HIs images are aptly exhibited at the Siem Reap Riverside, and is part of the inaugural GreenLight Exhibition Series, jointly supported by the AIMF (L’Association Internationale des Mairies Francophones), Ville de Genève, and Siem Reap Government.
At 4,200 kilometres, the Mekong River – which originates from the Tibetan plateau up north and traverses China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand before ending its voyage into the South China Sea – is Southeast Asia’s socio-economic pulse and lifeline.
It was also Lâm’s lifeline.
As a young boy, he waded through the Mekong River in order to reach refugee camps in Thailand as civil war broke out in Indochina. He left for France in the winter of 1977, and was given a French name and new birth date.
Lâm’s younger days were akin to the mighty Mekong River he had spent 15 years photographing- winding in some stretches and switches quickly from calm to volatile in others.
Lâm had been a mechanic, waiter and humanitarian worker but it was in photography that Lam discovered his place in life.
In 1988, Lâm returned to his homeland in Laos armed with a notepad, pen and camera. He wanted to find out about his roots and understand his displacement. In his autobiography on his website, Lam described his experience as “reconstructing his past”.
He followed the Mekong river from its source in Tibet to its deltas in Vietnam where rice crops depended on the river for water supply. He writes, “Emotions run down on me like the tropical rain, compelling, wholesome, all-powerful.”
Through his eyes and lens, Lâm not only rebuilt his past but weaved thread by thread, a tapestry of stories about the communities that depend upon the river for livelihood.
His repeated journeys to the river were mainly personal trips. But his narratives from these trips include environmental and human rights issues that are exerting pressure on the river and its current inhabitants.
For Lâm, the body of work is more than an intimate story. This is his autobiography.