THE Sixth Angkor Photo Festival opened on Saturday night at FCC Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap, played out against a beautiful backdrop of the first night of the annual Cambodian Water Festival.
All the magic of the Water Festival – the madness of the chaotic crowd, the spectacular lights on the river, the booming of colourful fireworks – happened virtually on the doorstep of the photo festival’s opening venue, the FCC.
This was both a boon and a hindrance. The noise from the crowds outside almost drowned out the commentary, while the riotous fun of the water festival distracted from the serious tone of the opening.
The serious but stylish opening hosted many international guests who were treated to the Asian Women Photographers showcase, curated by Yumi Goto who resides in Bangkok.
Goto also announced the official launch of the Reminders Project Photo Grant for Asian photographers, despite many of the details still being tentative.
The lack of Cambodians was unfortunately evident at the event, probably due to the celebrations happening along the river outside the FCC. But festival general coordinator Camille Plante said she was happy with the opening night.
“Everyone understood there was a lot of noise,” she said. “But the pictures told the stories themselves.”
Plante also said she was happy with the amount of Asian women photographers who were on hand to see their work showcased. Of the 15 women photographers, six were at the opening night.
The photo festival continued on the night with another slideshow at FCC Angkor Hotel. Mexican Prisons by Ryo Kameyama of Japan was a highlight, which documented jails in Mexico, particularly La Mesa
Prison in Tijuana, where inmates often riot against the poor conditions.
Shinsekai or The New World, by Florian Ruiz from France was also a fascinating piece which showed a recreational area of Osaka. This is where societal outcasts live in a closed-off underworld, surrounded by violence, alcoholism and illegal gambling.
Perhaps joining in more with the Water Festival festivities and jazzing up the mood at the opening night may have created more of a fun night. But the weekend was a stylish start to what hopefully will be a grand return for the Angkor Photo Festival.