SELF-ASSIGNED TO SINGULARITY
Self-assigned to singularity
The sun is not up yet when we arrive. There’s only but little light.
The fields are quiet. We’re alone. Will they come anyway?
There's the sound of the breeze in the tree leaves, the cracks of our steps in the salt. The last shining stars mirroring into the flooded fields. This is what salt mines look like in the early morning.
As the day brightens, the countryside is waking up. We can hear voices, engines, life, and suddenly, here comes the first tractor.
Just before the sun rises on the horizon, farmers get to work. They are early birds. Sunrise labor is their morning routine. A routine that I had the desire to witness, capture, and share further.
Our current travels are very much driven by our common passion for photography.
It’s not all about it, but honestly, it matters.
Since March 2018, we are on the road, and our journey is defined by landscapes, culture, architecture, scenery, colors, history, heritage, and more. In a word, it is driven by beauty.
Yes, we are scouting for a location to settle down, but we don't put a beautiful destination aside our roadmap just because we wouldn't settle down there.
Recently, thanks to the precious suggestions of a friend of mine, we ended up road-tripping in quite non-touristic areas of Thailand. Namely, in the East of the country, the Isaan Province.
The province is rather flat but there is a whole lot of things to see and do. We always imagine Thailand as a seaside or a tropical country that counts for a lot of temples to visit and of course it is the reality, but there are also singular landscapes and natural wonders in the inlands. Waterfalls, lakes, rivers, valleys, prehistoric paintings, cliffs, canyons, and, I discovered, salt mines.
I didn’t have much knowledge about salt. Or say, none.
But of course, I am discovering some topics as I travel. I’m all for discovery, improvement, encounters, and surprises. So, when I land somewhere, I avoid diving straight away into a guide book. I normally Google or Instagram the location, and I let myself get inspired by the pictures I see [which starts getting tricky with almost every picture showing another “instalady" in a floating dress hiding the landscape]. I get a feel of what the region looks like, what I’m in the mood for, what I may want to see, may it be nature, cities, culture, or people, and then I start searching.
So I didn’t do any research on Isaan before getting there, but as I got to the capital city of the province, I did my homework and discovered a number of places to visit. And there was one particular thing that caught my attention and that I had never really approached, let alone photographed: salt mines.
I had seen pictures of the salt flats of South America, but nothing else really. I didn’t know what to expect. Also, as I wasn’t on assignment, it first made me feel only little credible or legitimate going and documenting this topic. But from what I had found in my search, there were farmers harvesting salt by hand from flooded fields, and just that got me excited : I imagined capturing them in the early morning, with a sky mirroring on the water, backlit farmers, and white salt.
I was far from envisioning that the place would be so photogenic and the farmers so genuinely friendly.
When we asked if we could walk around the fields, they seemed surprised but they didn’t see any reason why not. When we asked if we could photograph them, they laughed a bit but remained naturally smiling and happy – and focused on their job. So we ended up spending a few hours shooting their work, and their photogenic environment.
That very morning, my mind went to all the people in the world complaining nowadays about sometimes rather decent working conditions as I was capturing workers who have a tough job, and were laughing, teasing each other, singing sometimes, and smiling always.
The place and the people were sending only but good vibes.
The landscape was so white that I some point, I really felt sent back to that last time I had seen snow, in Ladakh.
The moment was filled with quietness. There was an extraordinary beauty in the farmers’ precise gestures. The air was salty.
What’s more, and unlike in most places in Thailand, there were only the two of us shooting, which hadn’t happened in a long long time.
It was a very particular morning, and it felt as fulfilling witnessing so much grace as it felt photographing it.
I admit I do not always dare capturing these kind of moments if I am not on assignment, because it makes me feel like I lack legitimacy, or credibility to do it.
But somehow that day, the conditions where so perfect that I realized it was fair to consider myself "self-assigned”. I was my own client and I wanted to share this grace with the world, simply because I was moved by beauty, touched by singularity, and also, I admit, because I am always excited by lost causes, forgotten places, or unsexy topics.
So, here's to the beauty and the singularity of the world, and to its unique inhabitants.
For the knowledge, there are two main sources of salt production. It can be harvested from the sea, or it can be extracted from rock salt layers created by evaporated seas. The method used by Ban Dung rock salt farms is called solution mining. First, they prepare the fields for the water. Then they build extracting wells where they inject water within the ground to dissolve the salt deposits. The salt water is later pumped out and released into the prepared fields.
That’s when the first evaporation begins. It takes about ten days, and then the farmers start racking the soil and collecting the crystals into sacks or baskets. Later on, the crystals will be heated up for final evaporation and cooked to be refined and produce the white salt we know.
Note : Beside the salt mines, there is a little unpromoted spa. You can get a scrub from the salt of the mines mixed with curcuma, you can get a hot spring bath, an hour just for yourself in this quiet environment. It's all in simplicity but that's a beautiful moment to be spent in a place where there's no tourist. In case you'd like to get the info about it, just contact me!
If something is extraordinary, remarkable, or one of a kind, you can say it is singular. A singular opportunity to sing onstage with a rock star is a remarkable opportunity.
Seeing the single inside singular can help you understand its meaning in the sense of one. In grammar, singular means one, as opposed to plural, which means more than one.
But singular’s not always about being unique. Walking through a foggy cemetery might give you a singular feeling–or a feeling that’s odd and peculiar–that ghosts could possibly be real.