Where PAST meets PRESENT
A PHOTOGRAPHER CONTINUES HIS JOURNEY INTO THE LIFE OF HIS MAJESTY THE LATE KING BHUMIBOL ADULYADEJ, THIS TIME VISITING FIVE COUNTRIES TO JUXTAPOSE THE IMAGES
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.