Smaller Photo Phnom Penh still packs a punch

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Siem Reap-based photographer Hann Enong says she wants people to ‘feel optimistic’ and empowered when they look at her photos. Hann Enong

Photo Phnom Penh, the longest-running photo festival in Cambodia, has returned for its 11th edition featuring nine Cambodian and international artists who will display their photos at the IFC gallery at the French Institute of Cambodia in Phnom Penh from October 19 until November 30.

Some of the photographs will also be displayed on 100 tuk-tuks across Phnom Penh.

“2020 is the eleventh edition of the Photo Phnom Penh Festival, and this year we organised it by following strict health protocols and hygiene measures according to the ‘new normal’ to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Sovan Philong, president of the Photo Phnom Penh Association, tells The Post.

Despite the lowered budget due to the pandemic, the association – an NGO focused on training young photographers – was able to pull off a smaller version of the event.

Philong says: “The pandemic has impeded many cultural events around the globe causing economic suffering for households and companies. Cambodia is no exception to these negative impacts.

“Therefore, Photo Phnom Penh 2020 is smaller and exceptionally different from previous years’ editions.”

But he insists that the smaller edition maintains the proper feel of a Photo Phnom Penh exhibit.

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Mak Remissa studies animal life and the detioration of the environment in his exhibit Water is Life. Mak Remissa

“The festival this year will be held in accordance with the core principles of Photo Phnom Penh: a meeting between Asia and Europe, as well as free access to art for the youth,” he says.

The artists

Having been trained in a free workshop led by Philong, two young passionate artists – Hann Enong and Yun Ranuth – will have their photos on display at the IFC gallery.

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A portrait from Yun Ranuth’s seed-inspired exhibit.

Enong is a 27-year-old finance employee from Siem Reap province who also works in the tourism industry. She took up photography and painting as hobbies to escape from her stressful profession.

“I’ve been using a camera for the past 10 years, but just for normal photographs, without much meaning. I was able to take professional training for one year and started to learn how to embrace concepts, art and educational purposes in photography,” she tells The Post.

Last year, she attended a photography workshop and started producing pieces for her Here’s My Transition project, where she put on performances in different locations at dusk and at night.

“Sometimes we feel lost. We don’t know what our place is in this world or where it should be.”

There’s a mysterious atmosphere to her photos, presenting more questions than answers.

Twenty of her photos taken in Siem Reap, Battambang and Prey Veng provinces, will be displayed at the Photo Phnom Penh exhibit.

She says: “I was very excited for an opportunity to display my photos in the prestigious Photo Phnom Penh festival,” she said on the opening weekend of the exhibition.

“My favourite part of photography is art photos like those I’ve produced. They carry educational messages about confidence.

“My photos reflect my experience in getting lost and gathering courage and confidence to solve problems. I want people who look at my photos to feel optimistic and always trust in themselves when they’re seeking solutions to their problems.

“In the future, I want to create more contemporary art photos like these because they give me the freedom to inject my perspective, concept, thought and creativity into the frame.”

Sprouts of Life will also be on display, featuring photos from nature-lover and photographer Yun Ranuth.

The 24-year-old artist produced portraits of people with different types of seeds arranged on their faces.

The work of Stephane Lavoue, a former timber engineer in the Amazon region of Brazil, will also be on display.

He was born in France in 1967 and studied at the Centre Iris Photography School in Paris before establishing his domestic and international press career. Over the years, his photos have been exhibited in France and across the globe.

His work The Black Months shows powerful emotion-packed photos of blue-collar workers.

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A photo from Stephane Lavoue’s The Black Months exhibit.

According to Chhon Bunchhoeun, a communications assistant at the French Institute of Cambodia, nine total artists and 76 photographs will be displayed at this year’s exhibition.

“We divided the exhibition [into two parts]. Three artists will constantly display their work and there’s a travelling exhibition where six artists take turns displaying their work during the two-month-long festival,” Bunchhoeun says.

Veteran photojournalist Mak Remissa documents the tragic devolution of the environment in his Water is Life exhibit and in Der Wanderer 2, Elina Brotherus presents landscape photos in different seasons paired with mysterious stories.

Both Remissa’s and Brotherus’ photos can be found adorning tuk-tuks across the city.

Photo Phnom Penh Festival’s exhibition is free to the public and is located at the IFC gallery in The French Institute of Cambodia (Institut Francais du Cambodge) at 218, Keo Chea Street (184), Phnom Penh.