THE work of eight young Japanese photographers, depicting everyday life in Cambodia, is on display at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Centre in Phnom Penh until June 17.
The photographers, all of whom are university students, were part of a Japanese delegation of 10 people – also including two professors – that visited Cambodia from June 3 to 10 under the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths programme.
The 24 photographs on display at the centre, located at the Institute of Foreign Languages on the campus of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, were taken by the students during their stay in Cambodia.
Their tour of the country included visits to “sites related to social, economic and cultural affairs, as well as local communities and Japanese official development assistance projects,” according to a statement released last week by the Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh.
One member of the delegation, photography professor Momose Toshiya from Kyushu Sangyo University, said he had never visited Cambodia before and was happy to see what life was really like in the country.
“Before visiting, I had heard more bad things than good things about Cambodia through the media, but it was a great relief to find that the country is more developed and peaceful than I expected,” he said.
“When I go back to Japan, I will tell everyone all the good things about Cambodia at the festivals where the photos will be displayed,” he said.
According to the embassy statement, “the students will exhibit [their] photos at various events in Japan, including an exhibition at the ASEAN Centre in Tokyo and university festivals” later this year.
The exhibition consists of three photographs from each student. One of the photographers, 19-year-old Tanaka Mayuko from Kyushu Sangyo University, said she was interested in capturing the bright sunlight of Cambodia, as well as different aspects of the country’s modernisation.
“I was really interested in Sorya Shopping Centre because we’ve heard a lot about genocide and traffic accidents in Cambodia, so I didn’t expect to find this kind of supermarket here,” Tanaka said. One of her photos shows the escalators at the shopping centre.
Baba Anomi, 21, from Nihon University, said she was interested in documenting smiling faces, life in the countryside and development in Cambodia “because war ended here only a short time ago”.
“I like to shoot pictures of smiling people because they can express many different feelings with their smiles. I find the smiles of Cambodians are pure, generous and friendly,” she said.
Professor Momose said he thought it was difficult to compare photography in Cambodia and Japan because Cambodia suffers from a lack of university programmes that teach the artform.
“In my observation, in Cambodia photography is used more for business than for the arts. But I have met many Cambodian photographers who are working very hard, so I hope photography will develop quickly in Cambodia,” he said.