The Thursday, April 17, 1975, was an ordinary day around the world; overcast but mild in Europe, sunny but windy in America. In Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, the sky was black. The nightmare began. The victorious Khmer Rouge entered the city and emptied of its inhabitants. In one week, more than two million people took the direction of the countrysides under a blazing sun and stifling atmosphere. The most educated people were quickly executed. Their eyes were covered by black thin fabric, a short time before to be murdered. For 3 years, 8 months and 20 days, the city that was the Pearl of Southeast Asia was invaded by a strange and disturbing silence. After the fall of the Pol Pot regime, the survivors returned to a city neglected, haunted by the never returned souls. There is no place without memory and Phnom Penh is not an exception. While the city is growing fast today, Kim Hak decided to walk inside it; streets and avenues, squares and alleys, places and dead ends, giving a look, providing eyes of the departed who must not be forgotten.
“Daun Penh” is dedicated to all; those who left Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge regime without any chance to return to their beloved city.
Born in Battambang City, in the northwest of Cambodia.
Kim Hak was born two years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and he grew up listening to his parent’s memories of that time. Now, he uses his art practice to raise awareness of this country’s past – to remember, reclaim and reinterpret Cambodian social history from before, during and after the Khmer Rouge era.
Hak’s work has explored a number of themes related to the cultural fabric of Cambodia, including survivor stories, the funeral of King Sihanouk, architectural documentation and also the wider changing landscape of his homeland.
He has exhibited extensively throughout Asia, Europe, Canada and the United States of America. His work has featured internationally at art and photography festivals and has been published in a number of prominent photography journals.
To create a photographic series ‘Rice Pot’, Neak Sophal collaborated with a group of women in her village, Takeo province. It is where many of her family members still live. Titled after a colloquial complaint frequently voiced by Cambodian women, ‘Rice Pot’ is a series of portraits which speaks to a woman’s primary responsibility and vital role within most Cambodian families: nourishment. Even though Cambodia’s economy is growing rapidly, one in three people only earn 0. 62cents a day. Thus, Sophal has been trying to instill pride in women for their endeavors in not only generating income for their families but also for bearing with societal pressures that they have received till today.
Neak Sophal is a conceptual photographer, considered as one of the emerging talents of the Cambodian art scene. Her works highlight social issues and specificities of the Cambodian culture, with a strong focus on the stories and memories of her models. Trained as a graphic designer at the Phnom Penh Royal University for the Arts, she always prepares the composition of her photographs by asking the model to pose, sometimes with specific objects.
I Am A Daughter
“I am A Daughter” photo series aims to discover the challenges of Cambodian girls encountering issues in a range of areas such as family, culture, education, and society. In addition, the motivation of this work is to demonstrate how girls can also gain power from herself. Ms. You Savean, a 13-year-old student studying in grade four in an outskirt school of Phnom Penh shared her stories about how she tries to live her life with a drunken, drug-addicted and mentally-ill father who threatens her life. However, she is still living with him and her grandmother who has been taking care of her since her mother left. Savean is just one of the girls in her community, many of whom face the same problem.
Sereyrath Mech graduated from the Department of Media and Communications of the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2018. She has exhibited her works with a social/environmental cause in Phnom Penh and other Cambodian cities. Moreover, she directs short feature and docu films.