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The Dividing Line

It’s 38 degrees and something like 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 illegally live in this 5 square mile area of tin roofs and tight paths. 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 divide 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 to 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.

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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.

Monique Montfroy

I am a practicing documentary photographer. I aim to produce work that opens important dialogues in the community and the world, and shed light on concepts and issues that are not commonly spoken about in mainstream media.

I was born in Melbourne, Victoria and currently based on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. I take pride in the fact that I am a mix of different cultures; Maori, Dutch, Chinese English and possibly a few more. With this combination in my veins I can appreciate and be sensitive towards the differences in others. I think it is this melting pot from the different corners of the globe that has given me the instinct to travel and experience what the world has to offer.

I completed my Bachelor of Digital Media majoring in Photo Media in 2014 at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Gold Coast campus. My graduate body of work ‘Bois to Men’ (2014) saw me chosen as a finalist for the 2015 National Photographic Portrait Prize, exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. I was further awarded a scholarship by the Association of Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (ADFAS) to complete my Honours study in 2015, where I received First Class Honours and Best Honours Research Project.

My current work explores notions of identity on the Gold Coast through portraiture, documentary and street photography. This on-going project titled ‘Not Only Locals’ has been exhibited at The Arts Centre Gold Coast and The Walls on the Gold Coast and at Canberra Contemporary Arts Space in A.C.T.

www.moniquemontfroy.com

www.instagram.com/moniquemontfroy

https://au.linkedin.com/in/moniquemontfroy

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