Special thanks to Masala Lite and Reena Karim for this interview for my "Life is an Act" exhibition. The show is still going on until June 30, 2014 at Exhibit Cafe Sukhumvit 31 (Bangkok, Thailand)
"A Narrative of His Own"
We catch up with Rammy just days before his latest exhibition ‘Life is an Act’ held at Exhibit Cafe last month.
Tell us a bit about your style of photography.
This is my second series; my first was based on people at the Hua Lamphong train station and completed in 2013. I started shooting at the train station because I love shooting portraits of everyday people and very much drawn to the location itself. While this new collection was taken on random streets using similar idea, I wouldn’t call my pictures mainstream street photography; I would say they are candid street portraits. I don't ask people to pose for me, and it revolves around showing people in their environment and how they exist in that space. There are certain elements that speak to me. I started taking portraits because I was very drawn to emotions.
How comfortable are you getting so close to a person?
Extremely! I have dealt with this very early on; the fear of not being sure whether I could take a picture or not, whether they are going to say ‘no.’ I had an incident once where a person came up to me and asked to see the photo I had just taken of him. He saw the picture, said it was nice and just walked off. I think as long as they are not caught in a compromising spot, they are OK. I don’t shoot offensive pictures or exploit people. I am just a guy on the street and I am just taking pictures of the situation. They are environmental portraits. I am not showing them in a bad light, if anything, they are being incorporated in a form of art.
Do you have any favourites in this series?
There’s one called ‘Morning News’, it sets a tone for this whole ‘Life is an Act’ exhibition. I feel like life really is an act. The girl on the paper is just posing, while the guy reading it is not really reading it, he was looking somewhere else. He wasn’t in that moment; he was lost. That is probably my most favourite picture. I felt it was me. I am not where I am supposed to be, my mind is always somewhere else.
How has your photography style and method evolved over time?
It has changed a lot. I never used to take colour pictures and now I do. I am taking pictures that are more composed than emotional. For instance, when I was doing my first series, I was taking pictures of people’s faces. They were close ups that were just telling their facial story, their emotions. So I stepped back and started including the environment, it helps [set] the mood of the [shot]. It helps me explain even better what I am saying without using words. For me it’s a narrative on its own. I am also drawn to lines, patterns, shapes [just] as much as I like [details] of faces and hands. I love people’s hands and the way they’re placed. I also like the side profile of people, I am always curious about what I don’t see.
When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
I never plan. I don’t know what I will get today. I don’t go out thinking that I will get a picture of a guy in an umbrella today (referring to one of his pictures). I just look for things that catch my eye. As soon as it does, I take the photo.
How does black-and-white versus colour play into your work? Do you think they are totally separate or complementary?
I don’t purposely separate them. When I started taking pictures I thought black-and-white (b/w) was cool because everyone takes pictures in colours. Then I realised that taking colour pictures were actually more difficult because when you are shooting colours you have more elements for your composition. In b/w you are only playing with grey tones. When you do colours, you have to make sure the colours on the scene go well together and don’t disturb the subject. So I started learning colour theory, what goes well together, hot and cold colours etc.
Do you take photos for yourself or for others?
For myself, so far. I have started taking pictures for others, such as family portraits. This is embarrassing, but a lot of family and friends come up to me and say, ‘Rammy you are a good photographer, can you take my picture?’ And I am like, I am sorry but I only take street pictures. I don’t know how to take [posed] pictures to make people look good.
What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?
I have been thinking a lot about this. I want people to realise that everyone can have a voice and in order to express yourself, you don’t need to be a good talker. There are ways to communicate. For me life is just an act because every moment that I look at, it’s a scene of something I can relate to it. All the words that I use to describe the photos are at one time or another, things that I felt. I believe we all have roles in our lives that we play to be a part of our environment or part of where we are. They all try to say something to me. I hope they speak to the audience too.