Long Neck Karen

By AlanBW
When we were in Chiang Mai, Tricia and I arranged ourselves a trip to a Karen hill tribe village some distance outside the city. The Karen people are mainly situated in Burma, but some are settled over the border in Northern Thailand. It is believed that their ancestors originated from Tibet. The village was found up a narrow track and was built on the side of a steep hill.

It is traditional for the Karen women to wear spirals around their necks that give the appearance of giraffe-like proportions. The origins of the tradition are uncertain. We were told by our guide that young girls from around the age of five wear a small(ish!) spiral, which is changed at puberty for a larger and longer spiral, with the final change coming when they reach adulthood. We were also told that they are even buried wearing their spiral and that the only time that they take it off is on their wedding night. The spirals are heavy and one version of the tale tells that the weight slowly crushes the collar bones to give the appearance of the long neck, while the second and possibly more accurate version asserts that the weight causes the rib cage to 'sag', pulling down the shoulders and giving the long neck appearance.

The image above is of a young Karen girl aged about ten years old. She was a beautiful child but unfortunately she did not embellish that beauty with a smile. I did not ask her to pose, I simply captured the image as she stood leaning against a table. The village was full of traditional handicrafts for sale and when we purchased some items from the young girl, we got a most gorgeous smile, but this was so fleeting that it was not possible to capture it.



I am very busy at the moment following up a review meeting with social services and health authorities regarding the immediate and longer term care provision for Tricia's mum, who has Alzheimer's. I will endeavour to catch up on portfolios and recent uploads over the coming days, but if I simply click rather than comment, I hope you will understand.

Tags: Portrait Photo journalism Travel General Candid Girl Thailand Karen Long neck Portraits and people

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Comments


Paul_cats Plus
10 61 22 Scotland
15 Apr 2008 9:27AM
Wonderful image Alan and a very informative write up. Shame she didn't smile for you though. Good luck with your review meeting. Hope all goes well.
I am currently offshore and internet access is limited so apologies for the sporadic clicks and comments.
Paul

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anpix Plus
7 88 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 9:41AM
nice photo, great composition
mrswoolybill Plus
9 839 1369 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 10:06AM
I have mixed feelings on this. She is so beautiful, her look is dignified and graceful, she doesn't need to smile. But it's a horrendous practice.
Moira
15 Apr 2008 10:09AM
Thank you for the information, I think it is better really that she did not smile, she is rather hauntingly beautiful and a smile may have destroyed that look.
I am so pleased that this particular tradition did not catch on here!! On her wedding night when she takes it off she must surely feel dizzy, and not just with love either.
Great shot
Mavis
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 10:12AM
Many thanks Paul, Andrew, Moira and Mavis, very much appreciated - Alan
15 Apr 2008 10:15AM
Super shot of a beautiful girl.
Cheers
Alan
una 12 10 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 10:34AM
Fabulous image and great write up.
Una
15 Apr 2008 10:34AM
What a beautiful image Alan, superbly captured

Dave
Herge88 Plus
8 40 4 England
15 Apr 2008 10:42AM
Fantastic capture and informative commentary as usual Alan.

Best Matt
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 10:45AM
Many thanks Alan, Una, Dave and Matt, very much appreciated - Alan
imander Plus
8 388 7 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 10:47AM
This is so charming, she is a beautiful young lady. very well taken and described
ian
Rogerex 9 32 12 Australia
15 Apr 2008 11:05AM
An attractive young lady, well photographed, but I feel sorry for her having to wear those rings.
Roger
15 Apr 2008 11:19AM
Great shot, Alan, superb detail of this beautiful young girl.
Derek
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 11:26AM
Many thanks Ian, Roger and Derek - Alan
15 Apr 2008 11:27AM
Beautiful image, excellent write up,
Fred.
15 Apr 2008 11:29AM
I think a smile might have spoilt a simple natual pose
Dave
First class Alan
15 Apr 2008 11:44AM
I wouldn't smile if I had to wear those awful rings.
Great candid shot though Alan and something very different.
Annette
nice photo and story
lonely_oryx 8 61 54 England
15 Apr 2008 12:47PM
Excellent portrait
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 12:50PM
Many thanks Fred, Dave, Graham, Annette, Peter and John - Alan
gary_d Plus
8 576 13 Wales
15 Apr 2008 12:50PM
A lovely looking lady captured beautifully Alan. - gary
Milla Plus
7 7 2 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 1:03PM
This one is strong because of the story behind.
Seen loads of shots of mature women with those rings, but young, pretty girl wearing them.. well, it definitely makes a strong impression.
Joline Plus
9 27 52 United States
15 Apr 2008 1:05PM
What a beautiful girl. Interesting cultural tradition...glad it hasn't caught on in the west.
glyndwr Plus
8 66 9 Wales
15 Apr 2008 1:11PM
Crikey that's different.
You are right she is a beautiful child, I don't know what to think of this tradition, I suppose it is similar to the images we see here with piercings and rings.

Great capture.

Robert
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 1:22PM
Many thanks Gary, Milla, Joline and Robert - Alan
GalleryGirl 8 4 2 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 1:32PM
Poor thing but I guess it's their tradition and perhaps we shouldn't judge.
Well captured - beautiful image.
Marilyn x
User_Removed 10 32 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 2:13PM
Lovley face: it's ashame that these women and girls are still subject to these sorts of traditions. Jeff
15 Apr 2008 2:32PM
Oh Alan, your images are simply terrific and this one is no exception. It was amazing to see that in that village the women done these rings. I thought that it was only here in Africa where this was still happening!
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 2:47PM
Many thanks Marilyn, Jeff and Challice, very much appreciated - Alan
15 Apr 2008 3:02PM
impressive portrait !
what a look on her face...
excellent image...she looks so sad .. she is a beautiful little girl..
DP_Imagery Plus
11 24 6 Wales
15 Apr 2008 3:43PM
Very interesting info - and a lovely photo. Do agree with Dawn though that she does look sad. Bruce
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 3:55PM
Many thanks Pascal, Dawn and Bruce - Alan
VintageRed Plus
10 15 1 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 4:07PM
As always Alan, your patient and full explaination adds to the impact of the image.
Nick
microchip 8 1 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 4:12PM
A lovely capture Alan and an excellent narrative
she looks a gorgeous child,
Alan
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 4:18PM
Many thanks Alan and Nick, very much appreciated - Alan
RockArea Plus
9 18 3 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 4:25PM
A very evocative image, Alan and your description fills in the rest of the picture so well.

Best wishes

David
SandraKay Plus
8 233 4 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 4:34PM
Ouch! Wouldn't fancy wearing those spirals one bit. It's a beautiful portrait though and she looks very calm and composed.
Sandra
15 Apr 2008 4:35PM
It's a great portrait.

But I am not sure I agree with young girls wearing neck rings I know it must be their custom but I feel it's barbaric & not good for the young girls well being
Glynnis
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 4:43PM
Many thanks David, Sandra and Glynnis - Alan
15 Apr 2008 4:45PM
You are a true master of this type of photography. Excellent expressional shot as usual.
Alan
Richsr Plus
8 90 219 England
15 Apr 2008 4:53PM
Nice portrait image Alan - well captured.
Regards Richard.
imagio Plus
9 12 1 England
15 Apr 2008 4:59PM
Wonderful capture Alan, maybe she could'nt smile because of the rings?

Bernie
fentiger Plus
14 916 23 England
15 Apr 2008 5:05PM
Top class Alan. Very well done.

Albert
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 5:07PM
Many thanks Alan, Richard, Bernie and Albert - Alan
ketch Plus
8 770 50 Turks And Caicos Islands
15 Apr 2008 5:16PM
Love the write up - and such a haunting image - magic
FeatherFriend 8 38 217 England
15 Apr 2008 5:26PM
A superb shot, and such a lovely informative write up.
Geoff.
Rende Plus
9 38 4 Netherlands
15 Apr 2008 5:39PM
Beautiful portrait with nicely enigmatic expression.
Rende
Very nice.

Bogdan Fiscutean
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 5:54PM
Many thanks Robert, Geoff, Rende and Bogdan - Alan
TelStar Plus
10 116 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 6:09PM
Strikingly beautiful.

Tel*
15 Apr 2008 6:09PM
What an idea of making the neck look longer, a good shot
15 Apr 2008 6:17PM
She is beautiful Alan,wonderful portrait.

Mo
15 Apr 2008 6:28PM
Stunning Alan. beautiful golden tones too. helen x
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
15 Apr 2008 7:11PM
Many thanks Tel, Kanu, Mo and Helen - Alan
pamelajean Plus
10 949 1781 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 7:15PM
This is a lovely portrait, Alan, and your narrative is so interesting. I cannot believe that those rings are comfortable. However, when I think of what women here do to themselves in the name of fashion, the mind boggles. I would assume that the rings are compulsory and that she has no choice. That's something different.
Rock Plus
13 10 2 England
15 Apr 2008 7:19PM
A super Portrait of a fine looking girl and your discription is very good.

Rock
seen these on t v not nice 2 look at but if thats what they beleave in what can you do
such a great clear sharp detailed shot
well taken
bayleaf 8 8 United Kingdom
15 Apr 2008 7:45PM
What a beautiful image.
John
15 Apr 2008 7:55PM
O dear, I hope she never gets an itch...
Chris
cats_123 Plus
12 4.4k 25 Northern Ireland
15 Apr 2008 7:59PM
stunning

jeff
GOOD SHOT.Good capture beautiful girl,thank's regards Steve.
rmr Plus
8 1 Wales
15 Apr 2008 8:21PM
well taken image
mark
bricurtis Plus
10 2.0k 49 England
15 Apr 2008 8:27PM
Not keen on the 'shaping of youth' practice you have described Alan but its a fine portrait.
Brian.
15 Apr 2008 8:29PM
Excellent shot and narrative Alan.

*Mike*
Simply beautiful.

Graham
15 Apr 2008 8:38PM
Great shot and an interesting story to go with it. I does look uncomfortable...
Alexandra
15 Apr 2008 8:42PM
Nice shot!
15 Apr 2008 9:09PM
Great shot Alan, the little girl is very beautiful.

Myra
JudeC Plus
8 6 3 England
15 Apr 2008 9:19PM
Excellent image - I can't imagine what these neck ornaments do to the spine over time - Jude.
15 Apr 2008 9:25PM
Fabulous shot. I always thought it actually did elongate the neck and that they couldn't remove them, you learn something new every day.
Andy
csr Plus
8 3 England
15 Apr 2008 9:31PM
Sory I've missed everbodies pictures have not been on site for a long time. Due to working long hours at work and home.And problems with new camera (40D) can't open raw images yet't Jpeg only. Nice one looks great
Chris
Glostopcat Plus
9 255 2 England
15 Apr 2008 9:55PM
An excellent image and narrative Alan. I bet it must be jolly uncomfortable wearing one of those for any length of time!
Mavis Plus
13 143 2 England
15 Apr 2008 10:02PM
A beautiful child but oh so sad . a wonderful capture . I think if they took off these rings her neck would be damaged .xxxx
CaroleA Plus
9 5 3 England
15 Apr 2008 10:04PM
She might not be smiling but you've captured a very enigmatic look here- as someone said, very haunting.
15 Apr 2008 10:11PM
superb capture and explanation, must have been a great experience
bunSmile
Nice candid of a lovely child. Wish I could take those rings off her.
Mac
16 Apr 2008 7:13AM
lovely Alan and excellent editorial as well
Anne

ps hope all goes well with meeting
Anne
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
16 Apr 2008 7:20AM
Many thanks Pamela, Rock, Libby, John, Chris, Jeff, Steve, Mark, Brian, Mike, Graham, Alexandra, Vicki, Myra, Jude, Andy, Chris, Ed, Mavis, Carole, Bon, Mac and Anne; very much appreciated - Alan
Rylands 8 1 2 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2008 7:30AM
Brilliant capture
Ray
16 Apr 2008 8:09AM
Makes me hold my neck , great to look at and read Alan

DougSmile-have a good daySmile
Ridgeway Plus
9 222 2 Ireland
16 Apr 2008 9:31AM
What a great shot,,I've seen this before but didnt know to much about it,thanks for the background,very informative,,
JONTHELENS 8 34 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2008 9:44AM
been there myself Alan. Nice capture.

jon
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
16 Apr 2008 9:47AM
Many thanks Ray, Doug, Aidan and Jon - Alan
riprap007 Plus
11 1.6k 37 England
16 Apr 2008 9:51AM
a strong and disturbing image... a smile would have 'broken' the image for me, good photo journalism


hope that the review process goes smoothly, must be a troubling tme
16 Apr 2008 12:29PM
Lovely shot and as a lot of people have commented, very disturbing image, great shot of a practice that will probably never end.

Nicky
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
16 Apr 2008 12:37PM
Many thanks Nicholas and Nicky - Alan
bliba Plus
10 2 Austria
16 Apr 2008 3:23PM
superbly captured
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
16 Apr 2008 4:00PM
Many thanks Ollie - Alan
16 Apr 2008 5:36PM
Historical and timeless piece of work of art. Excellent shot Alan.
Dennis
16 Apr 2008 6:39PM
Fabulous image. Sylvia
danbrann Plus
11 567 16
16 Apr 2008 6:54PM
A tremendous insight.
Cat&Mouse 12 109 Russian Federation
16 Apr 2008 7:09PM
How interesting!

Great photo, and strong girl Smile

Malik & Mary.
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
16 Apr 2008 8:18PM
Many thanks Dennis, Silvia, Dan, Mary & Malik, much appreciated - Alan
16 Apr 2008 9:31PM
The lack of a smile actually makes the shot, I think. Great, soft-toned colours.
dianah Plus
9 24.5k 4 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2008 9:36PM
Fabulous photo with such an interesting text..you deserve more than one click.
Di
ginz04 11 281 18 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2008 10:22PM
hi alan it is an excellent image and im pleased this practice doesnt go on in manchester.

ian
16 Apr 2008 10:29PM
Fabulous shot but such a terrible custom I think. Great narrative as usual.
Freda
JimV Plus
9 6 3 Canada
17 Apr 2008 2:22AM
A beautiful child but, as so many others have already said, a ghastly practice.....taken off on her wedding night.......how!
Rgds., Jim
chrissd Plus
10 304 United Kingdom
17 Apr 2008 6:05AM
incredible image Alan Smile
chris
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
17 Apr 2008 6:38AM
Many thanks Verne, Di, Freda, Ian, Jim and Chris - Alan
Other culture, other traditions.
A most beautiful face. Great photography JNC
Lovely capture.
Mia
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
17 Apr 2008 2:44PM
Many thanks Jean Noel and Mia - Alan
17 Apr 2008 2:50PM
A lovely image, great info.
Hope all goes well for Tricia's mum.

Christine
18 Apr 2008 8:25AM
Beautiful such a pretty girl
Mandy
18 Apr 2008 8:59AM
She is stunningly beautiful for one so young. When she is older she won't have a problem finding a husband!! Truly an amazing write up Alan, and great portrait too.

Fran
GregorP 11 4 Slovenia
18 Apr 2008 9:13AM
Smile Nice story...always a pleasure to read your stories... Nice photo, too! Wink

Gregor
Chant57 Plus
10 395 3 United Kingdom
18 Apr 2008 9:16AM
fabulous write up Alan as usual which adds to the impact of the image, and a beautiful young girl, the eyes are so expressive.
C
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
18 Apr 2008 9:58AM
Many thanks Christine, Mandy, Fran, Gregor and Chant - Alan
norton 12 6 United Kingdom
18 Apr 2008 10:53AM
Superb image and description Alan,well captured..........

Tony.
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
18 Apr 2008 11:49AM
Cheers Tony, much appreciated - Alan
18 Apr 2008 12:17PM
Traditions aren't always easy to understand sometimes. Pretty little girl even with such a sad expression.
Wish you all the best with your mum in law.
Tracy
18 Apr 2008 12:54PM
Excellent capture of culture.
Gareth
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
18 Apr 2008 2:47PM
Many thanks Tracy and Gareth - Alan
18 Apr 2008 6:18PM
A face so full of innocence and really well captured Alan.
Paul
mikbee Plus
8 3 8 Scotland
18 Apr 2008 7:05PM
Super ''lines'' here.
Mick.
TEASE 9 10 England
18 Apr 2008 7:09PM
Lovely capture as usual hope you manage to sort your family probs out soon all the best...Smile
Brilliant nothing more to say.
Harry
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
18 Apr 2008 8:41PM
Many thanks Paul, Mick, Keith and Harry - Alan
Paree 10 616 3
18 Apr 2008 11:15PM
perfection
cant say any thing more
pareen
franken Plus
13 3.7k 4 Wales
19 Apr 2008 9:08AM
An interesting and really excellent portrait.

Ken

ps, been away for a while moving house. Spent most of yesterday on my mobile phone getting broadband and cable tv to work, I've got to wait until next friday to have my landline working! (i've only moved 1.5 miles!
panda 11 5 1 England
19 Apr 2008 9:47AM
Stunning capture Alan, I wouldn't think she has much to smile about having her neck stretched like that.

Regards Phil
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
19 Apr 2008 10:12AM
Many thanks Maureen, Ken and Phil - Alan
19 Apr 2008 10:12AM
like it good shot Smile
Bluke Plus
10 303 1 United Kingdom
19 Apr 2008 1:28PM
Hi Alan... more amazing shots in your P/F..... excellent images...
Babs
Pegon Plus
10 78 1 England
19 Apr 2008 2:39PM
An excellent capture Alan, she's a beautiful looking young girl. It can't be very comfortable for them having to wear those but I suppose over the years they'll get used to them.
Pete.
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
19 Apr 2008 4:47PM
Many thanks Babs and Pete - Alan
20 Apr 2008 1:34AM
Great shot, nice journalism work, nice to be able to travel as much as you do.
Brilane 9 5 12 Wales
20 Apr 2008 2:55AM
A beautiful portrait.
Brian
sandrish 12 36 United Kingdom
20 Apr 2008 8:53AM
Another beautiful capture. She is such a lovely child and although it is fascinating to learn about the world's customs and traditions I find this custom quite horrific. I work in the Children's Department of our local Hospital and I think this tradition is sheer child abuse!

Sandra
BigK 10 8
20 Apr 2008 9:57AM
Good to see I can still travel the world through the lens of your camera.

Kirk
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
20 Apr 2008 10:41AM
Many thanks Hector, Brian, Sandra and Kirk, very much appreciated - Alan
20 Apr 2008 12:07PM
A Haunting image Alan and a beautiful shot..

Sandra is so so right

Don
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
20 Apr 2008 2:16PM
Many thanks Don, much appreciated - Alan
Beautifully captured

Graeme
20 Apr 2008 5:54PM
I'm with Moira on this. It's a nice portrait. I find her non-smiling face appropriate for what the spiral is going to do to her body.
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
21 Apr 2008 6:22AM
Many thanks Graeme and Richard - Alan
SueTurner Plus
11 81 3 England
21 Apr 2008 10:44PM
simply amazing image
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
22 Apr 2008 6:41AM
Many thanks Sue - Alan
A Booth 13 11 4 United Kingdom
22 Apr 2008 6:48PM
beautiful girl, tribal traditions are not always pleasant.
22 Apr 2008 8:30PM
Fabulous Image , although very sad.
Don
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
22 Apr 2008 9:52PM
Many thanks Alan and Don- Alan
23 Apr 2008 6:20PM
Beautiful!

John Smile
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
23 Apr 2008 6:32PM
Many thanks John - Alan
24 Apr 2008 9:12AM
What a little beauty she is! Such a lovely face and those dark eyes are amazing.
Great description to the image, I wonder how they get the that thing off their neck,
Johanna
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
24 Apr 2008 11:30AM
Many thanks Johanna, much appreciated - Alan
StevenPrice 11 30 2 England
28 Apr 2008 11:21AM
an excellent shot Alan
AlanBW Plus
10 20 England
28 Apr 2008 12:35PM </