Artworks

Phnom Penh Photo Festival Offers Local Artists a Platform to Shine

The annual Phnom Penh Photo Festival makes its return, featuring more than 100 diverse works of art from six photographers in three venues across the city.
People visit Phnom Penh Photo Festival on November 27, 2021. Picture: Sam
People visit Phnom Penh Photo Festival on November 27, 2021. Picture: Sam

Hundreds of photographs that capture life in Cambodia have gone on display across the capital with the launch of Phnom Penh Photo Festival 2021.

The festival features hundreds of photos that convey meaningful life stories and educational messages that aim to reach out to Cambodians, especially the youth, through the inspiration of emerging Cambodian photographers.

Pictures are displayed during Phnom Penh Photo Festival on November 27, 2021. Picture: Sam
Pictures are displayed during Phnom Penh Photo Festival on November 27, 2021. Picture: Sam

While the Covid-19 pandemic saw the annual festival held on a smaller scale than previous years, the program has gone ahead. It strives to uplift the vibration of the soul and the art of photography in Cambodia so the next generation can go on to represent the country on the international stage.

The 12th edition of the Phnom Penh Photo Festival takes place at Bophana Center, Institut Français du Cambodge-France institution, and Ambassade de France au Cambodge-France Embassy. In total, it features more than 100 installations from six artists: two Cambodians, one Khmer-Islam and artists from Finland, France and the USA.

The opening event saw more than 100 visitors flock to the venues to see the art works.

Visitors take pictures at Phnom Penh Photo Festival on November 27, 2021. Picture: Sam
Visitors take pictures at Phnom Penh Photo Festival on November 27, 2021. Picture: Sam

The Shadow of My Father- Kleng Bonreach

“When he (father) was alive, I didn’t talk to him much because I was focusing on my studies only. I want him to be proud of the results of my hard studying. In contrast, I forgot him… if you understand what I mean.” She added with​ a faint voice in remembrance of her father, “I haven’t spent much times with him. I was only concentrating on my studies and that make me forget the most important person in my life (her dad). I thought if I graduated with good degree my dad would be very proud of me. But when I achieved my goal, he wasn’t present anymore. That was a complete crash at that time. The success I got was worthless.”

Travelling to the French Institute, in the gallery on the right hand-side you will see a large photo of a lady with short-hair to her neck. She wears a wide plaid shirt with white, yellow, brown, navy blue stripes and dark-green pants. She wears white glasses, both hands are in her pockets and she has a stable expression on her face.

That photo is shot by Ms. Kleng Bonreach. The 26-year-old currently works as a teacher at an international school in Phnom Penh. Originally from Battambang province, she told Kiripost on Saturday she doesn’t expect her photo stories were impressive until her works were selected as a “Special Mentioned Artist” in a virtual exhibit in Singapore.

This led to a 10-day project documenting her childhood hometown – capturing happy memories of when her father was alive – were also selected to exhibit in Phnom Penh Photo Association’s Photo exhibition 2021.

Behind her shadow-style photos that evoke a sense of gloom in viewers through moody night scenes night that embody the spirit of her father who passed away due to Leukemia​ in less than a week. The sudden death of her father is the most tragic and dark times she has experienced.

“The first main thing I want to illustrate to the audience is the hopeless and regret felt when losing someone we love the most. I know he passed away, I can’t see his face anymore, but it’s also a reminder that his physical body has gone while his spirit always follows me like a shadow soul.” She added, “Wherever I go, the shadow of his soul will always be there with me.

“For me those photos seem like my dad’s walking shadow. I feel like the concept of these photos that I have captured had footprints when I was walking. So, when I was walking there are my footsteps in front and there are my father’s footstep shadow behind. The process of walking between me and my father.”

She described how she loves the six footsteps photos, with the shadows featuring the most among more than 10 photos that she has captured to describe the traumatic loss of her dad.

Six foot steps shadow by Kleng Bonreach on November 27, 2021. Picture: Meas Molika
Six foot steps shadow by Kleng Bonreach on November 27, 2021. Picture: Meas Molika

Roundabout-Yousos Apdoulrashim

To the right of the gateway of the France Institution, visitors will be impressed by the round-shaped photos that combine with a fabulous variety colors and styles like a map.

Mr. Yousos Apdoulrashim, a photojournalist and lover of photography since a child growing up in Tbong Khmum province with 10 siblings. He is proud of his career, starting his first job in photography in 2017. Last year, he enrolled on a short photography and came up with the idea of visualizing Cambodia’s roundabouts from the sky. He spent almost a year to complete his photo story, “Roundabout”.

“All the photos are very precious to me; they’re like memories in my life that confirm I went to these places. Wherever I go, I always capture in my feeling and my brain.” he explains with a smile. “Even though, I have driven across the street (roundabout), I have already arrived in the region and taken photos. It shows that in Cambodia has a lot of views to watch for from the sky.”

Roundabout by Yousos Apdoulrashim on November 27, 2021. Picture: Meas Molika
Roundabout by Yousos Apdoulrashim on November 27, 2021. Picture: Meas Molika

He has delighted his photos, which illustrate the road infrastructures and the role they play in traffic management, have been selected to exhibit to the public. This is his first exhibition.

“If you’re a person who likes photographing, you have to set your goal and make it happen. Attempting to find a place where you can establish and exhibit your photos at least once in a life time.” This is the advice that he got from his photography teacher, Mak Remissa, who has inspired him.

The aims of celebrating Phnom Penh Photo Festival annually is to raise the value of the art of photography in Cambodia, inspire youth who love photography and provide local photographers with a platform to showcase their work to the public. Mr. Sovan Philong, vice president of the Phnom Penh Photo Association and event coordinator since 2019, confirmed this with Kiripost.

“We do not want to make this program just for the sake of completing it. We want to make it available to the public, especially for Cambodian photographers,” he explained about the festival’s purpose for Cambodians. “To let them know this festival is made for them; made in Cambodia for the Cambodian people. They can come, they can ask questions, they can find out, they want to know about photos. It’s what we expect and enjoy.”

According to Mr. Mak Remissa, a professional photographer in Cambodia for 25 years who works for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) and is as a photography trainer, told Kiripost on Saturday the role of photography within society.

“It’s like a message for communication to citizens. For example, in the health sector photographs are needed to illustrate how to educate people. We cannot use only words, photos are convenient for people to understanding, and are more touching.”

He wants to see Khmer photography artists enhance their capacity and photography skills to benefit the nation and place Cambodia on the international stage. He also suggested that Cambodia should create a dedicated photography school to educate the next generation of Cambodians in the field.

Phnom Penh Photo Festival started on November 26 and runs until December 15.