The sensual fashion photographer Tada Varich opens up about his path from Yaowarat to New York and back, being a mommy’s boy and how to preserve one’s artistic identity.

I grew up in Yaowarat which had lots of illegal stuff going on at that time. I was a pretty wild kid who broke every rule, like going to casinos and smoking when I was only 11-12 years old. The casinos let us in because they knew our parents. And our parents were just too busy to take care of us.

I played hooky to go play snooker a lot. I just didn’t like high school. I got thrown out eventually.

I didn’t tell my parents and secretly studied at an informal education school. Then I entered Bangkok University as a communication and design major because I love drawing.

After graduating, a stylist friend of mine went to Image magazine to show them his portfolio. I had shot some of his stuff and they hired me too.

After working for a couple of years, I decided to go to Chicago with a friend. I just wanted to try something new. I worked at restaurants and studied English, then moved to New York.

I chose New York because I wanted to work in a big fashion city. Being in a fashion capital really polished my style.

While working as a bartender, I decided I should do something to advance myself instead of living day to day. So I collected money to study photography courses in New York. I didn’t have a lot of money so I only did a couple courses at FIT and NYU.

I got lots of jobs in New York. At one point, I didn’t want to come back to work in Thailand.

The turning point was the terrorist attack in 2001. My mom asked me to come home so I did. I felt a little heartbroken because I was leaving work
behind but I chose my family.

I put my savings towards buying camera gear and spent the rest of it on a vacation in Hawai’i for a week before coming home. When I landed in Bangkok, I was broke.

I was surprised by the number of international and local magazines that had popped up in Thailand. But I had to ride buses to go show my portfolio to the editors.

I think my work stood out from the photographers working in Bangkok at that time, so I got two jobs about the same time.

I am not an erotic photographer. I can take any kind of photo. This reputation probably comes from my first job, where I took photos of Lookkade-Methinee Kingpayom in a bikini.

I want to try another style of photography like documentary or underwater.
I love adventure travel, going somewhere hard to reach. I can forget about my work and focus on my problems. I used to go all over the world but now I love to travel in Thailand. It’s the most comfortable place.

I saw a ghost once in Croatia. The hotel was full so I decided to sleep on a cliff above the sea. I was about to sleep when I saw this man standing at my feet. He was bright and glowing. I really freaked out. I closed my eyes and prayed in Thai until he was gone. He might have been an angel.

I am both happy and sad when I’m praised as Thailand’s leading photographer. I am happy that I can make a living in this profession but I am kind of losing my identity because so many eyes are on me.

I don’t follow trends anymore. I used to be a person who bought brand name products, changing my phone every three months. Then I realized that a few years of spending like this is equal to what someone can earn in a lifetime. Now, I don’t even have a smartphone.

I cherish my personal time. I love to read. I don’t use Facebook or any social network anymore. I am at the age when I don’t want to force myself to be something others are expecting me to be. It’s unnecessary.

I love Bangkok. It’s a big city full of sin and belongs to strong spirited people. If you can get through it, it’s the best school of life.

If I was Bangkok governor I would close brothels. There are too many places of this kind. It makes us a top sex tourism destination.

If I feel tired, sometimes, I tell my friends that I won’t be here for a while then turn off my phone and disappear. 

Other than a camera, what I need when I do photo shoots is the snacks. I love sweets.

I was offered jobs in the US but I decided to be here with my family. It’s true that you will earn more money and reputation there, but it’s far from home. My mom doesn’t want money. She wants me.

We don’t see that many Thai photographers going inter because it’s quite hard and Thais are always scared that foreigners are better than you. It’s not true. I want to tell the next generation of photographers that they shouldn’t be afraid.

You are judged by your work, not your race. Actually, I think people love to work with Thais. Interview by Monruedee Jansuttipan and Sritala Dhanasarnsombut


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