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Focus on this year's photo fest

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With a tighter schedule and sharper focus on developing the talents of emerging Asian photographers, organisers rethink the Angkor Photography Festival

PHOTO SUPPLIED/COPYRIGHT SEAN LEE

Detail of a "Shauna" by Singapore photographer Sean Lee, a participant in last year’s Angkor Photography Festival.

MAJOR changes to the format and structure of this year's Angkor Photography Festival were revealed this week in Siem Reap by the festival's general coordinator, Camille Plante, who arrived from Paris a fortnight ago.

"Our ideal is to create respect for photography and to have a real effect on the work of photographers in Southeast Asia," Plante told the Post.

Changes include a shift in emphasis from the festival being a visual exhibition and an event for the public, to being a serious springboard for emerging Asian talent. To this end the workshop, teaching and career-nurturing aspects of the festival have been upgraded with more young Asian photographers invited to participate.

But the biggest change is that the 12-day festival has been has been pared back to six days, from November 23-28, to be followed immediately by the first Photo Phnom Penh festival from November 29 to December 7.

"Obviously holding the Siem Reap festival over six days is the really big difference this year," Plante said.

We are showing the work of about 60 photographers from around the world and about 20 from asia.

"Last year's 12-day event was very exciting, but it took up too much administration and energy and didn't give us enough time at the end to really focus on the main aim of this festival," she said.

"We decided on a six-day event this year to ensure a really efficient festival and to concentrate on the quality of the slideshow and the selection of photography to be shown.

"We are showing the work of about 60 photographers from around the world and we also present about 20 Asian photographers. We decided to focus on this as our main priority.

"Secondly we wanted to focus on the free workshops that we organise for young Asian photographers. This year we will run four workshops that are hosted by professional international photographers from around the world, and we will have 30 students participating from all over Asia. Last year we had about 25, and this year we decided to put more emphasis on this aspect of the festival.

"Roland Neveau of Bangkok is the coordinator of the free workshops and this year he has been more strenuous with his selection of participants. He is really trying to have a more representative collection of emerging photographers from India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Pakistan and South Korea."

Arty and documentary

The four workshops will cover photojournalism with Jean Chung of WpN; photojournalism with Patrick de Noirmont from OnAsia; "arty and documentary" photography by Antoine d'Agata of Magnum; and corporate photography by Vincent Soyez and Laurent Zylbermann.

The Paris Match Award for the best reportage produced during the workshop will be announced at the conclusion of the workshops. Paris Match is an Angkor Photography Festival media partner, along with The Phnom Penh Post.

Last year's festival was a multivenue extravaganza with events, displays and workshops scattered throughout the city, but this year the majority of events will be in one venue. There will also be four evenings of slideshows at FCC and another venue yet to be announced, and two openings, one at the McDermott Gallery and another at the French Cultural Centre.

Festival organisers have leased a building at 634 Hap Khan Street, Mondul 1, Svay Dangkum - the trendy emerging new business centre - and the office will open for business on Monday.

"We have decided to have one main venue for this year's festival, as a space for the public to come to and as a place for the four workshops we are running," Plante said.

"Everything will now be in the same place, and I really like this because we can create a space that really translates the concept of the festival, and it will include a media centre."

Developing talent

"This will help us to focus on the aim of creating a real platform for photography in Southeast Asia, and a platform for local photographers who often don't get the opportunity to participate in such international events.

"The student photographers will not only have the chance to show their work, to learn how to improve their work, but to also meet some famous photographers from Europe, the US and South America."

This year the Angkor Photography Festival will also feature outdoor projections celebrating regional and international photographers in different locations in Siem Reap.

The program includes six evenings of audiovisual presentations from around the world curated by the workshop tutors, the festival board members, and two internationally renowned photography editors, Sujong Song and Christian Caujolle.

Plante said that another new direction was that the mentoring of emerging Asian photographers would  now be a year-round activity for organisers, and not solely confined to the festival period.

"The coordinator of the programming committee, Francoise Callier, follows their progress all year around. She gives them contacts with agencies, other festivals, and she gives them some advice. This is also something that Roland, the coordinator of the workshops, does.

"Plus we plan to publish a monthly newsletter outlining the activities of the students.

"Research also goes on all year, research for agents, for photographers, and for images. We are always looking form something fresh, something new."

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