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Say Goodbye to Legendary Chiang Mai Photographer, Uncle Boonserm

Boonserm Satrabhaya passed away on August 16th at 88 years of age. He had been hospitalised for a month and passed away peacefully. Uncle Boonserm’s photos are iconic and if you have never heard of him, you would have seen his images all over the city, printed on boutique hotel and restaurant walls, sold as post cards and also in the pages of Citylife magazine repeatedly over the years.

Uncle Boonserm was born in 1929 and began taking photographs at the tender age of 12, turning professional by the age of 20. In 1958 when His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej visited Northern Thailand for the first time, uncle Boonserm was assigned to photograph the king during his journey. In 1960, uncle Boonserm started to work for Kon Muang newspaper, the first daily newspaper of Chiang Mai and in 1962, he won a national award for ‘Spirits of the Yellow Leaves’, an exclusive photography report of the rare Malabri hill tribe people of Nan, whom he visited and photographed along with famed archaeologist Kraisri Nimmanahaeminda. The world was first introduced to the Malabri through his images. This award was for best documentary journalism and is considered equivalent to Thailand’s Pulitzer Prize.

Uncle Boonserm created photo books to commemorate historical moments in Chiang Mai’s history including ‘Lanna Royal Visit’ of HM King Rama IX’s journey in Chiang Mai, ‘Chiang Mai and the Enemies in the Air’, historic photos during the Pacific War “Yesterday Lanna” photos of Chiang Mai city in the old days and more. Uncle Boonserm has willed his photos, camera, vinyl records and his photography equipment to Chiang Mai University Main Library and Payap University.

Here are some of his more iconic images.

Related Article: Chiang Mai Then and Now

More Uncle Boonserm’s photos visit: Picture Lanna