Thai photographer documents life with trans, ex-sex worker girlfriend in their Bangkok apartment

Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul

A high-end home. A lonely potted plant. Fine art. Drying dish towels. Learned architects. Former sex workers. These are some of the disparate images and ideas placed side by side in an intriguing art show that opens this weekend.

Where do work and life intersect? Bangkok photographer Soopakorn Srisakul explores that space in his new show, Weekend Stage, opening Saturday with a party at Jam cafe as part of the Bangkok Biennial.

The artist. Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul
The artist. Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul

By day, Soopakorn is a staff photographer for glossy architectural magazine House & Garden. In his personal life, he shoots documentary photography and gets domestic with Im, his transgender, former sex worker girlfriend in their little apartment in Bangkok’s Taling Chan, which Im loves to decorate, however humbly their means might allow.

Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul
Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul

The name of the show relates to an attitude about life since the two met, three years ago in Khlong Lord, an evening flea market near the river where people sell secondhand goods — especially items for the home.

Since they paired up, Im was able to quit to quit sex work and now “makes everyday into a weekend by being a playful household manager,” according to Soopakorn. As for himself, he said, “After 13 years as an architectural, interior decoration photographer, I live with her and decorate our small, old flat with style.”

Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul
Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul

Curator Dhanainun Dhanarachwattana was drawn to the work for both it’s content — which might have a whiff of the sensational for some, due to Im’s backstory — and the form, in which each piece places an image of the photographer’s professional work beside an image from his domestic life. In some of the finished pieces, it’s hard to tell where one image ends and the other begins, a state that the curator called “wholesome discord.”

Dhanainun said, “Weekend Stage is a rumination into the inherent contradictions of the photographer, between being a staff photographer whose emphasis is on the forms, and the documentarian whose message lies in the content.”

The artist. Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul

The photographer went on to say, “Initially, I was being ironic about my place of dwelling and places I photographed in terms of objects and lifestyles.” But the project grew from there, going on to pose larger questions about the roles we play in different parts of our lives and asking how much one might understand a life from seeing photos of a home.

There are also obvious ideas in play about income. By day, Soopakorn shoots lavish abodes, but lives simply on the salary of an artist, surrounded by flea market treasures that even he admits are “older and out of fashion,” which is, of course, also subjective.

Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul
Photo: Soopakorn Srisakul

Soopakorn also wants the viewer to recognize the difference between “the graphic and orderly nature of my professional work, and the liveliness within my flat.”

The tone lightens a bit when he discusses his girlfriend’s interest in decorating and desire to nest. “She never even looks through the decorating magazines that I get each month, she’s told me that.” But, the day before they moved from their old apartment to the new one, she packed up everything from the cupboard to the bathroom mirror to the light bulbs and dressing table chair in garbage bags and went to create a cozy atmosphere at their new place.  

The things we do for love. And decor.  

 

FIND IT:

Weekend Stage Opening Party
Saturday, Sept. 22, 7pm-12am (show hangs through Oct. 21)
Jam
41 Charoen Rat Soi 1
BTS Surasak
Opening party music by DJ Tada (techno/tep) and Zassodo (molam)


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