The STEM in My Life photography exhibition in Phnom Penh is a dynamic showcase of images taken by children from underserved regions of Cambodia.

Hosted at Meta House, one of Cambodia’s largest independent arts centres, the exhibition features 19 photographs captured by Grade 7-12 students from the Neeson Cripps Academy (NCA), an affiliate school of the NGO Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) founded by former Hollywood executive Scott Neeson.

These photos represent entries in the em>STEM in My Life photo competition, a CCF initiative for NCA high school students.

Each image depicts aspects of daily life, incorporating elements of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, collectively referred to as STEM.

“Our goal is to let students discover their environment through a STEM perspective, integrating it seamlessly into their daily routines,” shares CCF education project officer Phorn La. “It helps the students develop their photography skills, critical thinking and creativity, and it boosts their confidence and ability.”

Launched in 2022 under the name Full STEAM Ahead, this project aims to infuse arts into STEM education – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – transforming it into STEAM.

This inception initiated a series of workshops and exhibitions in cooperation with both local and international artists.

As part of this endeavour, photography workshops were led by a former CCF student who now works as a photographer.

This year, students were tasked with crafting brief narrative images that depict how the STEM concepts explored in their photographs have left a mark on their lives.

“It’s fantastic. Since the beginning, we have always had exhibitions by kids from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Nico Mesterharm, the founder of Meta House, says of the exhibition.

“Art education is still not part of the curriculum in most schools. Art is so important; it’s about creative thinking and learning to think outside the box. All children should learn art,” he adds.

Chan Cheat Lika, a CCF student, emerged victorious in last year’s competition with her photograph titled Water. This year, she has submitted a close-up image of a fly perched on a leaf, taken in the rooftop garden at NCA in Stung Meanchey.

She wants to show that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places, even the rubbish-strewn area around the former notorious garbage dumpsite where CCF works.

“A fly is considered ugly, but it can be beautiful when you look closely. I want to show its different side. This is also reflective of people who may live in dirty places can still be beautiful,” says Lika, a Grade 9 student.

A photograph of a sewing machine titled Lifesaver is the focus of an entry by Thoeun Monika, a Grade 10 student.

“For my family, a sewing machine is not just a machine; it is a lifesaver. My mother is a tailor who relies on it to sustain our family. It plays a vital role in generating income and supporting us,” says Monika.

The em>STEM in My Life exhibition is open to the public and will run until November 18, when the competition winners will be announced.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to vote on their favourite photographs.

Two winners will be announced on the final evening of the show, chosen from public votes and the judges’ award.