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Phuket Personality: Capturing the essence of life



PHUKET: Chusak Uthaipanumas is one of Thailand’s most celebrated photographers, having won over 500 awards and photographed the Thai Royal Family and former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – all out of his humble Phuket studio in Chalong.

But for Chusak, photography is not about fame or money.

“I got out of Bangkok and moved to Phuket 24 years ago when I was just 26. I wanted to get out of the hectic Bangkok lifestyle.

“I didn’t want my life to be all about profit margins, or like some competitive sports game,” Chusak says.

“My photos are not for sale. I do not take them to make money. They are my thoughts and concepts expressed in an image,” he adds.

Chusak lays out a magnificent array of photos and awards on the table, including a UN World Environment Day Photography Contest award and two highly coveted Ballantine’s Photography Awards from London.

These competitions received 30,000 and 12,000 entries, respectively, from countries all over the world.

Chusak also likes to be locally involved, and particularly enjoys taking photos of the Rawai sea gypsies, a pastime that landed him an award from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

He also recently won the Wichit Municipality’s ‘Travel the Thai Way in Wichit’ photo contest for his outstanding photo Cheewit Haeng Sai Nam Mudong (Life of Mudong Canal).

His pictorial and almost poetic photographs make it easy to understand why his skills are so widely recognized.

Themes such as the environment, children, water and local lifestyles are evident throughout his work.

“I especially like photographing children as they are always full of movement and expression, and they don’t have an agenda. They are innocent and pure subjects,” he says.

Chusak, now 50, was educated in industrial design and for a time thought about becoming an interior designer, but he prefers a modest lifestyle, making a living from photographing family events while pursuing his hobby of pictorial photography in and around Phuket and elsewhere in Thailand.

“Photography is natural. The desire to document the world around you is something that is innate in us, like spirituality and other aspects of daily life. For me, when I photograph, it is meditative and therapeutic,” he says.

He serves as a board member of both the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand and the Bangkok Photographic Society. He also teaches photography at Phuket Rajabhat University, free of charge.

At age 10, most of his friends from the “photography community” were 70 or 80 years old. They passed on their knowledge to him, helping him to learn techniques and develop his style.

This is the root behind Chusak’s desire to pass his knowledge and techniques forward, and to keep the art of photography alive. It also explains why he has an older and more contemplative style of photography, preferring film to digital cameras – and not being a fan of Photoshop.

“It’s more natural that way, when you really capture a moment, from the right angle, with the best light and timing,” he says.

He believes that preparation, concept and subject are the keys to a good photo – not taking many

snaps of the same object and hoping for the best, or by digitally manipulating the image.

Chusak’s incredible skill and technique have taken him far, but his attitude to photography and life in general are also valuable teachings for future generations: observe, appreciate, consider – and then capture.

— Alexandra Andersson


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