In the early morning hours a Buddhist woman makes alms before novice monks as a volunteer militia member provides protection in Yala, Thailand. In Thailand's restive southern most provinces militias and soldiers escort monks on their rounds as many have been slain by insurgents in the region. The monks are seen as symbols of the Thai state and an intrusion on the local land which is inhabited primarily by followers of the Islamic faith.

What Journalists Carry on the Front Lines: KC Ortiz, Thailand

Myanmar Thailand Travel Ambassadors
by Cengiz Yar Jr. Jan 14, 2014
Matador is teaming up with the FFR1 to show you what conflict and foreign freelancers carry with them on assignments.

KC Ortiz is a freelance photojournalist based in Bangkok, Thailand, where he covers under-reported issues, conflicts, and their consequences.

Ortiz portrait

His work has appeared in Global Post, Juxtapoz, Newsweek, Time, and many other publications.

Ortiz’s most recent assignments have brought him to Burma, Cambodia, and throughout Thailand, covering aspects of life from politicians to prison fights. In 2013, he began shooting a long-term project on the insurgency in Thailand’s restive Deep South.

You can follow KC via his website (, Instagram (@kcortizphoto), and Twitter (@kcortizphoto). Here’s what he carries in his camera bag while covering Southeast Asia.

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A photo of the contents of Ortiz's bag

1. Think Tank shoulder camera bag – This is the bag I use for every project, every day. I keep a light setup wherever I go, whether the jungle or on the streets. I prefer a shoulder bag because of the sizing, dexterity, comfort, and security. My larger bags are all Think Tank as well, but I only use them for transportation and not in the field.

2. Black Rapid camera strap – Convenient for a double camera setup and a nice strap in general. (Disclaimer: Black Rapid has supplied me with gear before.)

3. Notebook

4. Passport copies – Much better then keeping the real thing on you.

5. Scarf – I know some wear it as a fashion statement or to look the part, but the reality is a scarf is an incomparable piece of fabric. It keeps you cool or warm and can be used as a pillow, cushion, tripod, bag, temporary gas mask, rag, towel, shade, sling, bandage, bug deterrent, and so the list goes on.

6. Canon 5D Mark II – The mostly reliable workhorse camera. I carry two bodies with me in the field. Attached to top camera is a Canon 35 1.4. lens. This is the lens I shoot 90% or more of my work with.

7. Memory cards – I always carry a bunch with me. I don’t shoot off an incredible amount of frames, but you never know how long you’ll be gone and it’s not fun running out of memory in the middle of a day. They weigh nothing and don’t take up any space, so why not load up on them?

8. Canon 50mm 1.8 – I may switch this out depending on the assignment and timeframe, but it’s almost always just one other lens with me.

9. iPhone charger

10. Flashlight

11. Camera wet bag – A good solution that takes up no room and will get you through a sudden rain a bit smoother than a plastic bag.

12. Batteries – Lots of batteries for me. Maybe there’s no electricity, maybe shit gets wet, maybe a million things, but it’s always a must to be prepared. It’s a plus to be a step ahead of bad situations.

13. Fuji X100 – I always have this with me as well, comes in handy at times for being more low key.

14. Matches – People tend to steal lighters but always give matches back.

15. Pens

16. Headphones

17. Aspirin

18. Random business cards from taxi drivers

19. Sunglasses – I carry them around more then I use them.

20. Extra Fuji battery

21. Battery charger – Maybe there will be electricity?

22. Lens wipe

23. Lucky charm – A bracelet given to me by a Buddhist monk named Rambo in Karen State, Burma, in 2010. Rambo told me it would protect me from bullets, and so far I haven’t been hit by any bullets. Seems legit to me, so I continue to carry it around.

24. Lighter – Fire is good.

25. Extra passport photos – You really never know when you’re going to need a visa somewhere right away.

26. Cigarettes – Half the job is waiting, and these come in handy. Even if you aren’t a smoker, I recommend a pack of cigarettes in your bag. They can come in handy out there and make you a new friend faster then anything else can.

(27.) I just ran out but I will usually also have a small roll of duct tape, which is another great multipurpose tool. First aid to automotive work, it can get the job done and is a necessity in my bag.

1The Frontline Freelance Register (FFR) is a representative body for freelancers, created and run by freelancers. It is an independent, ring-fenced entity which sits within the Frontline Club Charitable Trust with membership open to all freelance journalists working in conflict or foreign reporting. The FFR’s core objective is to support the physical and mental well-being of freelance journalists. In a world where staff jobs and fully paid foreign assignments are increasingly scarce, foreign and war reporting is dominated by freelancers, many of whom are deeply committed professionals doing outstanding work. At the same time, many of these freelancers lack the institutional support and the financial means to adequately manage the challenges of operating in dangerous environments in the long term. They also lack organised representation, often leaving them at the mercy of powerful media groups. FFR aims to help freelancers by providing them with a forum, a representative body, and a critical mass to face some of these challenges.

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