The newly launched Photo Bangkok aims to be a major regional and international Festival of photography
Over the past decades, Bangkok has undergone several transformations as it works towards becoming a hub of Asia in every field. While it has achieved that goal geographically and commercially, its aspirations to hold a major international arts festival have yet to be realised. The Thai capital lacks even a single world-standard art museum and, perhaps more importantly, receives relatively little government support for the arts.
But the city is taking a step in the right direction this month by playing host to the inaugural Photo Bangkok, which features more than 60 photographers from across Southeast Asia at around 20 galleries in the city.
The brains behind the event is photographer Piyatat Hemmatat, who has rallied dozens of Thai artists, curators and gallerists to join his cause.
“It’s taken almost two years to organise this Bt6-million festival,” says Piyatat, who is serving as festival director. “The essence of Photo Bangkok 2015 is first and foremost to enhance standards and collaborations in the photographic community and creative industries in Thailand,” adds the 39-year-old, who has been running the community-building RMA Institute on Sukhumvit Soi 22 for five years.
With support from the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), the festival aims to become a major platform for photographic arts in the region.
“Our country is full of passionate creative artists with promising photographic capabilities and potential and we have all come together to work on creating an integrated platform that will take the works of Thailand’s photographers to an international stage,” he says.
BACC is the main venue for Photo Bangkok 2015, with its ninth-floor gallery hosting photography shows, installations and slideshows. It also has space for workshops, artists’ talks and other activities. TCEB is helping with the promotion and providing the hospitality for visiting artists and curators.
“We hope this festival will generate revenue for the country. The Bangkok Entertainment Festival, which we co-organised here a few months ago, earned Bt3 billion in just one week,” says TCEB’s Jirut Isarangkul Na Ayutthaya.
On July 29, veteran curator Ark Fongsamut will open the festival by presenting “Pause”, a contemporary Asian photography exhibition focused on the essence of the art: “Pausing and learning before taking a photo,” he says.
“We are grateful to the BACC for providing the funding to research photography in Southeast Asia. Photographers from neighbouring countries are gathering here to explore the artistic techniques in photography,” explains Ark, who co-curated the Singapore Biennial 2013.
“Photography as a medium is very new and very powerful. As we approach the start of the Asean Economic Community, we should be able to see the region in photographs. The images reflect politics, economy and culture,”
Internationally famous lensman and curator Manit Sriwanichpoom is bringing his signature show “Rediscovering Forgotten Thai Masters of Photography”, originally exhibited at his Kathmandu Photo Gallery, to the BAAC in September. As the title implies, it features vintage works by seven Thai photographers – Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, ML Toy Chumsai, Liang Ewe, Saengjun Limlohakul, Rong Wongsawan, SH Lim and Pornsak Sakdaenprai.
Young curator Nikan Wasinondh will present “Kiosk”, a pop-up space exhibiting mixed media projects exploring ideas of visual interpretations and image-making as a creative language. Bangkok-based artists are being invited to shape and occupy the structure and present experimental works on photographic processes and methods of story telling. Participating artists Liam Morgan, Surachead Sinlapabunlang, Francois Langella and Jeff Gompertz will take it in turns to display their works.
The Goethe Institut is integrating its annual “German Photobook Award 2015” with the festival and will display “gold” and “silver” titles from the categories “conceptual-artistic photo books”, “history/theory of photography” and “Coffee Table Books” on the BACC’s fifth floor.
Street Photo Thailand members will present “Subconscious”, a selection of works that capture moments of life on streets and sidewalks and which reflect a sense of humour and curiosity usually overlooked in the rush of urban living. They will also host a discussion to share thoughts and knowledge on their vision and photographic working methods.
Photographer Meeratchata Rujinarong and the RMA Institute will present “RGB”, an interactive installation involving a room-sized camera obscura with built-in darkroom. Created as a travelling installation, it offers a unique experience of what it is like to be inside a camera and gives viewers the chance to experience the mechanics of a camera through instant image capture and negative printing.
The festival will also present the “Lens Culture Awards 2015”, a slideshow projection featuring work by 31 photographers from across the world selected by an international jury, The images tell a series of tales and reveal what can be captured in just one frame.
Exhibiting artists include both international photographers and upcoming experimental artists, among them Ralph Gibson, Patrick Brown, Ko Si-Chi, Serial Cut, Raul Gallego Abellan, Jose Enrique Soriano, Tawatchai Pattanaporn, Miti Ruangkritya and Latthapon Korkiatarkul.
Other Bangkok venues hosting exhibitions include Adler Subhashok Gallery, Atta Gallery, Cho Why, Cloud, H Gallery, Hof Art, The Jam Factory, Kathmandu Photo Gallery, Mahanakorn & 2 Magazine, NACC, Quince Eatery & Bar, RMA Institute, Serindia Gallery, Toot Yung, Whitespace and WTF.
To help festival-goers easily access to the festival, the Delight Solution is designed the app providing maps and informational about the exhibitions and their highlights.
n The International Photography Festival runs from July 29 to October 4 at various venues around Bangkok.
n For more information, visit www.PhotoBangkokFestival.com or Facebook.com/PhotoBangkok.