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Capturing a modern perspective of the Kingdom

Vandy Rottana has already established himself as a premiere artist in Cambodia for using his camera to cast a new light on his country. Now he is bringing his images to the world, and offering a new way to view the Kingdom after the Khmer Rouge.

In a dark classroom his left hand is pointing to a slideshow on a white board standing next to his camera on a desk. Vandy Rottana is showing the functions of his camera to 20 participants at the Department of Media and Communication. He conducts this photography workshop for free.

Vandy Rottana, 31, is an independent photographer said that when he was young, he dreamed of being a musician, a pianist. Because of a lack of support from the people around him, he changed his passion to photography, but he still he could not get any encouragement from his family.

“I do not know when Khmer people will stop degrading and start encouraging” he said.

He met an art history teacher, who showed him camera techniques and encouraged him. He started practicing and in the same year, 2005, managed to have his first exhibition at the Por Pil gallery, which is now closed.

“The art of photography is new in Cambodia and not many Cambodians comprehend the perception of photography,” he said.  

Vandy Rottana claimed that recently he held many exhibitions abroad and next month he has another two, one in Vietnam on April 23 then he is going on stage a show at Kampot province.

He said the photo series of Bomb Pond was his own project, which he meant to record for history, since we, the next generation, have not studied our history closely.

“It’s interesting” he stressed.

In his point of view, he said the war was an issue for all nations in the world, so we have to know, and remember it.

“It was the war against human beings,” he said.

He said that Bomb Pond took one month to make. It was not a big deal, he said. However, it can help those who do research, so right now he has put it at the Bophana Center as a researching archive.

“Most of the countries I have done exhibition in are developed,” he said. He added that in other countries people enjoy seeing photo exhibitions, so the photographers are also strong.

He defined success as having three factors – universal knowledge, being honest and technique. “Success in photography means that people are interested in our photos; it does not mean how many photos you sell,” he said.

But he stressed: “Cambodia is 100 years late.”

He explained that while other countries are experimenting, our country has only just defined what photography is. 

“Art photography is never taken by using our eyes, but our perspectives, knowledge and something around us. The knowledge refers to culture, politics, economics and so on,” he added.

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