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Jatenipat Ketpradit
Jatenipat Ketpradit

August 24 : 2023

Jatenipat Ketpradit

This arresting series, "Ghosts of Asaro," quickly transfixed us. The artist's vision is to share cultures with those who may never see them, and these works do so with grace and honor. Please join us in congratulating Jatenipat Ketpradit for winning the title of International Photographer of the Year.

by Lily Fierman

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"Ghosts of Asaro"

Gathering his remaining brethren, they adorned themselves in white clay, camouflaging their bodies, and fashioned demonic masks from a unique white clay sourced exclusively from the Asaro River. With long bamboo nails painted red like blood, they haunted the enemy under the cover of night, launching surprise attacks.

Q:

Tell us about creating your winning series, "Ghost of Asaro".

A:

The tribes of Papua New Guinea were one of the destinations that I was very interested in. The Asaro tribe was a special one.

I had heard these tribal tales about them. 

The Asaro tribe was feeble and vulnerable. During inter-tribal wars, they would often be forced to flee, facing relentless slaughter. Eventually, they sought refuge from their mountain homeland and settled near the river's lower reaches.


During a particularly intense battle, an Asaro hero was trapped amidst the enemy, surrounded by piles of fallen comrades within mud pits lining the riverbank. Concealing himself, he patiently awaited an opportune moment. Under the cover of darkness, he emerged from the mire, his body drenched in blood and white clay. The ghastly sight struck terror into the hearts of the unsuspecting foes, as though an evil spirit had risen from the dead to exact vengeance.

The young warrior witnessed the impact and devised a cunning strategy. Gathering his remaining brethren, they adorned themselves in white clay, camouflaging their bodies, and fashioned demonic masks from a unique white clay sourced exclusively from the Asaro River. With long bamboo nails painted red like blood, they haunted the enemy under the cover of night, launching surprise attacks. Papua New Guinea's inhabitants have long held deep spiritual beliefs, and thus, the chilling legend of the Asaro Mudmen quickly spread, instilling fear across a vast region. Terrified of encountering these otherworldly demons, the adversaries fled in disarray, leaving the land untouched. Employing this tactic, the Asaro people successfully reclaimed their valley, their beloved homeland.

The photography of “Ghost of Asaro” was shot at the Gurupoka mountain peak. I wanted to tell their story proudly, so I hiked and climbed to the top of mountain with the Asaro warriors for more than 2 hours since 3 A.M. to catch the sunrise on the top of the mountain peak. By using the environmental portrait technique that I am good at, I've showed the pride of the tribe and the beautiful scenery they actually live in.

These tribes often feel that their culture is outdated and backward. So, I wanted to photograph them as elegantly as possible so that they could feel proud of their beautiful culture.

Q:

Why do you enjoy photographing people and cultures? What keeps you coming back to this subject?

A:

Taking portraits allows me to meet people and talk and live with them. It's like making new friends in a new world.

Every story in every ethnic group has a uniqueness that amazes me whenever I experience it. It always encourages me to travel and discover new things.

Q:

What are the difficulties involved in creating works such as yours? What are the biggest obstacles?

A:

The hardest thing is to travel to reach the tribal habitat because they are in such remote areas. Sometimes it takes a week to reach.

Gaining the trust of the tribes is also important. I always live with them for a certain amount of time before start taking photos, so they can feel relief and trust, and reveal their true identities through the photographs.

Q:

How do you see your work photographing different cultures progressing? What's next?

A:

I feel satisfied every time I hear the joy from ethnic people when they see photos of their own ethnic groups that have been published and spread to various media around the world. It brings pride in the ways of their ancestors and resonates with people from the outside world who have seen these photos, creating awareness of the existence of people in another corner of the world.  

The experience of photographing different cultures makes it easier for me to adapt myself to different cultures. I can be well-prepared with equipment such as the camera, lenses, studio lights, and other gear suited to the location and travel route. 

In addition, throughout the past period, I have studied the art of installation. It can be adapted to make my photography composition look more complete and more artistic. 

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Q:

How long does planning a series like "Ghost of Asaro" take? Are you making multiple trips? How long do you stay?

A:

For photographing the Asaro Tribe, I spent about a year planning the trip before I traveled, including finding a local interpreter and local guide and waiting for the best window to shoot photos.

Typically, it takes about 20 days for me to stay with tribal people, just like this trip in Papua New Guinea.

Q:

What do you want people to understand through your portraits?

A:

I want people who see my images to realize the presence of tribal groups in remote places of the world who still maintain their culture that has been handed down from their ancestors to the present day.

These tribes often feel that their culture is outdated and backward. So, I wanted to photograph them as elegantly as possible so that they could feel proud of their beautiful culture.

Q:

What is your dream subject?

A:

Photograph as many tribes around the world as possible to preserve and convey these beautiful traditions as a historical record for future generations of mankind.

Q:

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

A:

In my 10 years of travel photographing tribal people around the world, there have been many memorable moments. One of them happened in Mongolia.

I have traveled to Mongolia more than 7 times to capture their beautiful culture. I've had the opportunity to help spread this beautiful culture to the world, generating income for villagers from tourism. So I have stayed there for a long time, which made me have many close friends there.

After many years, one day, my Mongolian friend brought me a horse to give as a gift.

For the Mongolians, the gift of a horse is the highest honor of a comrade, which garnered me a lot of respect in the community. 

Also, this year, I’m honored to receive an official appointment from Mongolia as "The Cultural Envoy of Mongolia" because of the photography work that spreads the beauty of the tribes and culture of Mongolia. It is indeed an honor and pride to me.

Q:

How did you get your start in photography?

A:

I started in photography 15 years ago, traveling alone after quitting a salaried job. I started having fun with my small camera and it became a hobby.

After self-study for many years this hobby developed into my main job and became my current identity.

Q:

Which photographers do you find inspirational? Whose work do you admire?

A:

Steve McCurry and Jimmy Nelson; thank you for the inspiration. 

I hope that my photography will convey the beauty of culture, beliefs, and unique ways of life. I hope my photography will be recorded in the history of humanity, confirming the existence of ethnic people and inspiring those who have seen my work. 

ARTIST

Jatenipat Ketpradit

Jatenipat Ketpradit

Location:

Thailand

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