Vision quest

A photographer from Thailand sees the light in the Southwestern landscape


Komkrit Thusanapanont’s ethereal, light-infused landscape photography of the American Southwest proves that the most spectacular thing about Las Vegas is not the Strip but the majestic Wilson Cliffs in Red Rock Canyon.

Thusanapanont came to North America in 2000 from Thailand to work on his English. He spent a year in Canada, then moved to Las Vegas, where the best friend of his father lived. He decided to stay, and found himself renewing his love for photography, which he had first developed as a kid. “I was born and raised in Vegas,” he says of his new life. “I came here, started everything over.”

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On his few days off working as a sushi chef, he’d get on the road. “I’d go 700 miles. I didn’t sleep. Sometimes I finished work at midnight, go home and shower, throw the camera in the car and head off to Utah. I’d get sunrise in Utah and spend all day exploring.” His photography has taken him from Zion National Park to Yosemite, from the Grand Canyon to Death Valley. He once drove 14 hours to Wyoming, braving a snowstorm, sleeping in his car as the temperature dropped below zero, just to get a good shot.

But above all, his startling, carefully observed images of forests and mountains and desert seem to be nothing less than a pilgrimage toward light. “I’ve always been fascinated by the light,” he says. “Chasing the light. Because that’s the only thing that makes the same place different.” Many of his best shots—like the cliffs at Red Rock—come from returning to one place over and over, searching for those ever-shifting gradations of light.

Thusanapanont still shoots on film, on a large format camera (which ensures very large prints), an expensive choice that forces him to live with his photographic decisions. “If I make a mistake, I’m only mad at myself. That makes you become a better photographer. More careful. More thoughtful.” He can’t move fast, either. His camera weighs 15 pounds, his tripod 15 and his camera bag 10. Might as well take your time. “I like the idea that I’m small. The world’s bigger than me … If you’re too big, you miss a small spot.”


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