The images in “Offbeat Looks on Fashion,” showing at the Institut Francais, were born from a collaboration between prominent figures in the Cambodia’s high-fashion world and aspiring photographers new to the scene.
“Models move quickly: If you wait just three seconds, they will be moving into another pose,” said Hourt Vuthy, a radio producer by trade. “So we needed to shoot very fast, and it was difficult.”
Mr. Vuthy was among seven students in the advanced class of the institute’s Studio Images photography workshop, who over three weekends last month took some 7,000 photographs for the exhibit, whittled down to the 45 images on display.
Laure Vasconi, the French photographer that the Institut Francais brought in for the workshop, was determined to have each student develop a signature series and shoot with the end-goal of doing minimal post-production.
“The idea was to produce actual images, and not to modify them on computers afterward,” she said last week. “I approached this as a news or feature report…. We attempted to master perspective and composition of each image from the start.”
The 50-year-old photographer worked for years for the international agency Magnum Photos and for major newspapers in France. Today, she mainly does work for exhibitions and book publishing.
At first, Ms. Vasconi was not sure that the location for the shoot would provide the creative freedom students needed. Following French government budget cuts that forced the Institut Francais to eliminate most of its programs, Cambodia Airports stepped in to fund Studio Images. As a result, the fashion shoot was set at Phnom Penh International Airport.
But the airport turned out to be a great setting, Ms. Vasconi said. Students were given access to “backstage” areas of the airport, such as the fire station, airplane hangars and the tarmac, and were free to use forklifts, baggage carts and scaffolding during the shoots.
Soun Sayon, a civil engineer and Studio Images student, even got maintenance and fire-station staff involved in his shoot. “I wanted to combine reality with fashion,” he said.
The clothing items featured in the photographs are rather unusual: created by Cambodian artist and designer Em Riem, who is based in Phnom Penh, and Madagascan fashion designer Eric Raisina, who works out of Siem Reap City.
“The idea was to have the universe of two creators meet,” Mr. Raisina said, noting that the designers did not discuss their selections prior to the shoot.
Mr. Raisina provided uniform prototypes he had designed for the airport staff—styles inspired by the classic elegance of Cambodian fashion in the 1960s, he said.
Mr. Riem created fashion meant for the camera, that is, clothes that no one is meant to wear. The train on one of his dresses spreads close to 5 meters, and his wide skirts were made of light foam fabric.
“I aimed to create volumes, light and sound, filled spaces and voids,” he said.
The exhibition runs through May 22.