Exhibition By Dutch Photographer Delves Into Cambodia’s Fragile Natural World

Photographer Michael Klinkhamer’s latest exhibition, “Pure Thomacheat,” is a reminder of the fragile natural world that is often overlooked by the inhabitants of cities such as Phnom Penh.

“In the cities with people rushing to get more money and more business, the power of nature the power of flowers…subsequently they’re suffering from our environmental impact and it’s very delicate, the secret life of plants,” he said, speaking at his exhibition this week. 

The 15 photos, which went on display at the InterContinental Phnom Penh’s Insider Gallery on May 29, bring us a step closer to this “secret life.” Blown up to poster size, they reveal the delicate form, the birth and decay and ultimately the power of Cambodia’s natural world.

Describing them as “mood images” the Dutch photographer hopes that they provide the viewer with an escape from the troubles of their day-to-day life.

In contrast to Mr. Klinkhamer’s last exhibition, “Can’t Go Wrong Here,” (February 2014), which featured photographs of people that live in Phnom Penh,  “Pure Thomacheat” has only one photo featuring a person.

The photo “Boy” depicts a young child staring intensely from behind a lotus leaf. Mr. Klinkhamer explained that this “is [the] essential photograph of the exhibition because the boy is pure. The leaf in front of him…there is a heart shape feel to it. It brings things together, humanity and nature as one.”

By stripping away the color from flowers and plants, the next few photographs in the series illuminate the delicate intricacy of nature’s form. The contrast of rotting leaves next to flowers yet to blossom is described by the photographer as an example of the “circle of life.”

This constant renewal is not unique to nature. “You have both the young and the old and I think that is an integral part of the Buddhist religion too and the way people live here,” he said.

The majority of the photos were taken within Phnom Penh, though there are some that were taken in the provinces. Using a vivid filter, the photographer brings out the sun’s powerful energy in “Synthese,” and the contrast of water droplets in “Tears In The Rain.”  The last photo in the exhibition shows a multi-colored waterfall; taken in Pailin province it is entitled “Source” and represents both the beginning and the end of the life cycle.

Having witnessed the environmental destruction in Pailin caused by extensive logging, the photographer hopes that his exhibition will show people that Cambodia’s nature is at risk of being lost. “The message [is] keep looking at the details, keep looking at the beauty of [nature] and remember it’s very sacred and very fragile, take care of it and don’t destroy it.”

“Pure Thomacheat” is on display at the InterContinental Phnom Penh’s Insider Gallery through June 28, 2014.

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