Patpong district… the red light disgusting place…

How to behave as a photographer in a disturbing place?

When I went in Thailand many people told me before I go that prostitution was a very severe disease / disaster in that country. We all were told by the press or TV that many tourists go there only to find prostitute and even more sadly, children prostitutes… The people seeking that kind of sex aren’t anymore humans. They really are only rubbish

But, anyway, I was in Bangkok and with some friends we went in the Red light district of Bangkok, the famous Patpong district where you almost exclusively see tourist males and / with young asian girls (or ladyboys).

Patpong is a street, may be 100m long in the heart of Bangkok with many bars and go go bars all along. Visually it looks nice because you see a lot of colored lights everywhere, but overall looks really really glaucous and unwholesome.

On one side you’ve the girls who do their best to catch tourists to come in the bar, and on another side you’ve all these drunk males seeking some “entertainment”. And  when you step into a bar you face the reality.

Very glaucous bars

These places really look like an animal fair with girls “dancing” on a superelevated scene and holding a sign with their number.

Patpong district in Bangkok
So glaucous…

Then, all around, you have the men, everyone of them seated alone at a table, staring at the scene and shouting the number they want to come at their table to “talk” with their prey.

I can hardly describe how bad I felt in that place… It was crowded, many men standing, but it was so silent except the music playing some “romantic” songs… There were no kind or warm atmosphere like other “usual” bars.

It is only about sexual predators and their preys… so stinking.

After less than 5mn we’ve decided to leave that place. There’s nothing good in such a place, it’s all about sex, money and alcohol, the worst combination in the world…

Doubts about their age

I wonder why so many people dream to visit such a place. Yes it’s a kind of “entertainment” with a lot of beautiful red lights and women, but… beside… it’s human exploitation and most of girls there seem so young.

I bet a majority of them is under 16...

Disgusting

6 Comments

  1. As photographers, do you think it is our job to judge? I don’t believe it is. We capture the world and encourage people to look at it, even when it’s painful. In this way, we bring attention to issues that many would have no reason to think about. Words like “disgusting” are harmful. Not only is it furthering the degradation of these girls, it’s also cheapening the photos of them. I’ve done a series of photos on sex workers. I was not without compassion, but it was not my job to judge them. I was there to tell their stories. We are their voice when they don’t have one of their own, and if the words we speak convey a message of judgement, then we and they are both lost.

    • True, I didn’t think the way you say and you’re probably right! But my post was more to criticize the customers than the girls. For me what is disgusting is to see old European tourists going there to have sex with girls so young that I doubt they had any choice.
      For sure this subject would required a deep immersion to have a better understanding of what really happens in here. Could you please share the link to your photos? I would like to see them. Thank you

    • The photos I took were in East St Louis, Illinois. Prostitution is not legal, but it is overlooked. I tried to document the women that work the streets, but it was too dangerous. I ended up working with girls that worked in a club, probably similar to the one you saw in Thailand. I took photos of them for 3 months. Most of my photos were lost when my hard drive died, but here is a link to the ones I still have: http://january77.deviantart.com/gallery/9169423/photo-series-stripper

      Thank you for your kind response and interest in my photos.

    • Well you know, I’m facing 2 concerns with this post… First thing is that I think it’s a very difficult topic and I’m really concerned with the place of the women in our society. Second is that I express myself in English which is not my mother language and I’m fighting to tell correctly what I think. So I’m sure that I use sometimes words that go beyond my thoughts 🙁
      I took a quick look at your photos. I can’t see the first 3 or 4 but I was moved by the 5 last!! Great series, a lot of sensibility!! Thank you for sharing them

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