Friday, July 19, 2013

Twenty minutes with the Tiffany's Cabaret showgirls.

I’ve just returned from Thailand after being invited to participate in a project organised by the Office of Contemporary Art & Culture for the Thai Ministry of Culture.

The project, called “The International Photographer & Writer, Thailand” was initiated in response to a statement made by Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, related to promoting tourism to the Chonburi and Krabi provinces. Five writers, ten Thai photographers and seven foreign photographers were selected to participate in the project, which ran from 28th of June until 5th of July. Our brief was to explore and photograph Chonburi and Krabi provinces, with the outcome being a book and exhibition that will be shown at the new Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Centre later this year. 

Over the eight day period I roamed across Chonburi and Krabi provinces covering subjects ranging from nightlife along Pattaya’s infamous Walking Street and the artisans working on the very impressive Sanctuary of Truth to the ‘sea gypsy’ villages of Ko Lanta and spending time with a group of fishermen on their boats and in their ‘fish farms’ out to sea.

On the second day of the project my fixer received a phone call that if we were interested we could have an hour’s exclusive access to the dressing rooms of the famous Tiffany’s Cabaret show that evening. Tiffany’s is Thailand’s most famous transgender cabaret show which first started in 1974 and presents a spectacular sequin clad spectacle of over the top katoeys (transsexuals) lip-synching their way around the stage. Getting behind the scenes access was an opportunity that would probably never present itself to me again so I jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately our location and traffic congestion meant that by the time we arrived at Tiffany’s I had less than half an hour to shoot before the show started. Not much time to think about things and no time to grab anything more than candids as the ‘girls’ were all in the final stages of their prep before heading out onto the stage. After about twenty minutes, my time was up and the dressing room emptied as the curtain went up. I would have liked to get back to Tiffany’s and shoot some more to round out the story, but unfortunately the pace of the project didn’t allow for that to happen. Maybe one day…