Until the coup, like a pot of milk on the flame, tension between pro- and anti-government factions bubbled and popped across Bangkok. It was a tumultuous time — the nights irradiated by rallies, the days a rattle of whistles, plastic clappers, and unofficial parades, all masking, if not foreboding, catastrophe. Violence felt inevitable.
The Swedish-born, Bangkok-based photographer Jonas Gratzer took to the streets in the heat of these clashes. At Laksi, he captured anti-government protestors opening fire against their counterpart red shirts, as the fragile banner of vocal, but peaceful, disagreement finally disbanded.
“Before I knew what was happening, both sides started to shoot at each other. I ended up with the anti-government protesters,” says Grazter. “My pulse was obviously beating pretty fast. I was lying flat on the ground when I took [the winning picture]. Above my head bullets were flying through the air. I was only able to take a few frames before the protesters stopped me from taking more. For me, it’s an important picture because it shows the outside world, or in my case the Swedish readers, another side of Thailand than the [exotic paradise] they generally have in mind. It’s a country in crisis.”
Gratzer’s shots of the protests recently earned recognition at the FCCT/LightRocket Asia-Pacific Photojournalism Contest, where he claimed first place in Spot News and was named Photographer of the Year. The contest, in its 7th year, was put on by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) and LightRocket, a regional online photo platform, to support photojournalists in an age when economic pressures have resulted in declining compensation for work. It attracted submissions from more than 140 photographers, who filed over 3000 images collectively.
Judges selected winners in four categories: Spot News, Feature Photography, the Environment, and Photo Essay; they also named the Photographer of the Year, the contest’s top prize. In crowning Gratzer, the judges noted the dizzying breadth of his work across Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, often in difficult reporting conditions, in which he revealed fresh insights about exploited regions.
The following photographs are snapshots from the winning portfolios, which are on display at the FCCT (Penthouse Fl, Maneeya Bldg, Chitlom) until the end of September.