Hidden figures

Workers bath themselves amid gabage, while a child washes her toy. "Behind Tin Walls" by Visarut Sankham Photo: VISARUT SANKHAM

With each passing year, countless home and luxury condominiums are erected by the hands of those who will never actually step foot in them. Living in community camps, the builders -- mostly migrant workers from Cambodia -- live in a parallel world -- inside flimsy impromptu tin houses, risking the health and safety of themselves and their families for the hope of a brighter future.

Documenting this undeniable gap is photojournalist Visarut "Pop" Sankhum, whose first solo exhibition, "Behind Tin Walls", will be opening at 7pm tonight at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand. The photographs, which will be exhibited for a few weeks (unclear by both artist and the club), showcases the lives of those living inside three camp sites.

Currently studying Sociology and Anthropology at Chiang Mai University, Visarut has a natural curiosity of exploring human and social injustices.

"I never set my eyes on it to be a project or story," he said. "It's just that there's a camp that I walk past every day to work. One day I had a curiosity of what it's like inside -- how do those people live? Because Thai people are born knowing that there are migrant worker camps and we simply understand that they just live there -- that's all."

Finding beauty in the struggle and plight for survival, Visarut slowly introduced himself to the communities, and for six months spent time with them in the evenings to absorb the atmosphere.

"In a pure visual sense, I'm a person who likes the struggle of people. Not in the sense that I like to watch someone drowning -- I mean that when you really have the need to live, there are certain things expressed from their needs and struggles. It really shows visually. It's beautiful in a different way as it shows people's hopes [of survival].

"What I want to do the most is to tell others that there are people living like this. The people building our houses and condominiums are living like this. I'm not concluding though, that it's good or bad. This is coming from my studies in Sociology and Anthropology. Deep down, I just want to understand what I'm photographing."


Catch "Behind Tin Walls" tonight at 7 at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand. Entry is free. Check out Visarut's other works at www.sankhamphotography.com.

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