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Wrinkles etched into her face, this ethnic Lua women was by far the oldest person in her village. She has seen more changes in her long life than have a hundred generations of her ancestors. Her once remote, self sufficient village has become part of rapidly modernising Thailand. The Lua are the original settlers of northern Thailand with archaeological evidence suggesting that they have inhabited the hills for as long as 20,000 years. When the Thai speakers arrived from the north about 1000 years ago, the Mon-Khmer speaking Lua lived in well-established villages along the mountain ranges of present-day western Thailand. About 500 years ago, at the height of feirce battles between the Thai and Burmese kingdoms, the Lua found themselves at the mercy of ruthless maurading armies. They fled en-mass, almost emptying the mountains for the next 350 years before the Tibeto-Burman speaking hilltribe people moved in to exploit the land. Only a handful of intact Lua villages survived to the far west of Chiang Mai where they tenaciously safeguarded they language, culture and traditions…and now, the last onslaught from the outside world is rapidly eroding what the Lua have saved, and they are becoming another forgotten peoples.
Scanned from original kodachrome 64 asa slide at 3600 dpi. Scrathes and mould cleaned in photoshop. Taken with a nikon FM2, nikkor 135mm lens, 1/125 sec and (probably) 5.6 aperture. Photographed in 1980 in a very remote mountainous area SW of Chiang Mai, Thailand.


old, woman, skin, thailand, culture, wrinkles, tribe, hilltribe, elder, lua

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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  • karentillotson
    karentillotsonabout 5 years ago

    Amazing photo of this aged soul John…such a tragic historical account of her people.

  • Seems like extinction is becoming the new world order as cultures and species fall like dominoes (sorry about the cliche). I think she had a happy life though, and any one who can live to her age (I guess 100 plus) and remain healthy is lucky indeed. thanks Karen

    – John Spies

  • jacqleen
    jacqleenabout 5 years ago

    LOVEEEEEEEEE her Face and you truly have captured it BEAUTIFULY!!!!!!!!!!

  • I think she has more lines, folds and wrinkles than most of us, thanks jacqleen

    – John Spies

  • micheleirene
    micheleireneabout 5 years ago

    Wow….the many stories she could tell I am sure. Beautiful portrait :)

  • This old slide was almost as weathered as the lady, especially around the edges, so for the first time ever I fuzzed the edges a bit to hide the mould, and it worked quite well

    – John Spies

  • Misty Lackey
    Misty Lackeyabout 5 years ago

    great capture, how old do you think she is

  • I reckon she was more than a 100 years old, which is not so uncommon for women in the hills. And she smoked, rough tobacco in a pipe, since she was a toddler!

    – John Spies

  • Angie Muccillo
    Angie Muccilloabout 5 years ago

    What a gorgeous face!! Great shot :-)

  • She has amazing lines…a century of weathering, thanks Angie

    – John Spies

  • Lois  Bryan
    Lois Bryanabout 5 years ago

    she is and was a great beauty, I believe. thank you for your wonderful history of this amazing part of our world. I’m enjoying going through so many of your images … what an incredible adventure your life must be.

  • Thanks Lois, it is my pleasure to share them. This lovely old soul is the same person in ‘Still smoking’, so i imagine she was chuffing away for a good 90 years or more.

    – John Spies

  • Olitto
    Olittoabout 5 years ago

    Great portrait photography. This would make a great addition to the 50+ Group

  • Thanks Olitto, didn’t know about this group, but with so many of my subjects over 50 , I will definitely check it out.

    – John Spies

  • Garth Smith
    Garth Smithabout 5 years ago

    Great shot John, truly magnificent capture.

  • Thanks Garth, always appreciate your comments.

    – John Spies

  • emel
    emelalmost 5 years ago
  • Nice comment, thanks Emel

    – John Spies

  • Cizeranne
    Cizerannealmost 5 years ago

    Great shot. You should make a B&W of it.

  • Thanks for the suggestion, I will give it a go

    – John Spies

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