Student Photographers Snap Their Take on Daily Life in Kandal

Their assignment was to photograph scenes from their daily lives at school, and the images they produced under the guidance of photographer Vandy Rattana have the freshness and simplicity of a reality presented without judgment.

The 11 students-13 to 19 years old-shot fish getting prepared in the kitchen and the washing-up afterwards; a student laughing, his reading glasses nearly bigger than his face; another student fishing in a garden pond; youngsters playing on school grounds.

What their photos-on exhibit at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center on Street 200 until March 26-do not dwell on is the fact that the young photographers and students at their school are physically handicapped. As one of the students, Mom Phala, said when she described students washing dishes together after meals and her experience with a camera, “I can work like un-handicapped people-I am so happy.”

Located in Kandal province’s Takmao district, the Lavalla School for Children and Young People with Physical Disabilities provides an elementary school education to youngsters from poor neighborhoods who could not attend primary school because of their handicaps.

The school, which includes a residence for students who need to live on site, also offers skills training such as the photo workshop that Vandy Rattana taught late last year. “This was the first time they had touched a camera,” the 28-year-old photographer said. And yet, some of the students showed such promise that Vandy Rattana is looking into ways for them to continue photography training, he said.

In his workshop, held once a week over four months, Vandy Rattana first presented an overview of photography-including its history. Then, working with them on concepts and techniques, he let his students document their environment with digital cameras.

Many of them photographed their classmates engaged in sports and physical exercises like swimming. “This gives physically handicapped [people] the opportunity to be in good health and physically strong,” wrote young photographer Sao Channa, adding that they are perfectly capable of exercising in spite their disabilities.

Keun Piley experimented with close-ups of people’s faces, while Oak Somang photographed farmers next to the school compound “working in the stifling heat,” as the student wrote.

The Bophana Center has incorporated the young photographers’ comments into audio guides in Khmer, French and English, which visitors can listen to as they tour the photo exhibition.

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