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Mien mother and baby harvesting opium poppy by John Spies

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Mien mother and baby harvesting opium poppy by 

Mien or Yao in northern Thailand were expert poppy farmers, until the practise was effectivery banned in the late 1990s. This women wears the traditional indigo dyed, hand woven turban of her tribe. The women decorate their pants, turbans and baby carriers with exquisite and colourful cross-stitch embroidery. It is usual for young babies and children to accompany their mothers to their fields. Taken in the early 1980s with a Nikon FM2, Nikkor 135mm lense and kodachrome slide film.

I am an Australian expat living in the hills of Mae Hong Son province Thailand (please visit I photograph almost everything, above and below ground.

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  • Dusker
    Duskeralmost 6 years ago

    What a stunningly beautiful woman with her baby. I have never been sure of the origin of their embroidery cotton/wool and what they made their pom pom and ruffles with. Can you help?

  • I missed this one, again. These days they buy rolls of ‘wool’ I think it is an acrylic mix, but they stitch hundreds of short strands then trim them to decorate their long jackets and baby hats.

    – John Spies

  • handheld-films
    handheld-filmsalmost 6 years ago

    …love your portfolio John – this shot especially. What an amazing place to build your own home – fantastic!

  • John Spies
    John Spiesalmost 6 years ago

    thanks handheld, I was lucky to be there at the right time to catch the transition from amazingly traditional to what it is like now, and I was also very lucky to run out of money and a map home when one could still get away with squatting…

  • Geraldine Lefoe
    Geraldine Lefoeover 5 years ago

    John I’m in awe of your stunning photography and capture of life that’s long gone in such places that were once remote. How lucky you are to have lived with these groups of people and see life from a new perspective.

  • Thanks Geraldine for your lovely comment, and I do feel I have been lucky, esp with the opportunity to be able to record scenes like this.

    – John Spies

  • karentillotson
    karentillotsonover 5 years ago

    What an incredible image…again John…thank you for sharing.

  • My pleasure Karen, the women has such gentle features

    – John Spies

  • brigusser
    brigusserover 5 years ago

    I guess this ranks amongst the best on RB. I’m in awe of your amazing inspirational talent……………………

  • Very appreciated, thanks brgusser

    – John Spies

  • Vanessa Barklay
    Vanessa Barklayover 5 years ago


  • Wonderful, thanks Vanessa.

    – John Spies

  • Esther's Art and Photography
    Esther's Art a...over 5 years ago

    Absolutely beautiful !! Thank you so much for showing this beautiful culture .

  • Jens Helmstedt
    Jens Helmstedtover 5 years ago

    Wonderful photo John!

  • IntriCate
    IntriCateabout 5 years ago

    Beautiful shot. I love that you share the background of your photos too.

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