Sunday, August 28, 2016

PRINT SALE - "Forgotten in Plain Sight"

As the month of August winds down, so does my latest exhibition of movie theater photography. "Forgotten in Plain Sight: Photographs of Southeast Asia's Disappearing Movie Theaters," spent most of the month covering the walls of The Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art. PhilaMOCA for short. The set consists of 20 images, featuring a variety of theater views from Thailand and Myanmar, a good portion of which have never before been exhibited. 

This also marked the first major exhibition of my work in the United States, and possibly the best one to date in terms of content and presentation.

For those interested in owning a piece of this exhibition, individual images are on sale for $90 each (plus shipping), unframed. Each image is part of a signed and numbered limited run of 100, printed at an 18X24 size on high-quality archival photo paper with a matte finish. As usual, each sale will go towards supporting the Southeast Asia Movie theater Project, enabling me to continue documenting the region's disappearing stand-alone movie theaters. 

To get your photograph just click the PayPal "Buy Now" button below. Unfortunately, only 10 of the 20 images are indicated in the PayPal button, but if you are interested in one that's not listed, or you want one printed in a different size, please email me directly at

Happy viewing.


Tea at the Aung Theit Hti 
Myaungmya, Irrawaddy Region, Myanmar

Final Stage 
 The Sri Burapha Thaeater
 Chanthanburi, Thailand

Mingala Thiri Light Beam 
The Mingala Thiri Cinema 
 Dawei, Thanintharyi Region, Myanmar

The Bang Khae Rama 
 Bangkok, Thailand

The Fa Siam Theater 
 Suphanburi, Thailand

The Pak Nam Rama 
 Pak Nam, Samut Prakarn, Thailand

The Sein Aung Win Cinema 
 Kyaukme, Shan State, Myanmar

The Serm Suk Theater 
Kumpawaphi, Udon Thani Province, Thailand

The Siri Phanom Rama 
Phanom Sarakam, Chachoengsao Province, Thailand

The Win Cinema 
Toungoo, Bago Region, Myanmar

The Thwin at night 
 Yangon, Myanmar

The Trang Rama 
Trang, Thailand

The Peth Rama 
 Loei, Thailand

Front row kids 
The Aung Thiri Cinema 
Lashio, Shan State, Myanmar

Balcony View
The Tun Thiri Cinema
Pyay, Bago Region, Myanmar

Thamada Auditorium View
The Thamada Cinema
Yangon, Myanmar

Oscar's Prostitutes
The Oscar Theater
Bangkok, Thailand

Siam Diamond in Post Life
The Siam Diamond Theater
Sri Samrong, Sukhothai Province, Thailand 

Rama Ticket Taker
The Nonkorn Non Rama
Nonthaburi, Thailand

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Philly artist traces decay of Asian movie houses - and of his city's"

Last week The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about my latest exhibition "Forgotten in Plain Sight: Photographs of Southeast Asia's Vanishing Movie Theaters," now on display at PhilaMOCA until August 25th.

531 North 12th Street
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Click the images below to enlarge for reading

Philly Voice also covered the opening with an interview.

The demolition of the Boyd Theatre last year marked the end of an era for Philadelphia, erasing the last of Center City’s bygone movie palaces from the local landscape. Philly native Philip Jablon has witnessed a similar phenomenon taking place halfway around the world in Southeast Asia. Since 2009, Jablon has made it his mission to document the region’s disappearing stand-alone movie houses with the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, a photo blog where he posts images and observations about these vanishing cinemas. The project began as a distraction from several frustrated attempts to write his thesis while attending grad school at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, which has since become his home for much of the year. The hobby gradually evolved into his thesis and, from there, into a full-time focus; he now shows his photographs in gallery shows while writing advocacy pieces for local and international publications. This month, PhilaMOCA will exhibit “Forgotten in Plain Sight,” a selection of Jablon’s photographs. He talked about his curious passion project while back in Philly for the summer.

You earned a degree in Asian studies at Temple and went on to graduate studies in sustainable development in Thailand. How did you initially become interested in Asian culture?
It was really from cinema. The exact instance that really sent me on that path involves one of the last movie theaters here in Philadelphia. In about 1992, when I was 12 or 13, my dad took me to the Roxy, where they screened Jackie Chan’s 'Supercop.' It was a Chinese print with English subtitles, not dubbed, and this was before Jackie Chan made it big in the West. I was blown away. I specifically remember walking back through the streets of Philadelphia toward home, still amped up from this exciting action movie, and my dad saying to me, 'You know what’s great about a movie like this, son? It shows places in the world where people like you and I will probably never go.' And I was like, 'Oh, I’m going there, Dad.' That was a really influential experience.

How did your interest pivot from the movies to the theaters that showed them?
That was a little bit later. I started grad school there in 2006 and had gone through several thesis topics. As a way to dull the pain of the idea that maybe I wouldn't finish school, I started doing this side project photographing old cinemas. It wasn’t a planned thing. As a movie lover, I’d go watch movies in my free time. There were two cinemas that I was aware of in the city, and they were both on the top floors of these rather large shopping malls, which I always thought was kind of boring, but I figured that was just the way it was over there.
Then one day while riding my bike through town, I took a turn down a small alley and came across this old stand-alone movie theater. That really opened my eyes to this whole other facet of life and culture that had gone under my radar. A few months later, I went back and it had been demolished. That was the impetus. I made a conscious decision that if this is happening here in this city, I’m sure it’s happening elsewhere in the country and I’d like to make a record.

Is there a particular architectural style for these theaters? From what I’ve seen on your site, these buildings don’t resemble American-style movie palaces.
Architecturally, they vary from country to country. The vast majority of them were built in one variation of modern architecture or another. In the U.S., most of what we think of as the grand stand-alone movie theaters were built in the late teens up through the ’30s. With the exception of the art deco ones, we were building them in one form or another of pre-modern, European revivalist styles.
Whereas in Southeast Asia, the vast majority of those that are still in existence were built from the ’50s up through the early ’80s, depending on which country you’re in, and that point in time corresponded directly with very strong movements in modern architecture. So you’ve got some brutalism, some international style, some forms of tropical art deco, and some countries have their own unique language for theater architecture.
Burma has a particular style that I’ve informally dubbed 'Burmese polychromes.' It’s just a boxy fa├žade, but there are these beautiful multi-colored patterns all across the front. So I’m trying to get it into the mind of the Burmese, 'Hey, look, you’ve got your own unique style of movie theater, this is something you should treasure a little bit more.' I’m trying to spur the preservationist sentiment.

How endangered are these theaters?
When I first started this project, there were still probably about 30 operating stand-alone movie theaters in Thailand. Now there are a grand total of four, not including a few theaters that are operating on the sly showing porn. There are literally entire regions of Thailand where the culture that was embodied by that form is completely gone.

Are the theaters and their styles reflective of the cultures or history in these countries?
If you look at when the theaters were built — in Thailand, for instance, you start to see a boom in development, including movie theaters, in 1961. That corresponds with the year that the U.S. set up military bases in Thailand because they were flying recon missions over Laos and Vietnam, who they were on the verge of getting into wars with. So the U.S. was sending military aid and economic development assistance in, and this was trickling down to society across the board.
The Motion Picture Association of America also had agents in Thailand and was bringing in films that expressed certain kinds of political messages, so it was very much part and parcel of the U.S. nation-building effort in that part of the world, trying to combat the spread of communism. At the same time, you had the development of indigenous film industries, so some theaters would specialize in Hollywood films while other theaters would specialize in Thai films or Burmese films. I’ve learned so much about how geopolitics actually works on the ground level in terms of cultural indoctrination and propaganda.

Do you feel like your work has had an impact?
Yes. I was actually just voted by Time Out Bangkok magazine as an 'expat we love.' Seven years ago, nobody cared about these buildings, and now there’s actually an active movement to revive select ones. It was really a rediscovery for a lot of people, particularly younger people.