Nude photography is never easy and almost always controversial. In early June, for instance, American photographer Spencer Tunick was denied permission by Australian grocery store Woolworths to shoot a large-scale nude photo session at its carpark. Tunick was baffled to say the least, as he didn't expect this to happen in a country like Australia. "This kind of stuff happens in Indonesia or Italy," he said.
Thankfully, things didn't went south for Thai nude photographer Sophirat Muangkum who successfully completed her first solo exhibition last May.
Sophirat, who spent three years working as a photographer in Germany, started her career as a freelance artist in 2013. Since then, she has shown her works at numerous joint exhibitions and become a speaker at multiple seminars or workshops. Her photos have been featured in PhotoVogue, an online project of Vogue Italia. "It's like having your portfolio approved by Vogue Italia," she tells Globetrotter.
Above: Sophirat's photos have been featured in PhotoVogue.
In May 2018, Sophirat took part in Definition of Human./Being./You. joint exhibition. Exploring the theme of "Diversity and Equality," the exhibition aimed to raise awareness on the discrimination against and provide better understanding of marginalized people such as the LGBTQ community, people of color, the disabled, etc.
The joint exhibition featured Sophirat's photoset entitled Nothing Lasts Forever. The photo collection chronicles her model's journey toward acceptance. "I asked for [my model's] permission to tell his story: The beginnings, the obstacles, until finally getting accepted by family, friends, society, or even lover."
In "Nothing Lasts Forever," Sophirat chronicles her model's journey toward acceptance. From "Family" to "Sin" to "Silence" and finally "Freedom"
In the same month, she also completed her first solo exhibition. Titled The Secret of Skin, the photo exhibition ran until May 30 at MOST Gallery, Bangkok. In an official statement, Sophirat talks about her infatuation with the human skin. "Nudity is a form of communication," she says. They invite different interpretations, allowing communication between the audience and the photographer.
Globetrotter takes our cue from Sophirat herself and reaches out to her for an email interview to communicate with her and learn more about the girl behind the photographer.
Globetrotter Magazine: First of all, what made you interested in photography and where did you learn to take photos?
Sophirat Muangkum: I started as an amateur model when I was a teenager. But then, I felt that I wanted to share my own vision to others from behind the camera, and I also found out that I felt so great every time I pressed the shutter. Whenever I capture the right moment, it seems like I write my diary without words.
I learn to take photos from nowhere. I’ve been a self-taught photographer since 2007 and I just kept taking pictures almost every day in the first two years. I feel that I can express my feelings or my thoughts through my work naturally.
Globetrotter Magazine: Would you mind telling us about The Secret of Skin?
Sophirat Muangkum: Sure, The Secret of Skin is my first solo exhibition. The photos were taken from 2015-2016. At that time, I was feeling a little bit depressed because the society kept questioning my work: "Is it art or obscenity?" I'm just crazy for human skin, light and shadows!
Actually I have more than 100 photosets which I've collected from 2015 to 2017, but I only picked some of them [for the exhibition]. Because when I visited the gallery for the first time, I saw that its floor was made from wood, which made me think of my childhood. I grew up in a wooden house, so I picked some photos that focused on memories and nature.
Globetrotter Magazine: Would you mind telling us why you take nude photos?
Sophirat Muangkum: In my opinion, nude photography can assimilate a communication value. Indeed, nudity itself has more latent meanings: Self-expression, emotional side of a person, freedom, authenticity, identity as human beings and so on. Looking at some photos of nudes, they may not be immediately comprehensible. Like a puzzle, you have to look at them twice, then think about what the photographer is willing to communicate.
Globetrotter Magazine: How does the public in Thailand react to your photos? Are Thai people still conservative or are they more welcoming?
Sophirat Muangkum: I think Thai people are more open now than five years ago when I just came back from Germany. I did not only exhibit my work but also educated myself and others about nude art. I spent two years reading everything everyday about nudity/nude art as much as I could. I've learned the rules and stayed out of trouble.
As I always say, "Nothing is right or wrong, everybody has their own opinion. We just need to find the right place to stand."
Globetrotter Magazine: How do you make your models comfortable to pose nude for you?
Sophirat Muangkum: To be honest, nothing much. Just be yourself, be natural, be friendly and whatever you do, you will get it in return.
Globetrotter Magazine: Do you have any future projects?
Sophirat Muangkum: I think so. But I don’t know exactly when. It depends on curators. I just do what I love (photography) and the result will come somehow.