/ 2010 / /

Street Elephants - Bangkok

The following is a series of portraits of street elephants in Bangkok. While documenting their stories, I was drawn to the natural beauty in an unnatural situation.

Elephants, revered symbols of Thailandâ??s glorified past, have long walked side by side with the monarchy and common farmers alike. For all the iconic representations of elephants as symbols of strength, dignity and prosperity, in reality the only elephants seen in Bangkok are those being led by their mahouts, wandering the congested streets begging. The sight of the elephant displaced from its natural environment, roaming the city streets is a source of shame for many Thais. Once a symbol of honour, dignity and the engine of rural development, many of these once proud creatures have been left on the fringes of Thailandâ??s modern economy and have come to represent the failures and inequity of economic development. Although it is illegal to bring elephants into Bangkok, the poverty in Thailandâ??s rural areas, the loss of the elephantsâ?? natural habitat and the resulting threat of starvation create sympathy among Thais. Despite their illegal status, most police, politicians and citizens continue to turn a blind eye to the urban elephants, failing to address the underlying issues and allowing the situation to remain â??the elephant in the room.â??