• Chinese portraits

    2006 - 2008
    In the mid-19th century, Bangkok experienced strong economic development. Chinese immigrants contributed to this prosperity. Today, Thais of Chinese origin constitute 14 percent of the population, that is, approximately 10 million people. In Bangkok, the vast majority of the families have Chinese ancestors. Most of them are third or fourth-generation descendants of the 1 million Chinese immigrants who arrived between 1920 and 1940. In order to truly belong, those immigrants had to give up their culture and become "Thai", which meant dropping their real names and the use of their language in public. Most of those photographs were made between 1930 and 1960 in Chinatown’s photo studios in Bangkok. In her book "L’amant", or "The Lover", French author Marguerite Duras recalls this tradition of family pictures upon a person’s imminent death, which she had seen in Saigon in her childhood. "All people photographed looked virtually the same in the photos, their resemblance was astounding", she writes. "Portraits were touched up to such an extent that their distinctive features, if there still were any, nearly disappeared. Faces were all dressed in the same way to face eternity, they were smoothed out, uniformly made to look younger. All men were wearing the same turban, all women the same bun, their hair pulled into the same hairstyles, men and women in the same straight-collar garment. They all had the same look that I still would be able to differentiate from others".