Seth and I did some other sightseeing, taking in Cambodian culture as we prepare for the rest of our work. We spent some time at Wat Phnom, a Buddhist temple and park in Phnom Penh. As we were about to turn and leave, I saw, 50 yards down the hill, a monkey scamper across the grass and through the trees. We headed straight for it.

Lo and behold, there were probably 25 monkeys playing around there. A woman was walking about tossing them mangoes and bananas. And they were tame-ish. I inched my way toward them, photographing from as close as 2 feet, until one of the males bared his teeth at me. That was a hilight.

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Seth decided we needed to see The Killing Fields, and Tuol Sleng Prison. He was right: if we’re going to know Cambodia, you can’t skip the atrocity. The nation’s psyche has been formed by 30 years of it. It plays right into some of the causes of child sex slavery and human trafficking.

We spent a couple hours at Tuol Sleng, a former school compound, where the Khmer Ruge imprisoned, tortured, and murdered approximately 12,500 people in 4 years. Only a handful ever made it out alive. Most people were bludgeoned to death with shovels and other implements, usually by captors who were 10-15 years old. Men, women, children, young and old, were brought here, photographed, their history recorded, then tortured and murdered. It staggers the mind. It becomes hard to breathe.


The rooms full of photographs ask so many questions of the viewer: why these people? Why these mothers with their babies? These children? (These were my contemporaries, my age in the mid-to-late 1970s.) Why were the captors so vigilant to photograph each one of them? Their Nazi-like records seem such a waste: why document what you intend to eradicate? Their methods of chained imprisonment, torture, and physical murder make the European concentration camps and gas chambers look humane.


The photographs are beautiful. Many are even well-composed and beautifully lit. Who were the photographers with their TLRs? Why did they put such care into some of their images?


Perhaps the most vivid, moving rooms are the first we visited. They are small classrooms, some with green chalkboards still on the walls. In the center of the room is a single metal bed. A chain or shackle. A shovel. And a photograph on the wall of what the Vietnamese emancipators found: 14 bodies, one on each bed, recently tortured to death, blackened and bloated. The rooms are silent, yet they speak.





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Monday, Dec 1, 2008

So this is how it begins: A week before we’re to leave, the Bangkok airport is overrun by protestors, shutting it down. Still locked down the day before we leave, our flight is cancelled. I search and search for alternate flights, and, miraculously find one: a flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the same price as our previous itinerary, for the exact same dates. All other date combinations are $600-2000 more. I book it 15 hours before we leave. A week of uncertainty about our itinerary finds closure. I finish packing.

Tuesday, Dec 2, 2008

Well, here we are, high above the Pacific, 6 hours into an 11 hour flight from SFO to Seoul.

In spite of only 3 and a half hours of sleep last night, and in spite of Tylenol PM and melatonin, I’ve not slept much. The screaming baby hasn’t helped. To my right, a Chinese-American man sleeps in front of a Meryl Streep musical. To my left, Seth sleeps off and on. He’s only arisen from his seat once in the last 6 hours. He also hasn’t thrown up in about 12 hours, so we’re making progress.

I woke up at 3 am this morning, unable to sleep. About 4:00 the phone rang, but when Shannon answered, no one was there. I was still awake at 5 when the phone rang again. Marlo was on the phone, telling us Seth had spent the night in the bathtub, with vomiting and diarrhea. He wanted to see if I could reschedule the trip a few days out. I said I’d try, and called the insurance I’d booked with our flight, but they said they’d pretty much only refund our flight costs, not pay for a reschedule.

I looked at Shannon, sitting on the floor in my office, and said: I don’t know what to do. Except call Marlo back.

When she got on the phone, she told me Seth was in the shower, and they were going to head to the airport. If he didn’t pass out on the way to the airport, he was going. That was good enough for me. I laid down for another 20 minutes, then we prepared and left.

Seth was moving slow, but moving, when he arrived at PDX. I got us all checked in, and we boarded the plane. As we sat there, waiting for the plane to load, he got quieter and quieter, picking up a paper barf bag and eyeing it. A few minutes later, as we backed out of the terminal, he slumped over, dropped the barf bag in his lap, and started to retch.

“Seth, pick up the bag!” I said, pounding his arm. No response. “Seth, use the bag!” Still no response, just two full-on retches, spraying vomit all over himself, the seat back in front of him, and the paper bag sitting idly in his lap.

“Seth, what are you doing? Use the bag.” I hit the call button for a flight attendant. Slowly Seth lifted his head, barely responding. An attendant came over with paper towels and a large plastic bag. Seth whispered that he had a change of clothes in his bag. And that he’d be fine. But for the rest of the flight, he sat there, nearly comatose, propping the plastic bag open in his lap. At one point he turned to me and said, “If I black out again, wake me up.” “I’m not sure I can,” I responded. “You didn’t respond last time.“ I sat there, watching and praying, satisfied that as long as I could see the rise and fall of his breathing in the white plastic bag on his lap, he was still with me.

It’s been an eventful 36 hours. The monotony of long distance flight is almost a welcome relief. I can’t believe we’re actually here on the plane on our way.

Thursday, Dec 4

We made it. 30-some hours of travel, a drugged night’s sleep in our hotel room, and here we are.

Jaya, the director of Transitions Cambodia (the safe house/transitional home for girls rescued from sex slavery) surprised us by meeting us at the airport last night. We were just about to catch a cab to our hotel, when she walked up and began to ask us if we knew Fritz and Seth. I recognized her immediately from Transitions’ video (online on their website), and we were all very excited to meet each other. She introduced us to Meing, one of the house moms, as well. She told us her story as we drove by cab to our hotel.

Today we’ve rested and eaten well, figured out where to store/hide/lock gear, and hydrated ourselves. Then we started walking, exploring the city, learning how to dodge cars, cabs, motos, and tuk-tuks as pedestrians: look both ways, walk at a consistent pace, don’t get killed.

I start photographing right away.

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It’s been an interesting week of preparations for my work in Thailand and Cambodia. The most recent news: the airports in Bangkok are entirely shut down, having been overtaken by protesters on Tuesday. Read about it on CNN. We are scheduled to leave this coming Tuesday. So if you’re the praying type, this would be a good time to be in prayer for us and this trip.

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I had some extra-fun models to work with recently for headshots and updated portfolio photographs. Add in a ringlight to the mix, and we produced some pretty cool photos.

This was my first time working with 8-year old Liliana. She was squirmy and lovely at the same time, as 8-year olds tend to be. But who’s complaining, with output like this?

You can also see this work on my new website portfolio of photography for Portland models and actors.




This was my third or fourth time working with Liliana, a local actress and model. She moved to Portland a couple years ago, and has been acting in the Portland area ever since.

I love working with redheads.

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A couple months ago, one of my brides mentioned offhand, “You know, your website doesn’t do your photography justice.” And, I had to admit, she was right. My site is basically the same layout I’ve had, with various updates, for 7 years.

After a few months of consideration, and several days of work, I’m pleased to be able to introduce my new wedding and portrait photography website! It’s flash, but there’s also an html mirror site, accessible from the index page of my old wedding and portrait photography site.

The new site is prettier, cleaner, and easier to navigate. I have added a whole host of new portrait photographs, and included a new gallery for Portland area models and actors looking for headshots and expanded portfolio photographs and comp cards. Soon I’ll be adding a link to a new page listing many of the beautiful locations at which I’ve photographed, to help brides with their wedding planning. And more!

It feels great to have a new site that better showcases my ever-evolving work.

Enjoy!

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I’m pleased to announce I was recently accepted into the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers. This exclusive association accepts only the finest wedding photographers from the world over. You can see my listing at the ISPWP site.

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If you keep up with dance, ballet, and culture in Portland, you may know Holly Tolbert. She is a dancer with Oregon Ballet Theater, and it’s not uncommon to find her lovely figure in the paper or on a poster.

I had the privilege of being the photographer at Dave and Holly’s wedding at Cannon Beach this past year.

(A side note: did you know that Oregon’s Cannon Beach is famous the world over? While traveling in Europe this past year, it was not uncommon to see photos of Haystack Rock on the slideshows that run on video screens in airplanes….)

But back to the wedding. It was July, one of the most beautiful months in Oregon. The wedding was at the beach. Perfect. My kind of wedding: outdoors, summer, enjoying the awe-inspiring scenery Oregon has to offer.

But wouldn’t you know it, as they set up the ceremony site, the winds just got stronger and stronger. And stronger. And stronger. After much debate, they made the decision to have the wedding on the beach in spite of the winds (which I respected; why have a beach wedding, and then not take what the beach gives you?). And it was quite a sight.

After they tied the windy knot, we all headed for Haystack Gardens for the reception. Even there, Dave and Holly were willing to brave a little misty rain for some portrait photographs.

I have to give them this: in spite of everything the day threw at them, they still had a beautiful wedding, and they still got married. And a memorable wedding day it was.

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I did another shoot this week with Lydia, a local model and actress. She’s a lot of fun to work with, and we were quite pleased with the results. Photographed on location in the Pearl District.

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I’m preparing at the moment for an upcoming trip to Thailand and Cambodia. I’ll be shooting photo and video for several organizations that work to end child sex slavery and human trafficking both locally and abroad.

One of these organizations, Transitions Global (also known as Transitions Cambodia), is in the Willamette Week paper this week. (The photo of James Pond is mine.) You can read the article online here. If you think child sex slavery/prostitution doesn’t happen here in Portland, visit this video from today, on KGW. It includes an interview with James. I’ll be working with Transitions, here and in Cambodia, to tell the story of the girls they’re working to rescue.

I’ve also been working with Love146. (An image on their home page is mine.) Our church supports this excellent organization, and I’ll be photographing some assignments for them while in Asia. They do great work.

My travel partner on this trip will be Seth Johnson, of For Their Rescue. Seth is a big-hearted, passionate guy, and it’s been a real pleasure to plan this trip together. We’ll be working on a documentary video for his new organization, as well as images for his presentations on the subject.

Keep your eye out for future posts and updates. And if you’re not familiar with the issues of human trafficking and child sex slavery, please do check out all of these links. This happens not just in foreign countries, but in your own neighborhood. There are approximately 27 million people in slavery in the world at the moment, and the sale of human lives is one of the top 3 grossing industries in the world (up there, I believe, with the drug trade and weapons sales). You can play a very real part in ending this terrible holocaust.

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  • November 13, 2008 - 11:51 am

    EBMurphy - Fritz, thank you so much for this post, and please continue to keep us posted on your upcoming trip. I will definitely be checking out all of the links you provided. I follow the issues surrounding child sex trafficking closely at my blog, http://seasonoflight.blogspot.com. I’d love to hear more about your experiences and keep my readers informed, as well. Thanks again for everything you’re doing.

A couple of classic shots from a studio shoot this week. The photo session was even more interesting when I learned that the model, Lydia, is married to a Moroccan. Since we’ve both been there recently, we talked about Morocco as we worked, and about the 5 or 6 languages she speaks, and the 5 or 6 jobs she holds.

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The Lea family has a pretty cool house in cozy Multnomah Village. When they invited me over to create some fun family and individual portraits, I didn’t know that they also had…chickens! After some tea and conversation, we got right down to business, including down on the play room floor. Later, out at the chicken pen, their little boys were showing us the chickens. As Harper held the chickens up, a couple of them started flapping their wings like crazy and fussing. “It’s a chicken debacle!” he cried. I was impressed. That is an eight year old with a vocabulary.



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