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The dandy photographer

Photos: Hype Project

Whoever said you can't do it all clearly hasn't heard of this guy. Fashion photographer, humanitarian and now curator: Kanachai 'Kit' Bencharongkul is catching everyone's eye, and not just for his dapper style or envy-inducing IG account. Far more than a globe-trotting son of telecom tycoon Boonchai, Kit has proven himself to be a tireless and wholehearted worker. He has shot covers for magazines such as Lips, Monocle and E; hosted Who Are You on TV and launched his own sweater brand (@KitB_Brand) from which all profits go to charity. But that's not all. He is also the curator of the ongoing "King of Kings" exhibition at MOCA Bangkok, a photo exhibition in tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. We asked Kit a few questions about his work, style and what curating this significant exhibition involves.

What is it that draws you to photography?

I like capturing people and making them look beautiful in their own way. I see fashion photography as an art form. You can do so much and be completely creative about it.

How did you get your start in fashion photography?

I took some short courses after I graduated from architecture. And then assisted photographers in New York for six months during which I gained so much experience and knowledge. It was eye-opening for me to see how the big shoots and big productions went down. It was hard work and also nerve-wracking. I even broke a light during a job on the set of a poster shoot for Law and Order. Thankfully it was at the end of the shoot and they didn't kill me for it!

When I came back to Thailand, I pitched some ideas to magazines through the connections that I had. My first published work was with Lips, which is still one of my favourite shoots to date and I am ever so grateful for the opportunity. I came up with this concept of madness/sickness and found a great location, which was a hospital for the elderly. We used four models to tell a story within the hospital and the stylists were completely on board with my ideas so they had all these amazing clothes and props which went really well with my vision.

How do you know you've got the right picture?

Sometimes you just know. It's hard to explain -- you just have to feel a mental connection with the model because then you will know when you have captured the particular moment with all the emotions and movements that are in front of you. Fashion photography requires an entire team for the shoot to work: the model, stylist, art director, hair and make-up. Building a good team is absolutely key and sometimes it takes more than one person to decide on the right photo in the end.

What has been your favourite job so far?

I would say every cover I have shot is quite special for me. It feels amazing when you see your work on the news-stand. The first shoot with Lips was something special to me because it was my first published work and I had control over the whole shoot. Another very interesting job is my recent work with UNHCR, which gave me the chance to put together an exhibition to raise awareness and funds for refugees. It's a completely new world for me, seeing the refugees in the camps in Thailand that I visited. I strongly felt that I had to use my photography to tell their stories. But it was very different from fashion pictures, of course. You have to be sensitive because these are real lives with real and heartbreaking stories. It was a challenge trying to capture this through their facial expressions and gestures, and in natural settings rather than on a set.

What was your role in making the "King of Kings" exhibition happen?

I was the curator, doing everything from choosing all the photos to arranging them on the wall. Most of the them are from MOCA's private archive which has been collected for over 10 years. I designed the exhibition as a way to tell the late king's life through photos.

How did you decide which photos should be included?

Mostly from my personal favourites. The photos are grouped into different themes, and I selected what I like and what I think the audience would like to see. There are so many that I love from the family photos of the His Majesty and his children when they were young. There are beautiful candid moments, some of which are very private. Another favourite is of the His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on their trips abroad. Both of them look absolutely astonishing and impeccable.

Why did you choose photos as a way to commemorate His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej?

I strongly believe in the saying that a picture tells a thousand words. By just looking at these photos, you get a sense almost as if you were there, in the moment. It is one of the best ways to indulge in reminiscence and nostalgia. Any moment of the past can be re-visualised in a true and accurate way.

What's the next big thing for you?

I do have a few personal projects coming up, but you'll just have to wait and see! I think they will be good!

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