Without doubt the best known photographer from Thailand was his late majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king was a lifelong camera enthusiast and has many of his personal collection on public display in the Royal Photography Museum. The photographs show that they are not only for artistic value, but have academic values as well to aid Thailand towards peace and happiness. His photographs are also to inspire and help rural development projects and sometimes feature the officials involved with the projects.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s photographs demonstrate that the simple “snap” can have a dramatic effect in actually helping the development of a country. By constantly having a camera with him, the king’s constant companion told the story of what actually was, “the camera does not lie”. The pictures he took reflected appropriate locations for dams, reservoirs and dykes: photographs of villages and their surroundings and of transport routes. These photographs were taken on land, and from the air and they have been used to help developments in the kingdom. The legendary English photographer John Thompson said in 1875, “The camera should be a power in this age of instruction for the instruction of the age.” Thompson encapsulates the importance of the camera, something that documents and instructs for generations to come. Something that is not fallible and something that does not judge, that is for the viewer.
It was King Mongkut, Rama IV who embraced photographic technology and used it to promote a dignified portrait of the Siamese kingdom to the more modern European sophisticated countries. When his son Chulalongkorn’s came to the throne he displayed an even greater enthusiasm for the medium and promoted its benefits to both his people and to portray him as a person of confidence and power to the outside world.. Although as in many formative years of photography around the world, it was originally for the elite it was not until WWII that the medium became for the common man. Thailand’s lay photography as an art form really started with Chitt Chongmankhong who was born in Bangkok to a poor Cantonese family. Today there are many exponents of the contemporary art of photography in Thailand, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Michael Shaowanasai and Chaisiri Jiwarangsan being some of the leading exponents.
Even in this age of twitter, facebook, instagram and social media, the humble photograph seems to be getting more popular than it has ever been before in history. Perhaps it is because everybody has access to a device that can take photographs, no longer is the extra appendage of a camera needed. However, for lasting professional pictures two things are needed. A decent camera and a gifted photographer. Tony Hanscombe of Tony Hanscombe Photography has both of these requirements, and from his studio in Sattahip he provides the ideal service for clients no matter what requirements they may have. Although the origins of photography date back to the 4th Century, it was not until 1800 that a developed picture was attempted. Two hundred plus years later, the art of photography is as popular as it ever was, and two hundred years on it will be the same.