In nine weeks, Photo Bangkok seeks to reshape and elevate photography in Thailand

Piyatat Hemmatat said he waited a long time for someone to come along to lift up and connect Bangkok’s disjointed scene of artists and photographers.

As the founder of art space/gallery RMA Institute, Piyatat, 38, has wanted to see the infrastructure and community built to support artists and elevate Bangkok’s profile as a serious place for photography in all forms, from fashion and fine art to journalism.

“I’ve been waiting for some years for some organization to step in and manage the contemporary art scene,” he said. “But it never happened. What I realized is most Thai artists have to do things themselves.”

So he rolled up his sleeves and got to work pulling together all the moving parts of a disorganized scene to build a world-class, city-wide photography festival. It opens tomorrow.

The Photo Bangkok festival, the first of what’s hoped to be a tri-annual event, will unfold throughout the capital in 20 galleries and institutions and run for nine weeks.

Up first is the opening party at 6pm tomorrow evening at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, which will anchor the far-flung event. Several main exhibitions will be supported by shows, discussions, lectures and workshops at locations throughout Bangkok

Here are some highlights:

  • Lensculture Award: An international jury selected work from 30 photographers around the world which represent six continents and 18 countries, “making this a snapshot of some of the best contemporary photography on the planet.” The work will be projected on BACC’s outside wall from 7pm – 7:30pm tomorrow evening and on the following Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 30.

  • Pause: Photographers from throughout Southeast Asia are assembled into a new context together for us to collectively “pause” the hurtling speed of change and look around us, in this exhibition curated by Ark Fongsmut opening at 6:30pm tomorrow and continuing through Nov. 1 on the ninth floor of BACC.

  • Rediscovering Forgotten Thai Masters: Few know the photographic work of noted Thai author Rong Wong-savun, or Buddhadasa, a famous monk who used photography as means to teach Buddhism. Four years ago, Kathmandu Gallery founder and photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom set out to find home-grown examples of master photographers for his students to learn from. He will reveal them starting 6pm on Sept. 19 at the gallery of Bangkok University’s Kluaynamthai campus.

  • Kiosk: An accessible and engaging exhibition space blending mixed media to create discover unexpected visual and narrative moments. Come crash the party and influence the outcome with your own work. Curated by Nikan Wasinondh. Opens at 6:30 tomorrow and runs through Oct. 4 at BACC.

  • RGB Installation: Step inside a giant room-sized camera obscura to interact with its light and mechanics. After debuting at the Wonderfruit Festival this past year, Meeratchata Rujinarong will set it up starting at 6:30pm tomorrow at BACC. It will be exhibited through Oct. 4, with workshops offered on weekends through Aug. 30.

  • Subconscious: The impulsive and compulsive work of streets artists will go up on the walls of the third, fourth and fifth floors of BACC from Aug. 14 through Sept. 30.

Otherwise there are special exhibitions going on throughout the city’s galleries and culture establishments. Check out the full schedule online for what’s going on at places like Adler Subhashok Gallery, Kathmandu Photo Gallery, Cho Why, Serindia, WTF, Hansar, and more.

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