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foto folio -documentary

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  • dm armas
    documentary folio

  • part one

    Los Diablos Rojos de Panama
    (The Red Devils of Panama)

    Panama City, Republic of Panama

  • -A Diablo Rojo arriving to pick up passengers on the Pacora bus route.

  •           In May 2005 I traveled to the Republic of Panama for the very first time since being born there. Having lived in New York City for essentially all my life, I honestly did not know what to expect. Upon arrival one of the very first things to impress me was the local transportation system of buses known as "los Diablos Rojos" (the Red Devils).

    Though now being phased out, the Diablos Rojos are old school buses retired from the United States & adapted for local mass transportation. What captivated me about them is how many are decorated with intricate air-brushed art, blazing music sound systems, scintillating interior lights, deep growling exhausts, & blaring horns.

    To a tourist's eyes the immediate impression is an exciting flare of local color. But when I began speaking to daily commuters, beginning with my own family, I learned that the Diablos Rojos are shrouded in immense frustration, political disappointment, & even death. From passengers, to drivers, to route owners, to public officials -everyone has a story to tell about the Diablos Rojos.

    The following images tell only a fraction of some of those stories.

  • -Diablos Rojos crowd a street in Panama City. Despite their cultural flare, the Diablos Rojos are reputed for crowding streets, competing for passengers, & causing tragic accidents & are now being phased out & replaced by a centralized bus system.
  • -Passengers on a Diablo Rojo. A tourist's delight at 25 cents a ride to virtually anywhere in Panama City, Diablos Rojos, however, are considered a nightmare by local commuters for their overcrowding, aggressive driving, & lack of air conditioning.

  • -A Diablo Rojo driver. As Panama begins phasing in modern buses & centralizing the bus system, Diablo Rojo drivers wonder if there will be room for them, or if they too will be phased out.
  • -A private owner of a Diablo Rojo bus route & fleet. "If they try to get rid of us, we'll shut the country down."
  • -A pair of Diablos Rojos racing dangerously down a street.
  • -Inside a Diablo Rojo as the sun sets on a rainy night in Panama City.
    documentary folio
  • part two__
    making tables

    Tainan City, Taiwan (PROC)
  • -The morning sun rises on a quiet street in Tainan City prior to the start of a famous Wong family street banquet.
  •           For my first trip ever to east Asia I had the privilege of traveling to Taiwan with my girlfriend to document the local custom of a street banquet.

    As it was told to me, the street banquet is a carryover from "the old days when no one had any money & everyone had to work together to eat, raise each other's kids, & police ourselves." Since no one had enough space to host a banquet, nor money to rent a hall, neighbors would simply commandeer a street for themselves & feast.

    Over time, the tradition grew into a specialty occupation dominated by only a handful of families. I was invited to help document the Wong family, in particular who have grown into the premier family for making tables.

    The following images are from a Wong family street banquet catered a wedding reception.

  • -In street banquet tradition, ingredients are laid out on the street using various containers. Despite the open air condition, everything is cleansed & prepared thoroughly.
  • -Two generations of Wongs dutifully prepare a course. No matter if a banquet is set in their famous banquet hall or out on a street, the Wong family pays great attention to every detail.
  • -Professional servers prepare to deliver an opening meal.
  • -Guests eagerly await the arrival of their first course, while under the watchful eye of the family patriarch.
    documentary folio
  • part three

    mom & Chris
  • -My elder brother Chris' shoes crowding the entrance to our mother's apartment.
  •      When I began to document my own family, I first set out to explore the relationship between my mother & my eldest brother, Chris, in particular. Having both experienced my father Ervin's leaving us first hand, my mom & Chris suffered the most in his absence. (My youngest brother, Billy, & I were too young to know what had happened.)

    Eight years-old at the time, Chris watched unseen as our dad argued with our mom then walked out of our lives. But instead of comforting each other, Chris & my mom ended up fighting & drifting apart for the remainder of our childhood & into his late thirties.

    The photos that follow explore a moment in my mom & Chris' relationship prior to his joining the Army at 36. Feared to be the most likely to self destruct as my dad had, Chris joined the Army after years of having drifted with little direction. Of my mother's three sons who joined the military, Chris is the only one to join the Army -also as my father had.
  • -Chris' tattoo for his daughter Cynthia. Even though our father had long since left us, he showed up one day in 1992, homeless & ill, to confirm a report that he was dying. In a bizarre replay of the day he left us, he argued with my mother one last time before leaving again. He died alone some months later. Not long after, Chris' eldest daughter Cynthia was born.
  • -Chris' tattoo in remembrance of our father, Ervin. Our father's sudden reappearance & subsequent passing was especially difficult & confusing for my mother & Chris.
  • -Mom stepping into the bathroom as Chris looks over his shave. At the time, we all agreed that Chris most resembled our father. But it was all too painfully real for our mother that he also resembled our father behaviorally.
  • -Mom & Chris sharing bathroom & mirror space in her apartment. Despite their troubled relationship, my mother never failed to welcome Chris with open arms.
  • -Collage of my father made of photos from his Army days.
  • -My father as a young Army MP.
    documentary folio
  • part four

  • -Midtown Manhattan at sunset.
  •      When my father abandoned my mom with my two brothers & I, she had every reason to flee back to the safety of her native Panama. But because she didn't, I have the privilege of calling New York City my home of 32 years.

    Ever since I was a kid growing up here, my eyes have wandered the city scape in search of images to capture my mind.

    The photos that follow are from something of an ongoing & ever growing ode to the city as I know it.
  • -In front of McDonald's in Times Square.
  • -42nd Street & Times Square N, R, Q subway platform.
  • -Subway musician on 86th Street & Broadway 1/9 subway platform.
  • -Subway performer in 42nd Street & Times Square subway pedestrian walkway.