...the images below are graphic and (perhaps) distrubing....
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival
As long as I was taking photographs I was okay. My initial fear was that I wouldn’t be able to get close enough—which, as it turned out, was silly. I was so close I had to duck. I was so close I was splattered. But the well-attended Thai religious pageant wasn’t too bad, especially viewed through my wide-angle Canon lens. I was detached. I get paid to take pictures. These were just pictures, I kept telling myself—amazing, stunning pictures. I never felt like puking—at least, not at first. There was so much to think about: shutter speed, lens aperture, the ISO setting, my framing, etc.
All these technical details allowed me to pretend I was taking pictures of an event, not real people mutilating themselves right in front of me.
The people with swords through their faces weren’t so bad. I mean, it had ALREADY happened. I was sort of taking pictures of recent history.
…there was no blood on my hands, even though they were awash in it.
I first started feeling queasy with the Pin Cushion Man. His arms were elevated. At first I didn’t understand why. Then I realized the hundreds of meter-long needles driven into his bristling body wouldn’t allow his arms to relax. He was sort of his own cross… crucified, Thai-style.
At one point he awkwardly turned his whole body and stared at me. The bright sun caught every needle and made it wink gold.
Our eyes locked. He was some place far, far away—that I never want to be.
Then the guys with the maces showed up. I’ve always hated maces. And feared them. They made horrible thudding sounds. Bruises bloomed. Blood flowed. Flesh bled. Guys with flailing axes danced gleefully around Mister Mace Man, They were chopping themselves. You could smell the copper-scented blood. Hatchets smashed into torn backs and shoulders and legs and arms.
A smiling guy came traipsing along. He was wrapped in a long string of powerful firecrackers—winding from forehead to naked toe… around his face, his neck… enveloping and swirling around his entire body. He was cocooned in explosives. His best friend carefully, slowly, lovingly flicked-his-Bic at the bottom firecracker. I held down the shutter of my Canon 450D. I captured thousands of images of the blissful, enraptured man blowing away chucks of his own flesh.
A man walked up with a saw.
I turned and
…and started to whimper.
He deliberately took the saw…
…and cut into..
Then I was running back to my wife Carolyn, trying not to… not to… not to…
…tugging her away from the howling, God-drunk crowd… pushing her rudely down an alley… away from the smoke and blood and their horrific glory.
I can’t edit the photos.
For a couple of weeks afterwards, whenever I’d see anyone motion towards their mouth—I’d feel a stab of pain in mine. I had, I’m ashamed to say, sort of ‘sympathy labor pains’ in my aching, cringing cheeks. I’d see someone take a sip of Coke—and I’d inadvertently moan aloud. Someone would spit out their gum—and I’d look on the sidewalk for the glob of thick blood. A kid would skip by with a lollipop—and I’d turn away with strangled sob.
Did I go to the Phuket Vegetarian Festival?
How was it?
(Caution: images to follow may be disturbing!)
This entire web page (except where noted) is copyrighted by Cap'n Fatty Goodlande