Thailand’s fashion scene is brimming with photographers who have the knack for elevating commercial shooting into an art form. Life speaks with two rising stars of contrasting styles and personalities who share a common ground of experimental edges, sharp perspectives and positive attitudes
It’s fascinating when an artist’s body of work reflects the very core of their being. It’s a privilege to watch such artistic manifestations unfold, be moulded before our eyes.
Rough-edged, raw, honest and often offbeat, Binn Buameanchol’s photography and VDO work are doing exactly that.
But upon closer inspection, this scruffy photographer with a penchant for silly band T-shirts (Britney Spears, Justin Bieber) and an odd-looking French bulldog emotes warmth, open-minded acceptance and empathy.
“I don’t even know if I like taking photos, but I like the thoughts, the creativity that goes into the entire process from start to finish. I don’t carry my camera around, so I don’t know if I like the physical act of taking photos. Also, I don’t even know if I can be called a fashion photographer or a professional photographer. I just have fun making a living out of it,” he said.
Forget his humility; he is indeed a professional photographer. In the span of his growing career, Binn’s work has appeared publications such as Elle Men , L’Officiel , 2 Magazine and Vice . Now 29, he has also worked on campaigns of fashion giants including Sretsis and Greyhound, as well as taken portraits of international musicians – Justice, Swim Deep, O’Children, Girl and The Drums.
“I can never answer what my style really is. At least I never have a good answer for that. But I guess I like simplicity. I like realism in a way that I need to know that these things can actually happen in real life, no matter how weird it sometimes is. I can’t grab things out of thin air. I also like silliness, which a lot of people try to avoid because they don’t want to be laughed at.”
Binn’s photographic journey began out of a desire to cut class in high school. He joined the yearbook club as a photographer so he didn’t have to attend any classes for a month. Something clicked and he chose to study film at Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi, where he pursued a cinematography. Later, he realised he wasn’t mentally cut out for a film production’s large team and inevitable complications. So he turned his attention to photography and his indie rock band, Girl’s Friend From The Internet.
Upon graduation, Binn found odd jobs taking photos of bands and street fashion. He was once serious about being a musician, but in the end discovered he didn’t have enough passion to go down a musical road, despite the fact that Girl’s Friend From The Internet was quite well known on the indie circuit. Binn’s next move took him to pursue a master’s degree in fashion photography at London College of Fashion.
London proved to be a turning point in his life and future career.
“My flat was broken into, and they took my computer and my camera equipment. Before I went to London, I was really into technique and equipment. Then the burglary happened and I spent most of my money buying a new computer. I didn’t have a lot left to invest in equipment. At the time I was really getting into [German fashion photographer] Juergen Teller, and I decided that I wanted to find a new camera. I stumbled upon a Contax G2, which wasn’t fancy at all. I could have borrowed expensive equipment from school, but I fell in love with this simple camera,” he said. “The silver lining is that I learned then that photography is not about technical equipment. It’s about your perception, your world view. With advancing technology, even my dad can take clear photos now. It’s more than just that.”
Upon his return to Thailand four years ago, Binn gained a foothold in the industry through senior pho-tographer friend Kachain Wonglaemthong and famous creative director Nontawat Chareonchasri. He sent Nontawat a Facebook message, and has been getting commission work from him ever since. His career simply took off without a fuss.
“I’m quite lucky that way. Everything seems to fall into place for me,” he said.
Binn has now diverted his attention to making music videos. His first serious foray into the territory occurred a few months ago, when he took on Slur’s MVs and live session videos, three of which have been released to enthusiastic responses. His upcoming music video project will be with The Yers, also old high school chums.
“I’m not sure if I want to take this path seriously. For now, I’m only accepting offers from good friends because there’s no pressure and I’m not doing it for money. I do it for them and for fun.” Asked how he sees his future panning out, he grins.
“We’ll be eating BBQ pork at the end of the workday.”
With a lanky frame, sinewy build and a boyish, heart-shaped face, Waroon Kieattisin could easily be mistaken for a model rather than a working photographer. But his coy demeanour, demure smile, polite words and quiet voice wouldn’t have made a model out of him.
“I’ve always been shy since I was a kid. I’m still very shy. This is why I have to drink when I attend functions – so I can get over my shyness and stop caring what others might think of me,” said Waroon, as he popped his first beer at 6pm.
Then again, the world is probably better off with Waroon behind the cameras and computer screens where he creates his magic. Waroon’s photos are sharply focused, with a kind of gentle intensity, strong yet fragile. Controlled, rhythmic movements and slight hints of imperfect mystery govern his poetic delivery.
For the past eight years, Waroon has been quietly climbing ladders he has built with his own hands. Rising from a studio assistant to a staff photographer for magazines and now an acclaimed freelancer, Waroon’s works are seen in publications such as Elle , Wallp aper*, Harper’s Bazaar , Dichan , Sudsupda , DAMN and Kullasatree among other commercial work, which include lookbooks for new local designers.
“I’m not particularly into fashion, but I love great photos. I love looking at them, studying them. I don’t even know how to properly dress myself,” he said. “Fashion photography is a team effort. When I was young, I didn’t know that. I thought my photos were OK already, but I didn’t think about highlighting make-up, hair or clothes. Now I know it’s very important to be considerate of other people’s work, too.”
Waroon became interested in cameras because of his older brother. He fiddled with his brother’s equipment as though they were toys and began reading up on the subject when he was in Grade 9. He enrolled in Srinakharinwirot University to study educational technology, which dealt with media and mediums for educational purposes. Photography was one of the subjects.
“I didn’t plan to take up photography as a career. I thought it was impossible for me to be a professional photographer, let alone a fashion photographer,” he said.
He interned at Image Magazine , and later was hired as a full-time studio assistant.
“It was a very tiring job. I lived far away from the studio. My starting salary was 5,000 baht. The first month I made 6,000 baht altogether because of extra shifts. My parents were not happy at all,” he said, laughing. “I lived that way for some months before they raised my salary, but I really didn’t mind because I had a chance to learn from many great photographers. I learned how the entire system operated, how to manage clients and how to implement my ideas.”
Waroon unofficially came under the patronage of renowned fashion photographer Thananon Thanakornkarn, who he credits as his mentor. After two years of toiling in the studio, a break finally came when Daybeds magazine started a side project called Cut , a short-lived men’s magazine. Waroon said he applied for a job without a portfolio, but he passed the shooting test. Cut folded after two years, but Waroon stayed behind to work at Daybeds, where he stayed for five-and-a-half years.
“I was doing extra freelance jobs and they’d gotten so extreme that I was taking advantage of another photographer, who was such a nice guy. I wasn’t really sure if I could make it, because freelance jobs weren’t exactly pouring in then. But I was also bored with routine work, so I thought I would give it a go on my own.”
The 31-year-old feels that he made the right call. He’s doing well on his own, without the office politics and gossip, and work has certainly been more than steady.
“I actually want to do more conceptual work, but I’d say that most of our mainstream publications can’t be that open just yet. They still have restrictions and limitations, which I completely understand. So I guess if I want to do exactly what I want to do, then I’ll just have my own exhibition somewhere along the line. But now is not the right time,” he said.
Fashion VDOs are also on Waroon’s horizon, as more and more photographers and brands are moving in that direction. It’s something he’s looking forward to adding to his repertoire. But for the time being, he’s happy where he is.
“Beautiful pictures are my only goal now. I don’t think about other things. I don’t think about fame or being the toast of the town,” he said.
“I just want to take beautiful photos that I’m satisfied with.”