As the person responsible for screening the submissions for this week’s Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap, Francoise Callier sees a little more misery from around the globe than most. Disasters, natural and man-made, are the stock-in-trade for many photographers.
But Callier curated the Impact Project, which screened on Tuesday night at the FCC Angkor, to tell positive stories through photography about individuals, groups and organisations doing something to help with social and environmental issues.
“There is a story about a hummingbird whose forest went up in flames,” she said in an interview before the screening.
“All of the animals stood and watched, overwhelmed, but the hummingbird flew to the river, collected a few drops of water, and then released them on the fire.
“The other animals mocked him for his futility, but he replied by saying, ‘At least I did what I was able to do’.
“We all can do that, and that is what I wanted to show with this exhibition.”
Among the stories featured in the Impact Project was one of a priest in Kenya who has helped villages find water in their parched environment, as witnessed by Alain Buu in War Over Water.
Also shown was Alex Masi’s Tale of Hope in Bhopal, site of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster, which has garnered international acclaim.
His photpgraph of a young girl, Poonam, bathing in the monsoon rains won a Photographers Giving Back Award of $5,000. Masi has directed that sum, along with other funds since raised, towards educating Poonam and her sister.
Closer to home, Sophal Try tells the story of the Lake Clinic, a Siem Reap-based initiative that brings medical care to villages on the Tonle Sap Lake, some of them among the poorest communities in Cambodia.
“The people were so happy when they saw the boat arriving,” said Try. “They can’t come to Siem Reap when they get sick, it is too expensive and too dangerous.
“And then when they stay in the village, they often take medicine they don’t understand, which makes things worse, especially for the children. It is easy to tell a positive story.
“I felt really sad for the people on the lake, but it made me happy to see Cambodians helping Cambodians.”