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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Angkor photo festival opens

Angkor photo festival opens

081121_17.jpg
081121_17.jpg

SIEM REAP

This year's event aims to educate and inspire a new generation of young

Asian shooters with workshops by some of the most renowned

international photographers and photojournalists

Photo by:
© Zalmai

The photograph "Promises and Lies", shot in Afghanistan, is one of many featured in the 4th annual Angkor Photography Festival.

WHILE this year's Angkor Photography Festival does not officially kick off until Sunday evening, preparations are already underway, with veteran photographer and workshop coordinator Roland Neveu marshalling his troop of students at one of Siem Reap's sidewalk cafes.

This year, there will be no sneaky or intrusive shots of mothers and crying babies at hospitals, Neveu tells them, and no one is to pay money to take mean-street photos of working girls and ladyboys.

Having said that, and having outlined the workshop schedule, he wishes the budding young photographers well on their assignments as they disperse into the streets, lugging their Canons, Nikons and Leicas.

Passing on knowledge

This year marks the fourth consecutive year of Siem Reap's Angkor Photography Festival, which is set to run through November 28. While each year the festival showcases work by international and emerging Asian photographers, this year's festival is set to focus more on workshops taught by renowned photographers who are volunteering their time to tutor 30 young shooters from around the globe.

With four workshops hosted by professional international photographers, all  coordinated by Neveu, the aim of this festival is to pass on insight and knowledge to a new generation of upcoming photographers.

Neveu has worked voluntarily at Siem Reap's Angkor Photo Festival for the last three years and says he does this partly because "photography has been good to him" and he wants to give something back, and partly because the festival actively nurtures, encourages and supports young Asian photographers.

"This festival is unique because [generally] you don't see that many workshops involving young Asian photographers who are basically between [ages] 21 and 28," he says.

A large part of the festival's uniqueness is that it attracts tried, true and tested photographic heavy hitters like Neveu to pass on wisdom and insight attained over a long career that spans many countries, conflicts and conflagrations.

Neveu is a master of what has been dubbed "grand reportage". He is one of the few Western reporters who witnessed the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975 and certainly has a lot of experience to pass on.

He documented the first Soviet prisoners of war in Afghanistan's mujahedeen holy war; the Beirut siege in mid-1982 and the subsequent war in Lebanon; El Salvador's bloody feud; and the NPA guerrilla struggle in the Philippines and the fall of Marcos, as well as producing the first images of Aids in Uganda in 1986.

He also co-authored TV stories on Aids in Uganda, the Touareg rebellion in the Sahara and the Kurdish refugees at the Turkey-Iraq border in 1991.

Neveu has worked as a still photographer on movies directed by Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma and Ridley Scott, and worked on the Matt Dillon movie City of Ghosts, filmed in Thailand and Cambodia in 2001.

Showcasing regional talent

Driving the festival from rented premises in Siem Reap's central market district is the indefatigable coordinator of the programming committee, Francoise Callier, who is dedicated to nurturing photographic talent in developing countries.

"I observed that most of the time in France they show work from Occidental photographers, and this has shocked me for a long time. I wondered why they didn't show other work, so when I found African or South American photographers, I gave them attention," he said.

"Now, because our festival is in Asia, I think the most important thing that we can do is to show the work of Asians," he said, adding that at the moment, almost half of the pieces are from Asian photographers.

"This year we are showing the work of about 70 photographers, and 30 of them are Asian."

The only slightly sour note to this year's festival is that there is no representation of Cambodian photographers, Callier said.

"No Cambodians submitted pictures, so we were really disappointed about that. We keep trying to find some local photographers. We go to the agencies, but they are not very interested," he said.

"I think it is because there is no photography culture here. In 2006, we showed fantastic work from a Cambodian photographer, Remissa Mak, who later exhibited at Photoquai in Paris in November 2007," he said.

"But there is no market for his kind of photography in Cambodia, so now Remissa Mak is working for a big agency and has no time for his more artistic photography."

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