Pictures of Japanese fighting fish

February 14, 2017
Inspiration: The photographer

Siamese fighting fish, also known as bettas, have an impressive name to go with their rep, but they are ubiquitous and, unfortunately, often seen as disposable. It’s therefore refreshing to see Visarute Angkatavanich’s photos of the beauty and boldness commanded by these common pets and their tragic peers, goldfish.

“I love seeing them in a stopped action, the feeling of simplicity is amazing, seeing how they pose like dancers, ” he says.

The Thai photographer shoots his striking pesca-portraits at home, using a Nikon D800 and simple strobe light. More important than the gear, he says, is getting the water and glass clean enough to ensure the photos are free of flecks. Using a macro lens on such small subjects means even the tiniest mote of dust will loom large. And, as with all things, patience is a virtue.

As a kid, Angkatavanich’s father gave him small aquarium fish as pets, creating his affinity for goldfish, Siamese fighting fish, guppies, and the like. Before each shoot, he enjoys hunting for just the right specimen, with the nicest colors, contours, and grace of motion to ensure the best photos.

“It’s just like going to a modeling agency to find the most photogenic fish, ” he says. “Maybe not the one with the highest price, but I have to find the most interesting fish. Sometimes the fish I want to get is taken by another customer before my very eyes — that can make me feel very upset the whole day.”

Once he’s done with a shoot, he adds the fish to his collection.

When he isn’t photographing fish, Angkatavanich does commercial work. This unnamed and ongoing series — Angkatavanich reckons it’s got about 300 pictures so far — is an opportunity to let his senses be his guide. It’s a nice counterpoint to the intense scrutiny and planning required of commercial photo projects. “Every element in the photo has to have reasoning — why this color, why use a girl or a boy in the ad. But when it comes to a hobby or fine art, I have my own right to do anything I want with no explanations, just do what I like to see.”

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