Only Content, fight videos and some vlogs will be shot in 1080 50p if we can handle the larger files, which means that you could be able to feel more transported into the space of Thailand, which is what I’ve always wanted to be able to do. To bring you here with me.
If you’d like to support this effort of documentation, and get access to Supporter Only content you can pledge as little as $1 a month. A thank you to Douglas, and to two other people who wish to remain anonymous who donated specifically toward the purchase of this camera so that what I’m bringing to readers is improved.
Petchrungruang Gym is a traditional Pattaya kaimuay that focuses on raising and training Thai boys to become Bangkok stadium champions. I’ve trained and fought out of the gym full time for more than two years now.
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