An exhibit of the work of seven of Cambodia’s leading photographers at the French Cultural Center has cemented the concept of a photographers’ collective, and may lead to the formation of an all-Cambodian photo agency, according to exhibitors and center representatives.
The show, “7 Essays,” is the culmination of a yearlong project in which the seven photographers were asked to select a theme pertinent to contemporary society and depict it in seven black-and-white, reportage-style photographs. Kosal Pisei, Chan Vitharin, Heng Sinith, Choy Pisei, Men Uonmalis, Tang Chin Sothy and Heng Chivoan all contributed. Their work is on display throughout May.
Heng Sinith, an occasional contributor to The Cambodia Daily, was positive about the experience of working as a group on the show. “I am happy when we all join together,” he said. “We must understand each other.”
Marie Christine de Navacelle, director of the French Cultural Center, sees a collective spirit as the first step toward a full-fledged agency. “I think there is a real need for a press agency in Cambodia,” she said. “But it has to be the photographers’ operation.”
Two of the photographers exhibiting at “7 Essays,” Chan Vitharin and Kosal Pisei, will shortly be going to study photography in Arles, France.
They could gather some much-needed expertise about how to set up and operate a successful agency, de Navacelle said. “[The French Cultural Center] will help start it, but it needs to be a local enterprise.”
Magnum photographer John Vink co-directed the “7 Essays” exhibit, and helped sow the seeds for the press agency. “There is a lot of demand for stock photographs now, especially from NGOs,” Vink said. “The market is developing.”
Cooperation could be productive: “Hardware, databases, knowledge—all these things could be shared,” Vink said. “ It would be a cooperative, so the photographers would be shareholders in their own agency.”