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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child labor caught in vivid color

Child labor caught in vivid color

The poignant everyday reality of Cambodian children at work is the subject of a new

exhibition by US photographer Jerry Redfern.

Redfern, 37, has been working as a photojournalist in Cambodia and the region since

1998 and was inspired to take pictures of kids at work by an article he read on Cambodian

child labor.

"They quoted a statistic of 48 percent of children in work, which actually seemed

very low to me," Redfern said. "In Cambodia, you see children working everywhere.

When I asked them about their work they would always just say tomada -- just, everyday

or normal."

Redfern's pictures depart from the clichéd black and white portraits of the

developing world's dark underbelly. Shot with a simple digital camera during the

day using bright sunlight and a flash, the vivid images take on a hyper-real quality,

at odds with the harsh realism of the subject matter.

In Siem Reap, a young girl is captured on the roadside to Angkor Wat, where she fills

tires with air; another girl smiles back from a brick factory, where she works for

less than 2,000 riel a day. In Kampot, boys labor in a salt works, where the sharp

crystals tear their bare feet.

In each picture a child stares strongly back at the camera, interrupted in the act

of work the lens frames them in their surroundings, affording them a respect sometimes

absent from the genre.

Popil PhotoGallery owner Stephane Janin said it is this dignity that gives the images

their power. "So many people come to me to show pictures of beggars or street

kids or amputees but there're not giving respect to the people," he said. "These

pictures show a real empathy for the kids."

Redfern says the images are more poignant than shocking. "It's hard to be shocked

by the things that go on here anymore. But hopefully they're eye opening to the people

who see them."

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