things magazine / about / what's new? / archive / photos / projects / order
Bangkok Objects, photographs by Thomas Kalak. Back to index
back to projects

No one stays very long in Bangkok - a hectic city with chaotic traffic and sticky, humid heat. Once people have been around the usual sights, they get out quickly. The pictures in this collection of photographs, on the other hand, are for people who don't find themselves able to leave Bangkok so easily, and perhaps never will, without knowing exactly why.

One answer to the question can perhaps be found in these pictures that make western travellers aware for the first time of things that they hardly noticed when they were actually in the city - a whole cosmos of mysterious, but at the same time everyday objects and events which both give rise to that "deja vu" feeling and extend and intensify one's existing impression of the place and free it of its banal romantic image. In everyday Bangkok, a city of the here and now, western ideas of order and system have no place at all. What happens here is instead very much dominated by ordinary people and a philosophy of relaxed co-existence which permits seemingly irreconcilable contradictions. Everywhere, one finds a good-natured willingness to take life as it is, with all of its tensions and scurrilous variety, and enjoy it as well!

This can be observed in the sometimes burlesque and sometimes puzzling phenomenon of Bangkok's street life. Here, the ever-present religious factor shows itself in its most human form. Here, the attitude of the city's inhabitants to eating as a manifestation of culture becomes visible - something which goes far beyond the mere imbibing of nourishment. The photographs do not, however, portray the mentality of Bangkok's people by their actions, but in a very material way in the form of a collection of still-lifes. When people are visible, it is usually as elements in such still-lifes. These random, frequently very funny, juxtapositions of material objects radiate the unshakeable good humour of these people, their willingness to live and let live without any artificial display of assumed liberalism. The streets of the city reflect an atmosphere of freedom and serenity which persists even in the face of the numerous calamities which tend to befall an Asian megalopolis.

Thomas Kalak lives in Munich. He has worked as a photographer for more than 20 years and has been travelling to Bangkok regularly since 1991. During this time, in particular over the last three years spent mainly in Bangkok working on this photo-project, he has accumulated a huge archive containing more than 30,000 pictures. In his photographic work, Kalak strives to document his travels in a subtle and realistic way. He has travelled the world numerous times, both independently and in order to fulfil commissions, taking photographs in countries such as Panama, Alaska, Namibia, Hawaii, India, Peru, Venezuela, Madagascar, Japan and Vietnam. He has worked for numerous well-known international travel firms and tour operators, including employment as chief photographer for LTU-Touristik and the "Meiser's Weltreisen," "Marlboro Travel" and "Tjaereborg" brands. Kalak's pictures have also been published in many magazines and books, including the volume "Growing a chair" for the renowned furniture-maker Vitra, which was commended by the Art Directors Club.