For all its ugliness, Bangkok is surprisingly photogenic; beyond the dirt, grime and exhaust fumes, visually the Thai capital has much to commend it. Yet rarely do you see professional photos of the place, except for the ultra-touristy palace or floating market — two sites that make all the brochures. Unless you’ve been there, you won’t have any idea about the look and feel of this city.
So over a recent weekend in Bangkok I decided to use this Asian metropolis as my subject matter. I imposed two restrictions. First the lens; a fixed 24mm, 1.4. No zoom meant having to move with the camera to get the right image, which also meant being mobile. In the tropical heat of an urban Asian city, it can get sweaty.
The other was that each image would be cropped into a square. Why? For effect. It means you can create a collage, nine or 12 squares a page. Four or six pages. Each page focusing on a different overriding theme. But it also means you are restricting how much subject matter you can get in one photo; you are playing games with the standard rules of composition.
Don’t Take the Taxis
Looking through these photos I am struck as much by what is included as by what is missing; food, five-star hotels, bars, amazing high-rises, restaurants, the sophisticated Thai and the city’s canals. Yet considering this essay was shot in less than 48 hours, it still gives a good impression of what the city is like.
As for Bangkok, it’s a city that at times grows on me, and at other times drives me crazy, in particular the taxi drivers. If I catch a taxi and reach a location without being driven to the middle of nowhere — once I almost ended up at Don Muang Airport at 1am — I’m pretty happy. The solution? Start learning Thai.
Photos by Nick Ross