Gentrification isn’t just a problem of the western world and when photographer Jack Kurtz read in the local paper about evictions taking place in the Wat Kanalaya neighborhood, he grabbed his camera to start photographing. At first, he thought it would just be a one-time thing, but due to the warm and welcoming nature of the residents, he has returned every couple of days since the beginning of September. The area is a community around a temple in the Thonburi section of Bangkok, Thailand. For almost 200 years generations of families have lived on these grounds. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that the abbot of the temple decided he wanted to redevelop the land and eviction notices were served. The families, as you might have already guessed, are generally poor people who have rented their land from the same person or organization for generations. With the redevelopment and growth of Bangkok, land that was once cheaper and less desirable is being snatched up, forcing tenants to move. Jack says the biggest challenge he faced was the language gap. As he’s not fluent in Thai, he relied upon a translation app on his iPhone and a translator to work with him to explain to people his motivation for photographing them. The residents however, faced an even bigger threat for his growing presence in the community.
I was told that authorities were not happy about my photographing in the community. A couple of people told me that they had been warned that if they talked to the foreign photographer (me), they would be evicted early. I asked people how they felt about that and no one asked me to stop photographing. In September, one person said to me, “We have to move by the end of October. What are they going to do, move us a week earlier?”
Jack says this particular project fits perfectly into his larger body of work that he’s been doing on the changing landscape and urbanization of Southeast Asia. While these images have been well received, he’s had a difficult time in finding an outlet for them as there is a lot going on in Asia at the moment. Sadly, this project will end when the community is gone but he is actively seeking out other evictions in Bangkok neighborhoods that are facing the same issue.
Sometimes you look for a project but sometimes the project finds you. I’d photographed in the Wat Kanalaya neighborhood several times but I hadn’t really intended to turn the evictions into a project. Now, I’m down there every couple of days and it has led to photographing other evictions in the surrounding areas.
To see more of Jack’s work visit jackkurtzphotography.com