FCC Angkor’s latest exhibition, Light and Shadow, which opens tomorrow is not the work of a professional photographer, but of a man more used to pulling teeth: German dentist Dr Walter Keller, who is volunteering for his fifth year at Angkor Hospital for Children.
This will be his first exhibition in Siem Reap. Last year he exhibited a similar collection at FCC Phnom Penh, but this time the photos are for sale with all proceeds going to the hospital. The exhibition comprises 43 photographs in colour and black and white, taken over the five years Keller has been visiting Cambodia.
“Some of the pictures are from the temples,” he says. “A lot of them I took during our outreach program with the hospital, so the children are watching during the health instruction with wide-open eyes. It looks so beautiful to me.”
Dr Keller, who has been volunteering two weeks a year at AHC since 2009, says he has seen much improvement at the hospital since first starting.
“It changes from year to year,” he says. “When I first started there was one Khmer dentist and three dental nurses. Now there are two dentists and five dental nurses. Also they have a bigger area to work in; first there was only one small room now it’s a big room with four dental chairs and they’ve had X-ray since last year. So it’s improving.”
The most common problem, he says, is tooth decay and abscesses due to too much sugar and not enough teeth brushing.
“They do not really know how to brush their teeth and about the influence of sugar,” Dr Keller says. “I think one problem is the parents are perhaps are of an age where they were young during Khmer Rouge time or shortly after; they didn’t have sugar at that time and so it didn’t matter if they didn’t brush their teeth.
“But now they have sugar, and they’re still doing as they have done for the last twenty or thirty years. That’s the problem.”
He adds that Khmer children do not share the traditional fear of the dentist that most Western kids have.
Light and Shadow opens at FCC Angkor at 6.30pm on November 2.