Better late than never, I’m overdue a post on my latest project.
‘Same same but different’, referring of-course to the commonly used Thai phrase which is used when trying to describe something which is similar.
To compare English culture with Thailand’s, and to specifically capture the Songkran (New Year festival).
I have always loved travelling and I’m passionate about culture. By undertaking this project I feel I am demonstrating a commercial practise and I hope this could inspire future aspirations. Thailand is also a place I have become familiar with and I have the advantage of knowing native people who can give me access to their cultural activity.
That’s the proposal in a nutshell. So what about the context?
Well looking into my influences for this project, firstly I should comment on one side of this project. The issue that I had to start with, which is that I would only be spending 2 weeks in Thailand, and it was felt that in order to bulk out my photographic study, I should find subjects to capture within England, And this is where the idea to contrast the two cultures came from, as originally I planned to base the whole project in Thailand. I have since decided with the aid of my lecturer, that the Thai side of the project holds up on its own and the English side is not totally necessary, That being said.. for the purpose of my project its still worth inclusion, so… The Influences for the start of my project came from famous English documentary photographers.
Names like, Martin Parr, Peter Dench, Bill Brandt, Tom Wood, Chris Killip, David Hurn and Paul Hill. Each has very much their own styles and quirks, there is a sort of romantic feel about them, the nostalgic ‘Britishness’. Elements of humour found in the form of Peter Dench’s lager louts,
and David Hurn’s photograph of a pensioner playing with a balloon as if in a child-like state.
And then there’s Martin Parr’s ability to just instil a moment of pure freedom and innocence.
But there’s also a more serious side to our culture. Something which I wanted to explore a bit myself. The Drinking culture has created a media frenzy in recent times. And Polish photographer Maciej Dakowicz has spent the best part of four years documenting the streets of Cardiff at night. And what an oeuvre he has produced.
This photographer in particular inspired me to capture night life for myself, but I was soon discouraged from it, after an episode with the police, over a photograph that someone complained about.
So what about the main thrust of my project?
After studying English documentary photographs, the next stage in my project was to look at Thai culture. How should I approach it? who has documented it before me? And should I study Travel/ Culture magazines for a more professional approach. Many questions were in my head. And so I looked at each idea individually, until finally deciding that the best approach would be to plan my destination first, what equipment would be best and then just document aspects that are visually intriguing, very much like I had been doing with a lot of the English shoots. Then after everything is done, could come another stage in which I could develop the meaning post shoot.
I was however still inspired by Steve McCurry to capture the beauty in the colour and vibrancy of culture.
Then I was intrigued by the approach of James Wakefield, who has tried to capture the passing snapshot of daily life in Bangkok and Hong Kong, trying to highlight the sort of change going on, in a rapidly developing society.
Check out his website Urban exposure:
Or David Proctors powerful examination into the raw emotions of a people, and a feeling of what they stand up for. Something which I should explore when capturing Songkran. The emotions of elation, joy and consequently a loss of inhibitions I hope would make for a great photograph.
So looking at the resluting images. I think although I have created photographs with alot of diversity and difference in style, I think that was always going to be an element of the differences in the environment and I’m happy for that to shine through particularly how it sometimes feels like there is a grey filter on the end of the lens when shooting in England. But what I did take away from my research was the emphasis to go with my gut feeling of what is visually intriguing, highlighting aspects of culture that may at first thought seem dull and uninspiring. Also to concentrate on emotions, whether wistful or intense, happy or awkward or humorous. The details within the shot would be my style. like the two ladies lounging in hammocks in mid afternoon sun, resting their no doubt weary feet from wearing high heels all day. Or the Starbucks cup bloating consumerism against the side of a Tuk Tuk.
The following is a selection of the photographs from this project, some of which are used in the degree show on the 23rd of May.
For more photo’s on this project, please view my book, which is on this link to my website below.