Thailand’s top photographers, artists, and illustrators rally to fight the Covid-19 pandemic through a viral Instagram project called BREATH.
When the Covid-19 breakout hit Thailand, we saw doctors, entrepreneurs, and corporations rising to the occasion, as those with the means to help have stepped up to play their part in flattening the curve. In the midst of it all, an interesting initiative has gone viral on Instagram, bringing together some of the country’s most prominent photographers, artists, and illustrators, in a united front against the pandemic — a piquant reminder that heroes really do come in many forms. Titled BREATH, the project is helmed by Chayanee Chomgsaengchun, Minami Yuzawa, and Numchok Sawangsri, and invites audiences to purchase donated works of art by Thailand’s top creative talents, with proceeds going towards aiding those in need. We had a quick chat with renowned photographer Numchok S about why he started BREATH, combating the coronavirus through photography, and the role of art in helping lives.
Could you tell us about what you’re doing with BREATH?
We’re a group of Thai artists, photographers, and illustrators, who are selling our artwork to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of our donations go towards procuring medical supplies and equipment to help treat infected patients in Thailand.
What sparked the idea?
Actually, it started when the government first told us to stay home and begin social distancing. With more time on my hands, I decided to redecorate my home, and came across these old photographs I’d taken, and I started thinking about what I should do with them.
At the time, the Covid-19 situation was getting worse in Thailand, and the number of cases was getting higher each day. Our medical staff needed support, and the cost of medical equipment was quite expensive, which was affecting those with less income. So I thought I would sell some of my photographs, and donate the profits to support the cause. I invited a few friends who were also photographers to join me, and we decided to start this project called ‘BREATH’. Minami Yuzawa from dear:fromstudio helped design graphics using the donated art pieces, so we could market them through social media. Then more artists started taking interest, and donated their work to support what we were doing.
Can you tell us a bit more about the artists involved, and the types of artwork you have?
There isn’t a shared theme. Every artist has their own style, and it’s the same with the photographers too. I just brought them together under one project. Most are existing pieces, but after we’d been running BREATH for around a month, some artists started creating new work especially for the project.
I didn’t think about inviting people who are “influential” to work on this project with me, I just wanted to share my work. Right now our group has grown quite a bit. Some of the names include Chut Janthachotibutr (@chuttup), Peerapat Wimolrungkarat (@addcandid), Chayanee Chomgsaengchun (@peduckk), Note Panayanggool (@notep), Dhanut Tungsuwan (@balm3001), Kantapon Metheekul (@gongkan_), Yozanun Wutigonsombutkul (@suntur), Juli Baker (@julibakerandsummer), Nawaphon P (@nawaphon_present), Kanrapee Chokpaiboon (@kanrapee.chok), Pichaya Osothcharoenpol (@nussdaydream), Supanit Riansrivilai (@supanitr), Nuttapong Daovichitr (@nutdao), Tri Sanguanbun (@tri_11), Beam Musikaboonlert (@beam_musika), Viput Asawavetvutt (@viput_a), and Deo Suveera (@deo_suveera).
How are you helping those affected by the crisis?
The money we’ve raised is going to hospitals and foundations in Thailand, focusing on helping to procure the medical supplies necessary to help treat infected patients, as well as covering the expenses needed to manage and distribute these resources. We are also supporting low-income groups that are affected by the pandemic. Some of the hospitals and groups we’re working with include:
The Ramathibodi Hospital Foundation
The Rajavithi Hospital Foundation
Suan Dok Hospital Foundation
Covid Foundation at Vajira Phuket Hospital
Covid Relief Bangkok
Scholars of Sustenance (SOS) Thailand
Is this your first time running something like this?
This is actually quite new to us, because it’s something we’ve never done before. Alongside BREATH, I’m also a contributing photographer for SATI Foundation, so that’s also been quite an interesting experience. I take documentaries that tell stories about how the pandemic is unfolding in Thailand, to help the foundation raise awareness, and encourage people to help. To me, photography is a form of sending messages to an audience. I am like a medium to show people what is happening right now, who needs help, and how you can support the cause.
How has the response been so far?
The response has actually been pretty good. We’ve been running the project for over a month now, and there are increasing donors. I feel that Thai people are naturally inclined to be helpful, no matter what the situation. For example, I had no issues at all reaching out to artists, asking them to donate their work for our project. Some artists I contacted are quite well-recognised, and their work sells for a lot in the market, but when I suggested a donation price for BREATH, they were all very happy to help out and do their part.
What role do you think art plays in bringing positive change?
I was actually very inspired by a quote from His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He said, “photography is a form of art, and is something that has great significance. Instead of only using photography for pleasure or beauty alone, we should use it to create value for our society and benefit the public. This way, art can play a role in developing the nation, and helping us to progress further.”
Photography is very sentimental. Some photos we see bring us happiness, and some can incite strong emotions, like wanting — or even needing — to help. Today, those who donate to our cause, and purchase our art will take these pieces home knowing they’ve done something good for the community. Then one day, when all of this has passed, they can look back at the art they bought, and that work of art will suddenly have an even deeper meaning. Not only will they see the work for what it is, but they’ll remember this great pandemic we fought through together, and how through this artwork, they played a role in helping those in need.
What role does art play?
Some images we see bring us happiness, and some images that we look at can help us promote the feeling of wanting to help, or needing to help. Those who donate with us, are people who have donated using their artwork. When this all passes, they will look back and have more meaning because they remember playing a role in helping.
How can our readers help?
For those who would like to support us, you can purchase our photos and artwork through our Official Instagram @breath__________. At the end of the day, I hope that our project, BREATH, can be a small source of strength to help us overcome this situation. I would like everyone who has supported BREATH, to think about these photos, and remember being a part of us during these trying times. Thank you.
You can purchase artwork and photographs from BREATH until May 18, 2020. To find out more about how you can help, contact them at:
Line: @forbreathproject (including @ sign)
Tel: 08 0946 9664