Photo Exhibition Puts Spotlight on Social Issues
By | March 4, 2013

Evictions, the rehabilitation of landmine victims and a prison art workshop are just three of the subject matters at the heart of a new photojournalism exhibition that focuses on social issues in Cambodia.

“Documenting Cambodia,” which opened on Friday at the 1961 Gallery in Siem Reap, features the work of seven Cambodia-based photographers—Erika Pineros, Thomas Cristofoletti, David Belluz, Meng Kimlong, Omar Havana, Sam Jam and George Nickels—and draws on their experiences covering a range of issues that affect people the length and breadth of the country.

It has been curated by Cambo­dian-American Magnum foundation photographer Pete Pin, who earned plaudits for his “Diaspora” photo essay of the lives of Cambo­dians in the U.S.

He said he was interested in how the photos “spoke cohesively and told a compelling visual story that moved me emotionally and aesthetically,” and that he honed in on photographs that were not only powerful, but cohesive.

“Upon looking at the finished product, I see that in spite of the heart-wrenching issues covered by the photographers, there is an overwhelming sense of dignity and humanity in the photographs collectively,” Mr. Pin said by email.

The exhibition is the first to be put together by NGO Insider, a Siem Reap-based website that aims to provide a platform for photojournalists in Cambodia.

“The idea was to nurture the local photo community in Cambodia,” said co-founder Alex Pettiford.

He said he wished more Cambo­dian photographers had responded to the callout for contributors, but that in the end, “it came down to seven people who wanted to exhibit.”

Mr. Cristofoletti, whose “Blood Sugar” photo essay looks at the hardships faced by plantation workers, some of them children, said that while he was pleased to be part of the exhibition, “It was also painful to hear stories from the people who had been evicted, how they’d lost the little they had, and how they’re now forced to work in the plantations and ask for loans to survive.”

Indeed, his work and that of the other photographers, who also covered child labor and life in rubbish dumps, is sure to get people talking about some of the country’s most pressing issues.

“We want to create dialogue,” Mr. Pettiford said. “We don’t want to put an opinion across; we want the photographers to put it across with their work, and we want people to form their own opinions.”

“Documenting Cambodia” runs through April 30.

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