A city's most dangerous neighbourhood often has the most basic name. New York has Alphabet City. Detroit has 8 Mile. Bangkok's darkest heart is simply called 70 Rai, a warren of desperation and degradation in the middle of the sprawling dockside slums of Klong Toey. Many photographers have journeyed into 70 Rai and emerged with gripping shots of life on its mean streets, once controlled with an iron fist by the notorious (now-jailed) drug lord Suparb Seedaeng - or, as he was better known, Parp 70 Rai. But only one photographer has entered the slum with a different mission: to chronicle the hope amid despair, and moments of optimism and happiness that shine through the grime and decay. Kim Yoonki, a Bangkok-based Korean amateur photographer who runs a transport company, has spent the past six months getting an intimate glimpse of life inside the hovels of 70 Rai, accompanying staff of the Slum Women's Group & Credit Union on their travels. The credit union was set up by Father Joe Maier's Human Development Foundation to help keep women out of the clutches of ruthless neighbourhood loan sharks. Kim spent much of his spare time accompanying the foundation's social workers as they made their rounds. The result is 70 Rai, an exhibition that ran all last month at the Foreign Correspondents' Club and Gallery F-Stop in Sukhumvit Soi 20, and has now been extended at the FCC until the end of this month. Kim's black-and-white images capture moments of pure humanity: people trying to do the best they can in tough circumstances, and sometimes able to have a chuckle about their troubles. Kim, 47, says he bought his first camera, a Nikon FM2, in Bangkok's Chinatown in 1999. 'It was a moment that changed my life,' he says. 'Nothing was the same. I began to see life through the lens. I started to see the world through the eyes of a photographer.' He says he's an incurable optimist. 'I like the positive part of reality. I think everyone living in the world enjoys everyday living - consciously or not. And I believe it's the little happy moments in the day that keep us going, and that keep the human race from extinction. In any situation when I'm shooting, I try to find that joy.' Kim refuses to go digital, saying he prefers shooting on film and using only natural light. 'Many photographers believe in bracketing, or shooting lots of film to get that one great shot. I look at it differently. I would rather concentrate more on each shot and really think before I press the shutter.' Father Maier, who has championed Kim's work, says his photos provide a positive view that can help counteract the slum's reputation as a haven of violence and drugs. He says 70 Rai is like any traditional Thai neighbourhood, in many ways, with 'community leaders setting the tone of each neighbourhood on blaring loudspeakers; families going about the business of celebrating life; and lots and lots of kids in the streets doing kid- like things'. Most of the residents of 70 Rai are day labourers at the nearby port, or food vendors and scrap collectors who prowl the streets of the capital. 'Perhaps what defines 70 Rai with greater clarity than anything else - more than the danger, the fear, or the poverty - are the many grandmothers who live here, the proud matriarchs who support large, extended families and who maintain the spirit and joy and holiness of our neighbourhood,' Father Maier says. 'These grandmothers may chew more than their fair share of betel nut, they may be tough as nails when they have to be, they may work long, arduous hours every day at the most menial chores; but somehow they also find time to hug their grandchildren and even spoil them with their love.' It's these grandmothers and their grandchildren who form the focus of Kim's uplifting look at life in 70 Rai. 'These are real people, the salt of the earth,' Kim says. 'They are kinder and more generous than lots of rich people I know.' He admits there were moments of danger during his travels around the slum. 'There are parts where I've been told not to go. And one time when I was there, I heard a drug addict had murdered one of the old women I'd met. That's very sad. But generally I feel quite safe there. I even visit alone sometimes. It's like a maze, but you get to know your way around.' He says he has given more than 300 prints of his photos to residents of 70 Rai, and all proceeds from sales at the exhibition will go to Father Maier's foundation. Kim plans to continue his work there for at least another two years. 'I really feel that I've become their community photographer,' he says. 'Someone needs to be telling their stories. Why not me?'