Documentary Photographer Monique Montfroy is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From her project ‘The Dividing Line‘. To see Monique’s body of work click on any image.
It is 38 degrees and around 70% humidity, midday. Sweat drips down my forehead and trickles down the back of my neck. We’ve been walking for only twenty minutes. I can only imagine how much worse the heat will get when we start to walk through the narrow confines of the slum, locally known as Khlong Toei. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in this five square mile area of tin roofs and tight paths, illegally. They are trapped in a viscous life cycle, with little money, makeshift homes and cheap high-sugar food. By night, the slums of Khlong Toei turn into a hub for drug and alcohol addicts, sex, violence and gang culture. By day, children go to school, workers head off to their jobs and others sleep off their hangovers, and every day the cycle repeats itself.
Khlong Toei runs along Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Many generations ago, families moved here to build what was, Bangkok’s major shipping port in the 1980’s. The current generation are descendants of the squatters trapped here whilst building the port, forced to stay by their inability to afford any other option. On the city side, the motorway separates Khlong Toei from the Bangkok’s biggest banking district. Here it is easy to see the great gap in society and class.
My days are spent walking through the tight “shoulder-to-shoulder” alleyways. The pungent smell of sewerage mixed with deep fried food, lingers in the air. I turn a corner and see a motorbike coming straight toward me, I have to pin myself up against a wall to make way for him. Turning down another alley going further into the belly of the slum, children scream “Fallang, Fallang!” meaning foreigner. It is a rare sight for anyone to see a tall, white person walking around and taking an interest in their daily lives. On most occasions, people were friendly and I was greeted warmly, and one family even asked me to sit down and drink some home-brew vodka.
I sit down and talk with a group of young women. They are giving each other pedicures, buying and eating food from the vendors and just relaxing. There is only one woman that speaks broken English, she tells me she gives pedicures and manicures during the day to friends and the community and works at a bar in the city during the night until early hours of the morning.
Around every corner, down every lane, is a microcosm of people, stories and survival. The people living the Khlong Toei do not complain about their situation, the embrace each day and do the best with what they have.
By Monique Montfroy