The first time I was on Ko Yao Noi was in 2007 when I was assisting French photographer Eric Valli for the book project, Thailand: 9 Days in the Kingdom. For his assignment, Eric had chosen to photograph the Muslim islanders who gather swallows’ nests (a Chinese delicacy) in local caves, revisiting a topic he had documented in a film, book and National Geographic article in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the nine days we worked mostly with the new generation of bird nest gatherers, but Eric did make a point of stopping by to say hello to Sahat, a now elderly gatherer who was the superstar of his previous work. Despite his age, Sahat was still as spry as ever, at one point proving to us that he could still climb by quickly scaling a vine hanging over our boat!
Two years later find myself on Ko Yao Noi again and decided to stop by to see how Sahat was doing. I could only vaguely remember the street he lived on, but somehow found him, amazingly wearing the same Thai schoolboy’s shirt as last time! The image above shows him holding a copy of the National Geographic article that features him, an item he keeps along with Eric’s book in a plastic bag. The pages of both are worn and falling out, the victims of many viewings, and he appears exceedingly proud of having been recognized for his amazing work.
As for me, despite being on a tropical island, I am, if you’ll excuse my Swedish, jävligt upptagen at the moment, but will post some pics from Bangladesh when I get some time.