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The changing faces of the Angkor Photo Festival

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Jean Francois Perigois and Eric De Vries.

The recent history of the angkor photo festival has been intriguing...

When is a festival not a festival? When it is the Angkor Photo Festival. Although the event is not being held this year, despite recent assurances from some organisers that it would, some vital components of it are still going to run.

This includes the Angkor Photo Workshops for young Asian photographers from November 22-28 at FCC Angkor. And now a substitute for the festival’s usual involvement with local cafes and galleries has emerged, in the guise of the Angkor Alternative exhibition.

This will launch at Eric de Vries’s 4Faces café and gallery on Saturday evening at 7pm, in response to the half-baked idea of dropping the festival.

“There is no festival this year and we cannot use the name,” de Vries said. “When I opened this café and gallery, I wanted to be a part of the festival because I have the space. So my thinking now is: Why not do something during that time? And Angkor Alternative means we’re running something beside just the workshops.”

The 4Faces exhibition is titled “Jean Francois Perigois vs Eric de Vries”. The work of both photographers will be exhibited side by side, and both will give unusual interpretations of the Angkor experience. Perigois’s photos will show black-and-white views of Angkor, with highlights in colour. De Vries, meanwhile, explains that his contribution will be some photos for his recent Hello Darling bar girl exhibition combined with photos of Angkor apsaras.

Also contributing to the festival feel will be the November 26 launch of John McDermott’s long-awaited book, Elegy: Reflections on Angkor. McDermott will play a part in the surviving remnant of the festival, the workshops, because, according to an October 4 posting on the Angkor Photo Workshops Blog, “John [McDermott] will spend some time with a number of students toward the end of the week, to talk and show what it takes to print images for exhibition and run a photo gallery”.

The recent history of the Angkor Photo Festival has been intriguing. In mid-June this year, energetic Paris-based festival coordinator Camille Plante announced she was leaving at the end of that month, following rumours that the festival had run out of sponsorship funds and could no longer pay her.

“I have to update the website and the transfer will be done,” she told the 7Days at the time. But on June 15 she informed the Asian Photography Blog: “There will be only free photo workshops next November in Siem Reap, no festival for this year unfortunately.”

Organisers continued to assure 7Days that the festival would go ahead. On September 11 7Days was privy to part of a meeting between a festival organiser, Bangkok-based photographer and publisher Roland Neveu, and FCC Angkor general manager Benoit Jancloes to cement a deal to make the FCC the hub of this year’s workshops and festival.

Following that meeting, 7Days reported in the September 18 issue: “The annual Angkor Photography Festival has been saved from oblivion at the eleventh hour, with organiser Roland Neveu last week scotching rumours that lack of sponsorship meant the end of the festival.

“But he admits it was a close call. Neveu ... said he found the term ‘scaled down’ offensive and much preferred the description of a festival with a ‘new focus’.”

Now the festival’s website carries this simple message: “Next Angkor Photo Festival in November 2010, with official support from the French Culture Ministry.”

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