Interview with Panisa Ongwat for 2021 ILFORD CCP Salon
Photography by Panisa Ongwat
Panisa Ongwat is a Melbourne based artist who uses a mix of mediums to capture the under-represented beauty of everyday moments. The 2021 ILFORD Salon will be Panisa's third year participating in Salon.
What's your name and background?
Panisa Ongwat: My name’s Panisa Ongwat, and I’m a BFA Visual Arts graduate from 2021 at the VCA. I migrated to Australia from Thailand at age 10 with only my mother. Throughout my formative years, she provided me with a Thai perspective which I otherwise would have lost given the majority of my schooling was done in Australia, this dual perspective heavily influenced my personality which flows into my art.
Is this the first time you have participated in Salon, and what is the story behind your submitted works?
PO: This would be my third time participating in the Salon, my submitted work is a photograph I took one evening of the frosted glass balcony divider in my apartment. I didn’t take the photo initially as I was captivated by the way the setting sun was glowing through the glass it wasn’t something I’d seen before. The original print is a 100 x 76 cm chromogenic print that I had the opportunity to make for my grad showpiece.
What inspires you to take photos?
PO: I initially started taking photos because I wanted to share with my friends what Thailand was really like, I didn’t like the fabricated clean-cut image that the tourism industry displayed, I wanted to reveal the gritty realities of a developing nation.
At the moment I’m fascinated by the little things that people often overlook. Through my photography, I take the time to really appreciate life and provide a platform to acknowledge and champion the neglected and forgotten.
How do you prefer to shoot and using what genre of instrument?
PO: I prefer to shoot on film as I personally find the medium makes me work harder for my pictures, I take time to compose my shots and if after a month when I finish a roll and I don’t get the shot that I wanted that’s okay, cause that’s life and It’ll just stay in my mind as a memory. 35 is the go to format simply because of accessibility but I would love to start shooting 120 for a higher resolution image and for when I get to go back to printing in the darkroom.
Has your use of social media changed or influenced the way that you create, share and view your work?
PO: Social media is obviously a great tool for marketing and sharing my art to the masses, however, I don’t feel a need to conform to what my followers want. Given social media has been around for pretty much my whole career it’s difficult to say if it has influenced my art because I don’t have another reference. It makes it far more accessible to view what other creators are doing and I have seen how people can really grow in popularity on it. Having said this though, I make art for myself, because it’s what I like doing and it’s something I’d be doing whether I’m successful or not, if people online like my art then that’s great but with my photographs I’m definitely not trying to appease anyone else but myself.
Which is stronger to you the influence of people or the influence of place?
PO: I have been influenced by both people and place at different points in my career. Had I answered this question before the COVID-19 pandemic I would have said people is my greatest influence, I loved capturing the candid nature of people within their worlds, appreciating a moment of stillness within their fast pace lives. Since 2020 I didn’t want my images to be grounded within the pandemic and with everyone wearing masks it made it difficult to avoid. Accordingly, I shifted my focus onto objects and places, making the captured moments feel more timeless while retaining my general theme of the overlooked.
If you could quiz one photographer about their method, who would it be?
PO: I would love to spend a day with Rinko Kawauchi, getting to know her and her Japanese Culture. Her photos are poetic and highlights the fragility in life which heavily inspires my practice. Her photo book “Illuminance” is my all time favourite photo book that I had a chance to study.
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