Harit Srikhao is a young photographer from Thailand. His IPA shortlisted series, Mt. Meru, reflects on the political crisis that gripped Thailand from 2007 to 2014, prompting an awakening that called into question long-accepted social norms. The series draws on idolatry and Hindu cosmology, reconstructing discernable Thai imagery of ‘the king’ to challenge social hierarchy.
The series recently appeared in Foam Magazine’s annual Talent issue, as well as in an exhibition at the Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam. In 2016, Harit received the second prize for the Gomma Grant, for his series Whitewash, which was shortlisted again in 2017 for the BJP Breakthrough Award. We spoke to Harit to find out more about his work.
Can you tell us about your IPA shortlisted series, Mt. Meru?
I am always fascinated by how photography and images can construct the truth. The idea for Mt. Meru has developed since 2014. The function of image in the series is not only to distort remembrance, but also to control dreams and motivate an ultimate desire. I am trying to redefine a Hindu cosmology called “Traibhumikatha”, which divides the universe into three: Heaven, Earth and Hell, to justify the concept of goodness and sin, life and after life and karmic law. In my country, the metaphysical shapes social structure and hierarchy, and the king is considered the highest position of the universe.
What inspired you to put Mt. Meru together?
The work is based on the surreal phenomenon in Thailand. Portraits of ordinary people turn into holy, godly icons, which can be seen across the country. My opinion on how idolatry works is that it acts like pornography, providing viewers with an escape from their disappointing realities, into a fantasy world. Mt. Meru is a recreation of these idolatrous images of the king.
How long did it take you to create this series?
About a year. The series is my dissertation project for my first degree in Bangkok. I began researching in the middle of 2016 and started sketching late that same year. The production period took place in early 2017, and final post production ended in September 2017.
What is your next project?
I will be going to Germany at the end of this year. I expect my work to be more of a process of exploring and learning – since my works over the last two years in Thailand have been stage photography, it might be time to go back to documentary photography. With the documentary method, I am able to consider and photograph my surroundings.
What does it mean to be shortlisted for the International Photography Awards?
In 2017, my Whitewash series was shortlisted in British Journal of Photography’s Breakthrough Award. Being shortlisted again for the International Photography Awards will be another substantial and significant step in my career.