The poignant everyday reality of Cambodian children at work is the subject of a new
exhibition by US photographer Jerry Redfern.
Redfern, 37, has been working as a photojournalist in Cambodia and the region since
1998 and was inspired to take pictures of kids at work by an article he read on Cambodian
"They quoted a statistic of 48 percent of children in work, which actually seemed
very low to me," Redfern said. "In Cambodia, you see children working everywhere.
When I asked them about their work they would always just say tomada -- just, everyday
Redfern's pictures depart from the clichéd black and white portraits of the
developing world's dark underbelly. Shot with a simple digital camera during the
day using bright sunlight and a flash, the vivid images take on a hyper-real quality,
at odds with the harsh realism of the subject matter.
In Siem Reap, a young girl is captured on the roadside to Angkor Wat, where she fills
tires with air; another girl smiles back from a brick factory, where she works for
less than 2,000 riel a day. In Kampot, boys labor in a salt works, where the sharp
crystals tear their bare feet.
In each picture a child stares strongly back at the camera, interrupted in the act
of work the lens frames them in their surroundings, affording them a respect sometimes
absent from the genre.
Popil PhotoGallery owner Stephane Janin said it is this dignity that gives the images
their power. "So many people come to me to show pictures of beggars or street
kids or amputees but there're not giving respect to the people," he said. "These
pictures show a real empathy for the kids."
Redfern says the images are more poignant than shocking. "It's hard to be shocked
by the things that go on here anymore. But hopefully they're eye opening to the people
who see them."