Can’t quite remember exactly how it happened but I found myself looking at a lot of my Bangkok film work on a Google images search. I also can’t recall the exact keywords that lead me there but the general gist of the situation is that I can never find enough, recent film work of Bangkok that appeals. There’s just not thatlarge a pool of it to draw from. Amongst my efforts, and probably using keywords like ‘Bangkok tri x’ I did however catch more than a fleeting glimpse of some really nice work with some recurring themes that was clearly well executed. It didn’t take long for me to spot that this work was probably all shot by the same person; there was a consistency to the eye involved. Funny how you can just sort of guess that for yourself if you look at enough of the work after a while.
This led me to find Doug Kim’s work which is currently shown HERE (select places and then 'Bangkok' as your starting place perhaps):
There’s more than one page of this lovely work so keep clicking through the page numbers at the bottom. I see he also has a lot of Thai stuff that is newer, in some cases just in recent months.
There’s a number of things that I would like to say drew me in. Firstly, the shots are of course really interesting and well done, secondly the tags of ‘Leica MP’, ‘Summicron’ and ‘Kodak Tri X’ in relation to Bangkok shooting revealed that this was a man after my own heart and obviously worthy of further investigation. I reached out to Doug and had some chats with him; he strikes me as being a really decent bloke. I would love to actually meet him one day. He’s currently based in Brooklyn, New Yawk (I believe) and is American Asian. I was interested in his take on Bangkok shooting. The work shows some good street, a keen eye, beautiful young Thai femininity without the stereotypical bargirl clichés and some great off the beaten track forays into subjects such as poverty, youth, Thai boxing and well exposed nighttime shooting too. The variety of the work and the way in which he shot it made me certain that he must be resident here. I was most surprised to discover that this clearly isn’t the case. My surprise was rooted in the fact that I can’t see much of the tourist photo element in his photo essays at all really. Sure, there’s the odd clue in the form of a skytrain station shot here and there maybe if you wanted to be hyper-critical about it but it’s not like I never shoot up on those platforms as a big mango denizen myself now is it?
The suburbs over in Thonburi, the wandering, the little potential of the would-be ‘Nak Muay’ slugging it out on the pads, street vendors and their dogs, an occasional messy electrical overhead wiring shot….it all points to a more experienced eye of somebody looking beyond the immediately obvious and searching for more authentic detail of a less trite nature. I really appreciate all of Doug’s work. Turns out that Doug wasn’t perhaps completely updated on the best places for developing and so he opted to carry all his Tri X back to the States with him for developing instead. I’ve since pointed him in the direction of my ‘Ultimate Photographer’s Guide to Bangkok’ page (click banner at top of this page) so I think he’ll be even better equipped if there’s ever a round two. In fact, scrub that Doug…next time you are in Bangkok shooting, drop me a line and I’ll dev it for you myself!
I was also wondering if perhaps Doug’s ethnicity gave him any advantage for wandering and shooting incognito in Bangkok. This was something of an interesting afterthought for me. I know of one or two British citizens here with Chinese heritage who basically walk around in full ‘stealth mode’ and are assumed to be local by the locals. Suffice to say, this is a feat that I will never be able to achieve. I have found other ways to put people at ease in any uncomfortable situations when Thai street shooting over the years I guess. It is certainly possible that if dressed to blend in and not carrying excessive luggage, an Asian-faced Westerner in Bangkok could have a different experience to somebody of another ethnicity. Looking at the ‘gotcha’ faces of Doug’s subjects on the shots where they just catch him in the act (sometimes he obviously intended for that to be the case I would say) I am trying to see if they are different to the faces that I get in my work. I might be imagining it but I can almost see there might be a discernible difference. It’s as though in addition to the ‘Why is he taking my photo, better smile and be cool in public’ quizzed Thai face that I sometimes get looking back at my in my own negatives….there’s also another debate going on in their heads maybe. ‘Is he a tourist or not?’ I might be projecting this or just completely imagining it but I find it interesting to compare nevertheless.
The other nice angle for me is that I personally recognize many of the places that Doug shot and have frequented them myself on occasion. It’s really cool to see how somebody else would see it walking along with a film camera of the type that I might also carry around there on any given day. This is easy to do in a city like New York where there is just so much great film work from talented people upon which to base your compare ideas but the corpus of film work in the City of Angels that we find is so much less extensive. Nice that Doug has been able to add to it and show the way for others.
My favourite of all Doug’s work on his blog is probably the floating market series as it should have all come out looking like a stereotypical touristy nightmare but he makes it look more like classical ‘National Geographic’ of yesteryear. It’s really well done and a joy to look at. Would make for some great prints I’m sure. I also like the moody shots of the model, really tasteful and with an original sense of mystery and intrigue, I am impressed to say the least.
For a real ‘down the rabbit hole’ experience, there’s the veritable myriad of other locations around the world that this man has also shot with aplomb. I highly recommend having a look and I am grateful to Doug for sharing his lovely Bangkok film work online with the world and also for being friendly and welcoming when contacted to talk about it.