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IN THE PICTURE #74: ADAM KLANN
In this feature called ‘In the Picture‘ we ask great photographers from all over the world to share their 10 most favorite Thailand photos with our readers. See Thailand through the lens of the photographer, read the background stories and learn more about the land of smiles.
Late last year we stumbled upon Adam’s Instagram page and of course we also asked him if he would like to participate in our column. Within a month we already had an answer with the below, super fast and super beautiful images. Very interesting what Adam has to say, read along…
Thanks Adam, chock dee krub / kaa!
Hello Adam, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello and sawatdee khrap from Bangkok, Thailand!
My name is Adam Klann and I am a portrait, street and commercial photographer. I hail from the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the USA with a love of friendly people, culture and good food. So while Thailand is of course an entirely different world, it sure does have some similarities as a springboard to assimilating. We love a lot of the same things on a base level. By trade, I am schooled in the field of risk management and insurance. But photography is my passion. I also love to travel, though that has been more difficult to achieve lately due to the pandemic.
My journey began long ago using automatic modes on low-end cameras (with predictable results), but it wasn’t until early 2019 that I really started honing my abilities and trying to produce something a little more special. It’s funny that at first, my primary desire was to document family memories only and perhaps some touristic exploits. Then, as my skills progressed, I shifted towards documenting the street and people. Now in my journey I am starting to think more seriously about what the art actually means. What am I saying with this photograph? How can I use this art as a form of expression? What story do I want to tell? I’d love to start telling those stories, and highlighting interests and causes that have purpose locally and beyond. Not only ‘what story,’ but ‘whose story’ is important to get out there?
I don’t think your journey in photography ever ‘ends,’ but rather takes on a new shape as your experiences change. So I’m excited for wherever the next chapter of my journey takes me.
Chock dee krub!
Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, November 2020
The Erawan Shrine is, to me, a perfect little microcosm of Bangkok. One of the busiest streets in Bangkok, Sukhumvit road is a veritable concrete jungle with office workers commuting, huge concrete risers for elevated trains, and malls filled with consumers. And yet here in one of the busiest areas is a traditional temple on the corner of the street, inviting believers and tourists alike to share in the tradition.
Dancers reply to donations made to the temple by donning their traditional clothing and headwear. They dance to a quickening melody, finish with a ‘wai,’ and then stand by for the next rotation. Here, we see one of the dancers having finished a dance, sitting in the queue behind her headwear. To top it off, one sees the contemporary issues we are facing with the need to don protective headwear.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Bangkok, November 2021
On the topic of temples, making merit is a way of life in Thailand – and not just for Buddhists. We see pictured here a woman at an Indian temple in Bang Rak, returning from her merit making while navigating the busy street crossing of motorbikes and tuk-tuks. The ornate and colorful temple behind her is contrasted with the realities of the street.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
I’ve been to the mountains in the north near Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai, I’ve been to the beaches in Phuket / Phang Nga / Koh Samet and many other islands/cities; the jungles and farmyards are familiar sights to the west (Kanchanaburi) and northeast (Khao Yai), temples to the near north. At the end of the day, though, I just love the vibrancy of the city in Bangkok: the variety and quality of food, the sights and sounds of the metropolis, the culture, the life and sense of purpose it seems to have. By the end of every vacation, the city invites me back home and I find comfort in it.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
A big gaping hole in my Thailand travel map is the Sukhothai area. I’d love to experience the greenery, cultural / historical buildings and parks there. There are multitudes of places I have still yet to travel within the country, but this currently sits on the top of my list.
Wat Pho in Bangkok, December 2018
Now aside of course from the physical beauty of the temples themselves, we have the tradition that goes with it. It’s not a tourist attraction to the faithful, even if that ends up driving a good portion of the funding to keep these structures intact. There are ceremonies often daily, and monks doing their daily duties. You will see, as in this image, groups of school children doing a visit for merit or for education.
I’ve seen students studying history, and seen them practicing art based on what is inside. There is often food being distributed to those in need. It is a community center, and not simply a religious building. I love the contrast here of the diligent students praying, and of the modern temptation of the phone. Taken at Wat Pho in the Old City, Bangkok.
Ancient City (Muang Boran) in Samut Prakan, September 2021
I would be remiss if I didn’t include some representation of the ornate interiors of the temples in Thailand. Pictured here we see the Buddha from ground up at the ‘Pavillion of the Enlightened’ in the Ancient City (Muang Boran) Park. There is a grandness here in scale and symmetry that is really remarkable. We are looking several floors up in this instance, and one can get multiple perspectives on this large shrine from above or below. A full-grown adult could fit in this statue’s hands! And it’s not just here in temples. I’ve been driving out in the country only to see a golden monk five stories high giving me a look from the road. It’s really something else.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
I’m a dad, and my family is my life. So I will answer this question from that perspective. Where would I take my family? My first answer would be the beach somewhere, like Hua Hin or out to Koh Samet which are both drivable from Bangkok.
As a non-beach option, go up and check out some of the humane elephant rescue outfits up in Chiang Mai such as the Elephant Nature Park. The kids will LOVE it, and you will learn how they take care of rescued elephants. Even if you are by yourself, this experience won’t disappoint. The kids enjoyed the Sibsan Resort when we last went, where elephants can be seen bathing in the river behind your hotel room. You can go to the local farms and pick strawberries when in season. And there are enough temples and mountainous areas to explore to your heart’s content. It’s a slower pace than Bangkok, to be sure. And if you prefer to drive, check out nearby Khao Yai, its farms that are kid friendly and its huge park.
Where do you like to eat?
If we are talking Thai restaurants, we have always loved Gedhawa, previously on Sukhumvit Soi 35 but now on 33. It feels like we are in someone’s home in northern Thailand, and they have great everything: khao soi gai, yam som-o, khanom jeen nam ya, you name it. It’s good. The decor/feel is very traditional, and service is friendly.
Outside of Thai food, I really enjoy the healthy fare at ‘Vietnamese and More‘ near Klong Toei, like a great Bahn Mi sandwich or some Bun Thit Nuong. (Usually delivered!)
I’m a big fan of Ama Bakery in Silom also! Those pandan buns – fresh baked, warm, and gooey – are out of this world.
Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok, February 2021
I’ve submitted a cliché here. One of the most photographed places in the city, people love the Hua Lamphong train station. Only, I document it here for a reason. It is being shut down in order to shift train traffic to a brand new, shining, modern facility in Bang Sue. Much of the city seems to be headed in that direction. We see neighborhoods disappearing in succession, making way for the new. And that’s not all bad. People will enjoy the modern conveniences that come with new construction, and things will flow more smoothly in all likelihood. But there is a certain character to places like this in Bangkok and even the country as a whole that bears some reflection. Much like the ship of Theseus, will the city still be the same city once all of its parts have been replaced one by one?
BTS Sky Train in Bangkok, February 2021
Speaking of trains – one cannot traverse the city of Bangkok without having once taken a journey on the elevated BTS Sky Train. With new stations constantly being built to cap the end of each line, the distance one is able to travel with relative ease (and without a car in all of that traffic!) in Bangkok is growing. It’s not perfect, but it is quite convenient and a modern beacon for the ancient city. I caught a moment here when people had somewhat abandoned the train in the midst of the pandemic. Usually this car would be packed to the brim with passengers heading to work or wherever life took them. In this case, it was as empty as I had seen it in a long while, and found it a bit surreal. These days, activity on the train has returned a bit more to its bustling normalcy.
Tip us a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by.
I am not an expert on the bar scene, but for coffee there are so many options. If I am getting my packed/ground coffee, it’s usually Ceresia Coffee Roasters and the espresso blend, or even Phil Coffee. If I’m close by the Phrom Phong stop on the BTS and I want good coffee, I’ll happily grab a cup at 39 Espresso. Or if I just need something quick and not too expensive, I head to a small local shop called 41 Coffee.
What is your favorite Thai dish?
Our kids have a nanny that can cook amazing Thai food, and our go-to favorite is her ‘Nam Tok Moo’ served with ‘Som Tam’ and ‘khao niaw’ sticky rice (zaap!). You get the richness of the broth used with the roast pork shoulder, the toastiness of the rice and the zip of the manao (lime). Add in some salt and chili and you are in for a treat. It goes so well with the som tam and feels healthy-ish compared to other fried food or coconut milk options. No disrespect to those options, as a good massaman curry or khao soi noodle is also near the top of the list for me.
Bangkok, March 2021
Food is such an important component to daily life in Thailand. Here in this photo, you have descended one staircase of the BTS and are looking over the railing down at ‘kap khao’ fare, which literally means ‘with rice.’ You can pick a ready-to-eat fragrant meal on the go and take it with you to work. Spicy mushroom larb for breakfast? Perhaps a delectable pork curry? Why not? The typical morning meal is traditionally heavier here than it is perhaps in other countries. The availability of such a variety of types of foods and flavors is a real draw for both locals and tourists alike.
Poe Sam Ton Market in Bangkok, March 2021
Whether you are a local, a tourist, a buyer, a seller, a photographer…you know the draw of the wet and dry markets in Thailand. They are vibrant, active places full of color and conversation. Products and ingredients are local, delicious and inexpensive. It wouldn’t be a visit to Thailand without at least one visit to such a place. The method of this woman in the picture fascinated me: her own little assembly line to deconstruct the mango, and then reconstruct it with a side of sticky rice for sale. Meanwhile, one has to dodge the stream of motorbikes traversing the narrow alley.
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
If we vacation it has to be a vacation, and we try to go somewhere really worthwhile. Lately we have found ourselves driving down to the Paradee in Koh Samet to avoid flying if possible. The beach has white sand, the water is turquoise blue, and it’s only a 2.5 hour drive from Bangkok. There is a large tree on the beach there so the kids can play all day in the shade if the sun is too much. They have a nice catamaran sailboat for use, kayaks, snorkel gear, and really great food. The restaurant is outdoors/open air, so it’s a ‘pandemic-friendly’ option as well.
If we chose to fly to the beach, another favorite is the Pimalai Resort & Spa in Koh Lanta. Beautiful hillside views, clean / white beach, and excursions to nearby islands for snorkel / scuba are lovely. Plus, of course, excellent food.
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
It is my mantra when visiting a foreign country that one should do their best to learn the culture before and during the visit. Try to learn / use a couple of key Thai phrases, keep an open mind on food and experiences, take differences in how things are done in stride. And try to appreciate the point of view of the local. It will ingratiate yourself to others and give you the best experience wherever you may go.
One needs to understand that life can move at a different pace in different places. If you relax and take a ‘mai pen rai’ attitude (‘don’t worry/no problem’), then your time here will be extra enjoyable.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
Well, I figure that much has been covered in this section from other’s entries. So here is one for anyone who doesn’t like spicy food. You may say to someone, ‘mai phet’ meaning not spicy, or ‘phet nid noy’ which means a little spicy. But these can mean different things to different people and you might get something that is only not spicy ‘for a Thai person.’ If you really cannot handle any spice, just say “mai sai prik loy.” Meaning do not put chilis in at all! It is much clearer to the vendor that you don’t want any spice.
But I will add: Try something spicy in Thailand, just for fun. The flavors are greatly enhanced in most dishes this way.
Chinatown in Bangkok, September 2020
For sights and sounds of the evening, there are many places to visit in the city of Bangkok. But for my money, Chinatown is hard to beat. The neon and fluorescent lights permeate the strip, casting a glow on the patrons and vendors. The wafting smell of anise and five spice. Crispy duck hanging in the window next to the weathered faces of seasoned shop owners. Young revelers snacking and imbibing, glasses clinking in anticipation of the night ahead. Activity abounds.
Near Wat Mangkon in Bangkok, September 2020
I’ve decidedly chosen to exhibit modes of transportation in this piece, whether consciously or unconsciously. The essential experience of a tuk-tuk ride: loud, no seat belts, susceptible to rain showers, and the smell of burning diesel fuel fluctuating with the breeze. But especially with the lights, sounds, and smells of the evening both inside and outside of the vehicle, one does get quite the experience. Just remember to be shrewd with your fare negotiations.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nowadays, electric tuk-tuks are also driving around Bangkok. Check out our article on MuvMi.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
I use a Sony A7III and a multitude of lenses, mostly fixed focal length wide aperture primes. I’ve come to learn over time that most full frame cameras can do a lot of the same things, and while little enhancements can matter for low light or auto focus, at the end of the day a skilled photographer can be out there making great photos with an iPhone or cheaper aps-c camera. What matters most is how you see the world, how you plan or compose the shot, and what story you want to tell. A full frame camera isn’t going to make you a better photographer. Start from the bottom up learning the core photographic skills, and upgrade only if you feel your camera is limiting your ability to get the shot you want.
Where can our readers find your work / photos?
Check out my work on IG: https://www.instagram.com/adamklann/ and Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/abkbadger.
I am not big into Facebook but can be contacted / located at https://www.facebook.com/adamklannphotography.
Brand new twitter account: https://twitter.com/abkvisualart.
Portfolio = https://abkvisualart.myportfolio.com
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
Check out @erik_visuals on Instagram if you haven’t already. He does some great atmospheric work including some nice imagery from Thailand (and abroad).
Chinatown in Bangkok, September 2020
You’ll find the most interesting things walking the streets, especially at night. This dog faithfully stands by a shop owner either next to or on the stool, observing the passerby. He is largely unattended, but obviously well taken care of. Likewise, those passing by always find an interest in the live dog statue. Perhaps that is why he stands there, in case a few unwanted snacks get passed along for his dinner.
Bangkok Old Town, November 2021
What’s one other enduring, defining characteristic of Thailand? It has to be the people. Their friendly, open attitude is so refreshing compared to many countries. And fun is a key tenet of their ethos. Is it ‘mai sanuk’ (not fun)? Don’t bother. ‘Sanuk?’ Full steam ahead. As a photographer, being in Thailand is a joy not only for the richness of subjects and experiences, but also the wonderful attitude most people bring with them. The feeling is contagious! Here a man and his son in their colorful yellow clothing take a break from fishing in the Chao Praya River for a quick portrait.