Same ๆ

Barry Macdonald

September 21, 2023

When the photographer visited Thailand for the first time in 2017, he was impressed by the relaxed good humour and the hustle and bustle on the streets. Since then, the country is one of his favourite places for taking photographs.
LFI: What is your project about?
Barry Macdonald:
“Same same, but different” is a common phrase in Thailand mainly used with tourists. I think it shows a flexibility of thought and the Thai flair for translation, doubling the word for emphasis. Editing the photos, which were taken over the course of the past six years, I found I had a lot of pairs that embodied this concept, they naturally fell into place around this theme. In Thailand there are a lot of dualities, like the people being very gentle, but the national sport is Muay Thai Kickboxing, I hope my photos have managed to capture this feeling. The symbolๆin the title is used in Thailand to indicate that the word or phrase preceding it is repeated.

Your photographs seem like snapshots but, at the same time, very well composed in their effect.
I love to wander around. I have a rough idea of the area I want to visit, but when there I randomly keep turning down streets that look lively or interesting. For candid photos you might only get one chance, so I try to make sure I’ve thought it through before taking the shot. My photos are normally taken pretty quickly, but have been pre-composed in my head, so that’s why they feel like that. For portraits I find talking with the people for a while and explaining what I’m doing puts them at ease and gets better results. Taking photos isn’t always the goal; connecting with people first is more important, if the feeling is good then the photos will come along.

What significance does colour have for you – both as a photographic stylistic device and for illustrating Thai life?
I suppose colour has played a vital part in nature, and that has transferred into modern culture through clothes and design, etc., and that is why it interests me. Thailand is such a colourful country. The animals, plants and fruits are all so vibrant and this is matched by the orange robes of monks and the bright pink or yellow taxis in Bangkok. I have always loved bold bright colours, and here the colours are strong and enhanced by the powerful sun and deep shadows. Sometimes I feel like a bee attracted to brightly coloured plants.

What influence does the camera, the Leica M240, have on your photography?
I like to shoot with a rangefinder because of the simplicity. Being able to zone focus by feel allows me to pre focus. Most of the time I shoot with a 35mm or 50mm lens, this helps me judge the frame before looking through the viewfinder. This helps so much shooting candid photos. I got used to the frame lines inside the viewfinder quickly, and really appreciate seeing what’s just in or out of frame. Working on the street with a bigger camera sometimes makes it harder to be subtle, but my M240 is a nice small size with a neat lens.
Katja Hübner
ALL IMAGES ON THIS PAGE: © Barry Macdonald
EQUIPMENT: Leica M (Typ 240), Summicron-M 35 f/2 Asph, Summicron-M 50 f/2, Elmarit-M 28 f/2.8 Asph

Barry Macdonald+-

Portrait of Barry Macdonald by Christopher Andreou
© Christopher Andreou

The British photographer started his career shooting music photography. While travelling on tour with bands around the UK, Europe and the USA, he started to do personal work during his travels, documenting the streets. After visiting Thailand in 2017 he has been back numerous times each year, expanding his body of work looking at Thai culture. Macdonald is having his first solo exhibition in Thailand, revolving around street and documentary photography. The exhibition will run from September 2 to 29, at the 6060 Arts Space. A Zine of the photographs will be released at the same time.  More