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Asia Motion on the move


Phnom Penh's newest photo agency marks its official launch today with an exhibition at Equinox that showcases the varied styles of its eclectic and growing membership

Photo by: Anne-Laure Poree

Isabelle Lesser at Equinox.

For the past three months, Isabelle Lesser has been preoccupied with a single obsession: to create Asia Motion. Made up of a small but talented group of photographers and artists with an intimate knowledge of Asia, the agency bets on the quality of its members' photos and the stories they tell to find its place not only in Cambodia but in the vast photo galaxy of the world.

Lesser came up with the name Asia Motion by thinking about what inspired her love of photography: "the emotion". She also wanted to refer to the specificity of the agency, which focuses exclusively on Asia, and wanted the name to be easy to pronounce in all languages.

Styles and skills

After a year of preparations, Asia Motion is now a reality, and its official launch will take place today at Equinox with the exhibition of pieces shot by agency members.

Through the images taken by the eight photographers in countries that include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, the United States and India, as well as the videos of Carlos Franklin, the public will gain an overview of the different styles and skills that Asia Motion can provide.

"Asia Motion is not only [about] photography but also video," Lesser explained. "When you are in front of a photograph, you can stay ten minutes or three hours. It's up to you. In the future, people will not hang photographs any more in their living rooms, but videos. For me, video follows photography. It is like many photos put together, especially Carlos's work on video collages," she said.

Managing relations

Lesser said that the work of Asia Motion agency members will be commissioned for advertising or commercial pictures, social or economic reports, and fashion or artistic shooting.

After six years working as a photographer in Cambodia, Lesser has numerous contacts in the country. She is now planning to use them to manage relations between clients and her photographers.

"I believe in [the photographers]. They don't know how to sell their work, but I do. I am more confident than they are. In addition to that, some of them are very busy with full -time jobs [and] some are too shy. I will use my address book to their benefit. I want to promote them in Cambodia and outside of Cambodia," she said.

"Asia is so big. There is a boom in India and China. Everything is changing so fast. In the Middle East, I know there is a demand for Asian stories ... and not only sad stories."

The launch of the agency coincides with agency member Ryan Plummer's projects.

"I was looking for local representation that could assist me in acquiring more commercial and documentary work," he said. "Being a part of the agency motivates me in developing further my commercial and documentary photographic work and exploring creatively how facets of the two genres can influence and even complement one another."

In exchange for Lesser's energy and personal investment, the photographers are obligated to give her 35 percent of the sales brought to fruition through the agency.

"The commission will be smaller if [the photographers] become full members and pay a yearly fee of US$300. I think that with this fee they will feel more involved."

Starting small

At the moment, there is no ambition to create a big agency. Asia Motion wants to stay small with a maximum of 15 photographers in the next two years.

"The idea is to be connected with big agencies through a web link and to preserve our specificity. We are not a pictures databank. We only publish complete stories which have a beginning and an end, telling something about Asia or Asian people anywhere in the world, like Stephane Janin did in America, where he lives and takes pictures of the Cambodian community there. It is a very unique point of view."

Lesser hopes that some good Cambodian photographers will be interested in joining Asia Motion.

Even if working as a photographer is "hard for everybody, whatever their nationality is", and Cambodia is not a wide market for photography, Lesser is quite optimistic for the future. "It's just the beginning but it's now or never. I think there will be opportunities. The market will grow slowly but surely. Things are opening up step by step."

Lesser said that she takes care of her photographers as a mother would of her children and if you ask her what makes each of the photographers unique, she is inexhaustible.

"Peter ... You have to look at his photos. They are magnificent. He is inside the action. He is so close to his characters. Erin, I like her conceptual ideas and the aesthetic of her photos ... Stephane, he is the one who opened the first photo gallery in Phnom Penh. I admire his originality, his experiences and his passion for Cambodia. Srikanth is a man I have met in India. I never met someone so generous. His white and black pictures are so pure. He has got the aesthetic and the meaning. This is real photography," Lesser exclaimed.

The launch of Asia Motion will take place at 8pm today at the Equinox, with an exhibition of photographs shot by agency members.



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