25-02-2012 19:03:30

Meeting up with Manit in Bangkok. What you’d call an in-your-face photographer?

Manit, a past master at provocation, is one of the most famous photographers in Asia and is also quite popular abroad due to his caustic vision of consumer society. We met him in Silom, a lively neighborhood of Bangkok.

Bangkok, Hélios Molina. Translation by Marion Mauget (Spain) et José Pietri

He is the father of "Pink man". You’ll have surely seen, in certain magazines or in an exhibition, this strange Asian man in a pink suit pushing a depressingly empty shopping cart in the city or near a famous monument. These are scenes signed Manit. A past master at provocation, he is one of the most famous photographers in Asia at the moment and is also quite popular abroad. We met him in Silom, a lively neighbourhood in Bangkok, very close to a Hindu temple, a Catholic church and a mosque. This is quite the mystical environment for somebody who is putting together a critical work on religions. The artist, whose real name is Manit Sriwanichpoom, wanted to become an architect, but his school grades were too low.

 "Young and old, in a frenzied race for consumption, facing a world of absurdity"

That is how he ended up, by chance, in an art school where he discovered photography late in life. This self-educated man, interested in spontaneity, began criticizing, head on, both social behaviors and our ways of consuming. In his pictures, he emphasizes Homo sapiens' kitsch, the consumerist nouveau riche of Thailand, dressed in repulsive but happy colors. He also criticizes nationalism, always present in this country where the economy is essentially based on tourism. Kids, dressed as Boy Scouts with a Thai flag in their hands, are following, in a single file, the man with the shopping cart. You could say this is a way of showing every generation, young and old, caught in this frenzied race for consumption and advancing towards a world of absurdity. In another series, "Horror in Pink", Manit reuses famous and cruel pictures in black and white taken during the massacre that took place in Bangkok in 1976. The indifference of the Man in pink facing barbarity reappears in these photomontages. He cruelly stresses the modernity of a man who was born with neither feelings nor generosity. "My entire work has a political meaning", he told us. "In Bangkok, the current contemporary movement is very critical and pushes people to open their eyes. But there aren’t enough of us! Bangkok is a city of extremes. Sometimes you feel like leaving. Sometimes it’s very beautiful and sometimes it’s very depressing. In each neighbourhood, you can find a bit of everything". Manit opened one of the rare photo art galleries of the city. There, even in a simple setting, he helps us rediscover a famous artist from the 30’s, ML Toy Xoomsai, discovered by chance. Nudes, remarkably sober, are another theme that is important to Manit, a project which he hopes to have completed within a few months. To be continued…

Going there and meeting Manit, in person, has its advantages for collectors. In his art gallery, called Katmandu, his small sized pictures cost 100 Euros (around $130), whereas abroad, the big sizes are worth nearly 10 000 Euros (around $13 000).

Katmandu photo gallery, Pan Road, Silom, Bangkok.

Many thanks to Yonola Viguerie (Bangkok) for this story.


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