Budding talent Miti Ruangkritya's photography addresses issues close to his heart. While the 31-year-old's work is yet to make waves on home turf, his photographs, which usually deal with social and political issues, have received recognition in Europe, especially in England where he completed much of his formal education. In Asia, he has showcased his craft at workshops and group exhibitions.
Miti describes his work as contemporary documentary photography, which he says is largely open to interpretation.
A man of few words, the Thai talent lets his photography talk for him, and judging from the awards he has so far garnered, his future looks bright.
His portfolio has been featured in the British Journal Of Photography, De L'Air and 500 Photographers blog. Last year, his work was exhibited at Noorderlitch, Singapore, Angkor and Phnom Penh photo festivals. He also bagged the silver medal at Prix de la Photographie 2012.
London-educated Miti breaks his silence when it comes to issues he feels passionate about. He openly gives credit for the knowledge he has accumulated about photography today, not so much to his degree course, but rather to the talented senior photographers he has worked with throughout the years.
Miti says much of the work reflects a personal reaction and often observation towards the environment he is placed in. While he declines being overtly politically minded, since returning from his studies in the UK he has found it difficult to escape addressing political issues because it is prevalent in all areas of Thai life.
Miti's latest endeavour is also his debut solo photo exhibition titled "Imagining Flood" held at the Kathmandu Photo Gallery on Silom Road, from today until April 28. The photographic study of the 2011 floods in Thailand brings to the fore his penchant for capturing surreal emptiness with captivating precision.
He defines his composition as reflecting the psychology of fear, experienced by himself and thousands of Bangkok residents. The scenes he captures narrate the glum perplexity that comes with waiting for something to happen.
Deliberately photographing the situation in the wee hours of the night has largely contributed to the dream-like presentation of his collection.
Speaking of the circumstances which led him to pick floods as a topic, Miti said: ''It was my personal reaction to the floods that brought up the compilation of this presentation.
''At the time, I lived on Udomsuk, and it seemed everyone I knew was affected by the inundation in one manner or the other. Even though some of the areas that were supposed to get flooded eventually didn't, it was an emotional roller coaster ride for many whose houses were still dry. The frenzy was exacerbated due to media coverage. I wanted to tell a different side of the story.''
Miti says the editing process for this solo project, which was emotionally draining for him as he experienced the devastation up close, turned out to be rather time-consuming due to the depressing nature of the topic.
Although the photos emanate an oddly dream-like serenity, he could not help feel a lingering sense of fear and emotional suffering when it came to going through the photos he had painstakingly taken.
To be in a positive state of mind to edit the photos, he took a well-deserved break before getting back to the grind of sifting through his work to pick the most appropriate ones to exhibit.
As a viewer, it seems difficult to emotionally detach oneself from the strong feelings of fear and anxiousness that pop out from his photos. His visual style and motivation work to make spectators empathise with the situation and underline the authority photographers have to step into communities and situations and document fleeting moments.
Miti, who has compiled his work on floods in a book, explains the reason for doing so.
''Firstly, books are cheaper to make than organising an exhibition. In my opinion, they are also better in terms of visual narratives. An exhibition may only be on for a few months, but with a book, you will be able to enjoy the photos whenever you feel like it,'' he said.
''This is especially useful and a more cost-efficient way for young photographers to promote their work. The amount of money spent by undergraduates on their dissertation is terrifying, in the UK, anyway, without any kind of guarantee the work will be well received.
''Of course, you could also upload pictures online, but you won't get a physical experience or the same kind of excitement that one gets from viewing a well-produced photography book.''
The emerging talent's passion for photography began at age seven. It was at the most modest of dwellings _ a simple set-up organised by governmental initiatives for communities to learn photography for just 1 baht an hour _ that he got his first taste for photography. He began with simple shots of the sunset and landscapes, progressing later to complex forms of photography.
During the course of his career, Miti has come across mentors that have helped him form his individual style of photography. On top of his list is Manit Sriwanichpooms.
''When I first started photography six years ago, Manit's satirical book Bangkok In Black And White gave me a lot of inspiration to go out and shoot. It is one of the books I can always look back to with a smile and enjoy reading without boredom _ certainly, for me, one of the best books on Bangkok,'' he said.
''Then there was my university professor David Campany, whom I learned a great deal from during my MA course, particularly concerning approaches and interpretations towards documentary photography.
''His lectures were extremely inspiring and I discovered a variety of photographic work, from art to documentary.
''In later years, it has been French photographer Antoine D'Agata, whom I had the privilege to attend [an] Angkor photo workshop with and assisted at an event in Pattaya. From the Frenchman, I picked up the need to become more open and flexible with my visual narrative and method of working during the course of my photo shoots.''
The budding photographer has had the good fortune of getting recognition for his work from the outset of his career. His most memorable award so far is being a Selected Winner and an Honourable Mention at the Magenta Flash Forward awards (UK), in 2011 and 2012. As every year there are a number of talented and admirable photographers from his age bracket that get selected for this award, getting one of his own was a real confidence boost, he said.
To help showcase the talents of local photographers in Bangkok, Miti suggests an urgent need for more galleries and curators that cater specifically to photography. Currently, Kathmandu Gallery is the only space he thinks is available for local talents to showcase their craft.
On the pressing issue of how to improve the future of budding photographers in Thailand, Miti said: ''Support from the government in the form of workshops, artist residencies and photography festivals _ allowing photographers to learn and be exposed internationally would make a good start.
''From having held exhibitions at Singapore Photo Festival and Photo Phnom Penh in 2012, I must admit our neighbouring countries have a much more active photography scene than us. Cambodia has Angkor Photography Festival and workshop and Photo Phnom Penh events that are popular.
''Singapore runs its own photography festival with various galleries representing local talents, while Indonesia also has the MES56 group that has been creating some great work _ it seems almost from a very DIY ethic, which is inspiring.''
About the author
- Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert