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Khmer Women on film

Christoffe Lovine describes himself as a nomad, yet pointing to his photograph

of the jungled environs of Angkor Wat, he comments, "That is where I want to

have a house." Lovine's photographs vividly illustrate his enchantment with

Cambodia. "Femmes Cambogiennes," his month-long exhibit on Cambodian women,

opens at the Centre Culturel Francais on Jun.4.

Originally titled "Rouge Khmer", the title was changed due primarily to

the reaction of Khmers according to Michel Tureau, head of cultural activities at

the Centre Culturel. But reaction is what Lovine is seeking. Through his photographs,

he wants to "show [the Khmer people] what they had lost and what can be reborn."

Lovine said Khmers were amazed to see his images.

Describing Lovine's 1991 exhibit in Phnom Penh, Tureau said, "Can you imagine

the situation in November 1991? Cambodia was still empty of everything, actually.

Few shops were open; there was no newspaper. It was very rare to see anything pictorial.

[Cambodia] didn't have anything worth looking at. For the first time in 20 years,

Cambodians were able to see an exhibition in color of Cambodia."

Tureau explains that there was a large "gap between photographic production

of the 1970s and 20 years later. [The exhibit] connected Cambodia with the rest of

the world."

"I remember there was a church turned into a dormitory ...an alter where the

orphans slept [and] a villa turned into a slaughter house."

The current exhibit includes one of Lovine's favorite subjects, dancers. Explaining

"Metamorphosis," Tureau says, "When the girls arrive, they are ordinary.

They wrap themselves in cloth and become apsaras." And soon, "all the feelings

are in the tips of the fingers." In addition, one can find Weepers, hilltribe

women of Rattanikiri weeping for dead husbands, Lightfall, at the Bayonne, Live Fresco,

The Survivor, and one which Lovine says "is quite erotic."

Sokha, described by Lovine as the "queen of the princesses at Angkor,"

is the subject of many of his photographs. "Like dwarfs inside a giant tree,"

she and her friends spend most of their time in the environs of Angkor.

"Sometimes the teachers do not come to school so they make school-so eager to

learn even if they have no teacher," explains Lovine.

In addition to his journalistic and photographic freelance work with publications

including Geo magazine, Lovine has had photo exhibitions in Paris, Tokyo and Manila.

"Femme Cambogiennes" is on display at the Centre Culture Franais for the

month of June. In July, the exhibit will open at the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana.

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