The truth about bar photography

Nick Nostitz achieved a measure of notoriety at the beginning of this century when his book, Patpong: Bangkok’s Twilight Zone was published.

The book was the first of a kind, full of candid photographs inside and outside, of the go-go bar scene of Patpong.

In an October 2000 interview with METRO magazine, Nostitz said he was asked why he had made the nightlife scene look so ugly? “Well, it is! A lot of people live in denial. Why do you think they use red lights? It makes the skin look good and inviting. Take away the red light with a camera flash and you see the scars, the blotches, the flabby skin.”

Anyone who has bar-fined Miss World and walked out into the bright lights of the evening and then wondered why he’s sauntering down a back soi with Magilla Gorilla on his arm, even though he’s only had three Singha’s, can relate to Nostitz’s statement.

Certainly, when I was involved with a glossy magazine called Pattaya by Night, it was amazing to see just how many go-go dancers who appeared to look great wrapped around a chrome pole really didn’t photograph very well. Truth be told, most don’t look good in the harsh light of day or the flash of the camera bulb.

As Nostitz rightly pointed out, most journalists work on the exploitation factor of the nightlife scene. ‘For me, that goes both ways, the girls exploit the men, too, but that’s a small thing…it goes way beyond prostitution, because there are so many unique factors in Bangkok: 1) the illusion of freedom and happiness; 2) Bangkok’s different from other cities with a lot of prostitutes, it’s a very safe city. You can be drunk at 4am in the middle of the road and nothing will happen to you. That creates a strange atmosphere. It looks so soft, happy and free. 3) it’s Asia, but you don’t need to have culture shock. You have a façade of western amenities.’

Just substitute the word ‘Pattaya’ for ‘Bangkok’ and the comments are pretty much applicable to our little sleaze-pit by the sea.

One of the chapters of his book dealt with regular, professional prostitutes. Nostitz said, ‘Girls go to a bar to make money, but they get addicted. There’s an illusion of freedom. The exchange of money is a very superficial thing. There are many cases where the woman gives it for free, or supports the man.’

As Nostitz noted, ‘A lot of people want to record the nightlife scene, but don’t realise how much it takes from you. You lose a lot in an emotional sense.’

We stopped producing the Pattaya by Night magazine after five issues, which spread between January 2006 and July 2009. Although a financial success, it had become more like work than an enjoyable pastime, particularly for the photographer.

As with many things in life there is a law of diminishing returns, be they monetary, physical, or emotional. For us, Pattaya by Night had become a burden on the physical and emotional levels, so the magazine is now just a snapshot of about four years in the life of a number of major Pattaya bars, some of which are no longer in operation.

It is still possible to find discounted copies of issues 4 and 5 of the magazine (Pattaya Beach Books, second floor, Tops Supermarket on Central Pattaya Road), or earlier issues (those that are left anyway) can be purchased from

Issues 4 and 5 have also been turned into e-books.


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