The Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap exhibits photos by youths taken during a weeklong children's workshop
Photo by: Ajay Hirani
The Anjali House kids watching a slideshow of their work.
Siem Reap's Wat Athvea was converted into a playland Thursday as the Angkor Photography Festival hosted a special day for children. A circus performed, and a slideshow projected photographs taken by children living at the Anjali House, an NGO that provides shelter, education and food for underprivileged children.
As part of the Angkor Photography Festival, 40 children from the Anjali House were selected to participate in a weeklong workshop taught by professional photographers. Seven tutors from Malaysia, India, Nepal, Chile and Cambodia taught groups of five to six children, aged between eight and 16, how to use Canon-brand cameras to capture images around town.
"The first day was an introduction to photography," said Ajay Hirani, a photographer and tutor for the Anjali House workshop. "We showed the kids photos from all over the world to teach them about different places and cultures. They were flabbergasted by Eskimos who live in igloos. One kid asked me, ‘So how do they make fire?'"
The children were also taken on field trips to local markets and floating villages on Tonle Sap lake. "The children went ballistic at Tonle Sap," said Hirani. "It's great to see how they interact with people. They are fearless."
Hirani, 26, who was a student at last year's Angkor Photography Festival, takes commercial and fashion photographs and is working on a series on Mumbai's night-time landscapes. He told the Post that he's learned so much from teaching the kids because "[they] shoot with such a different vision. It's really unbiased. As a photographer who's learned the techniques, sometimes you don't step back and look around you because you're so focused on what you want. The kids don't know what they want. They are curious about everything, and they look for weird angles for shooting and reflections".
The kids shoot
with such a different vision. It's really unbiased.
Hirani noticed that the children's photography improved during the course of the workshop. "At first, you see them just clicking at any old thing, but as they go around, they get a bit more choosy," he said.
Although Hirani noted the potential to say grandiose things about the Anjali children's project, he believes that "for them, it's just a good experience, and a change from their hard life.
"These are not privileged kids, and it's an outlet for them to be creative." However, Hirani noted that "for your local kid in Siem Reap, it's not in their radar to be a photographer because you can't make money. They all want to be tour guides. But now, they can find more relevance in photography to society today".
Photographs from each of the 40 workshop participants were converted into prints and sold to raise money for a new bus for the Anjali House.
"There were so many good photographs taken," said Hirani.
"One of my kids, a 13-year-old girl, the quiet mother figure among all the kids, shot a banana leaf that became a fantastic abstract photo."