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Joshua Beard, Foto. - Photographer, Teacher, Artist, Professional Foreigner.

The Day The Martian Landed In The Village

Posted by jbeardfoto - April 17th, 2014

So many of you might know that I’ve been keeping myself busy with my other project, Strange Tiny People (www.strangetinypeople.com). If you haven’t been following, make sure to head over to the site and like us on facebook at facebook.com/strangetinypeople .

Side note/shameless plug: The project is in danger of ending due to lack of funding.  If you want to see more of these photos and support creative education, head over to the STP Project indiegogo fundraiser.

But it’s high time I shared some of the photos and stories I’ve been taking while on the road. While most of the project involves creative education, I am still a photographer. The STP project has me doing a lot of traveling so I can connect with children all around the world (As of now, around Asia). Since my funds are limited and I am trying to stretch every dollar/yuan/dong/baht/etc, I had to figure out a cost effective way of hitting these destinations.

But back to the travel stuff. I decided the most cost effective (and coolest) way was to go as long as I can via motorbike.

Motorbike in the Mekong Delta

mom probably isn’t going to be the biggest fan of this idea. Dad would give me a high-five if the bike wasn’t Asian…

So I bought an old Chinese bike in Saigon off of friend, fellow photographer, and advertising Jedi Aaron Johnson, (go check him out at www.explosionmediagroup.com).  I’ve been traveling the past couple of weeks from Saigon through the Mekong delta on my way to work with some organizations in Cambodia. So far she’s held up pretty good, plus or minus a few screws..

There’s lots of photos still waiting to be sifted through on the ol’ hard drive as we speak (I carry two 1TB hard drives, Optimus and Megatron) that I will post in the near future, but I really couldn’t help taking a few moments to share one particular story:

The delta is, well, a delta. Which means it is covered in rivers and tributaries, and I found myself on a very skinny island cut off by gaping rivers to the west and the ocean to the east. While I only meant to stop over for 5 minutes between ferries, I thought I would take a quick look around.

At the risk of sounding somewhere between Kipling and Thoreau, what I found was a bombardment of natural beauty and folky charm that will make your southern grandma give up and throw away all of her chicken decorations. These people have obviously never seen a foreign face. I would wager that the last American foot to step on this ground was wearing a combat boot. Children ran out of the school to look as I past, old ladies gave puzzling stares, and other bikers rubbernecked themselves into near extinction.

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

This little island (which I am choosing to not name so it can continue to be small and beautiful) is about 10 miles long with only one main road running down it, with some small farmer’s trails running off each side, as if the island had a spine. And it did. This was the backbone of the island. This is where life happened . Along this “main road”, which wasn’t even wide enough for two trucks to pass each other and the craters littered every few feet leads me to assume it hasn’t seen maintenance since the birth of Communism, one can pass thatch-roofed supply shops, kids running round the school, stone bridges over creeks of fisherman, old ladies sitting in lawn chairs gossiping, and fields of 10ft sugar canes.

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

The “ribs” held all of the farmers houses and tons of little streams where boats rested and waited for dark to go night fishing. Speaking of dark. I got a little carried away with all the sites and spent a lot more time on the island than I had meant to. Rushing to get back to the pier before the last ferry leaves, I ran across what looked like, and all good sense would say isn’t, but it’s way cooler this way, so I’m choosing to call it, a guard tower. I used the last waning moments of light to quickly snap a couple of shots when, looking on the back LCD (I chimp, there I said it.), I noticed a small black object dropping from underneath. When I looked up, I noticed more and more falling until the sky was filled with fruit bats, just waking up for their nightly foraging.

Bats! Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

They’re really just there to distract you from the sniper hiding out up there..

I kept shooting and shooting as the night sky filled with bats. Wait, night?

Crap. it was dark.

I go bumping along this minefield of a road trying to head back up to the pier, when a crater of a pothole took me by surprise, and jarred my headlight loose. On the island, you don’t see many street lights.

So now I’m late for the ferry AND I can’t see 5 feet in front of myself. Well, fudge.

There aren’t exactly any hotels on the island either, so I start walking my bike until I come across what looked like a hammock coffee-hut (more on these next time. Just understand that you will never think up anything as awesome as these places). I make motions for a screw-driver to the man and his wife sitting in the hut. After a couple rounds of charades, he brings me one, and we fix the light. Thankfully, cheap Asian bikes are as easy to fix as they are to break.

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

True fact: pretty much every Asian family is the cast of every sitcom ever.

After that, I noticed that there are some tables around, so a pantomime food, in hopes that they also serve dinner. Another few rounds of charades brings him to pull me over to where he and his wife were eating their own dinner with their 2 kids.

“No no, I just wanted to buy some dinner.”

Then I realized what was going on here. This wasn’t a coffee hut. This was this dude’s house. All of the houses were open-faced, both for cooling reasons as well as welcoming ones. Every house has about 10 chairs and a dozen hammocks, just for people to come over and hang out. I wasn’t a customer, I was a guest being invited to come eat dinner, even though I was a complete stranger (and one that might as well have come from Tatooine).

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

As I was eating with them (fresh caught fish from the stream beside the cottage), I noticed that the family had grown 5-fold since I sat down. While some were just stopping in to hang out for the evening, it become quite apparent that I had become the big news of the village for the night. Everyone in the family had been on the horn telling their cousins and nephews to come look at their pale-skinned visitor. Soon I had a couple dozen people shaking hands and laughing with me, to which none of us could understand what the other was saying.

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Hammocks 4 lyfe, y’all.

The children had multiplied from two to about ten, and they were all awesome. It reminded me how much easier it is to communicate with them than the adults. The bigger ones looked after the little ones, and the little ones found everything the met absolutely hilarious.

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

After some pull-up contests, re-answering the question “where from?” (the only English words spoken and understood of the night, thanks to one kid) for the 400th time, and more high-fives than I can count, it became quite apparent that these are exactly the kinds of kids I started the Strange Tiny People project for.  It was driving me crazy that I didn’t have an interpreter with me, because these kids could have made some awesome stories. I will come back and teach these kids, and make portraits of all of them.

I had originally planned to just ask if I could sleep in one of their hammocks for the night, but to be honest all the socializing had left my poor introverted brain worn and in desperate need of a night alone. Lucky for me, I always bring a tent. I rode around for a little while looking for a place that didn’t directly appear to be squatting on someone’s land, until I decided to go off on one of the “rib” roads of the spine. Here I found a tranquil-as-f**k bridge (and the only one to actually have lights) next to a river with an old broken boat floating near. It would be a crime not to set up camp in such a picturesque spot, so I did. Don’t let the long exposure on this image fool you; I could barely see my hand in front of my face.

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Grizzly-man photographer porn.

And it also provided a great chance to get this shot:

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Pastoral-as-f**k.

I had a nice nature-boy evening in my tent, then woke up before sunrise (and yet still the last one to get up on the island. Stupid farmers…) to greet all my new friends and get a couple of good sunrise shots. It’s worth noting that all of these shots are single-shots, no HDR. It appears that the Mekong Delta has a natural HDR setting:

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

Mekong Delta - Joshua Beard foto

After some “chatting” with some more villagers, I finally got back to the pier, and decided it was time for lunch and a beer, then I realized it was only about 9am, so I decided to have a vietnamese coffee and breakfast while I waited on the ferry. But rest assured I will come back and bring the full force of the STP project. New item on the bucket list: Come back with two things: an interpreter and 4-wheel drive.

If you’d like to make sure these adventures keep happening and I can afford things like interpreters so I can give awesome kids like this a voice and an image, go support the project at strangetinypeople.com/indiegogo.

That’s the end of today’s story, kiddos. Come around next time and I’ll tell you about uncle Josh getting hammered before noon on coconut moonshine. True story..

Now, off to the floating markets..

 

 

 

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Phototronic Imagitorium: Tiny Tyrant Photo Booth (or) “This isn’t what it is”

Posted by jbeardfoto - December 21st, 2013

Oh, ummm. Hey there. Sorry to keep you waiting. ..

Hope you weren’t waiting too long. I ran out for some milk and got a little distracted. You know how it goes. Bump into an old friend, move to another country, change your profession and start teaching kindergardeners… Before you know it, 3 years has rolled by and you find yourself with a new language skill and the ability to eat parts of animals you thought were only for zombies..

I’ve also started a blog, called Strange tiny People dedicated to displaying just how punk-rock kids are. I started this when I realized how much cooler my kids were than me. Seriously, if you think kids are lame and boring, then it’s only due to lame and boring education.

Creativity and story telling are a immensely powerful in developing individuality, something Asian education often neglects. This is why I’m pulling myself out of semi-retirement and starting up a brand new photo project traveling Asia and working with children to make some really cool photo-illustrations.

To get all the details, take a quick jump over to www.strangetinypeople.com , and like us on the facebooks at facebook.com/strangetinypeople .

Speaking of children, creativity, photos, and dog collars…

 

Ok, you gotta bear with me for a sec on this one..

So there is this other project I do from time to time called the Phototronic Imagitorium™. It started as a fun way to remember my friends when I moved away. Basically it involves a photo booth with me snapping away inside and a requirement that you dress yourself with a number of different props on a big table outside. Go check out the shenanigans from the first one here.

phototronic imagitorium photobooth - Joshua Beard, foto.

Serious Shenanigans indeed.

 

So me being the clever guy I am, I got the idea the other day to break out the old Imagitorium  to teach my students a little bit about being creative. The premise was pretty much the same: booth, me, photos, table o’ stuff. The one difference was that when I asked my children to use the props, they had to think of a different way to use it besides it’s intended purpose.

This isn’t what it is” became the motto of the session.

Is this pencil a pencil? No, it’s my antenna.

Is this dog collar a dog collar? No, it’s my bow.

Is this leash a leash? No, it’s my pet snake.

Some kids really took to it and some just liked wearing stuff they don’t get to wear every day. But everyone definitely had fun. And since the last post I put up (over two years ago….) was a class-picture day project, it seems fitting to do another now that they’ve grown up a bit:

 

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

Phototronic Imagitorium photo booth: Tiny Tyrant Edition - Strange Tiny People

 

 

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Picture Day

Posted by jbeardfoto - March 21st, 2011

For those that aren’t aware, during the day I teach kindergarden in China. I figured we needed a class picture day, and Olin Mills said we were slightly outside of the tri-state region. So I sucked it up and did it myself.

I do, weddings.

Posted by jbeardfoto - February 25th, 2011

It has recently occurred to me that many of you may not know that I actually do weddings as well. While I don’t regularly promote it on my site, I am not a stranger to weddings and bridal shoots.

Here’s the catch though: I’m not afraid to shoot you, but I urge you not to be afraid of letting your speacial day actually be, ya know, special. There are a thousand white dresses holding flowers in a park or against a floral background. Choosing this path is the same as saying “I’m going to go get some Starbucks, but my latte will be the most important and memorable there, because I’m going to throw a lot of money at someone to take pictures of me drinking it.”

I’ve done bridal shoots on rooftops, in warehouses, with dresses made entirely out of recycled plastic bags, and even a divorce shoot (which involved the refashioning of the wedding dress into a queen of hearts). Think about why the hell you are getting married and why the hell do you want it documented. How about a highway engagement shoot, or combat boots and white dresses. Many don’t even realize that there isn’t a law saying that your dress has to be white (although some areas of Texas may say otherwise). And don’t forget, I’m always available for consolation or a good keister kick in the right direction, which is another reason to always keep those combat boots handy.

If’s, And’s, or …conjunctions.

Posted by jbeardfoto - February 21st, 2011

Also, an old one I forgot to post from the states. I thought I should get around to posting it, since it has a butt in it and all.

And all that jazz.

Posted by jbeardfoto - February 21st, 2011

Last month I was bored and called up my friend Leru of Beijing’s Moonglow Burlesque to see if she wanted to have dinner. She told me that she couldn’t really have dinner because she was doing a show at Club Scarlett that night, but I should come hang out at the club. I decided to bring the camera along, and we decided to run around and take advantage of the club’s very fun backdrops. Keep in mind these are all spur-of-the-moment shots with pretty much only available light.

Hot, B

Posted by jbeardfoto - November 28th, 2010

The Buzzcocks came to Beijing. I didn’t get to go.

I was pretty annoyed about this, until the next day when one of my friends told me that it was worth it to save the 200RMB anyways since good punk rock does have an expiration date. So this turned out to work in my favor, since I really like the Buzzcocks, and would prefer not to have the image of Pete Shelley breaking a hip and wearing a life call on stage. I did, however, find out about a pretty rad punk show the following night that was much cheaper.

Some of you that fancy yourselves as aficionados of punk might remember the girl punk group from Beijing (I know, right?) called Hang on the Box, or HotB for short. They were one of the biggest punk groups to come out of China and one of the only ones to ever have an American tour. You can see some of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66MK9NrB_XI (Yes, that is the most effeminate punk club announcer I have ever heard too..)

They broke up about 3 year ago, but recently reformed with a slightly more mature sound. I got to go to their reunion show at Beijing’s Infamous Mao Livehouse.

I swear officer, it’s just a cigarette lighter.

Posted by jbeardfoto - October 18th, 2010

While there are still many pages left to transcribe from my personal logs over the past few months, I’m going to break continuity here for a bit to post an update from a recent event I not only photographed, but performed in.

Yes. This one has photos.

I have been keeping up fairly well with my poi practice routine (ie: to stretch in the mornings and whenever I’m bored in my apt/at a bus stop/showing off to students) since I’ve been in Beijing, but about 3 weeks in I got that ever-persistent urge start setting things on fire again. I found a juggling supply/fixed gear bike store called Natooke, run by an Italian performance trainer, Federico, and a German former-member of the German National Trick-Bike Team, Inez. Federico (“Just ‘Fede’,” he tells me. “Otherwise I think you’re from the government”) is a performance arts extraordinaire. Fede juggles, Fede spins fire staff, Fede eats and breathes fire, Fede balances things on his face, Fede does card tricks, Fede rides a bike with a front wheel that is over 5-foot in diameter. Turns out, he runs a juggling club which is welcome to all skills in street performance arts. After hanging out with these guys for a month or so, Fede comes over and asks if I wanted to do a fire performance with them For the China National Holiday Celebration. Far be it from me to let down a friend, especially one offering to pay me to perform in one of the most popular tourist areas in one of the biggest cities in Asia, I accept.

Aside from a bit of diva-ing from some guest Russian stilt walkers and an electric violinist, all goes well with the 2 performances. I ate fire, I breathed fire, and I finally got to use my fire poi in China that didn’t involve my neighbors thinking that Americans must play the weirdest form of paddle-ball ever.  When I wasn’t performing and working the crowd, I was snapping pics. While I don’t always plan to pull double-duty like that, I like knowing that I am starting to get more regular gigs through Fede. That being said, there was one snag:

Fede: “I received a call from the police today”

Me: “meep.”

Fede: “They said they were upset with me, and they mentioned you too.”

Me: “meep meep.”

Well it turns out the police weren’t very happy with the venue allowing fire performances with a crowd at such close proximity. I should take a second here to note that there are no real rules and regulations in China for street activities like this. There aren’t any proximity guidelines and mandatory on-site fire marshal requirements like in the states. You just do it, and you only here from the police if they don’t like it. But the trouble is when they don’t like it…

No actions were taken other than us being banned from using fire in any performances in SanLiTun again. However, it is still a bit nerve-wrecking, now knowing that there is a police record with my name on it in China. I’m still booked for at least two more upcoming gigs (including one as host while Fede is working in Tibet next month). There are other venues, and other performances. Until then, I at least have the incriminating evidence to share:

Phototronic Imagitorium -OR- ColumbiYeah behind closed curtains -OR- How I learned to stop worrying and love the bondage

Posted by jbeardfoto - October 3rd, 2010

So I know it’s been forever since I last posted, (in fact, I haven’t even made a posting since I lived in another time zone). I actually have tons of handwritten bloggings from my time in china so far in my trusty notebook, but I have just been too damned busy/tired/tied up by a masseuse to transcribe them into an actual post.

It has, however, just come to my attention that I never posted the amazing shots from the Phototronic Imagitorium(TM)!! These have made their way around face book a bit, but I never officially released them! (bad josh, no dumplings for you).

So if you don’t know what the Phototronic Imagitorium(TM) is, here’s the deets:

The Phototronic Imagitorium(TM) was my experimental and never quite official photobooth. It went through two test runs before being put into hibernation, with the second run set up at the FOM June Art Series, my last public event in the US. The basic idea was to capture all the awesome people I was leaving behind, and to capture their true awesomeness broken free of the daily shams. So the Phototronic Imagitorium(TM) was set up on the street, with yours truly inside snapping pics and purposely creeping out the subjects, along with a table full of funtastic wardrobe supplies. Everything from pipes and top hats to rope and duct tape. Subjects are not allowed in without choosing from the table of poppycockery, and the rest was magic.

Fire, in motion.

Posted by jbeardfoto - May 17th, 2010

Just thought I would take a moment to post a recent shoot I did with Columbia’s own pyromaniacs, Fire and Motion and Lunatrix/Columbia hoop Troop. If you have ever tried to accurately shoot fire, then you know its about one of the toughest live event subjects to shoot. With an arsenal of about every incendiary toy possible from fire poi, fire hoops, fire fans, fire staff, fire fingers and fire breathing, this quickly became the gauntlet of on-your-toes badassery-capturing.

Here’s the end result of the blood, sweat, and scorched eyebrows:

Fire and motion: Casey Hughes

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