Cambodia’s fledgling amateur photography scene came out in full force for the fourth annual Canon PhotoMarathon.
With 800 participants using their digital cameras to try to capture the best photos of the bunch, the Koh Pich Building G auditorium was packed last evening with hopefuls anticipating the results.
Jessica Lim, the Asian Coordinator for the Angkor Photo Festival and PhotoMarathon jurist, said she was impressed by the turnout.
“It’s great to see so many Cambodians who are so interested in photography that they are willing to spend their entire Sunday on this,” she said, adding that the queue for registration began at 6:30am.
The contest, which was divided into three rounds, each with a different theme, began at 9am. Upon learning the theme, which was kept secret prior to the start, the participants had three hours to find the single best shot they could around the city. After submitting their favourite picture, they were told of the next theme and went out yet again.
The rules required that all photos be taken on the day of the competition and that the photos be untouched with digital software – memory cards’ meta-data was analysed to ensure compliance.
Kong Sangvar Cesare, a 24-year-old business manager at Askap Gold Investment, decided to partner with two of his friends to find the best image to represent “hope”, the final theme.
“So far we have found two pictures – one of flowers floating on the surface of water with the reflection of sunshine, and one of a smile, but we captured only half of the mouth,” he said outside the Koh Pich auditorium as the competition approached its end.
Phat Sopheak, a 28-year-old project organiser at the election watchdog NGO Comfrel, was also contemplating which picture to submit after returning from his three-hour shoot.
“When they told the topic, I thought of one man or woman looking into the picture, and the picture showing development,” he said, adding that he did not find quite the right shot for his vision.
The three themes, which also included “generations” and “expressions of Phnom Penh”, were intended to be open-ended to allow for maximum creative flexibility, said Tan Liwen, Regional Marketing Manager for I-Click Canon, which organised the contest.
“We asked participants to be creative and we also asked participants to take time after they had taken the pictures to come back early to go through all their pictures and choose the best,” she said.
The contest was divided into the “open” group for adults and the “student” group for minors, with the youngest participant only nine years old. In addition to camera kit prizes, the top three adult winners of each theme will attend a photo clinic at next month’s Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap where they will compete yet again for the chance to attend a Canon photo clinic in Japan next January.
Lim, who returned to the festival for the third time to judge, said she has noticed an improvement from past years.
“I feel like more people are trying to do more candid photos now, which is a nice change,” she said, adding that she also noticed an increase in photo quality throughout the day of the competition.
Jerry Thai, a local professional photographer who also served as a judge, said that he hopes his country will continue to improve its photography skills for next year’s competition.
He said: “I would say that right now Cambodia is growing photography in terms of technical skills… but in terms of artistic [technique] it is going up but still not enough. Hopefully next year, everything will be much better.”
Ultimately, said Liwen, the contest is all about promoting the craft within the Kingdom.
“All along we have been very persistant in wanting to promote photography culture in Cambodia,” she said.
The open category winners for the Phnom Penh Expression theme were Patrick Kooijman in first place, Arik S. Mintorogo in second place and Jake Akitch Almeida in third place, while the student winners were Veal Chanraksmey in first place, Chhunka David in second place and Chan Mony Odom in third place.
The open category winners for the Generation theme were Sun Vandy in first place, Vong Sopheak in second place and Heng Chhengngarv in third place, while the student winners were Chhunka David in first place, Nun Sonisa in second place and Lay Bunleng in third place.
The open category winners for the Hope theme were Sao Siha in first place, Leng Sodina in second place and Si Eng Hai in third place, while the student winners were Veal Chanraksmey in first place, Heng Puthyrak in second place and Chet Bomey in third place.