“These photographs have been selected from a large collection that I have taken in many provinces of Cambodia over the 7 years that I have worked for The HALO Trust.
For me, the saddest thing about life for people in the countryside is the need to think about the possibility of landmines still being in places where they live and work. Most people in Cambodia do not know how difficult it is to live in landmine affected areas. They have no idea about landmines and the impact of them on the daily life of people. When I am taking photos, my aim is always to show the difficulties people face, what is being done to overcome them through The Mine Risk Education team’s work and how people’s lives are transformed when their land has been cleared and they can live and work without fear. When I visit the beneficiaries, after The HALO Trust has cleared their land, I feel very happy because their lives have improved. They can grow more crops to earn money to feed their families, and they can make plans for the future. Their land and the roads are safe and the area around schools is safe for children. People can forage and use the roads without feeling frightened.
I feel proud of all the de-miners who work so hard to clear the mines from people’s land. Many de-miners whom I have met have said that they also feel proud to work with The HALO Trust because they can earn money to support their own families and they are happy to be part of an organisation that helps other Cambodian people live in a safe environment. I try hard to show that the teams work together and communicate well with each other, even though they often have to work in harsh, physically demanding conditions.
It is my dream that one day I will be able to take photographs of people in my country, knowing that all the mines have been destroyed. I hope that the land will be covered in trees, and full of many different kinds of crops. I also hope all the houses and schools will have been built on the cleared land and people in the countryside will feel safe and can walk and go about their lives without fear.
Born in Takeo Province, in the south of Cambodia, Sophal and her family moved to Siem Reap in 2007. She attended Anjali House, an NGO which supports underprivileged young people from 2007 to 2011. It was here she was introduced to photography through the Angkor Photo Festival’s annual workshops for the children of Anjali House.
In 2011, she was one of two Anjali House students invited to participate in a photo shoot for The HALO Trust (an international mine clearance NGO). As a result of this, Sophal was offered a full time job with The HALO Trust, based in Siem Reap, where she continues to work full time.
Sophal’s photographs have been published on The HALO Trust website, in annual reports, donor reports and her work is represented in The HALO Trust office in Siem Reap. Documenting the work done by The HALO Trust takes her to many provinces around the country to visit areas which have been impacted by landmines. When out in the field, Sophal focuses on photographing beneficiaries of mine clearance, as well as shooting images which show the daily work of the de-miners and other staff who work in the minefields. Sophal believes this is important to document because, “it is showing the impact of mine clearance on the everyday life of people in the countryside.”
In her free time, Sophal enjoys photographing people and likes to focus on the countryside. She is interested in recording a way of Cambodian life that is rapidly disappearing as the country becomes more urbanised.
2014 The Impact Project – The Lake Clinic Cambodia
2015 The Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles
2010 Awarded first prize in the Student Section of the inaugural You Khin Memorial Women’s Art Prize. This initiative was a collaboration between Java Arts and the US Embassy
2010 Photos published in Cambodia Our Vision (Francoise Callier (ed.), Angkor Photo Association), a book showcasing images taken during the 2008/2009 Angkor Photo Festival/Anjali House student photography workshops
2010 Images displayed as prints and slideshow at the book launch of Sue Guiney’s Clash of the Innocents, Asia House, London
2011 Four prints represented in an exhibition of Anjali House student photography, Cambodia – through our eyes, Moonah Arts Centre, Tasmania, Australia
2015 Photography book The Lucky One, by Try Sophal, sample copies published
2015 Winner of one of 50 prizes for online voting in the European Union Climate Change photography contest
2018 Invited to participate in a 3-day photography workshop entitled Getting Your Message Out (for NGOs, aid and development agencies) run by Nic Dunlop and Patrick Brown in Bangkok.