Photo Phnom Penh 2013

Cambodia, written by Christian Caujolle

Pol-I Chen sur le Quai Sisovath © Philong Sovan pour PPP

The weather had us worried up to the last minute. The end of monsoon season, which lasts well beyond the Water Festival, gave us spectacular thunderstorms and showers that left the air charged with moisture. Worse still, at the Wat Botum temple, a sudden squall blew down a twenty-meter wall featuring Mak Remiss’ series on fire. It will have to be redone, but the flame is still burning.

Outside, on the banks of the river near the Sisovath docks, as soon as the sun sets, thousands of visitors flock to the exhibitions. The black-and-white squares of Micheline Dullin’s series call to mind the construction of the Olympic Stadium, and the aerial views evoke the nearly-completed Japanese bridge, sparking discussions about the city, the meaning of the construction and how the city is changing under the shadow of the massive skyscraper—soon to be a luxury hotel—rising up on the facing shore, right across from the exhibition. The Royal Palace had made unpleasant remarks about the tower’s effect on the city’s skyline. But somehow things worked out. Meanwhile, as night falls, a woman with a flashlight examines each photograph. She remembers...  

A little later, a group of four women is standing by the large photographs of fish by Chea Nging—also known as DJ Moon—talking and laughing about the the different types of fish and the best ways to cook them.

In addition to the outdoor exhibitions are indoor ones by both young and established artists from Asia and Europe. Although there’s no unifying theme, one can sense a common questioning on the haphazard urbanization of Phnom Penh.

Thailand, Vietnam—with Maika Elan’s series on homosexuals in that country—China, Taiwan and Bangladesh represent Asia this year, along with many young Cambodian artists from the Studio Images training center. The Asia we see is highly diverse and contemporary, questioning its identity, its relationship with its past and the environment.

But there’s also a poetic and fantastic tone, beginning with Laurent Chéhère’s floating houses on a large wall outside the French Embassy, and Bernard Faucon’s “Chambres d’Or,” among others.

At the French Institute are discussions, portfolio reviews and screenings of films about photography by Gabriele Basilico and Anders Petersen. This is where the closing night ceremonies will be held on December 4. It will be a big party with music and projections.

In the past six years, Photo Phnom Penh has attracted enormous crowds and given many people here a calling. We expect so many visitors on opening night that there’s concern about not enough available taxis . And it promises to be ideal festival weather, and a wonderful week of fun and reunions before facing an uncertain future: Photo Phnom Penh currently has no prospects for funding for next year’s edition

Christian Caujolle


Photo Phnom Penh 2013
November 30 - December 31, 2013

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In 2012, Adrien Golinelli decided to join a group of tourists visiting North Korea, trying to make a revealing documentary on one of the most closed countries of the world. During this perfectly guided and protected tour, he tried to capture the other side of the story. “I’ve used what they showed me to show what they tried to hide for me”.


Born in Cambodia in 1989, Chea Nging was studying in the media and communications stream when she began to take an interest in photography, wanting to explore “the inspiration that she could not express in language”. In her series Deep, she takes a fresh look at a basic ingredient in Cambodian cuisine, dried fish. It can be seen on display in nearly every market stall in the capital, so commonplace as hardly to merit a glance by passersby. Chea Nging decided to shed some scholarly enlightenment on the matter. 


Back in the summer of 1896, Gabriel Veyre (1871–1936) embarks on a round-the-world tour with the cinematography tools that the Lumière brothers entrust him with to make their new invention known to the planet. First Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Venezuela, then in 1898 Canada, China, and Japan.He thus became the first person to film these faraway lands and his films were shown at screenings put on by the Lumière brothers.


In this series, Pha Lina did portraits of the members of six families he met in Ratanakiri. All, in their daily occupations –hunting, fetching water, working in the rice paddy, cooking– find themselves strangely wrapped, tied up, in a meter of yellow ribbon that prevents the subjects from moving or interferes with their movements.


Every day, when he goes to work, Sun Vanndy meets the main object of his first series: children at the crossroads of Phnom Penh, selling Jasmin Flowers for a few Riels to car drivers. “These children should be at school, but they don’t have the choice , their families need the money”. When night falls, the photographer hangs around with them in the middle of the traffic, trying to be invisible, although the kids and passengers are very curious.


Born in 1985 in Paris, Sovan Philong cut his teeth in photography under the guidance of Mak Remissa and went on to join Studio Images. His put on his first exhibition at PPP in 2009, featuring the people living in a former Catholic chapel. This landed him a position on the Phnom Penh Post team. He left photojournalism to work on personal projects to indulge his passion for light: Computer Light Portraits and Moto’s Light, among others.


 The Flying Houses series started in 2007, is a poetic view on popular Parisian suburbs – Ménilmontant in particular – where Laurent Chéhère lives. « I wanted to tell the true or invented story of those sad and battered anonymous houses and give them an identity. » In that same spirit, he starts to take pictures of the old - for him interesting - buildings, before isolating them and placing them in the clouds.


In 2010, Maika Elan starts  her first series on The Pink Choice, focusing on representing homosexuality – always seen in a negative way in Vietnam. "In media, gays are always hidden, blurred. (…) In movies, they’re always excessively made up and they wear ridiculous costumes." Maika Elan tries to break these stereotypes with pictures of gay couples in their daily life. 


Born in Bangladesh in 1983, Munem Wasif started to be interested in photography during his childhood, thanks to his uncle - great traveler and amateur-photographer. After his studies at the Begart Institute – Bangladesh, he starts his career as a press photographer in his own country, before leaving for the Agency Vu in Paris in 2008.


Produced by Chhoun Vanny and Eam Da, the series “Part of The Wall” features some thirty portraits of children from Banteay Meanchey province suffering from physical or mental disabilities. The two photographers and their models were present at the 2012 art workshops of the NGO named Action IEC. Between play and creation, these workshops were an opportunity to both come to terms with one’s identity and overcome physical obstacles.



At the end of the eighties, Bernard Faucon visits Asia: the inspiring trip for Chambers of Gold. “When I came back, I felt like drunk with gold and Buddhist phantasmagorias.” He entitles his serie Chambers of Gold and continues the work he started for Chambers of Love and Chambers of Winter, showing the all time  splendors of the golden statues representing Buddha in the Asian temples he visited. 


Chuon Nyra was born in Cambodia in 1989. She began to feel interested in the potential and the meaning of photography after joining a workshop. While working on her techniques, she soon starts to look for a “story to tell”.


Between 2010 and 2012, Dow Wasiksiri made his series called Local fashion around Kad Luang Market – Chiang Mai, to celebrate the centenary of the biggest market in Thailand (celebrated in 2011). He took his pictures looking around and watching people passing by in the market: «I choose people who were not interested in fashion, who are just themselves». After that, he looked for background at the local fabric stalls around: vinyl, tablecloth and other fabric that could be used as temporary and tailored background.


Born in 1972 in Finland, Elina Brotherus graduated from the Helsinki Universityof Art and Design. In most of her work, she stages herself autobiographically or fictionally, at the same time questioning the classical forms of pictorial art such as the nude, the portrait or landscapes. In the serie “12 Years After” she goes back to her arrival in France and her study of the French language using Post-it notes stuck on everything around her.


Born in Cambodia in 1970, Mak Remissa became in the nineties the most promising photographers of his generation. With a diploma from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, he became famous with the series Fish and Ants and Water is Life, shown in Cambodia and all over the world. 


Born in Thailand in 1982, Noi Satirat Damampai started her career as a photographer for magazines specialised in documentaries. She decided  to leave photo-journalism and to explore more artistic and intuitive photography. On a trip to Laos, she decided to create the serie Mae Ying, “Women” in Lao. "While travelling through Laos from the North to the South, I’ve noticed several times the same thing: I saw mostly women and very few men in the villages."


Born in 1978 in Cambodia, Phann Sithan got his feet wet in photography mainly by taking pictures of landscapes as he travelled out in the provinces. He enrolled in a workshop, where he was able to refine his techniques. Meanwhile, he continued documenting his center of interest—nature and the environment.


Born in Paris in 1927, Micheline Dullin is first of all a great traveler. On a trip to Cambodia, she got hired by the King Nordodom Sihanouk as his official photographer between 1958 and 1964. During that time and many years later, she documented this country she loves for the diversity of its architecture, landscapes and people.


Born in Taiwan in 1972, Chen Po-I has always been interested in photography, although he’s trained as an oceanographic engineer. Photography is his way to question certain topics in society. His work has been exposed many times in Taiwan and abroad and is mostly focussed on keeping alive the collective memory of his country’s history.


Born in Cambodia in 1979, Toy Monireth is interested in photography since early childhood. A few years later, she finds a way to buy a camera to make family portraits on a regular bases. It gives her "a lot of pleasure and makes here very proud". In 2013, she chooses to develop a serie about silk weaving; a way to value very old artisanal handicraft, and in a metaphoric sense the complexity of human relationship...


Born in Cambodia in 1982, Lim Mengkong studied photography all by himself with only a few books and a lot of practicing. The autodidact became Assistant to the Artistic Director of Globe Magazine South-East Asia. Being a great press reader, he sharpens his vision and stimulates his inspiration every single day.


The exhibition Foreign Familiar, created by Wolfgang Bellwinkel in 2011, brings together 9 photographers, 8 Europeans and 1 American. Their common goal is to live and work in Asia. They all have a particular vision on a both foreign and familiar society and culture, welcoming and inaccessible at the same time.


Born in France in 1979, Vincent J. Stoker started to use photography “by necessity” to express artistically the topic he’s almost obsessed with since he discovered an abandoned paper factory in Corbeilles-Essone: ruined locations. His work is called Heterotopia, following the concept of the philosopher, tries to explore other ruined locations, halfway between an utopia and the real world. 


Born in 1963 in Harbin, Zhang Dali has a degree from the National School of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he was the first recognized graffiti-artist in the 90s. Multidiscipline artist, he always integrated photography in his artistic work, mostly related to changes in urban environment. 


Since the invention of photography, many painters have used it as the basis for their compositions. But few have used it as a means of documenting what they do. That’s what Vong Sopheak has done, modestly and soberly, as he makes a photographic record in his shop of the different steps of his paintings and sketches.