Khmer wedding photos show flawless, beautiful couples dressed in ornate outfits and perfect looking for all of time. But artist Khvay Samnang wants people to see the entire wedding process, not just the shots used for posterity.
His latest photo exhibit, “Wedding,” which will open at SaSa Gallery on Phnom Penh’s Street 360 on Wednesday, captures the small details of the ceremony, the stress of the day and the actions of all the other people involved.
“Mostly in weddings, photographers only take photos that show just the bride and the groom,” Mr Samnang said. “And in those photos the couple is always well prepared and always use the same scenes.”
Mr Samnang’s photos cover aspects of the wedding ceremony ranging from nervous couples to the messy reception aftermaths. He even includes photos of wedding photographers creating the popular wedding images.
He was inspired to develop the theme after spending time as a wedding photographer’s assistant during which he witnessed the repetitive poses and photo styles.
“I thought he did the same thing over and over and I wanted to do something different,” Mr Samnang said. “I like to take the photo that people don’t want me to because I think that art and photography should show real scenes and include everything with real feeling.”
He added the couples documented for “Wedding” were either friends or friends of friends who were recently married.
“I wanted people to see all of the moments of the ceremony such as when [the couple] are with their families, dressing or doing make-up,” Mr Samnang said. “I wanted people to see the culture and the process behind the weddings.”
Mr Samnang is one of seven artists of the art collective Stiev Selapak, which was started in 2009 and focuses on young artists working in contemporary styles. In addition to photography, Mr Samnang also paints and sculpts. Before “Wedding” he had another exhibit called “Hair” that involved sculptures made out of human hair and focused on the idea of beauty.
Vuth Lyno, director of SaSa Gallery and a fellow Stiev Selapak member, said the photos featured in “Wedding” are not about the prettiness of the event but its reality.
“Samnang observed what is usually not seen in wedding photos, it’s all behind the scenes including embarrassing or funny moments,” he said. “It’s another perspective.”