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Bangkok Protests

bangkok roadblock

with F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8

By a strange quirk of fate, twice when flying into Bangkok I’ve been met with protests.

Not directed at me, you understand.

Not yet.

Bangkok protests aren’t uncommon; during both my 2006 and 2014 trips the locals were restless and hoping to bring about a change in the leadership of their country, as they have been on numerous other occasions throughout the decades.

The demonstrations shown in my pictures here are from the 2014 Shutdown Bangkok Restart Thailand campaign, which eventually led to the military taking over the country.

shutdown bangkok t shirt

I’ll admit that the day I took these shots, I had been a touch apprehensive as to whether I even wanted to go and see the protests for myself.

I’m not making comment here on whether I think they were right or wrong, as they are really nothing to do with me. It’s not my country, not my government, not my politics, not my business.

I was more worried about my safety, and the fear of something kicking off while I was there was very real.

Sandbag roadblocks in the daytime weren’t filling me with confidence for the night, and I wasn’t sure if I should leave my camera in my bag, out of sight.

As you can see, I opted not to.

Bangkok protest photography

City of Life

bangkok protesters

MBK bangkok protests

What I found at the 2014 Bangkok protests was something more akin to a carnival atmosphere than anything sinister.

Obviously I had no idea what the speakers on stage were saying, but the air didn’t seem to be filled with any kind of hatred.

The longer I stayed, the more confident I became with my camera too, and started to enjoy asking people if they minded me taking a few portraits.

Nobody refused; in fact, they all seemed happy to have been asked.

One lady asked me if I was a journalist, which made me smile as I told her I wasn’t.

Despite her question, I do believe that the small F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8, on my small Sony NEX camera helped me to look less threatening and move around a little more freely than if I’d have had a huge zoom lens on a DSLR.

I’ll never know for sure, but it certainly didn’t hurt, and the pictures came out pretty well considering the low light.

bangkok protester

bangkok protest

bangkok protest girl

bangkok protest merchandise

Apart from not letting me up onto a footbridge for fear of me throwing things at people from above, nobody challenged me or stopped me from doing anything.

It goes without saying that the protests meant a lot more to the people there than just being a chance to play journalist and get some photographs, but I must confess that walking around, meeting people, and getting my pictures was great for me personally.

As a naturally shy person, becoming more confident with every person I spoke to and photographed gave me one of my favourite photographic experiences so far.

But it wasn’t about me.

Looking at the bigger picture, I hope whichever path Thailand takes leads to a future that is fair, stable, and beneficial for all.

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The 2014 Bangkok protests were just the latest in a long line of similar events in Thailand's capital. This wasn't the first time I'd been in the city when there had been protests, but it was the first time I'd been to see them and shoot some pictures. It's a different kind of set to most of my others which tend to show a more relaxed side of travel. I'm glad I was able to go in and take these pictures, but I hope for Thailand's sake they can move on in a manner that means no more protests of this type will be necessary.

 

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