S.I.A.M. is a collection of pictures put together by young Sydney photographer Emmanuel Angelicas. A photographer it would seem who moves most naturally at night. It is his ally. Perhaps this is not surprising when you learn that he grew up in the tough back streets of inner Sydney suburb, Marrickville.
It also does not surprise me that he has been drawn North West to South East Asia’s strange city of the night, Bangkok, and in particular, to Bangkok’s satellite tourist town on the Gulf of Siam- Pattaya, playground of the seventh fleet when it is not in Fremantle.
I am drawn to Emmanuel Angelicas’ work for many reasons, but mostly for his portrayal of Pattaya’s hot, black on black, never ending night. Difficult to photograph, it certainly made me wilt just to be there. However, to photograph under these conditions and come through with results as powerful as S.l.A.M., is not at all easy.
These are the kind of photographs that pull me into them, to another world. A world where people seem to sleep all day – awake at sunset – waiting for the fleet to park just offshore, battle-cruisers from another planet. lt is night, sailors are on the strip burning bright on cocaine, the bar girls and prostitutes are in their rooms burning down bushes of ganja. The pill shop on the strip stocks only Listerine, Speed and Valium. All this Angelicas singles out using his electronic flash to back-off the moment, a technique that works in perfect symbiosis with his Hasselblad camera.
His style is reminiscent of the tough eloquence inherent in Danny Lyon’s Southern American images and Mary Ellen Mark’s Falkland Road series on Bombay’s prostitutes.
However, it is not just prostitution and bar life that holds Angelicas’ attention. He also has an unusually keen regard for the street life that fans out around Main Street Pattaya. Kick boxers pythons and attendant fujiroids men, the local Pattaya jicos (bodgies) who hire out as contracted hit men for as little as four hundred baht (twenty dollars) and six to seven year old chewing gun and Vicks Inhaler sellers are all there, recorded with an understanding rare in a young photographer.
Finally, there is the powerful edge of a photographer who has recently left Art School with ideas of his own still in tact, no mean feat in these modern times.
MAX PAM 1986