Monthlong Photo Phnom Penh Festival to Launch Next Week

Twenty exhibitions at 12 venues throughout Phnom Penh featuring the work of photographers from countries including Cambodia, Singapore, France and even Nepal—this is what Photo Phnom Penh (PPP) will offer the public when the monthlong festival opens its doors on January 31, festival organizers said at a press conference Thursday.

Photos displayed at venues ranging from Sisowath Quay and Central Market to Java Cafe, Galerie X-EM and the Royal University of Phnom Penh will be as diverse as Mak Remissa’s eerie montage of the Khmer Rouge evacuation of the capital in April 1975, Lek Kiatsirikajorn’s reflection on vanishing green spaces in Bangkok, and Ruud Van Empel’s photoshopped images of children in make-believe universes.

A photograph by Neak Sophal will be part of the Photo Phnom Penh festival.
A photograph by Neak Sophal will be part of the Photo Phnom Penh festival.

Thursday’s press conference on PPP held at the Institut Francais—the French-government organization that has managed the festival since its inception in 2008—was dominated by a discussion of the economic hurdles of mounting the festival, and the strategy that has been developed to assure the event’s future.

“It has never been more difficult to gather resources for cultural activities…in the context of budgetary constraints not only in France but elsewhere,” said Romain Louvet, director of the Institut Francais, alluding to the French government’s decision to drastically cut the budgets of its institutes worldwide.

A major initiative being taken to support PPP, which is now attracting international visitors, has been the creation of a new Cambodian association headed by Princess Sylvia Sisowath, which includes a number of Cambodian photographers.

It is planned that the Phnom Penh Photo Association will eventually take charge of the festival with the Institut Francais assisting.

“We are learning the process, gathering volunteers…and looking for partners, sponsors for the future,” said Cambodian photographer Sovan Philong, the association’s vice president.

“The most important is to turn this project over to Cambodian people.”

Renowned photo editor Christian Caujolle, the festival’s artistic director, said the event is also getting financial support through the association “Amis de Photo Phnom Penh,” or “Friends of Photo Phnom Penh,” in France. Volunteers, such as those putting together the 280-page festival catalog that will soon be accessible online, are also making a valuable contribution, Mr. Caujolle added.

Photo Phnom Penh will run through February 28.

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