Bangkok Post reviews
Life is a Cabaret
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: January 31, 2013 at 8:16 am
Photographer goes backstage and presents a sneak peak of dancers at Alcazar and Tiffany's
In the Chinese blockbuster Lost In Thailand that recently took China by storm (and opens in Bangkok on Feb 7), one of the most memorable scenes is when two male characters meet a beautiful woman endowed with the figure of a supermodel at a temple. The woman, they later learn, is actually a transsexual. It's one of the film's big jokes. Long before this movie was released, in the eyes of many foreign visitors the Thai transgender community was one of the unique characters of this country _ unique, bizarre, fascinating, exotic, etc.
An exhibition, that opens tomorrow at Gallery Chez Pepin and is put together by French photographer Simon Kolton, pursues the same thread. Dubbed "Cabaret", it is the first exhibition in which the Frenchman tries to give his take on the beauty of Thai transgenders, but in a more honest and touching way.
Life spoke to Kolton ahead of the opening.
Why did you choose photography as the medium for this subject?
I was in Pattaya for a few days to write a report about nightlife in the city. After two nights there I realised I did not like the subject. I wasn't very comfortable with it for several reasons. The subject has been exploited all too often. I've travelled around Thailand a lot and taken a lot of photos. I thought the nightlife topic would do no good to the country's image.
One day I was walking by Alcazar [a venue for a transgender show] and I had this flash of inspiration: it would be nice to shoot the action backstage. We are all curious to know what could be happening behind the stage, the look and ambiance of backstage life. I asked to see the manager, who did not quite understand my motive at first, but she eventually agreed and asked me to come the same evening.
After three nights of shooting, I had an idea: compile a book on the subject... but for some reason the project didn't come through. So I then turned to Tiffany's [another transgender show] and proposed to them the same thing. They liked the idea and we started shooting... but again, the book didn't materialise. So now the photos are on exhibition.
Explain the concept and why you chose to put this "Cabaret" collection on exhibition?
I had shot heaps of photos of the cabaret shows, Alcazar and Tiffany's, and was disappointed for not being able to compile them into book form. So I archived the pictures and left them there for a long time, without using them. Sometimes it is necessary to let things ripen. And then the opportunity to exhibit them presented itself. I was so pleased!
Did you to get to know your subjects in person or you just took their pictures?
It was difficult to get to know the dancers. They have very little time behind the stage, everything happens very quickly. And unfortunately very few speak English.
Is there any specific message you wish to convey?
No, not really, but it was interesting to meet the dancers who work backstage. As a photographer I like to show something that is generally obscured from public view.
What have you, as an artist, learned working on this exhibition?
It is always a good lesson of life to be in touch with new and diverse people. It opened up my mind.
You're a Frenchman and same-sex marriage is a big issue in your country at the moment. Tell us your view.
I am open-minded, and I am for gay marriage. I think gay couples should have the same rights [as heterosexual couples]. Societies change, we must change the laws to reflect these changes. Homophobic discourse is something I can't bear to hear anymore.
"Cabaret" by Simon Kolton runs from tomorrow until March 30 at Gallery Chez Pepin, Suan Plu Soi 1, Sathon Road. For more information, visit www.bluefrog-studio.com/cabaret.