Today’s Cambodia

Journalist and Photographer Team Up to Capture Everyday Life

There are times when it takes both photo and words to truly reflect a person on paper—words to tell of his life and an image to show his reality, as Gregoire Rochigneux and Thierry Diwo have been demonstrating for more than 18 months.

It started with their weekly portrait in the French newspaper Cambodge Soir, became a book in December, and has turned into a photo/text exhibition this month at Couleurs d’Asie.

They name their portraits Diwagations, which derives from a combination of the word “divinations” because, at first, the project was a collection of thoughts on Cambodia, and Diwo’s name, because he initially came up with photos in search of words, Rochigneux said.

Diwagations are vignettes featuring Cam­bodians known and unknown, Rochig­neux said. They began with Diwo who, having accumulated hundreds of photos since he first came to Cambodia in 1992, asked Rochigneux to put stories to the pictures. Diwo had liked an article that Rochigneux, a journalist at Cambodge Soir, had written about him.

With a book in mind, they looked for a concept. “Books on Cambodia usually are on the temples or the Khmer Rouge,” Rochigneux said. “They are part of the country’s reality. But what we were interested in was to talk about today’s Cambodia—what their joys, pains, hopes are.”

The pair started publishing their portraits on Friday in Cambodge Soir with the idea of stopping if readers showed no interest. “The impact was unbelievable,” Rochigneux said. Wherever they went, people would comment on Diwagations, suggest people for future portraits, or ask them to do their own, he said.

For the exhibition at Couleurs d’Asie, they combined photos and texts, in French or Eng­lish, under Plexiglas. “Not the wooden frames that we normally see (in Phnom Penh),” said Diwo, whose activities in Cambodia have included launching the photography program at the Royal University of Fine Arts.

And they stayed away from the usual locations for photo exhibits because, they explained, these are portraits, not news photos depicting specific events.

Diwagations still appears every week in Cambodge Soir. Of the book, there are only a few copies left, Rochigneux said.

What’s next for Diwagations? People now are asking for a second book, this time with French and English versions, Rochigneux said.

Couleurs d’Asie is located at No 19, St 360. The exhibition runs through Mar 8.


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