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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer photographer captures tradition

Khmer photographer captures tradition

Khmer photographer captures tradition


Chhin Taingchhea showcases archaic pinhole photography

© Chhin Taingchhea

One of the images to be showcased at Chhin Taingchhea's upcoming exhibition.



A pinhole camera is simply a sealed box with a very small hole. Some kind of covering in front of the pinhole acts as the shutter, which is moved by hand according to the exposure needed, which can range from several seconds to several hours or even days. As light passes into the box through the hole, the scene or subject in front of the box is projected inversely on the back of the box onto which film or photographic paper is taped.

AS the capital this week celebrates the diversity and advancement of photography, its first PhotoPhnomPenh festival also pays tribute to the demise of traditional methods of taking images.

Chhin Taingchhea's pictures capture the city's decaying past using one of the most low-tech methods available: A pinhole camera made simply from a cardboard food box and a strip of black-and-white film that must be printed in a darkroom.

But despite the rich photographic possibilities in town, Phnom Penh is without a darkroom capable of producing silver gelatin prints.

Speaking Tuesday at the offices of one of the city's two new photo agencies, Melon Rouge, the 25-year-old said he started using a pinhole camera in 2006.

He said he picked up the archaic and prototypical method from Stephane Janin, the manager of the now-defunct Popil Gallery, which was well-known for showcasing exhibits of photojournalism and documentary work. Janin has since moved to Washington, DC, and with that move Chhin Taingchhea lost the private lab in which he learned to hone his craft.

"After he left, I stopped printing pinhole photographs," said the 2006 graduate of the Royal University of Fine Arts.

Today Chhin Taingchhea uses Nikon and Canon digital cameras, as well as a Minolta film body.

But while the process of using the pinholes was time consuming, Chhin Taingchhea said that in the end the pinhole camera's pictures gave him more satisfaction.

Chhin Taingchhea's work will be showcased this Saturday at the Bophana Audiovisual Centre at No. 634, Street 200.


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