Lee Chang Ming: Introduce yourself…
Estelle Srivijittakar: My name is Estelle Srivijittakar. If you’re wondering, it’s pronounced sree-wee-jeet-thrah-kahn. It’s Sanskrit for majestic, exquisite, and strangely beautiful.
I’ve been in LA since of late 2012. I teach photography to amazing kids. I spend a lot of time feeding my seeking curiosity in matters seemingly unrelated to photography, but absolutely related to perceiving and being in the world.
In your ongoing series “Vernacular Songs”, you document rural life in Thailand. What brought you there and what was the motivation behind the series?
I grew up listening to the my parents’ stories about rural life. Both of their families, grandparents and great, great grandparents included, always had to farm for sustenance and income. As a daughter of farmers who bartered their ties to their homeland for economic opportunity, I’ve always understood part of my privilege as a cultural loss. My generation is so vastly different from the rest of my family’s history. It’s very clear to me now that this loss has compelled me to seek experiences and photographic subjects that allow me to reconnect with my ancestral and rural lineage.
Vernacular Songs also began as a Fulbright proposal to photograph community forestry culture in Thailand. I had done a year’s worth of research on ethno-forestry, land-use and forest development that I couldn’t sit and wait for an answer. I never received the scholarship, so it was great I jumped the gun and followed through with the travel itinerary I developed. At the time, I was determined to provide visual proof that community forests existed as cultural landscapes, tracts of land that co-evolved with the people who inhabit that and could be expressive of a greater community narrative and identity. What I had expected was only a fraction of what I experienced. What I had expected was only a sliver of something really powerful. There’s so much amazing history, tradition, struggle, adaptation, and wisdom beneath those layers of land.
What is your series “June Letters" about?
June Letters started as project about fishing in New England. I wanted to learn how to fish and hang out with my friend, Brian, who had described beautiful fishing spots he frequented. So I bought a two-week ticket East. What I captured was part fishing trip, but definitively a diary of something else too. I saw a lot of old friends, boyfriends, and had just broken up with someone. I also felt very autonomously focused on my project in Thailand. For me, the work exists as notes, letters to myself, about the painful and empowering forms of love, anticipation, and being alone.
Some of your pictures and series tend to have some vague link to nature and conversation, why so?
I’ve spent a good amount of years dabbling in farming, conservation, horticulture, and just loving whole foods. I’ve also learned that I’m naturally inclined to strong, small communities who have a dialogue about meaningful responsibility. Sometimes that interests manifests in the form of conservation, but it’s more about the kind of environment and community I am seeking to participate in. Also, visually, nature is a challenging language I’m learning how to play with.
Fuji GF670, Mamiya C330, and I just added a Toyo 4x5 to the mix!
Upcoming projects or ideas?
All the straight photography and traveling I did over the course of Vernacular Songs has inspired me to stay home and experiment.
I garden. I make natural dyes from my garden and I’m working on large sun prints also known anthotypes. It’s great to not use a camera to make prints. I’m experimenting with more common alternative processes too. I’m interested in incorporating locality and natural materials with the photographic medium. Think Mathew Brandt but more pastels and history.
Any music to recommend?
Early Aster Aweke. This is my jam.