Kolmanskop - Namibia
August 28th, 2019.
Photography has entered a new realm. Societies thirst for outstanding aspirational and inspirational imagery that transports the humble viewer from the couch on to unparalleled journey’s of the imagination is something we simply never tire of. Diane Durongpisitkul‘s photographs do just that. They seem to reach right out of the screen and send you hurtling into another place. Dropping you right into the middle of a story that was always whirling like a dervish unknown by you until laying eyes on the 2 dimensional representation captured through Diane’s perceptively aimed lens leading to lessons that are but a dip in the pool of the enormity of humanity.
I met Diane when we were both studying Interior Design at RMIT in Melbourne. Since graduating a decade ago we have naturally spun off onto vastly different tangents and I have been fascinated by Diane’s evolution as a photographer. Leading a nomadic like existence articulated in her aptly named instagram platform – Not Going Home Yet – Diane’s photographic works are a bi-product of opportunity merged with a natural affinity for her medium which ultimately leads to portrayals of humanity in a beautifully impartial and poignantly resonate manner that you don’t forget in a hurry.
Open Journal || Why the name “Not Going Home Yet”? Where do you consider to be ‘home’ these days?
Diane Durongpisitkul || The name ‘Not Going Home Yet’ is to me both a philosophical position and a literal directive. It serves as a reminder to keep alive the spark of curiosity and sense of wonder in the world we live in, and coaxes us to continue to explore beyond our comfort zone and challenge our own reality from time to time.
In a literal sense, it resonates with me while I’m out exploring. Often, I find that by staying out that little bit longer, even just 20 minutes more, I would stumble across something that would make my extended wandering worthwhile.
In the past I’ve struggled to identify where home is, but nowadays home is wherever my child, my partner and I are based, whatever form or place it may take.
Togean Islands – Indonesia
Howraman – Iran
OJ || I met you studying Design in Melbourne. What set you off on the path of photography and why?
DD || As a self-diagnosed serial people-watcher, my observations of the world would often inform and translate into my design work.
During a break between design jobs, my people-watching addiction was magnified when I began travelling to places where the environments were unpredictable and foreign to me. I felt the urge to document my observations. I’m an awkward introvert, so a camera was a fitting guise for my people-watching tendencies. Through documentary photography, my role shifted from purely a spectator to being a part of a moment as it was revealed.
I’m a bit of a moment thief I guess. I’m not sure why I get a kick out of capturing someone else’s life, but I do…and it’s highly addictive.
Perhaps one day someone will write a scary children’s book about me; “The Moment Thief lurking in the Shadows”.
OJ || Your work is an amazing documentation of culture and humanity. What have been some of the most harrowing, unforgettable moments that you have captured over the years? Why?
DD || Documenting traditional, culturally significant festivals has been a deep interest of mine over the years. The visual spectacle of the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand has been etched in my mind as showcasing the extremes humans will physically endure in the name of religion.
Willing participants volunteer as ‘mediums’ possessed by the Gods. Acts of extreme violence are consensually inflicted upon these brave and pious disciples who apparently feel little or no pain during the ceremonies. Usually within temple grounds, onlookers witness the piercing and disfigurement of participant’s bodies. Swords, umbrellas, motorcycle parts and even brass musical instruments are inserted into the participant’s cheeks creating impressive displays of brutal commitment.
Other participants can be seen repeatedly cutting their faces with axes forming deep, bloody wounds and for the more meditative of participants, hundreds of beaded needles are threaded through skin forming beautiful artistic patterns.
The festival serves as a poignant reminder of the power of ritual, the human desire to experience altered states, the redemptive qualities of self-sacrifice and the humbling nature of surrendering to a higher power.
Vegetarian Festival – Thailand
Vegetarian Festival – Thailand
OJ || You describe yourself as a “wanderer who happens to own a nice camera”. Do you consider yourself a photographer?
DD || Perhaps I’m a ‘commitaphobe’. I don’t like to be pigeonholed with a title that describes who or what I am. For me personally, as soon as I label myself, I feel bound to all associated meanings of that label and find that my behaviour is modified conforming to what the general beliefs of that label should be. Labels make us marketable and employable. While photography is where I spend a great deal of my energy, it only represents a part of my life.
And actually, it’s not really about the camera you own at all.
OJ || Can you tell me a little about your processes? You seem to be quite nomadic. Do your travels inform your photographs? Or do you go looking for particular subjects that you have heard of and wish to shoot?
DD || Sometimes I have a solid plan, sometimes I have nothing but a vague feeling about what a place might be like.
Reflecting on my earlier years, I would have described myself as a control freak, however life has beaten that out of me and I have learnt to surrender to uncertainty and let things happen organically. Regardless of whether I’m travelling with a particular goal or subject in mind or not, my general rule is to remain open to whatever else might happen along the way. There is always a healthy amount of ‘not going home yet’.
As an example, when I first travelled to the African continent I had no specific aims of what I wanted from my time in there. All I knew was that I wanted to spend at least a year in the region and I wanted to document my surroundings in some form along the way. I shot. I travelled. I lived. I experienced a possible rabies encounter and had plenty of adventure in between. After about 4 months I landed a sweet little deal filming stories from the region for a Foreign News Television show. That informed my travels, following leads and stories in each of the regions I was travelling to, while enabling me to continue travelling for another year in the continent, documenting my journey.
Hamer Bull Jumping – Ethiopia
OJ || Is the future unfolding or a set of boxes to tick off??
DD || As a young adult the world was one giant play space to explore. I had the freedom to pick any story I fancied in a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ fashion. Over the years, the flipping between pages became less frequent as I learned more about myself and what I wanted from my experiences. The dialogue became a linear path and the story was almost handed back to the narrator. One day a big storm hit this path and scattered all the stone pavers. Some of the pavers landed creating new paths that lead nowhere, some crossed over others, some swirled down in completely new directions and some circled back snuggling up against the original path, but nowhere was a box and a tick to be found.
Lake Malawi, Malawi
Interview complied by Tiffany Jade with huge thanks to Diane for her wonderful insights, words, images and experiences.
Images courtesy of Diane Durongpisitkul.