A Japanese photographer who has spent 15 years and millions of dollars shooting the Angkor Wat complex will now turn his attention to the controversial Preah Vihear temple, government officials said.
Baku Saito, a 60-year-old freelance photographer, has won praise from Cambodian officials for restoring Khmer pride through his depictions of the ancient stone carvings at Angkor Archaeological Park.
His photos have toured the world and are now making their way through Cambodia in the “Holy Faces of Angkor” exhibition, which is being shown at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center, inside the Royal University of Phnom Penh, until May 31.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said the government was proud of Saito’s work because it brought Cambodia’s rich past to the world stage and helped strengthen the roots of Khmer people.
“We learned that his job wasn’t done in one or two days, in fact it took more than 10 years and cost him millions of dollars,” Sok An said at the exhibition’s opening on May 17.
He added that Saito was now considering turning his lens on Preah Vihear temple, an ancient set of Hindu ruins on the Thai border that is at the center of a long-running territorial dispute with the neighboring kingdom.
Ek Buntha, deputy director general of cultural affairs at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts,
said Saito “plans to take photos at Preah Vihear for the next half-year.”
In the mid-1990s, Saito was part of a Japanese-funded team documenting the Angkor ruins. He was tasked with photographing the stone faces at the Bayon temple and his since built a portfolio containing hundreds of images of the site.
‘The photos I took are not just for fun,” Saito said on May 17. “I took them to show the world and make people aware of the richness of Khmer culture” in the 12th and 13th centuries.
He estimated that his craft has cost him $5 million over the years, although his photos now fetch $4,000 to $5,000 each.