Middle Grey: A Place Between Working To Live and Living To Work
Eat, sleep, fish, repeat. These are the routines most commonly found in a fishing village in southern Thailand. The images exhibited are a collection that I felt displayed the wide range of tasks for the average Thai fisher-person. Both men and women play important roles in the balanced cycle of catching and selling seafood. Long-tail boats come in, the catch is sorted, the food is prepared, and the commerce begins. It’s a simple life, but in comparison to the hustle and bustle of an American work life, the life of a Thai village fisher-person is honest and calm. It is hard work, but there is immediate reward. Although their work surrounds them, it is not all-consuming, like often is the case in the Western world. These communities are working to live not the other way around.
(Click on each image for a larger version)
A man sits in the sand in a Pak Phanang village and searches for clams as the waves roll in and cool his legs. He uses a sifter tool to ease his job.
A beam is greased and weighted down by two cinder blocks over a fire. Over time the bend in the wood will hold firm and the beam will be used as part of a boat.
nets and rope
There are around 100 fishing villages in the Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. Most of which are filled with generations of fisherfolk.
During the wet months it is considered crab season in Thailand. To catch shrimp or fish during this time is not as common.
The average fisherman goes out to sea seven days a week. An exception is made in Muslim fishing villages on Fridays; this is the day for prayer.
A woman re-greases the make shift wooden boat ramps. The long-tail boats will come in soon and this helps bring the vessel onto shore. Women have many tasks throughout the day that include preparing the catch to take to market and cooking in the villages for the residents.
On average, a long-tail boat will bring in around 1,500 baht per day. A larger fishing vessel may bring in up to 5,000 baht per day.
Bang Mu, the leader of Nai Tung village, expressed utter happiness when discussing the sea. “I breathe in fresh air and can feel the freedom when I’m on the water.” He smiled shyly and gave off the warmest of energies. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
In Nai Tung village the women used to go out to sea and fish as well. However, that on top of cooking, cleaning, setting up shop in the markets all day and other miscellaneous tasks became too much for one person. Today, they take the fish from their husband’s morning catch, prepare it, and take it to the local markets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on most days.
These fishing villages are large communities and will often share their catch if someone didn’t do as well that morning. They look after each other like a family.
Most villages will sell their catch at the local markets many times during the week. Some, however, will also sell to local restaurants and people nearby.
“Rung-Si-Fah” or A Blue Rainbow is the name painted onto this boat. Villages that are part of an organization are given the names for their boat because it is easier record-wise. In most cases the name was not chosen by the boat owner.
A fishing net peaks through the shadows of an alleyway in the Muslim fishing village in Pak Phanang. The owner uses it regularly to catch food for his family. Fisherfolk are out to sea around 2 or 3 a.m. because the fish are near the surface of the water before the sun rises which makes for easier catching.
Most of the fisherfolk in these villages learned at a young age how to work at sea. One in particular began learning at age 9 and has been fishing for 35 years.
There is never an absence of netting in a fishing village. The over-abundance can sometimes be too much and they will be set aside for future use if needed.
Bang Yob is a member of the Fisher Folk Network Association of Thasala. Here he is pictured untangling a blue crab as he cleans out his nets.
dead amongst the dead
The villages usually have no need for snails, horseshoe crabs, or the occasional fish. Unfortunately, mountains of dead creatures like these are often a common sight.
A man takes great care in the building of his boat. He is slow and patient and pays every attention to detail. Here he is pictured sanding the side of his vessel.
attention to detail
According to a couple of villagers in the Thasungbon village of Thasala, it takes them around one month to build a long-tail boat from scratch. They seemed like fast workers.
The men often spend hours at sea. The average work time is 3 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day. When they return they must prepare their boats for the next day and rest until then.
Faith Robbins © 2016