Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

A tool that is over 150 years old

Photo Phnom Penh in Cambodia has made its mark in the photo festival landscape in Southeast Asia since its inception nine years ago. The festival is free and brings the art to the public space.


Autumn is the time for international photo festivals, and in Southeast Asia, Photo Phnom Penh in Cambodia has emerged as one of the most interesting in recent years. The festival, which will be held for the ninth time this year, will create synergies between Asian and European photographers and highlight the new Cambodian photography.

The 14 photographers presented during this year's festival appear as a loosely curated selection of photographic themes and practices of varying levels; from acclaimed press photographers like Mak Remissa and renowned art photographers like JH Engström, to passionate amateur photographers like Ly Min.

Photo of change

Two of the exhibitors – Korean Daesung Lee and Russian Alexey Shlyk – stand out with their ability to tell stories that people and objects carry. They both use photography to point to slow changes in both landscape and culture, each telling in its own way about the near-breaking point of our consumption.

As we study graphs of estimated CO2 levels, and hold conferences and international summits where we try to adopt the levels of future emissions and wonder how much the Earth's temperature can withstand, we hear about people in other parts of the world who live in very precarious situations due to climate change. How to photograph something that happens so slowly, which is not individual and dramatic events, but changes over time?

"Photography must embody feelings, questions and deep thoughts." Christian Cajoulle

In the project On the shore of a vanishing island Korean Daesung Lee does this by staging the people living in the landscape. The people we meet in the pictures carry the slow development that we cannot perceive with our sensory apparatus: The Bengali boy from the island of Gohramarah looks right at us from a small earthen wall surrounded by water. He is only 12-13 years old, but carries with him the memories and the physical experience from when this was a fertile soil. Over 50 percent of the island is now submerged and two-thirds of the original population has moved there.

In the series The Appleseed Necklace Alexey Shlyk looks back on his upbringing in Belarus, where he was born in 1986, and the citizens' distinctive creativity and ability to use the resources they had. Lacking access to goods and materials, they used what they had and developed a "do it yourself" attitude. In his project, Shlyk exalts these home-made products; a weight manual of taped bricks; a dress sewn from old kitchen curtains – objects that are perceived as worthless in today's society. It looks a bit comical with a chandelier made of a twisted bicycle rim, but it makes me think back a generation or two, to a time when it was quite common to repair things with what you had on hand.

Photo to the people

The photograph has contributed to important changes in both society and politics, but with the amount of images that we are exposed to daily, it is challenging to choose focus.

Ny Tid asked the festival's artistic director and curator Christian Cajoulle what photographic practices he believes are important today: «I believe that all forms of aesthetics can be accepted, as long as it is visually connected and that the person behind it has a clear idea of what is to be expressed or displayed. I am not a curator who is dependent on or attached to a particular approach. I like all photographic expressions, as long as it is not only decorative or 'beautiful', but offers meaning and evokes emotions, questions and deep thoughts. "

Where does Cajoulle think that photography today has its greatest potential to influence society? “From the beginning of the 21st century, we have moved from the world of photography to a world of images, where photographs are only a small part of the vast amount of images circulating on the internet every day. Deciding that you are a photographer is today a choice that means that you take a stand, that you choose a form to express yourself with. To be a photographer today, you must want to explore the world, and to ask questions with a tool that is over 150 years old and has a very specific relationship to reality. "

As during previous festivals, many of this year's photo projects hang around the cityscape. Is physically bringing the photograph out into the public space an important aspect of the festival? "Showing the photograph in the public space has been crucial from the very beginning. Exhibiting in public spaces is important everywhere, but especially important in a country like Cambodia, where many are afraid to open the door to a museum or gallery. Poverty is widespread in the country and a large proportion of the population struggles to make a living. Then it goes without saying that they can not afford to buy tickets to art exhibitions in galleries. The city's population is our most important audience and therefore everything during the festival is free. "

phnom penh photo,
Cambodia, lasts until November 5
The festival is run by the Photo Phnom Penh Association (NGO),
in collaboration with the French Institute
of Cambodia.


You may also like