Patpong: Bangkok’s Twilight Zone by Nick Nostitz, recommended by Maki

When I discovered this book some years ago I was surprised not to have heard about it before. This unique and deeply personal photographic diary book (here in Bangkok’s Patpong area) mixes pictures and type-written texts by freelance photographer and writer Nick Nostitz. It is highly recommended to anyone interested in photobooks and photographers that immerse themselves in the darker side of nightlife.

Whilst more focussed on nightlife “Twilight Zone” sex and drugs way of life, the book could be compared with famous photobooks like “Raised by Wolves” by Jim Goldberg as well as “Deformer” and “The Golden Age of Neglect” by Ed Templeton that also effectively uses the simple and effective scrapbook structure to tell their story.

In the 90’s German photographer Nick Nostitz was living in Bangkok. During 7 years he spent his nights in search of excitement but also on a journey into the margins of society.  This fascinating book is not just photographic diary of his sex and drugs experiences, but also contains short stories about his close friends who happen to be junkies, minor criminals, whore-fuckers and Asian girls he used to met in clubs. People who jump head first into the sex industry and had the courage to admit to being one of them. The joys and disappointments of life, the deep reality of prostitution, drug addiction, crazy nights and fun in clubs and bars scene are portrayed so as not to condemn anyone nor admiring it but from a more personal point of view, critical and realistic about the wild side of nightlife but in a tolerant way, always showing the life from the inside of the scene.

As Nick Nostitz writes, “…this is where the worlds meet, the rich, the poor, all cultures… A sexual underground where people get sucked in, changed, moulded, and eventually spat out. Enjoy but never love. Love makes you vulnerable. Love is the only thing that can’t be bought here and, if found, is usually an illusion. Hedonism is pure – if rarely simple. You can leave the zone but it will never leave you…”.

“…It’s about addiction. Addiction to a crazy, hedonistic lifestyle that is also a refuge. I see a subculture where the exchange of money for sex is only superficial. Most people see only the prostitution and the exploitation: my images challenge this view and go much deeper. For everyone caught up in the nightlife – bar girls and transsexuals, transients and tourists, refugees from their respective societies – there is an emotional addiction; an endless cycle of happy illusion, ecstasy, intensity, doubt and despair, my work symbolizes these stages…”

Another photobook “Insomnia” from Antoine d’Agata springs to mind when viewing Twilight Zone.  Both photographers wanted to discover and experience the world through the emotional prism of nightlife and the margins of society and in doing so created a definitive photo book with powerful pictures and texts (at a very similar time).

Since this book Nick Nostitz has been working on and off on a follow up project on Bangkok’s nights encountering sometimes frightening problems with Thai politics on which he has also been working obsessively during 9 years. Both are projects which he tries to find a publisher every time he moves to Europe.

An interesting interview with Nick Nostitz from 2001, where you can learn more about the book and his life in Thailand, can be read here:

Maki is a photographer born and currently living in Marseille (France). He studied photography in the beginning of the 80′s. He was the founding member of the collective of european photographers SMOKE. He is also publisher of the mini photobooks collection MÉDIA IMMÉDIAT and is working since some years on his photographic series about Japan called “Japan Somewhere”.