While in northern Thailand visiting my father and his wife Sandra, she and I went to the small market near to their home to pick up a few veggies with which to make some kimchi. While there, this young boy appeared wearing a full face mask. In much of the world, this look is usually donned by bank robbers or other would-be dangerous types. Since I’ve seen it before in the area, it didnt startle me, but I don’t fully understand it. It was quite hot out, perhaps 92F degrees yet people who work in the local rice and garlic fields often are fully covered with long sleeves and mask, sometimes wearing all black. I have no choice at the moment but to write it off as simply my own ignorance, for they have learned through their own experience that there is something advantageous about covering oneself in this way. I am often touched by how little I know.
I asked him, largely through my gestures and showing him the camera if he would mind if I took his photograph and he complied. Our time together lasted perhaps a minute, until he hopped on a motorcycle and drove back into the hot sun.
Through photographing others, I’ve become attuned to the subtle masks that we all wear on a daily basis. Through this avocation, I am also privileged to witness moments when our guard drops and we simply appear as we are, unencumbered by the responsibility of presenting ourselves in a particular way. This is connected to why I love this photograph so much, for it explicitly reflects the masks we all wear, yet his eyes do come through, providing us with a small glimpse into the soul which underlies.