Nov 09 2011
It is one of the core elements of Siem Reap’s emerging artistic scene, a sign of its confidence and capacity to host important events, and an investment in the future of Cambodia’s artists. Now in its seventh year, the Angkor Photo Festival is the first international photo festival in Southeast Asia and launches at 20:30 on November 19, at the FCC Angkor.
It’s hard to emphasise enough how international the festival is. The work of 110 photographers from all over the world will be on display over the course of the week, with events every evening and a series of 10 exhibitions in locations all over town that usually last longer than the festival itself.
While the festival does not have a theme as such, there is naturally a greater emphasis on Asia and Asian photographers, including young Cambodian students enrolled at Anjali House, an NGO that was established by the Angkor Photo Festival following its inception. One of them, Try Sophal, documents the work of The Halo Trust, a British landmine clearing NGO based in Siem Reap. You can see her work at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor garden.
From the press images that were released, there is though a clear tendency towards photo reportage rather than fine art photography. Images witness crises, tumult, conflict and fear from all over the world: Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Cuba, Italy, France, the Congo… The subjects are wide-ranging too, from voodoo to hip-hop, psychiatric hospitals in Russia, the journey of a young male ballet dancer in South Africa, America’s modern day Ku Klux Klan, revolution in Egypt and Libya, the tsunami in Japan, and 100 more stories. These are searing records of events we know about, and many that don’t make it onto our newspapers and TV screens. The food crisis in Niger has received little coverage for example, ditto the deportation of illegal immigrants from Italy.
But there is also hope; the hope of every photographer that with every photo taken another light step has been taken towards putting an end to the horrors. And although the images deal in the grit and trauma of some of the worst places in the world, that is not to say that they are not also beautiful. Indeed, the very beauty of the images puts the ugliness of what they capture into shocking relief. The beauty is often also a mark of the photographer’s compassion and respect for their subjects. For a striking example of that, check out Andrea Star Reese’s image from the series “Chasing stigma”, below.
The festival is also an opportunity to invest in Cambodia’s talent, with a series of workshops led by renowned international photographers who work with young Cambodians, teaching them the skills and tricks of the trade.
The festival is one of the highlights of the year in Siem Reap, and a great opportunity to explore parts of the town you might otherwise miss. A full calendar of events is available here. We’ve got some more images for you below for a taster of what’s to come…
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