Ohm Phanphiroj : Underage

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Shown at the Documentary Arts Asia Gallery in July 2014

Underage is a photographic documentation aimed at understanding the minds of these underage male prostitutes in a most candid and visceral way. I want the process to uncover a bit of the life, choice, and consequences that these young boys are experiencing.
Underage prostitution results from several reasons, from being molested by family members and/or relatives, poverty, being a runaway, and drug addiction.

This project is multi-layered and complex in its nature. Psychologically, the project offers provocative and haunting portraits of these lost souls. The visual is visceral and represents an ugly mess and deep-rooted problems of family, teenage years in Thailand, and society. The personal data of each subject is included to offer an insight and to peep into their lives and journey to the opposite side of norms, tradition, and perception. In addition, sexual identification and orientation are being questioned and investigated. While most subjects identify themselves as heterosexual young boys who come to terms with having sex with gay guys for money, almost all of them have never had sex with females. Many of them reason that all men must go through having sex with gay guys in order to understand how to have sex with females when such time comes.

I want the images to act as a mirror reflecting the rotten reality of child abuse and exploitation. I also want the images to pose painful questions about life, choice, consequences, and of humanity. Lastly, I hope the project will shed some light about this pervasive situation, raising questions for us about society, corruption, morals, and human treatment.

Also desire, innocence, corruption maturity of the observer, customer, and prostitute…when we look at the pictures, we take the part of both…the boy and the buyer…Mirror neurons



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Ohm Phanphiroj

began his professional career as an artist and photographer in 1997, while working on a graduate degree in filmmaking with the Oscar award winning producer, Gary Moss. That same year, on the strength of his short art film, I Wish You Were in Hell, Ohm was featured in the Dutch film journal Screen Talk as an up-and-coming filmmaker. He continued producing short films, but wanted greater artistic control over the final product, something difficult to achieve in filmmaking since it depends on the input of so many individuals. This desire for greater artistic control drew Ohm to photography, which he found suited his talents more than filmmaking.

His most recent work “Underage”, a film and photographic documentary about underage male prostitutes in Thailand has received international recognition including the 2012 Artist-in-residence Fellowship at the Newspace Center for Photography, and a Light Work Fellowship at Syracuse University in 2011. The Underage project was shortlisted at the Vimeo International Film Awards and the Singapore Film Festival in 2012.

Other awards include the 2009 Sony World Photography Award in Cannes for his “Identity Crisis: Transsexual Series”; the Golden Light Awards and Ernst Grant Competition Award in 1997; Photo District News in 1999, 2000, and 2001; Photo Forum National Photographic Competition in 1998, and 2000; Art Director’s Club Award in 2000; Applied Art Magazine Award in 2000; and an Epson Award in 2001.

In 2000 Ohm completed his second Master’s in Film at Georgia State University and received a scholarship to pursue a graduate degree in photography at the world-renowned Rochester Institute of Technology. While there, he taught as an adjunct professor and exhibited his work at the Sex Museum in New York City.

Monographs published since 1997 include Rough Stuff, Rare Views, and Night Hawks. Ohm’s work is also featured in six anthologies: Visions (2006), Mien Schwules Auge 4 (2007), Night Visions (2008), Nerve Photo Book (2008), Smut Vol.2 (2009), and Mien Schwules Auge 5 (2009), Mien Schwules Auge 6 (2010), Mien Schwules Auge 7 (2011), and Mien Schwules Auge 8 (2012).

To date, Ohm has had more than 80 exhibitions worldwide.

Currently, Ohm is working on his 4th solo photography book.


2012M.F.A. (ABT), Photography, Rochester Institute of Technology
2000M.A., Filmmaking and Photography, Georgia State University
1995M.A., Communications, University of Northern Iowa
1993Certificate, Language and Cultural Studies, Memphis State University
1991LL.B., Law, Thammasat University, Thailand


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