True to his words, “…to raise awareness that something, something should be done”, Vansanaphon Vongxaynha, better known as Maxie, initiated the “Lao Children- 10,000 Faces” photo project together with colleagues from “Lang Korng: The Lao Photographers Society”, the organization he co-founded.
Starting as a hobby to click random scenes - landscapes, people, anything around him when he was still 17, Maxie and three friends created “Lang Korng” (Behind the Camera) in 2005, a nonprofit youth organization uniting Lao amateur and professional photographers to share knowledge and techniques of their craft, hone each other’s skills through their experiences, inspire one another through their stories and encourage a wider audience to promote and contribute to the good of Lao society.
Growing up, Maxie became more attracted to photography. His passion grew even stronger when he saw that the simple and beautiful things he had grown up with were slowly disappearing, and the authenticity of the culture he was familiar with, was slowly fading away, swamped by influences foreign to the country.
His trips to different provinces of Laos, and abroad, made him realize more that he had to do something that would not just inspire others to take more photographs, but would also raise awareness of social disorders lurking around the corner. It was then that “Lao Children - 10,000 Faces” photo project was created. The main idea of the project, conceptualized by Lang Korng, was to go to rural areas in selected provinces of northern and southern Laos: Luang Prabang; Xiengkhouang; Sayaboury; Luang Namtha; Bokeo; Huaphan; Salavan; Attapeu; Sekong; Savannakhet and Vientiane to take and print photos of 10,000 children that would then be given to them as souvenirs. Lang Korng believes that photographs are the best way for people to remember childhood experiences and to warn children to be cautious of what is happening all around.
(Even in villages where phone cameras were common these were often the first hard copy photography they had and were much sought after by the parents.)
By February this year, the team had already taken 7,000 photos, held an exhibition at the Institut Français du Laos in Vientiane, and printed a book of photographs of children, landscapes and activities done by the team while in the field. Started in October 2015, the project aims to educate children in rural areas through art, music, film shows, story-telling and discussions about the dangers of human trafficking, forced child marriages, and other social ills. The project also encourages these children to be creative in their own ways.
Despite the unpredictable weather in the north and several security issues in the south, the different teams of Lang Korng made it this far with the help of Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) and International Organization for Migration (IOM-X).
Maxie became more attached to photography. His passion grew even wider when he saw that the simple and beautiful things he had grown up with were slowly disappearing, and the authenticity of the culture he was familiar with, was slowly fading away, swamped by influences foreign to the country.
(Many villages had no road access and more than two weeks were spent in Xayaboury, Loungphabang and Bokeo travelling by boat to visit them.)
(Exercise in cold weather under the sun is the easiest way to get warm.)
(Adults were as interested in the many activities as the children and attempted to play traditional musical instruments no matter how much people laughed.)
(Clothes were brought and posters with social messages were made for schools and villages.)
(In the more remote villages getting electricity and finding a suitable screening place were often a challenge. The whole village would often come out to watch the nightly film screenings. We would show a short film about human trafficking followed by feature film.)
(They were rarely shy for more than the first few minutes.)
(Essential daily activities like cooking take up much of the day in a village, but everyone seemed well fed and healthy.)
(Friendships start at any age.)
PHOTOS BY MAXIE & TEXT BY JOY
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