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The Washing of the Water

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Local photographer Eric de Vries’ exhibition, Ultimate Angkor and Beyond, recently debuted in Phnom Penh.

 It will launch in Siem Reap tonight from 6-7.30pm at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa, and run until April 15.

The photo from the exhibition, shown here, was taken last October during the flooding. Eric’s notes tell the story behind the photo:

I’m on my way into the countryside for a photo workshop with a client from Hong Kong. A very enthusiast photographer with gear you only can dream of. My Nikon hangs on my left shoulder, there’s a krama around my neck.

The tuk tuk finds a way through muddy dirt roads and waterholes as we approach the first village.

I look at my driver and turn towards my Chinese friend. The road is flooded just before we get to the venue for our first photo shoot. The tuk tuk can’t take us both through the water, so one of us has to push the vehicle to the other side.

And I’m the one without the clean white socks and original Nike sneakers.

Next, the road to Mechrey floating village is not accessible so we have to detour. I now understand why the houses are on  stilts. After one hour the road ends close to the Jay Pritzker Academy at Tachet Village, and the temporary harbour for boats that will take us to the floating village.

The tuk tuk reaches one of the boats, but again without me. I’m holding my camera with both hands as I go wading through the brown water.

Although we’re heading for Mechrey, it looks like the whole area is a collection of floating villages and flooded houses. Sometimes we only see rooftops above the water, wondering what happened to the families. My client is impressed by the scenery, but scared a little later as the boat lands at the pagoda for our scheduled photo session. But we reach the compound safely.

Kids are playing while their parents try to get fish. We take pictures, knowing that this is ordinary life for all villagers. Some young monks approach us and make conversation in English. Some small boats pass by. Cameras are clicking.

It’s the end of the day and we’re on our way back with lots of good shots in our Canons and Nikon. I see the white buildings of the Academy reflecting in the water, and on my left side as the boat slows down, the sugar palm trees rise.

This area is normally surrounded by green rice fields, but at this time only  by dirty water. There are big clouds on the horizon, the sky is dramatic. I make the settings in my camera and try to frame the picture perfectly.

At the docks close to the road, our driver puts bricks on the pavement and the bricks are above the water. Call it primitive,  but it’s a very helpful bridge towards his tuk tuk. The Hong Kong man smiles and looks at his clean white socks again as he reach his seat comfortably.

I look at the sugar palm trees in the far distance and think. And click.

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