Active Ageing – An ongoing investigation
I came to ComPeung with my briefcase filled with hopes and expectations, and with my camera as my only friend. As I am always excited when it comes to learning about new cultures and meeting people with a different background than myself, I felt this would be a true learning experience. I was especially eager to find out more about the elders in Doi Saket, this small community where I would mostly spend my days. This community turned out to be far different from what I was used to back home in Europe, and in some ways I felt like being in a whole new world. Initially I was curious about the lives of the elderly, how they spent their days, and what kind of activity they amused themselves with.
With a large Polaroid camera, a tripod and some borrowed flip-flops I set out into the “wilderness” of Doi Saket hunting for elderly people to connect with and hopefully to take a portrait of. When you are working like this you kind of have to rely on people being friendly and open-minded. The fact that I didn’t know more than two words in Thai didn’t help either. Looking back at it now, some months later, I’m overwhelmed to think about the responses I got from the people living in this little community. They invited me into their homes, offered me drinks and food, introduced me to friends and family, and last but not least, they let me (the complete stranger) take their photograph. It’s amazing how far a smile and some pointing fingers can take you. It is a friendly world, after all.
After a while I felt that the project became more about myself, rather than about the elderly people living there. Spending time in a place I didn’t know, making strange connections with people, reflecting on what I was actually doing, and having the time to really pause my life in this way made me aware of myself in a way I haven’t before. This led to a second piece of work from my stay at ComPeung. A series of self portraits all shot in or around the surroundings of Doi Saket. These photos could be seen as a reflection of how naked I felt in a sense, being in ComPeung, and how I tried my best to assimilate into the surroundings, even though my looks made it impossible to blend in.
Rasmus Vasli, October 2012