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Amee shows her baby boy, snuggled in a comfortable rattan basket. Amee, an opium smoker, gave birth to a baby with a craving, which she satisfies by gently blowing opium smoke into his face. When this photo was taken in 1979, Amee’s remote Thai border village had no access to contraceptives or medical facilities and many women bore children from when in their teens until their 40’s. Almost half of the Lahu children never saw their third birthday. Both of Amee’s boys survived with Kali, the elder, becoming the village headman and father of four. Ja Chee (‘unhusked rice’ in Lahu), the addicted baby, became the first Lahu in his district to gain a university degree and he now teaches music in a local high school.
Nikon FM2, nikkor 28mm lense, kodachrome slide film. Natural light. Scanned at 7200 dpi in a Plustek slide scanner and cleaned in photoshop.

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
    karentillotsonover 5 years ago

    Wow John..what an incredible story that has brought such profound importance to this amazing image. How wonderful to know that Ja Chee has risen above his difficult, almost impossible, beginnings…it’s so terrific that you can bring forward these fine photos and stories from your experiences – thank you.

  • My pleasure Karen, and it is great to know that people like you appreciate it.

    – John Spies

  • pat gamwell
    pat gamwellover 5 years ago

    What an amazingly beautiful success story, John! How wonderful for you to have followed through with their story and see their lives of victory in the midst of such low success rates. You are blessed!

  • Lovely comment, thanks Pat.

    – John Spies

  • sunith shyam
    sunith shyamover 5 years ago

    wow.. what a story.. it adds so much meaning to the image. Love the kodachrome slide film. great colors.

  • Thanks Sunith, I often find the story behind an image compliments it.

    – John Spies

  • snefne
    snefneover 5 years ago

    Brilliant! So good to hear such an encouraging story to go along with the image.

  • Thanks Snefne, appreciated

    – John Spies

  • Angie Muccillo
    Angie Muccilloover 5 years ago

    You are an amazing story teller through both your words and images…truely remarkable work John :-)

  • Thats so nice Angie, thanks.

    – John Spies

  • annie curry
    annie curryover 5 years ago

    John this is so good, you’ve given the photo so much more meaning…:-)

  • Thanks Annie, it has been wonderful for me to be able to keep in touch and see some lovely people who have seen a lot of hardship do OK in life.

    – John Spies

  • caradione
    caradioneover 5 years ago

    john this image and story have left me quite speechless… im not sure what to tell you except thankyou so very much for sharing these on RB im so glad to have stumbled upon you and your stories…

  • Thanks for the great feedback caradione…I am happy when people express a deeper interest in my images, and stories.

    – John Spies

  • caradione
    caradioneover 5 years ago

    your most welcome…

  • catherine walker
    catherine walkerabout 5 years ago

    fabulous photo and story to match amazing ..well done!

  • lisabella
    lisabellaabout 5 years ago

    amazing story!!! great capture!! I bet the mother is very proud of her two boys :)

  • Thanks Lisa, she is very proud of them, and has also kicked her habit.

    – John Spies

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