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The Jungle Gym

February 11, 2019 //  Travel Stories Back to posts

It was our crew’s day off in Bangkok during a commercial shoot with David Beckham. I was pretty fired up after shooting with David- who is really collaborative and easy to work with, but there was a down day in between setups. I had the entire day to relax and explore the city, but I felt that pulse deep down inside me I get when I want to keep shooting. For years and years people have told me I should try to relax, try to slow down, but the reality is I don’t know how to switch this instinct off, nor do I ever want to learn how.

I was walking down the street looking for some food when I stumbled across this outdoor gym nestled inside a public park. There it was… rusting gym equipment effortlessly blended into the soil, trees and vines surrounding it. It was almost like the gym belonged in this corner of what seemed to be a jungle. To top it all off, there were fluorescent tube lights installed above the workout area mirrors which off of a little gas generator. It was almost like it had been a movie set. The creative gears started turning in my brain.

I looked around and tried to talk to a local guy who collected a small gym entrance fee under a giant tree in the center of the gym. He was sitting under an umbrella, listening to his radio. I used Google translate on my phone to type something in Thai. Something along the lines of “can I take pictures of your gym?” To which he simply responded with a smile and “pay to enter and you can take whatever photos you want.”

Next, I needed to find a good subject to immerse in this incredible environment. David was busy shooting with the motion team. Thai locals were coming and going and happy to be photographed, but I needed to find a single subject I could dedicate proper time to. Suddenly, it occurred to me I was traveling with someone who would be perfect: my own friend Jesse Korman, who was our digital tech (responsible for on-set camera tethering and image back-up) during the shoot. Jesse also happens to be into working out, and insanely photogenic. His body is covered in a hodgepodge of tattoos collected over a lifetime of touring as a musician. What more could I ask for?

I sent Jesse a Whatsapp message of the location in front of me. Jesse is also obsessed with photography and admitted he also didn’t know what to do with himself when we weren’t working. Within 30 minutes, Jesse arrived to what we then coined the “jungle gym.”

As we began shooting. I really just followed Jesse as he did his own thing working out, but placed him strategically for compositional purposes. I wanted to capture dynamic photos that revealed the complex layers embedded within the location. The lighting, the mood, and the essence of the place. Since we were shooting, Jesse had to work out longer and harder than normal, which added to the intensity of his expressions.

To think things couldn't align any further, it suddenly started pouring rain while we were shooting. Instead of trying to protect my camera, like any responsible photographer should do, I stayed following Jesse’s workouts. To get this kind of rain effect on a planned production shoot would be expensive, but here it was just serendipitously happening for us. I found a plastic garbage bag someone had left on the ground and continued shooting with it wrapped around my camera, alternating between hiding under the umbrellas of the gym, and leaping out to grab photos.

We ultimately paid less than a dollar to create these images. Given the elements of the shoot, and the events that led up to it, it’s almost like we were bound to capture it. 

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Tyrel Tesch // February 11, 2019 19:19

The second to last image is literally everything to me. Everything.

Sergiy Chmara // February 12, 2019 09:24

Such a nice story with incredibly bold result... Amazing location!

jason flynn // February 12, 2019 10:16

Absolutely brilliant and inspiring

Uriel Coronado // February 12, 2019 21:00

Inspiración Pura!

Karlo Gesner // February 13, 2019 06:40

Serendipitous to say the least. I love how you seized the opportunity and worked through it to get one of a kind images. This is a great example of how an organic opportunity can authentically create what a planned production can only replicate. Kudos.

Margaret Eastham // February 13, 2019 06:53

Love your eye, the way you tell a story. Lighting always beautiful, real, depth. Look forward to more, stay safe.

Abigail Gossage // February 13, 2019 07:07

Love the whole project, the last image says it all.

Josh // February 13, 2019 07:11

2nd to last one esp

Josh // February 13, 2019 07:13

(And of course -- great story!)

Natasha // February 13, 2019 08:09

These are incredible. Couldn't have been better if were planned.

Kai Gradert // February 13, 2019 10:56

These are fantastic. Thanks for sharing. I love when a story comes together.

Rebecca Stone // February 13, 2019 13:11

Beautiful work! I absolutely love the feel of these images. :)

Zayne Goodwin // February 13, 2019 23:32

Thank you Joey for sharing these, I feel so hyped and inspired by these. Well done.

Salva Magaz // February 14, 2019 00:33

As usual, exceptional ! thanks for sharing this personal work.
My fav is : wet clothe with Jesse in the background blurry .
Bravo Joey and regards from Geneva

PRAVEEN KUMAR // February 14, 2019 05:38

Nice and Simple Story, GOOD Pictures.

fabrizio cocchiano // February 15, 2019 07:13

Beautiful images and nice story. From what i read, you were casually walking the, i am assuming that you were just carrying a camera and maybe a few lenses? or did you also carry any sort of lights with you?

Victor Yaroslavtsev // March 01, 2019 07:16

Amazing work! Thank you for sharing!
But I have the same question as Fabrizio, is it only available light (fluorescent lamps and ambient light), or did you use some strobes?

Danica Watson // March 07, 2019 21:35

Thanks for sharing this amazing post.

iris // March 14, 2019 22:07

Ha, great tatoos. I also love to travel and I've recently switched to a healthier lifestyle and training for a race with SportMe <a href=“”>marathon training</a> app, which calculates distance, time, pace and calories. Finding new running routes is always a challenge, such as sneaking in my runs into my destinations. Your blog posts are a true inspiration.

Lydia // April 18, 2019 05:04

Talent at work! The photos are expertly taken and inspire any traveler.

adam // April 22, 2019 12:06

Firstly, I would like to thanks for sharing such a good article. This is a very informative article. it is really helpful for other reader's

Jez Dickson // June 03, 2019 12:40

The longer you look at these the more you can appreciate. Excellent series. Really draw you and almost make you want to lift that last weight for him. Brilliant. Thank you and well done

urban compost // February 19, 2020 17:45

Perfectly composed subject material, Really enjoyed looking at.

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CJ // July 14, 2020 13:50

Wow, some intense photographs! You captured this gym session very beautifully.

Jens Hauser // October 06, 2020 11:19

I was a bit surprised that you didn´t photograph any of the local people going to the gym.

Ross Alexander // November 02, 2020 21:27

I love how all the gym gear looks ancient and knackered. It still does the same job though. No watching TV on a treadmill here haha.

The fluorescent light worked out great for you.

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