Made in Bangkok

The exurban and suburban zones are nearly as dense as the city center. Old and new structures compete for skyline. Some resemble robots. Some remain unfinished. The elevated Skytrain connects them all. Down below the infrastructure sags. Congestion edging towards permanent gridlock. Most people wear hospital masks on the street, pulling them aside to slurp noodles or smoke a cigarette. The air is thick with humidity, sweat, smog, sex. Inside, everything is Megamall. Climate controlled consumption. Medical tourism. Sex tourism. Drug tourism. Displays telling you how to look and how to feel. Massive electronic billboards everywhere. Written in Thai, Chinese, English, Neon. Screens above and screens below. Reflections everywhere. Personalized. Customized. Individualized. Food. Fashion. Eye color. Politics. Products. Sex. Gender. One third male. One third female. One third hybrid. Everyone is plugged in to something. Artificial realities. Globalized Realities. Ultimately, it’s all now Thai. This is Bangkok in a time of extremes.

I made these photos over the course of 10 days. When I arrived in BKK, jetlag got the best of me and I wasn’t sleeping much. Through my hazy eyes, Bangkok appeared as the future. Utopian and Dystopian all at once. Globalized and localized. Maybe I was hallucinating. But I couldn’t stop thinking “Blade Runner Blade Runner Blade Runner”. Sci-fi author Philip K Dick writes "The future is already here." Still not sure if I agree or not.

  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/60, ISO: 25600)

    A security guard on top of the Lebua State Towers in Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 3.5, Shutter: 1/200, ISO: 5000)

    Chinese Opera performers in Chinatown. Since the Chinese migrants began arriving in Bangkok there has been Chinese Opera Performances outside of Chinese Buddhist Temples but now, in the internet era, the audiences are completely diminished and the troupes are nearly extinct. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 3.5, Shutter: 1/100, ISO: 1250)

    Chinatown. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/100, ISO: 4000)

    A man out on Halloween Night. This is Bangkok. Globalized and localized. Everyone is plugged in to something. Cosplay from Japan. Pop from Korea. Products from China. Tourists from Australia. Showtunes from America. Ultimately, it’s all now Thai. Massive electronic billboards advertise in Thai. In Chinese. In English. In Neon. Screens above and screens below. Images of the King project onto the IMAX screen before the start of the film. Everyone stands to honor him. As Sci-fi author Philip K Dick wrote: 'The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.' The city is sinking into the flood plain it was built on. Someday soon the roads will be rivers. But that hasn't stopped the expansion. The exurban and suburban zones are nearly as dense as the city centre. Old and new structures competing for skyline. The elevated Skytrain connects them all. Down below the infrastructure sags. Most people wear hospital masks on the street, pulling them aside to slurp noodles or smoke a cigarette. Congestion edging towards permanent gridlock. None of the cars, buses, trucks, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, ferry boats, river taxis, scooters and bicycles move at all.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/100, ISO: 3200)

    Halloween Night. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/100, ISO: 3200)

    Mobile user. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/250, ISO: 250)

    Young Thai Cosplayers dress up as the Japanese anime idol group AKB0048. Based of the cartoon, the AKB0048 interplanetary group is resurrected in the future and must take up arms and fight to bring music to its fans in a universe where music is no longer allowed. Cosplay is short for Costume Play. Its essentially role playing and usually involves people dressing as their favorite Japanese Manga characters. Its a global movement and almost weekly there is a Cosplay event of some sort happening in Bangkok. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 4.0, Shutter: 1/160, ISO: 1000)

    A woman carries her kid on the train tracks running through the shanty homes in the Klong Toei slum. She was clearly using drugs and had a hard time navigating the tracks. Klong Toei is best known as a large slum in Bangkok and houses a combination of drug addicts and day laborers. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/40, ISO: 3200)

    Sex Motel. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/80, ISO: 640)

    Skytrain commuter. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/25, ISO: 3200)

    Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/250, ISO: 2500)

    A Thai ladyboy model poses to have her portrait made in Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/250, ISO: 3200)

    Asia Hotel in Bangkok has a lot going on. Chinese tour groups mostly. Some hit the buffet to watch an Elvis-impersonator while others take in the Cabaret downstairs that features American Showtunes performed by Thai Ladyboys. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/60, ISO: 3200)

    A ladyboy performer waits backstage before her performance at The Playhouse Cabaret. The Playhouse features Thai Ladyboys performing American showtunes. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/80, ISO: 3200)

    After The Playhouse cabaret show is over, Ladyboy performers take photos with the audience members. The Playhouse features Thai Ladyboys performing American showtunes. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/800, ISO: 250)

    On the other side of a man-made lake sits Victoria Lake View Condominiums. This project started off 17 years ago but didn't survive the economic crisis of the 90s and now sits half empty on the edge of the city. Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 3.2, Shutter: 1/2500, ISO: 200)

    A man stands with his self-built Thai Airways replica plane in an abandoned lot on the outskirts of Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/60, ISO: 1000)

    Snowtown is a winter simulation in the Dream Land amusement park meant to resemble the experience of a winter environment. Tourists, mostly Thai and Chinese, rent winter clothing and take pictures inside of a large icebox.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/125, ISO: 3200)

    Commuters wait for a local bus in Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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  • #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Zackary Canepari

    #FutureofCities - Made in Bangkok

    Sony α7S, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 2.8, Shutter: 1/80, ISO: 500)

    University students participate in a traditional Ladyboy Beauty Contest in Bangkok. Thailand. 2014.

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About Zackary Canepari

Zackary Canepari is one of our original Global Ambassadors and a member of Panos Pictures.  Born in 1979 in Boston, Massachusetts, Zack is an photographer and filmmaker specializing in documentary projects. After studying photography in Paris and San Francisco, he moved to New Delhi and worked as a photojournalist from 2007 to 2009. As a photographer, his work has taken him to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mexico, China, Brazil, Eastern Europe, and Nigeria for a number of clients, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. In 2009, Zack teamed up with filmmaker Drea Cooper and created "California Is A Place," a series of short documentary films about California. The films were screened at a number of international festivals, including Sundance and IDFA.  He is currently based in Northern California and in the process of completing his first feature documentary film titled “T-Rex”.

Interview

Describe the moment when photography changed your life.
I have more than one answer to this question, since photography has been doing this to me since day one. So I guess I better start with day one. When I was 20, there was this guy in New Orleans who wanted to photograph my girlfriend naked. It was creepy, but I was mostly okay with it because he was actually a pretty good photographer. Besides naked girls, he also liked shooting in abandoned buildings. I think he felt guilty for being slightly "pervy" with my lady, so he took me with him to assist. Anyway, there we were in this crazy old empty apartment complex. All these old photographs and trinkets and things left behind by the last tenants were scattered everywhere. It was a time capsule and he was photographing it all, making art out of it. Plus, there were these two anarchists squatting there that he also photographed, and I thought to myself: "Wow, there is this entire other world that I know nothing about because I have no reason to explore it. Photography is the coolest!" That’s when I started shooting.

Describe what kind of photographer you consider yourself to be.
I have no idea. I've never really considered myself a photojournalist. I'm not exactly an editorial photographer. No one ever calls me an art photographer, either. I suppose documentary is my bread and butter. And street photography is where I started. So somewhere in between those two, I suppose.

If you had one word to describe your work, what would that be?
Iterative.

What is the most important photograph or body of work you have worked on to date?
Well, most people know me from "California Is A Place," but I think I really understood what kind of projects I liked working on from the Kathputli story that I made in India. First, it challenged me to make better and better pictures. It's hard to make a good picture, and sometimes you need to keep working a place until the elements come together. Sometimes, it never happens and you need to walk away. And second, it taught me what type of stories I'm interested in.

Give us your top three "must-do" photo assignments or personal projects you want to someday shoot.
Ha! Weird question. My dream photo assignment...hmm. I always wanted to photograph the synchronized dancing greasers in Japan. Also, the Sapeurs in the DRC. I think North Korea and I would get along famously, and the Arctic Circle is pretty much the strangest place I have ever seen...

What do you think about the Global Imaging Ambassadors program?
So far, the program has been great. Not only do I feel well supported, but I've also been given a lot of creative freedom to make the kind of photographs that I want to make.

What is your favorite feature about the Sony RX1 or other Sony products you have used?
That’s easy. The RX1 is silent and tiny -- the two greatest qualities a street photographer could hope for.

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