“My parents wanted me to be an architect, I always wanted to do fine art,” Dham Srifuengfung tells It’s Nice That. Dham, a Bangkok-born and now London-based photographer, obeyed his parents’ wishes for a while studying architecture at university before switching pathways to create his own route, completing a masters in cinematography and photography.
Initially, Dham used photography purely as a helpful tool to record the mediums he was studying. He began simply, shooting on black and white film and drawing still life pieces with graphite pencils. Starting small helped the photographer grow his confidence in the camera-based medium, allowing him “to focus on the tones, light and composition,” he explains. “Initially I found the switch to colour quite challenging, but it was like entering another realm — especially when you do the printing yourself.”
Viewing the photographer’s portfolio now, his use of colour is one of the most striking elements. Discovering Dham’s work on Instagram, the square format of the app curates his photographs into a tonal palette where he even manages to make an off-white seem exotic. While a large part of the photographer’s use of colour could be put down to his knack for aperture, it is enhanced by Dham’s use of styling and props, from extravagant fluffy pink coats to tropical fruits shot as still lives. Now, colour has become “something that I really love to chase,” says Dham. “It helps me explain so much about the feeling within the frame.”
One of Dham’s most endearing projects, Swim to Me is an example of his tonal eye at its best. Starring his childhood nanny, the series is the photographer’s attempt at “exploring things and people that I know well,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It was supposed to be kind of a love letter to all those things I am attached to in the past and the present.” The decision to use his childhood nanny, a member of his family who has been with them since before he was born, wasn’t the easiest choice. “I thought for a long time about who my subject would be and what kind of lady she would be too. I find photographing people I know and love very difficult, I usually don’t like doing it very much.”
Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine the series without this fabulous protagonist. Despite Dham explaining that she “was a very reluctant sitter and we only shot two rolls of film in our first sitting,” it is obvious his nanny got into the full swing of her photographic character, posing, smiling and seemingly loving the experience. However initially, “she didn’t trust me and was afraid I was going to make her look silly,” says Dham. With this in mind, it is clear how sensitive the photographer has made the shoot. With a minimal background and naturally shot, it is genuinely uplifting to view the photographs and imagine the model and photographer interacting.
Swim to Me additionally represents power and strength photographically considering Dham’s nanny was “diagnosed with a terminal disease a couple of years ago and the way she dealt with that was much stronger than I could ever imagine myself being and I really admire and love her,” he explains. In turn, the photographer wanted — and has succeeded at — making “her look powerful in everyone else’s eyes the only way I know how to.”
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