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Windows into domestic gay Thailand

Windows into domestic gay Thailand

Queerness, an exhibition at the Toot Yung gallery in Bangkok presents windows into the domestic lives of gay couples in the city. Piryarat Piyapongwiwat, the photographer behind the exhibition, and featured in one image of herself and her girlfriend, talks to Gay Star News about the whys and hows of these tender images.

Why did you decide to focus on gay couples for this series?

I wanted to show the normal days of LGBT couples who live as a family. Also I wanted to show that the life of same-sex couples is not that different from the life of heterosexual couples. However people still look at same-sex couples with prejudice and think they are abnormal.

How did you get in touch with the couples in the photographs?

Firstly by shooting myself and my close friends, and then friends of friends. So most of the couples were recommended by my friends or people I know.

Was it hard to earn the trust of your subjects?

Yes, definitely because I met most of them for the first time at the shoot. I just introduced myself and tried to explain my idea. Then we shared a bit of time together, then it was ok.

Did anyone you asked refuse to be photographed?

Yes, actually I asked almost 60 couples, but only 50% accepted because this topic is still a sensitive issue in Thailand. Some gay couples don't want to be too public.

How did you ask them to pose?

I asked them to pose as naturally as possible, and to just look at the camera and try to say something to the viewer.

How many photographs did you take for the project and how many did you end up exhibiting?

I took over 200 pictures of 45 couples and finally 15 pictures were selected for the current exhibition.

Was it hard to photograph yourself?

Yes, because I couldn't see myself through the viewfinder so I couldn't imagine what it was going to look like. I took it three or four times.

Are gay couples accepted in Thai society?

There is no governmental recognition of gay couples in Thailand although in my country seems to be more open to gay couples, we cannot rely on gender bias not existing in Thai society.

Do you plan to continue the project in the future?

Yes I am continuing working on this project and I'd like to take more pictures of LGBT couples who agree to be part of my project. I would like to make a photo book in the next few years.

What's next for your photography career?

I studied fine art at Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, France, so I don't focus only on photography. For my next project I'd like to do an installation to combine video, photographs together.

Some of the photographs from Queerness are available to view on the at the Toot Yung gallery’s website here.