Nikolaus Freiherr von Nostitz, 46, a minor German aristocrat from Munich with ancestral roots in Silesia, settled in Bangkok in 1993 and plans to leave in 2015.
"I arrived somewhat by accident as a backpacker, and then chose to become a professional photographer--making a profession out of my obsessions: photography, travelling, collecting experience," he once explained.
A member of Hamburg's Focus Photo and Press Agency, Nick Nostitz, as he is usually known, immerses himself in subjects to a degree that makes most other journalists look like magpies. He spent years careening around Bangkok with the Por Teck Tueng Foundation recovering corpses. Nostitz speaks the language, eats the food and ingests the culture. He has lived in quiet rural areas and along humdrum city streets. He makes a point of getting to know ordinary people and learning how they cope in the world. He has seen aspects of Thailand that many would prefer to block out.
Nostitz's Patpong--Bangkok's Twilight Zone
(Westzone, London, 2000) is an unflinching take on the dark hedonism of the City of Angels. Similarly, Red vs Yellow Volume 1: Thailand's Crisis of Identity
and Red vs Yellow Volume 2: Thailand's Political Awakening
(White Lotus Press, Bangkok, 2009 and 2011) are examples of eyewitness photojournalism at its most obsessive and compelling.
Nostitz also covered the bloody war on drugs in Bangkok. His work has been published by leading European magazines such as Stern and Der Spiegel. It has appeared at more length on New Mandala, the probing website of the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific where academics and journalists rub shoulders with the opinionati and trolls. Unusually, Nostitz's reports have been extensively translated into Thai, suggesting that gaps not just in foreign coverage but also local journalism have been filled.
The exhibition at the FCCT is culled from literally thousands of photographs, and reflects two consciously differing approaches: expressive, manipulable black and white for fly-on-the-wall nighttime images, and unrelenting, sometimes horrifying, colour for political documentary.
If the measure of any photographer's success is provoking thoughtful reactions from viewers, Nostitz does better than most. With nods to Brassai in Paris and Weegee in New York, there is nothing surreptitious about the way he goes about his business. Many of his subjects have clearly allowed him into their worlds; only the dead are unaware of his optical undertakings.
Not surprisingly, his work provokes discomfort and animosity in some quarters. Nostitz was brazenly attacked at a rally in November 2013, escaped an abduction attempt in May, and has received numerous threats. No longer able to work or support his family, he is finally calling it a day and returning to Germany. His departure will certainly not be met with indifference by either his admirers or detractors. Both might agree that it finally removes from the scene arguably the keenest foreign observer of Thailand's complex street politics.
Foreign Correspondents' Club of
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Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
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