If you are like most people, your neighborhood doesn’t attract a lot of tourists or paparazzi. So, imagine for a second if you were outside doing your normal activities and 70 photographers, many armed with giant cameras and long lenses, flowed through your neighborhood and started taking photos of everything from people to flowers to signs.
That was the case recently when I went on a photo walk with the Bangkok Photographers Group (BPG).
We met up on the west side of the Chao Praya River at a beautiful yet out of the way temple. After group introductions and some time taking photos of the temple, we took off walking through the area.
The group leader guided us along by marking the intersections with chalk. The neighborhood had sections of classic old-school Bangkok with wooden houses on stilts perched next to canals. We walked through some areas atop narrow bridges.
Although we were a large group, we quickly became separated and for the most part I was either shooting alone or next to two or three other people. Shooting alongside others allowed me to observe how other photographers saw the scene and how they interacted with the locals.
Like many places in Bangkok, and the world, the residents were poor in material wealth but rich in smiles. The locals seemed surprised and excited that our group of people were walking through the neighborhood taking their photos. Most people enthusiastically posed for photos and seemed genuinely happy that we were taking an interest in them and their neighborhood.
We came to a corner and a photogenic grandmother was sitting on an old car seat under a wooden shelter. Some photographers asked if they could have a photo; she graciously said yes, then put on a straw hat, smiled broadly and posed while her friends had a good laugh. She was a celebrity. Several photographers gathered around her and snapped her photo. Although I wanted a photo, I didn’t really want to join in with the others, so I kept walking. However, when I circled back, I noticed her by herself and took this photo:
Towards the end of the photo walk, sweaty and tired, I plopped down at a small store and bought an ice cream bar. The locals, unaccustomed to having foreigners visit, asked to take my photo. The tables were turned! I found myself posing with assorted people as several smartphones were in my face clicking away.
Although I typically do photography on my own, going with a group had some benefits. First, I’d have never found this neighborhood on my own. Second, I wasn’t shy about asking for portraits when other photogs were also asking. And lastly, I met a few interesting photographers who I will meet up with again someday.
Here are a few photos I took during the walk.
Bangkok Photographers Photo Walk Gallery
If you live in Bangkok or are just visiting, you can find info on photo walks at Meetup.com or the Facebook group.
Special Thanks to Dennie Cody, Duangkamon Khattiya (DK), and Goran Ehren for organizing these walks.
Here is a map of the general area we visited. I’d highly recommend a visit if you want a tourist-free visit to a Bangkok neighborhood.
Here is a Google Map of the area.
Have you gone on a photo walk before?
I’d like to hear your comments.
That was lovely. Great work!!!😍
You got some interesting images, Jeff, and I especially. like the last one with the novice monk
Thank you Sue. I got that last image and was done for the day – I was hot and tired and knew I finished on a winner.
I really love all of your photos, Jeff. Either you used a different camera or you processed the photos or the fact that this is only your second post after the long hiatus, your shots seem to look sharper with more vivid colors. Too bad the cat was shy!
Hum…I’m using the same camera and processing the same I think. It was the first time we’ve had good light in Bangkok in a while – the rainy season has been dreary this year. I am glad you enjoyed the photos.
I tend to freak out lots of cats nowadays.
Ahh the weather. It’s THE most important factor in taking a good photo, I think.
Great shots. That grandma shot is pure gold.
Thanks Kyle. Her 15 minutes of fame had passed and she was sitting quietly. She was hamming it up earlier.
Excellent photos and post, Jeff. Love your monks and street portraits Terrific work. I would love to return to Bangkok.
Thank you Jane. I appreciate the feedback.
What fun! As usual, I love every single one of your photos but the turn back to get a shot of the grandmother in her straw hat is the winner for me! Where are the photos of you & your pals? Just sayin!
I’d like to see those photos of us too! I want print out some of these and return to the neighborhood so maybe I’ll try and get them!
This is a most wonderful collection Jeff. Your favourite is also my favourite, but the one of the old woman that you got alone after circling back is superb. My other favourite is the monk writing on the chalk board. Well done! I went on a photo walk once many years ago with only about 5 of us I think and before I knew anything about photography. I’m not sure I learned much. I didn’t even have a camera and was using a borrowed one. My sister used to lead photo walks and taught me most of what I know.
I think 5 people is about right for a photo walk. At first the massive crowd was overwhelming but we spread out eventually. I took a lot of photos of the monk with the chalkboard but couldn’t get his face until I moved around and shot through the bush. Thanks for your feedback!
Wonderful collection Jeff! The grandma in the car seat is a classic. I’m also drawn to the one of the guy with the cigarette hanging from his mouth (it reminds me of one from another of your Bangkok photo sessions.) I love the way the former King is framed by the pink flowers and recall seeing his portrait everywhere.
We still see photos of the former king around, but I feel like in these older neighborhoods he is ubiquitous. That guy with the cigarette was a character. He was talking to a shop owner and to many of the photographers. He was very animated and exuberant.
I’d like to see the photos of you taken by the locals!
It is probably me looking like a sweaty hot mess with ice-cream all over my face. Yeah, I’d like to see that too!
I love that the photography tables turned and you became the subject of the local photographers! I’ve never done a meet up like this. Likely because I would feel completely intimidated. Not an excuse right? You’ve captured some fabulous images as you always do. The grandmother is my top pick. I can feel her energy oozing out of the image.
I imagine there are some meetups in Banff or Calgary for photography or maybe biking or mountain climbing. It might be a good way to meet people? The grandmother is Instagram famous now I think!
Beautiful work, Jeff, and I loved the writing. The way you described the scene at the beginning, like locust invading new land 🙂 Really an incredible series, with the Grandmother evoking the strongest emotions. Beautiful 🙂
Thank you Randall. It was like locusts, but friendly locusts. 🙂
Thanks you the story and photos. I struggle with the same problem, love to take enigmatic and spontaneous shots but feel shy about asking people if I can take a photo. The culture is so rich and interesting. I like taking pictures so much but find it hard to take the time to edit and post, I should do more to hone my craft. I brought a drone with me this time. We visited the ancient city of Ayutthaya yesterday but couldn’t find an opportunity to fly.
It can be hard to ask at times, but I have found it is easier if I really want the photo. Generally I don’t ask and just take candid photos. Almost always people have a positive or neutral reaction.
Ayutthaya is really interesting. Maybe you’ll get to fly it in the south. Enjoy your trip in Thailand.
As always with your posts, this is such a wonderful, refreshing look at Bangkok – and one that we don’t usually see on most travel blogs. I’m glad you took the initiative to join the photo walk and visit a totally unfamiliar (and untouristed) neighborhood. One of my favorite shots is the one of the lady walking by with an umbrella; the bright red color of the wall behind her really pops and the Thai writing tells you where it is in the world.
Thanks for your feedback, James. I like the photo of the lady too but wasn’t sure about it at first. After it marinated on my computer for a few days I decided that I liked it 🙂 I have come to realize that Bangkok is one of the most varied cities in the world, but unfortunately most visitors don’t get to explore it all. Actually, maybe that is fortunate for locals and long-term residents who get to know the less-visited areas.
Jeff I love these photos. Bangkok offers one of the richest spots on earth for capturing candid images. We have been there many times; each trip yields more eye-popping snaps. Love the motorbike helmet guy with cig. Classic BKK.
Thanks Ryan. I agree that Bangkok is one of the most varied cities in the world. From Chinatown to the old temples, from the modern downtown to the backpackerville of Khao San Road, there are dozens of interesting areas to visit.
Your photos look amazing. I would love to go here after reading your post. Thanks for some great tips on where to go
It is a really cool area – go there if you want to get off the beaten path.
Thanks for sharing this post and great photos too!
I’ve always wanted to do a photowalk! Thanks for the info!
They are a lot of fun. You get to meet a lot of like-minded people and see what they shot afterwards.
Great images by the way! 😎
I missed that photowalk and also this month’s photowalk (Paknam market). I always want to go to there, but still no chance until now.
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