Monday, March 2, 2009


City Lights Books

North Beach

late Friday afternoon


In his words:

My past is buried in saffron-colored Southeast Asia. When I immigrated to the U.S., I brought with me a few tangible memories (for instance, the tessellated satchel from my school years), but I left the rest behind to stew under the hostile sun, to swim in the monsoon deluge from the Bay of Bengal. My recollections remain hidden in the Buddhist temples and the coconut groves, in the quiet monasteries and the muddy riverbanks. The fishermen with sinewy shoulders, the Buddhist monks with crooked teeth, and the brown-skinned matriarchs haggling over the price of a sack of rice will serve as temporary custodians of my personal history. They know that one day, when the country is free from the clutch of the military regime, I’ll return to reclaim my childhood.

I now live nearly 8,000 miles across the Pacific from my homeland. Here, several time zones removed from my origin, I’ve made a new home for myself among the secondhand bookshops, the Beatnik-haunted cafes, and the fog-choked city streets. But in the rumbles of the cable cars and the shouts at the farmers’ market, I still hear echoes of the temple bells and the open bazaars of the Far East.

Visiting my birthplace nearly 100 years before I was born, Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.” Sometimes, my childhood friends, who’d never ventured beyond their own shores, inquired, “What’s America like?” I’m tempted to reply, “This is San Francisco, and it’s quite unlike any other American city you know about.”


Kenneth's blog:

The rest of Kenneth's photo shoot.


smith kaich jones said...

I am commenting here instead of there - a concept, a phrase, that makes me smile. First, that word - saffron. One of my very favorite words. The images it paints in my head are much like the images Kenneth describes. This is beautifully written, and the photograph is just wonderful. Thank you both.

:) Debi

Christina said...

How could I pass up a post with such beauty. I am willing to be late for what ever it was, I hurrying to get to. These words are beautiful. I got a thump in my heart as I read the hope, in this beautiful note.

TB, you did a magnificent job on these photos. I know it was easier to snap away, after reading Kenneth's letter.

Oh how our lens' gravitate toward, the heart of our subjects.

Relyn said...

This is amazing. Really wonderful writing from Kenneth and incredible images from you. I am completely enamored of the photo of his hand on a drum(?). I love this project!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, poetic imagery from Kenneth, which almost made me weep. Because recently, I've been caught up in the history of Tibet and its struggles; reading more and more about Buddhism and becoming fascinated with Asia - a place that never before held much interest for me. I have a friend in San Francisco who's a former Buddhist monk and he is an example of the diversity I miss now living away the City by the Bay. As for Burma, such a tragic history. One of my reporter friends nearly died there, after catching dengue fever. She was in hospital for a month in Burma and has many horror stories to tell, but nothing but good memories about the people she met along the way.

Cynthia said...

I love your new project, Ms. Tango. What could be more interesting than a person's life? And in this case set in a magical historical city of happenings...saffron scented dreams...that word is magical, too! <3

Mari said...

Wow, what beautiful words and images. I can't imagine leaving everything and everyone I knew behind. I am embarrassed that I don't know more about the situation in Burma.

It's Just Me said...

I hope Kenneth gets a picture of himself from you , because that would be a treasure for him. I love his head I kept tracing it with the mouse ... strange with that story and I am stuck on his head. I guess I just need to digest the rest for awhile.

Yoli said...

Your images are superb,they capture so beautifully the essence of the man. His words are the language of the exile. It resonates deep within my heart. I too cannot go home, so I feel his pain, I know his pain deeply. We carry our homeland within us and should we pass without ever going back, a part of it dies with us.

"There is no greater sorrow on Earth than the loss of one's native land" Euripides (Medea, v. 650-0651)

My Castle in Spain said...

I think i'll be an avid reader of your encounters because they all seem to be so beautiful and..poetic..
Just noticed all the Neruda's books behind Kenneth. His story is touching still happy and your portrait is full of grace...

shabby girl said...

Priceless. Truly.

robinbird said...

these three SF persons photos are completely wonderful in every aspect, they capture passion and lot of personality, the compositions are all uniquely interesting. they seem to speak as much about you as they do about the subjects. i mean that in a good way of course. your artistic voice is heard loud and clear! you are a true artist my friend as well as a photographer. this is your next blurb book is it not? or perhaps a publisher will wish to pick this up by years end.

i tough about you while i was on my trip and requested permission from people to take their photographs and i was very gratified. i wasn't as calm or thoughtful in my approach as you so obviously are but i can get better at it. you are a constant source of creative inspiration! i cannot wait to hug you in person :)