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Whenever I have found it possible, I have tried to contact the people I have photographed before and continue to make new pictures with them,” Yaum said.Over the years, Yaum said he has struggled with how to photograph his exploited subjects without exploiting them himself.
Thailand emerged as an independent country first in the 14th century, following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire. Thailand is an emerging economy heavily dependent on exports, with exports accounting for more than 2/3 of its gross domestic product.
Yaum learned to speak Thai to better communicate with his subjects, and he also had to learn the ins and outs of the bar world, which often meant steering clear of the workers’ sometimes hostile employers.
Yaum also found it difficult to track down some of his subjects in order to rephotograph them over the years.
If you’re doing something for the right reasons, for a greater good, then that's the path you want to be on.” While Yaum hopes that his photographs can serve as an agent of change, he said he fears that the sex industry in places like Pattaya has only grown since he started shooting there.
“As long as there is poverty in places like Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines, there will be workers for the sex tourist bars of Southeast Asia.
No Thai girl or boy dreams of becoming a prostitute. Most work the job purely out of economic necessity.
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“The problem with the bar world is that things are constantly changing.
People move from bar to bar, go from one area of Thailand to another, some get sick, some go to jail and others get married to foreigners and leave the country.
“When you get to know them more and talk on a more intimate level, you understand that in almost all the workers there is sadness, a pain in their lives because of what they do.” Returning again and again to such sadness, Yaum said, has been draining.
“I am finding it harder and harder to return to the bars to make pictures.
Two years later, he visited the country for the first time and has since returned many times with the intent of raising awareness about conditions by documenting the sex workers there and sharing their stories with the world.