I first became interested in photography through my father who worked as a press photographer in the 1940s. My mother, sister, brother and I were his subjects so I grew up around cameras.

During the 1960s it became a part of my life after taking a basic photography course at Orange Coast College. My Dad helped me build my first darkroom in a patio area of our house in Newport Beach, California. It was hot and stuffy but it allowed me to experience the magic of seeing photos come to life in the developing process.

In 1974 I attended Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and learned the finer points of photography. It was a tough school, with instructors who were working photographers. They demanded the best and we all learned discipline and quality over quantity.

Prior to attending Art Center, I had worked at Sotheby’s auction agency from 1973-74 where I was involved in setting up exhibits for the auctions and became influenced by the works of art and photography that were auctioned, from original art work from Renoir, Picasso, Warhol, Edward S. Curtis, Roy Lichtenstein and many others.

To this day I’m still drawn to the beauty of the art influence upon photography and instill these theories into my work.

I worked in Los Angeles for a number of years shooting fashion and portfolios for actors and models,  which included some time off from shooting. For seven years I worked for a motion picture prop house in Hollywood, while still shooting in my free time.

A trip to Asia in 1987 with my brother sparked an urge to get back into it. During subsequent trips back I spent time in the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodia border when fighting still raged on between the various factions along the border.

In 1990 I bought a one way ticket to Thailand, determined to make a go of it. After moving to Asia, the reality of another side of life, drew me in. I've seen sides of life I never dreamed of before. A reality that has been fascinating amidst moments of hope, tragedy, compassion and change.

It has been an experience that has been fulfilling and life learning that only "being there" can explain its reality.

I’ve seen poverty first hand; photographed children sifting through garbage sites in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia, as they gather anything to later sell to help support their families.

I’ve seen families literally dig themselves out of the depths of poverty, to achieve a goal of a better life for their families. Been to disaster sites where earthquakes and tsunamis turned lives into living nightmares, amidst the determination of the survivors to rebuild their lives and honor those who died.

Accompanied refugees returning to their homeland of Cambodia in 1992-3, after living in camps along the Thai-Cambodia border for over ten years.

In 1995 I worked with Ngo Kim Cuc in Vietnam to document street children on the street of Saigon, Hue, Danang and Hanoi, with photos and stories on their lives that was published as a book, Children of the Dust.

Covered the fighting between the Cambodia government forces against the Khmer Rouge and FUNCINPEC forces at O'Smach in 1997-98, where the Thai border became a war zone as artillery shells pounded the border and the automatic gunfire kept us behind barriers of timber and makeshift bunkers.

The influx of Khmer Rouge and refugees poured into Thailand swelled into the thousands.

Documented the lives of remote villages in China, where leprosy patients lived in squalor and shame for decades, until they finally were accepted by local villagers and international humanitarian organizations that built them proper housing where they could the live the reminder of their lives with dignity.

Assignments with Habitat for Humanity took me to communities where families live in extreme poverty to document Habitats assistance to lift families out of the depths of poverty to build their own homes with the help of local and international volunteers.

To all of those who appear in these images, I remember each treasured moment and will never forget them.

During my years here I have worked on assignments for The United Nations, Care, Habitat for Humanity, Associated Press, Getty Images, Gamma Liaison, Newsweek, World Vision, Animal Planet, Microsoft Thailand, Homeless International, Handicap International, and traveled to 26 countries in the Asia, South Asia and Africa regions.

 

Mikel Flamm

Bangkok, Thailand

Tel: +66 81 820-6037

mikelflamm@yahoo.com

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