Growing up in Thailand in an artist family, photographer Deo Suveera has always been fascinated by observing people, objects and nature. After graduating from The Royal College of Art in London he's back in his hometown Chiang Mai, where we talk to him about his time being in a band, the importance of mentorship and his love for taking strolls in the parks of London.
Hey Deo, after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London you’re back in your hometown Chiang Mai. How does your work stem from both your roots in Thailand and having lived in London?
Chiang Mai is full of cultural and historical narratives. It’s full of happenings and imperfections. It taught me to be attentive and curious to what's in front of me. When living in London everything became less saturated. I struggled at first in approaching and connecting with the city. But being in a place where I felt quite alienated, it also enabled me to work differently, to explore myself in a different way. This actually made me rethink how I was seeing things. I became more attentive to the performativity of my daily life and started to observe and capture unnoticed details in ordinary moments. My work became much more personal and intimate.
What was your main influence growing up? And how did you end up studying photography?
My dad is an artist and I always saw him paint. So I grew up in a house full of colors, forms, sketches, objects and visuals. Because my family is also very musical, music actually was my first creative outlet. I played the bass/double bass in a band called Helmetheads. We were together for a long time; recording and even touring around Thailand. It was such a memorable experience. My aunt had given me a film camera which I used to start documenting daily life. I took loads of pictures of the tour, my friends and family. At the same time, me and my girlfriend, who studied graphic design, started our own clothing brand.
We did everything from designing to the art direction. That was the first time I shot an editorial campaign and immediately fell in love with it. I started to do more portraits and projects about people and places in Thailand. I was taking photography more seriously. When the band split up in 2017 I moved to London to do a Master degree in Fine Art Photography at the Royal College of Art.
You say music and art were a big influence to you growing up. What music do you enjoy listening to?
I grew up listening to bands like The Beatles, The Monkees, The Rolling Stones. And Thai bands like Carabao. I still enjoy listening to these bands. I’m also into instrumental music like Bill Evans, Alabaster Deplume, Khruangbin and many more.
Do you find more inspiration in real life, or in the digital world?
I love walking and wandering around the city, observing people, objects, life, nature, and things. I am quite attentive to my surroundings. Books are also one of my main inspirations, not necessarily photo books, but it could be anything from an old furniture catalogue to random manual books. I also enjoy reading short poetry in both Thai and English. Right now I’m reading “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris” by Georges Perec. It’s my favourite! Everytime I read it I just get so inspired. Social media sometimes actually has the opposite effect on me. I can get so inspired that it gets overwhelming. The infinite scope of visual information can be too much.
You’re known for celebrating the beauty and stillness that can be found in the everyday objects, adding insane details, while playing with disproportion, croppings and so on. Even to the point where the actual object becomes an abstraction of itself. What’s your process like?
Most of my “good” work actually happens in the moment. I work quite freely and spontaneously, that’s how I really enjoy shooting. My work results from a mixture of different ways of working; it could be anything from a well planned out shoot to an unexpected snap on a bus. I always end up liking the unexpected snaps more tho than anything that has been well produced and planned beforehand. I also like to spend time on the wall, printing, paring and finding the connection between the works. Scale is another key element in my work, so I’m constantly trying to see what size I feel right per image.
Do you feel photography always needs to serve a certain purpose? Is there a message or emotion you hope to convey to your audience?
I feel like everything has its own meaning, value, and purpose, even if it’s intended or not. Personally, I try to stay away from framing or limiting certain messages.
Your dad being such a big inspiration for you, what does he think of your work?
My father is a man of few words, he never really says anything about my work. But recently he complimented me on my photo of the cactus, he said: ‘it is a great picture’. It was just that, but it was special to me and made me smile.
How important is mentorship to you?
Studying at the Royal Academy of Art I regularly had group critique sessions, it’s nice to hear how other people look at my work. You get to hear things you had never noticed yourself, and I think that gives another dimension to my work. Being graduated I kind of miss that now.
Do you have a dream location for your work to be shown?
I would love to see my work printed as big as possible, like on a billboard. Imagine my “Toothpaste” picture , super big in the middle of the city. That would be epic! And obviously Mick Jaggers house, he’s just such a legend.
Any future plans?
I’m just going to keep making work that makes me happy. And next year I’m hopefully back in London. I miss walking in the parks in London in springtime.
Being back in Chiang Mai with your family has your concept of home changed?
Home to me has always been the comfort zone you belong to. I love getting together with my friends and family, having a barbeque and seafood with a traditional Thai Mor lam’s playlist on in the background.
What brings you joy these days?
Single stitched t-shirts from the 1960s-1970s bring me joy!