In the brave new world of mass production, not only material objects are manufactured at factories – images and ideas are created in a similar manner. Just Google “Phuket” and enjoy the selection of identical “iconic images” of a tropical paradise complete with white sand, blue sea, a longtail boat in the foreground and a limestone karst (rock) in the background. This is Phuket as it is marketed to the world, and nobody actually cares that the scene in the picture is literally not Phuket but a different province. Feel Good Inc produces ideas for Dear Valued Customers just as Cadbury makes chocolate bars for them.
Phuket photographer Niravit Voravanitcha – or just Mr Mos as we call him in The Phuket News newsroom – is not exactly confronting this approach, he just doesn’t follow it and shows Phuket the way he sees it. A XXI century artist, he is pretty far in both time and style from the renowned Thai photographer Saengjun Limlohakul. Mr Mos’s art is not the black-and-white ultra-realism of Saeangjun, but rather a colourful fantasy of the island. Yet they have one important thing in common: Niravit takes his shots on the same streets where Saeangjun took his.
One may wonder if Phuket is okay with being portrayed like that. Apparently, yes as evidenced by Niravit’s first-place prize at the most recent Phuket Town photo contest.
Mos got his first camera, a Nikon D3100, as a present for his 18th birthday. Being 29 now, he has spent 10 years catching Phuket’s vibe and transmitting it to the audience, now including the discerning judges of photo competitions. And how beautiful his artist’s model can be, the main protagonist of the story is Phuket.
A Phuket native, Niravit clearly reveals his origin when asked about his favourite places on the island. “The Old Town, the Windmill Viewpoint…,” he starts listing, and I cannot help but expect Bang Wad Reservoirs to follow. “And Bang Wad Lake in Kathu,” Mr Mos concludes.
I find Bang Wad picturesque but a little bit lacking in action. But Mr Mos – a Bangkok graduate in computer graphics – knows how to fill empty spaces and turn a Phuket landscape into a scene from Frozen or brighten it up in some other way.
Niravit’s top spots are Thalang Rd and Phang Nga Rd after dark, when the Sino-Portuguese buildings are extravagantly coloured with assorted lights. His award-winning photo set was taken during the Chinese New Year celebrations, when the Town is specifically generous in lights and colours.
“Light has an amazing power of transforming the emotion your photos transmit,” says Mr Mos.
The photographer starts his editing with light correction before proceeding to retouching, placing accents and more. According to Niravit, an initial .raw file undergoes a 50% transformation on its way to “Mosholl Jpg”, his gallery posted on Facebook.
This is pretty different from Saengjun’s photography, which pictured life the way it was. Unlike the old master, Mr Mos not only pictures Phuket, he also paints over the original island fabrique using Phuket as a canvas.
I specifically love Niravit’s shots where the Sino-Portuguese Old Town tries on some cyberpunk garments bridging 1907 and 2077. Apparently, the artists never meant anything like this or tried to provoke such an associative flow. But hey-ho, even in Phuket androids dream of electric sheep and Adam Jensen and Keira Knightley stopping a songthaew with a wave of a shotgun in hand.
This is the essence of art and this is how it works.
By capturing and sharing an image, an artist starts a chain reaction with unpredictable final interpretations and emotional responses from the observer. Art is relatable, marketing is not (though trying to mimic).
Concept, location and compositions are the holy trinity of a great photo, Mr Mos explains. Starting with an idea, he then picks location, light, internal composition, focus, etc.
“First, know what you want to share. You need to understand what you are doing, so start with a clear concept,” he says.
Apparently, some do it vice-versa – kickstarted by the power of the moment, they formulate the concept when the creative locomotive is already steaming ahead. The order of steps is arguable as at the end of the day; nine out of 10 Phuket photographers do not have any of their own messages at all.
Relying on premanufactured templates, they produce quality images for quality consumers without any quest for their own vision. Kipple drives out nonkipple, but we are happy to have few who if not exactly confront it, but at least do not support it.
Yet, Mr Mos claims that he is ready to make a photo-shoot for a paying client and assures he would be able to keep his vision of Phuket in it.
Niravit ‘Mos’ Voravanitcha is Class Act Media’s graphic designer in charge of the visual appearance of The Phuket News, IMAGE asia and other products’. To enjoy more of his photography or get in contact, check out Facebook.com/MoshollJpg.