The most poignant of memories
Wason Wanichakorn's photo might be the picture that says 70 million words
Of all the meaningful, memorable photos submitted to the Culture Ministry depicting a nation in shock at the loss of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Wason Wanichakorn’s snapshot might strike the deepest chord.
It shows a woman in tears, head hanging, holding the famous picture of the King taken on an upcountry trip, sweat beaded on his face and trickling to the end of his nose.
The title Wason gave his photo was just as poignant: “Yard ngua khong Phor lae yod namta khong look” (“Father’s sweat and his child’s tears”).
People visiting the ministry website voted it one of the most captivating images of the 178 on display. Ministry staff had uploaded 89 amateur shots and 89 by professionals, selected from among nearly 50,000 images submitted for the exhibition “Forever in the Hearts of Thai People”, which continues at the National Museum in Bangkok through Wednesday.
The votes gathered online and at the museum have resulted in “Nine Photos of Loyalty to His Majesty the King Rama IX” being earmarked for a special archival tribute in images and videos.
Expressions of love
The ministry is now selecting photos for another exhibition, “Song Sathit Nai Doungjai Thai Thangchat”, scheduled for December 2 to January 21.
Wason, who works as a stringer photographer for the Associated Press, was stationed in front of the Grand Palace on October 15, the first day the public was permitted inside to sign a book of condolences in the front of the King’s funeral portrait. He was dutifully recording the atmosphere in digital shots, including some of a woman proudly explaining her love for the King to a foreigner, a smile on her face.
He began looking elsewhere and then turned back to the same woman.
“She was still talking, but tears now were rolling down her face, onto the picture of His Majesty she was holding to her chest,” Wason says. “Her teardrops looked like the drops of sweat on His Majesty’s face – sweat from all the hard work he did for his subjects throughout the seven decades of his reign.”
While grateful that his photo was singled out in the voting, Wason says he’d much rather have never had|to take it. “I wish there were no such incident to result in this image.” Often, he says, he was peering into the lens through his own tears.
“But I was determined to get shots that would show the world how much Thai people loved His Majesty. I wanted to help the world understand how much he’d done for his country, the reasons why people were grieving so deeply.”
Wason felt no less emotional while covering a commemorative event at Siriraj Hospital on November 13, the one-month anniversary of the King’s death. He was singing and crying along with everyone else as he took pictures, he says. “People were singing from the heart for him. I didn’t want to disturb anyone, but I also believe that, seeing me singing and in tears, everyone understood that I was with them in the moment, but I also had to do my job.”
On October 29, the first day the public was allowed into Grand Palace’s Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall to pay their respects |in front of the royal urn, Wason |was determined to get more such telling shots – despite difficult conditions.
“No one would put up with that heat, heavy rain and long hours without eating except for the King, for the chance to be near to him for the last time. If my camera breaks down, I can get it fixed but these images are invaluable and I could't take pictures like this anywhere else. They’re images of love and loyalty from the heart.”
The lady in tears
In a moment of darkness shared in every Thai heart, Malin Kosaiyakanon had no way of knowing that her tears would be cherished for posterity.
Malin lives on Koh Samui, where she handles human resources and training for the Samujana Hotel. As soon as she heard that His Majesty had died she booked a flight to Bangkok for the next day, wishing to be at the Grand Palace when his body was transported from the hospital.
“The person sitting next to me outside the palace gave me that picture of the King I was holding that day [the 15th],” she says.
“There was a foreigner sitting on my other side and I was telling him why Thais loved the King so much, because of all that he’d done for the people, and how proud I was to have been born during his reign. I became so overwhelmed with emotion that I started crying.
“I had no idea that someone had taken my picture until after I got back to Samui and a friend tagged me in it when it was posted online,” Malin says. “I want to thank the photographer, Wason Wanichakorn, and tell him that, even though we’ve never met, we have the same father.
“His photo caught my feelings very well – it’s a photo of a great loss in life.”
Malin and her family later drove to Bangkok to pay their respects and on the way stopped at the Chang Hua Man Royal Agricultural Project in Phetchaburi. “I want to go everywhere he visited if I get the chance,” she says.
In Bangkok the family distributed copies of the same picture of the King among mourners at Sanam Luang.
Malin was back at the palace on Friday to pay respects before the royal urn. The day before she visited the photo exhibition at the National Museum and got a souvenir snapshot taken with Wason and his now-famous photo of her. They share the same desire, she says – to show the world why Thais love the late King so much.
NINE MOVING MOMENTS
The “Nine Photos of Loyalty to His Majesty the King Rama IX” selected by the Culture Ministry:
- Wason Wanichakorn’s picture of Malin Kosaiyakanon
- Jintana Makduangpien, 55, weeps while holding the King’s portrait, by Sarocha Wangdee
- Janchai Maleesuthi, 40, waits amid other mourners outside Siriraj Hospital, by Thaweepong Pathumwong
- Primprapas Lhoprathan, 45, and Nithiwee Wongpeawit, 40, are overcome by grief, by Nisakorn Pituya
- Three-year-old Phomsap Nerakanthesakul, embraced by an elderly man in a crowd of mourners, by Porntip Charoenpaisansiri
- Sakda Sajjamitr holds the King’s portrait high, by Nakrit Charoonsrirak
- Pranee Laothawiwat wais while holding a royal portrait, by Preeda Wainam
- Thassamon Imram, 33, clears away refuse left by fellow mourners, by Anuchit Sunthornkiti
- Dolnapa Kladbuppa, 40, in black, holds the King’s portrait, by Nuanpan Nakpreecha.