International Festival of Photojournalism

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31 / 08 / 2010

Interview with Athit Perawongmetha

With his exhibition, “Bangkok Dangerous”, Athit Perawongmetha gives to the European (and the rest of the world) public a new vision about the riots in Bangkok. By taking photos of people living in his own country, he creates a feeling of proximity between us and the violent events that occured a few months ago.

Interview with Athit Perawongmetha

What have you done before this work?

I worked before for KP image, but this exhibition is my first one. To see it is really impressive, I almost cried. Before, photography was almost a hobby for me.

Was it difficult to take pictures of an event in your own country?

To take these photos in Bangkok during the riot was not so hard, because I know the language, I know the city and I know the places to hide myself. But psychologically, for a foreign photographer, it could be more comfortable, because he's external to the situation. In my case, I took my photos with my soul, I was with friends and I knew exactly what happen at the very moment.

You play a lot with colours on your photos, like red and blue. Why?

Colour, in such a report, is really important. Red, because it's the colour of the "red-shirts". It's a symbol for demonstrators. Everybody, during the riots, wore it, to identify themselves. When you are hiding and you see all this crowd in red, that's really impressive. What is more, I never take pictures in black and white.

Your photos were taken in a very short period. Why aren't there any photos before and after?

The period is so short because it was the reality. It was two months full of violence from the beginning to the end. There were confrontations between the soldiers and the red shirts. I needed to hide myself to escape from the soldiers, or bullets. I didn't take photos before or after because it was no longer the same situation.

Would you like to show these photos in Bangkok?

It is quite difficult to make this exhibition in Bangkok because what I show about soldiers and red shirts is real. There are some risks of anger from both sides: sometimes what they believe about the situation is different, they do not admit the fights or deaths. An exhibition about what happened, outside of the country, would be safer for the photographer. But, when you take photos from the inside, hidden, it wouldn't be good for the population's opinion, almost when people have lived the event.

What are you doing now, and what would you like to do?

I am now doing photos about landscapes, auto races, and some kind of tourist stuff, because it's easier to earn money with. But I'd really like to go to Afghanistan to take pictures. This report about Bangkok was my first one as a photojournalist and when you do this job you discover a lot of things. My best friend went to Afghanistan. I also like to go to shoot everything. That's not usual for people from Bangkok to go, because it's dangerous, but I'd really like to do so.

This job teaches me that if you fight for something, everything is possible. For example, to become a professional photographer: I don't believe I am really one yet, because it was easier for me to make my report in my own country. But when I see my exhibition here at Visa pour l'Image, in a foreign country, I really enjoyed it. This job is not to be learnt in a department, it's almost a question of willing.

Lucie L.G