Where PAST meets PRESENT



TWO YEARS AGO TO­DAY, a whole na­tion was plunged into grief as the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment was made of the death of the beloved monarch His Majesty King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej on Oc­to­ber 13. Many Thais have sought com­fort since then by go­ing around the coun­try as well as fur­ther afield to visit the Royal Projects ini­ti­ated by the late King and the many coun­tries he vis­ited along with Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

Apisit Su­pak­itcharoen is one of those who have con­tin­ued to travel back through time. The 37- year- old be­came some­thing of an on­line celebrity last year when his pho­to­graphs show­ing him hold­ing an old photo of the late King in front of the same lo­ca­tion where the im­age was cap­tured went vi­ral. Us­ing a tech­nique known as Dear Pho­to­graph, which al­lows the space to “talk” to the over­lapped pho­to­graph, he has not only shown his love and loy­alty to the late Monarch but has brought com­fort to the more than 40,000 fol­low­ers of his Face­book page “Tee Tee Por Pai”. For the sec­ond in the Dear Pho­to­graph se­ries, Apisit vis­ited five coun­tries – Ja­pan, Malaysia, Eng­land, France, and Switzer­land.

“When I started this project, ev­ery­body was very sad and I wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent that would con­nect younger Thais to the places His Majesty used to go while also show­ing what that same place looks like to­day,” says Apisit.

The late King spent his much of his child­hood and ado­les­cence in Lausanne, Switzer­land, liv­ing there for 18 years from 1933-1951. While Lausanne has changed over time, the apart­ment build­ing at 16 Av­enue Tis­sot, in one of the most pic­turesque of Swiss set­tings and where the royal fam­ily lived from 1933 to1935, re­mains largely un­changed. And it is this build­ing that Apisit has used to give one of the most nos­tal­gic images a new life. The photo shows the three royal sib­lings – King Ananda Mahi­dol and Her Royal High­ness the late Princess Galyani Vad­hana, and their youngest brother, King Bhu­mi­bol on a bike – in front of the apart­ment. The orig­i­nal ap­peared in the book “Chaonai Lek Lek – Yuwakasat” (“Lit­tle Roy­als – Young Kings”) writ­ten by the late Princess.

Dur­ing his time in Switzer­land, His Majesty ac­quired his life­long in­ter­ests in pho­tog­ra­phy and mu­sic. He also learned to ski and how to sail. Apisit headed to Cham­pex Lake in nearby Valais, de­scribed in the book as a place where the fam­ily liked to spend time dur­ing July and Au­gust, hired a boat and set out on the wa­ter, snap­ping an im­age along­side one of the late King as a young boy row­ing a boat sur­rounded by the moun­tains.

Dur­ing the win­ter months, the sib­lings and their mother would head to Zer­matt to ski and take in the spec­tac­u­lar scenery of the alpine world. A photo from that era shows King Bhu­mi­bol and King Ananda en­joy­ing them­selves on the slopes of Mount Rif­fel­berg in 1935. And even though there is no snow in Apisit’s shot, it is ob­vi­ous that he is stand­ing more or less in the same spot.

In 1960, King Bhu­mi­bol re­turned to Switzer­land this time with Queen Sirikit and the Royal chil­dren, us­ing the coun­try as a base dur­ing their six-month state tour of 13 Euro­pean coun­tries. One of the most impressive pic­tures shows Their Majesties re­lax­ing in the yard at Villa Flon­za­ley, Puidoux. The over­lapped pic­ture per­per­fectly matches the back­drop, with the shape of the trees the same and the elec­tric post still stand­ing high 58 years later.

On that same tour, Their Majesties re­ceived a warm wel­come from the Bri­tish peo­ple dur­ing their state visit be­tween July 19 and 23, 1960. One of the pho­tos from the English cap­i­tal shows the his­toric mo­ment when Their Majesties ar­rived at Lon­don’s Vic­to­ria Sta­tion, where they were wel­comed by Her Majesty Queen El­iz­a­beth, the Duke of Ed­in­burgh, and the royal fam­ily. Trav­el­ling in a car­riage, the royal cou­ple were driven slowly through part of the city and Apisit man­aged to iden­tify the same spot as the orig­i­nal pho­tog­ra­pher to take his pho­to­graph of the gate of the West­min­ster Abbey where Their Majesties laid the wreath at the tomb of the un­known war­rior on July 19, 1960.

And Apisit is far from fin­ished with his project. “I’ve been to only 26 prov­inces and five coun­tries over the past two years. So there are 50 more prov­inces to go and that’s why I’m car­ry­ing on with this project. The main prob­lem is that many beau­ti­ful pho­to­graphs are in­ac­cu­rate so it is hard for me to take a pic­ture of the ex­act lo­ca­tion in the present and juxtapose it with that of past. For ex­am­ple, while I have in­for­ma­tion that the orig­i­nal photo was taken in a cer­tain area of Thai­land, I can’t find the place un­less there is an un­changed land­mark or other per­sons in the pic­ture that I can ref­er­ence and most of those are of­fi­cials who have long since re­tired,” he says.

Work­ing over­seas is made even more dif­fi­cult as both time and bud­get are lim­ited. “I have to re­ally study the orig­i­nal pic­tures in ad­vance to make sure that I can iden­tify the best place for the pic­ture. Like when I went to the ski re­sort there was no snow, so I re­lied on former staff for ad­vice. Or the pic­ture at Villa Flon­za­ley; I didn’t know the ex­act lo­ca­tion of the trees and elec­tric post or even if they were still there. I’ve walked a lot, round and round, and luck­ily found the place. For the visit to Eng­land, I watched the video records of His Majesty sev­eral times. In Ja­pan, I re­quested per­mis­sion from the Thai Em­bassy as I knew that the orig­i­nal photo was taken in the back­yard of the res­i­dence. I also printed many images be­fore­hand to try and en­sure the best def­i­ni­tion.

“Then, when I came back home, I searched for more in­for­ma­tion about the orig­i­nal pho­to­graphs so as to ac­quire the date and source, which can serve as ref­er­ences,” he ex­plains.

“We can learn a great deal from the projects His Majesty’s ini­ti­ated and this brings great joy not just to me or my fol­low­ers on the so­cial me­dia but also to my par­ents and my wife who are ac­com­pa­ny­ing me on this jour­ney. They let me take all the time I need and are as de­lighted as I am when we dis­cover these very spe­cial lo­ca­tions. I’ve learnt a great deal fol­low­ing the re­mark­able royal trail in­clud­ing per­se­ver­ance and the im­por­tance of think­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally. Ev­ery pho­to­graph speaks for it­self.”

Jux­ta­pos­ing past and present: the back­ground has barely changed in these two pho­tos, the orig­i­nal show­ing Their Majesties the Queen and the late King in Switzer­land in 1960.

The orig­i­nal photo was taken at the beau­ti­ful back­yard of the res­i­dence of the Thai Em­bassy in Ja­pan, which re­mains very much the same to­day.

Their Majesties were wel­comed by the Bri­tish monarch at Lon­don’s Vic­to­ria Sta­tion dur­ing their State Visit in 1960.

One of the most nos­tal­gic images shows the three royal sib­lings in front of the apart­ment build­ing at 16 Av­enue Tis­sot.

L’Arc de Tri­om­phe at the top of the Champs El­y­sees in Paris.

On July 19, 1960 Their Majesties vis­ited West­min­ster Abbey.

King Bhu­mi­bol and King Ananda ski­ing on Mount Rif­fel­berg in Zer­matt.

Apisit Su­pak­itcharoen

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