JUST LIKE HONEY - A mental journey into the dark world of
'ya ba' and out again.
Innocent pink and sweet as honey. It melts on tin foil beneath a low flame and trace slips into black. Toxic vapour rises from the tar bubbling residue and is inhaled. A split second flash. All doors to otherly perceptions are dynamited open. The mind's pleasure dome explodes into light shards and insights, desires, obsessions, shadows, colours; ideas unborn and concepts already dead. A strobe light cacophony. A euphoria like a plague of locusts rising en masse to blacken the sky. Smoke curling imagery imploding upon itself. Solitary journeys begin, in dream-time.
Highly addictive. Extremely dangerous. This is the world of 'ya ba' - 'crazy pill' as it's known to the Thais, or crystal methamphetamine. These photographs were taken during Thailand's war on drugs when, according to Amnesty International, over 2000 people were killed during the first 3 months of the campaign. The authorities maintain that most of the killings were carried out by drug dealers. There's a very strong suspicion that most, if not all, were extra-judicial executions - made to look like 'murders' - to fulfill a government black list. It is only now, in 2007, that a few of these killings are being investigated. They included the elderly and children as young as 16 months.
This is as much a journey for those photographed here as it is for me. Their Bangkok became my Bangkok and vice versa. It took on the form of a predatory beast of monstrous proportions, its roads were arteries and bones, its super-highways rib cages. There was no escape. It was diseased and shattered, endlessly nocturnal, smashed-in-chaotic, and ultimately reflectory. It was solo. Narcissistic. We were morphing into the city itself. Anonymous hotel rooms became interiors of the skull. Door key holes were the mind's eye onto the outside world for days and days. Months and months. Time lost its meaning. Wires of communication were entangled, scrambled, knotted into stuttering loops. Cityscapes were dreams. Often nightmares. Landscapes of the mind. Sleep never came. Only the horror of the final crash. A tsunami of viscous black anxiety and fear, insanity, nihilism. The central nervous system flickering phosphorous like a hillside after a napalm strike. Psychosis. Then the hunt in over-exposed sunlight, to get more. Always on the move, in fact never moving at all. As we smoked more, it dawned on me we were the ones being smoked - we were slowly combusting into vapour.
Photography became a form of exorcism for me. A silent companion, a justification. Film was stamped on and held up to the sun, what was meant to be was meant to be. What wasn't, wasn't and remained fogged and still-born. Never to see the light of day, reclaimed from the very same sun rays that gave the film an imprint in the first place. Exposed frames sacrificed to the random and accidental. Put to the survival test of life and death. The few that survived seemed destined to be. More potent. Everything from and out of time and light.....everything in its right place.