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As fate would have it

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Our lives are rife with twists and turns. Many of us wander down paths which we would never have expected to find ourselves on.

Chiang Mai native Jessi Cotterill hadn’t an inkling that she would one day forgo her English teaching position at Chiang Mai University and ease into domestic life in Chumphon, only to end up as a successful photographer on the island paradise of Phuket.

THE DEPARTURE
With a degree in English from Payap University in Chiang Mai, Jessi landed a position as a basic English teacher at Chiang Mai University. After two years there, she succumbed to temptation by the unknown and was whisked away to the wilds of Chumphon.

“I lived in Chumphon for four years in a small village by the beach. It was very quiet and peaceful. Apart from building a house to live in, I learned things like gutting fish. I went out in the sea with local fishermen to watch them catch squid and was able to mingle with local southern people who are much different from the folks in the north.

“I helped set up a small school for Burmese kids. Life was so easy and peaceful, but this path wasn’t for me just yet – maybe in 30 years, but not yet.

“I started [taking photos] in Chumphon, actually. I bought a camera and would just take pictures of the beach, Burmese kids and dogs.

“There were some journalists from the New York Times who came to the house to interview a man I lived with who was an author, and they brought a photographer with them too. They saw me taking photos and they said, ‘you have an eye for it, you should go for it’.”

Along her travels, Jessi crossed paths with other photographers and photojournalists who hinted at her natural photographic instinct.

A seed was planted but lay dormant for some time.

THE AWAKENING
Eventually, when the house was finished, Jessi got restless. She would take short jaunts to nearby locales and when the draw of wanderlust seized her, the journeys led to farther-flung locations for longer periods of time.

“I was kind of lost at that time – when I was 35. I wanted to do something more meaningful than just cooking and baking at home. Not to say that cooking and baking are not good, but at that time I felt like

image

a fish out of water. I kept thinking that I could do more and I wanted to do more, to do something that was more adventurous and would make me proud of myself. The house was finished and the man was satisfied with his writing work there…

“I was so unsettled in my mind, I was so confused about the meaning of my life, the meaning of living, so I decided to do meditation.

“I went back to Chiang Mai to stay in the temple for a monthn not talking to anyone. It was my first time, so I just chose the hardcore one. I thought, ‘Okay one month; it’s okay, I can do it’.

“You have a lot of things inside, you get to know yourself… it’s like a journey but inside your mind.”

Fate led her to Phuket where a friend had opened a bakery and offered her a job, but when a nearby school offered her an English teaching job, she bade farewell to the early bakers’ hours.

“At that time, when the school had some event or ceremony, they would ask me to take photos. I got to take photos of the kids – candid style – for Loy Krathong or Songkran.”

THE OPPORTUNITY
A chance encounter led to her acquaintance with the chef from an upscale restaurant on Surin Beach. “He asked me ‘Okay, how about you come to take photos at Opus One; we have a DJ coming and people partying’.”

Without realizing it at the time, this was a fork in the road that led to Jessi’s current success. The few initial events she was invited to cover paid only in good food, drinks and, most importantly, exposure and networking opportunities.

With ego set aside, Jessi honestly admits that at that time, she wouldn’t have been able to subsist on her photography skills alone – the people who saw her potential and gave her a chance, were instrumental in her current success.

A cascade of events ensued, which led Jessi to ongoing work with Catch Beach Club, Xana and other places for private clients. She was asked to carry out food shoots, fashion and corporate portraits.

Now, Jessi is well-known around Phuket and is often jumping on planes for shoots in Koh Samui and Singapore. A recent contract with a major conference organizer will see her travelling to other far-flung destinations.

She says her preferred subject matter is food, but she has also developed a new-found appreciation for shooting conferences.

“When they are trying to listen to the speakers or they are speaking with emotion, talking, trying to explain things, I love that – to capture that moment.”

Jessi’s philosophy regarding her work is common among those who love what they do in that it is a labor of love.

“I think taking photos is a tool for me to travel, to meet people. I don’t think of it as a job. It’s a skill; you can use it to continue to have the next journey in life.”

Jessi’s subject matter is constantly evolving. She has been gradually diversifying genres – adapting her skills and styles to shoot weddings, engagements, portraits, events and conferences, and still-life projects.

“Some photographers told me I should choose to be an expert in one type of photography, and I tried. Though I prefer food photography, I can’t leave other types behind because it keeps me excited to do something new.

“It’s just like being a baker. You don’t want to bake only cookies, you want to bake cake, bread, and sometimes you get to make tiramisu.”

For more information, visit: jessicotterill.com

— Jeremie Schatz

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him

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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him | The Thaiger

“…his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding, shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.”

Darth Vader has died… May the force be with him. The man who played the bad guy in the first Star Wars trilogy, British actor David Prowse, died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

American actor Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, alongside with David and the initial cast of the epic saga, sent his condolences in a tweet.

“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.”

“Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP”

Star Wars co-star, and fellow Brit, Anthony Daniels, who played the gold-plated and effusive C3PO in all but one of the 12 Star Wars instalments, paid tribute to Prowse’s contribution to the saga.

“Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since.”

David wore the ominous black suit and helmet to play the Star Wars villain Darth Vader although it was the American actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice in post-production. George Lucas felt that David’s West Country English accent was “unsuitable for the part”. The decision to replace David’s voice caused a long-term rift between actor and director that eventually saw David cut out of official Star Wars publicity events. But his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies - May the force be with him | News by The Thaiger

David’s career as an actor spanned 50 years, but it was his role as the Sith Lord in Star Wars that brought him international fame and attention.

But it was his role as the “Green Cross Code Man” from a British road safety campaign that Prowse said he was most proud of. David was awarded an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in 2000 for that role.

David Prowse was born into a working class family and grew up in a council estate in Southmead, in southwestern England. He gained a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar School. He had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years.

His towering figure helped land him roles as monsters and villains in TV shows and films. He played the monster in “The Horror of Frankenstein” in 1970 and a bearded torturer in “Carry on Henry” in 1971. That same year he made an appearance as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film “A Clockwork Orange” in 1971. He went on to play Darth Vader in all three of the original “Star Wars” films, in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

With the success of Star Wars, Prowse became a regular on the fan circuit and attended conventions around the world for almost 40 years, but he was rumoured to have later fallen out with director Lucas and was banned from official events in 2010.

He published an autobiography, “Straight from the Force’s Mouth,” in 2011.

SOURCES: Reuters | CNN | BBC

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Chiang Rai

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

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Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The entrance to the real Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border in far north Thailand

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million to Imagine Entertainment and film giant MGM to shoot a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story. The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vince Code, Cocoon, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Splash, Frost/Nixon), and start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP, says the production ishould inject more than A$96 million into the Australian economy, “directly creating around 435 jobs for cast and crew”.

Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”

Thirteen Lives follows the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, far north Thailand. After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group of diving and rescue experts from all over the world were called up to work together with their Thai counterparts to save the 13 young men. Among those experts were a group of divers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ron Howard has worked with plenty of Australians in the past.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

Imagine Entertainment and MGM’s Thirteen Lives will be distributed by Universal Pictures International.

Watch a message from director Ron Howard HERE.

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Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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