“Images of Angkor,” a collection of photographs on exhibit at Hotel Le Royal through mid-January, presents a vision of the monuments filled with all the mystery they can exude.
Taken with infrared film, Angkor images of US photographer John McDermott make greenery look transparent and clouds solid, while stones seem to awaken and glow.
In one photo, bright light turns misty in a doorway of Angkor Wat, enveloping two monks in a haze. In another, sculpted demons on the causeway of an Angkor Thom doorway soften into living forms. And in another one, a face of the Bayon vibrates with restrained drama.
The surreal aura McDermott creates with this process is inspired by a natural occurrence that took place in October 1995 when, for a few minutes, a total eclipse of the sun plunged Angkor into a strange and airy light, he said. One photo in the exhibition, showing Angkor Wat and its reflection in the water, was taken on that day. It took McDermott years of experiments with various films and techniques to reproduce the quality of the light he aimed for after watching the eclipse in Angkor Archeological Park, he said.
McDermott, who has been working in Southeast Asia for 10 years, has contributed photos to The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The South China Morning Post, as well as several books and magazines. In addition to his Angkor series, he has photographed historical sites in Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
Also at Hotel Le Royal, the paintings of Chhim Sothy are on exhibition through December. The Cambodian artist depicts scenes of the Raemker—the Cambodian version of the Indian epic Ramayana—by combining traditional techniques and contemporary elements. Chhim Sothy won top honors in painting from the Ministry of Culture this year. His work has been exhibited in Thailand, Vietnam and the US.