Hundreds of stark black-and-white portraits of terrified people are displayed on large panels in Tuol Sleng, the former Cambodian prison that is now a museum. The portraits stand as a visual symbol of a genocide: The subjects were photographed before they were tortured and put to death under the Khmer Rouge, the fanatical communist regime that, from 1975 to 1979, caused the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians.
Matt Loughrey, an Irish artist who runs a business colorizing old photographs, recently colorized versions of the same portraits found in the prison. In some cases, he altered the images to put smiles on the victims’ faces. In an interview with Mr. Loughrey published last Friday, Vice Media said the colorization was intended to “humanize the tragedy.”
Vice’s publication of the doctored photos caused an outcry from Cambodians worldwide who saw them as a trivialization and desecration of their national tragedy. Vice has since removed the article, but many Cambodians remain shocked by Mr. Loughrey’s treatment of the portraits and have called for an apology.