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Minnesota photographer and returned Peace Corps volunteer, Ryan Balow, will present a series of photographs in an exhibit entitled "Isan: The Life & People of Northeast Thailand" in Rochester, Minn. this month. Balow, who graduated from UMD in 2009 with a degree in Communication, worked as a community-based organizational development volunteer in Thailand from 2010 to 2012.
Balow’s series of photographs span two and a half years living in Kalasin, Thailand, a province located in the far northeast corner of the country, the region known locally as ‘Isan.’ His collection of photographs reflects the traditional lifestyle and agricultural land that comprise Thailand’s “rice basket.” Despite being the most populated region, and the keeper of the country’s ancient customs and folkways, Isan remains a mystery for most outsiders. Tourism is instead centered around the country’s cities, which often present a false picture of the country.
Balow’s photographs distill Isan. "I show traditional Southeast Asian culture, its beautiful people, colorfully spiced food, and a part of the world few know exist," said Balow. "I chose photographs to foster awareness and begin a conversation about culture, sexual orientation and identity, environmental conservation, and the food that binds a people."
"Isan: The Life & People of Northeast Thailand" will be open to the public October 24–27, from 3–10 pm, at The C4 Creative Salon, 324 First Ave SW, in Rochester. A reception will be held from 4-9 pm on Saturday, October 26, featuring Thai-Isan food and refreshments.
Balow's Peace Corps assignment took him from the classroom to the fields. Education, health, and environmental development projects kept him busy. He demonstrated water purifying and erosion prevention systems, trained community members to repair and use photovoltaics, built sustainable hiking trails for eco-tourism and educational purposes, wrote grant proposals and obtained over $2,500 for community enterprise training, and taught English to over 2,000 primary and secondary school students in five different provinces.
Story by Cheryl Reitan, October, 2013.
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