I became a documentary photographer in my twenties, during my first visit to the Sahara. I was inspired and overwhelmed by the resilience of the people living in such a harsh environment.

Most of the places I have visited are so-called “hinterlands,” where weathered people have a great deal of pride in their traditional cultures. Indeed, I am fascinated with capturing the expression of such people embracing life fully, regardless of the severe burdens they face daily to survive.


Once known as the “Land of Smile”, Thailand became the land of massacre for two months. Personally, never had I imagined that I would have to wear a bullet-proof vest and steel helmet to take photos in the midst of violence in my own country. It is also hard to believe that some of my photographer friends were shot, and some foreign photographers killed and seriously injured. Whatever happened to my peaceful country?

There was one incident that I shall never forget. In the afternoon of May 19, I was at Sarasin Junction in Bangkok, near a group of soldiers, and sat down behind a large tree nearby. Five minutes later, a grenade exploded at very close range. A few seconds later, I saw four soldiers and a Canadian journalist all covered in blood. I ran out to call for help from other soldiers and journalists nearby who had not realized that we were being targeted by grenade fire. As soon as I could, I carried a soldier to a safe place; after I had put him down, I just cried and cried. It was the first time that I had cried over that whole two-month period. It was sorrow for the injuries and death. That was the moment when I realized just how close to death I had been. The tree had saved me.

I do not want to see any more death or injuries, no matter who the people are and what they believe in, whether they are red shirts, soldiers or police. We are all Thais. No matter who wins in this game, victory comes as a loss for Thailand.

Athit Perawongmetha

Athit Perawongmetha

Follow on
See full archive