Now in its ninth year, the Angkor Photo Festival (APF) has become a globally recognised photo festival while maintaining its strong connection to the local community. As APF program director since 2007, Françoise Callier has overseen the festival’s evolution for seven of its nine years. We spoke with Callier to find out more about the spirit of the festival and where it’s headed.
Phnom Penh Post: How did you first become involved in the Angkor Photo Festival?
Françoise Callier: It was actually by accident. In 2006, APF asked if I would agree to show my series of children’s books, with Photoshop montages, on Children’s Day. I agreed and asked the festival if I could come to help for a month. They said yes, and I came. Seven years later, I’m still here!
What are your respon-sibilities as APF program director?
Callier: I’m in charge of the entire program, which includes the exhibitions and slideshows and the editing of the content. The festival does not have a fixed theme, and this year I went through all the 1,200 submissions we received from 75 countries. Also, I select the two invited guest curators, one from Asia, and one from the West.
How will this year’s festival differ from those before it?
Callier: Our program remains the same, with a series of exhibitions and slideshows, but every year there are more and more photographers, editors and journalists coming to join us from all over Asia and the rest of the world.
What are your criteria when selecting photographers for the festival?
Callier: My criteria for selection has always been the same, I choose based upon the quality of photography and how effective the pictures are in telling a story. I look for unknown stories or unknown talents because the role of a photo festival should be to help make new discoveries. I want to show the work of great photographers who may not be well known yet in the region as well as work by the best photo-story tellers I know, to serve as an inspiration for young photographers.
What does the festival aim to achieve through its two workshops?
Callier: The Anjali Workshop aims to foster children’s creativity and to provide them a fun-filled avenue for self-expression and building confidence. The Angkor Photo Workshop is aimed at talented and upcoming Asian photographers, and the free workshops provides participants with first-hand training, invaluable exposure and a chance to develop their personal photographic style and vision. Over the years, the workshop has highlighted emerging talent from the region, and many previous participants have gone on to embark on successful photography careers.
How has the festival changed over the years?
Callier: We are adding new activities for photographers like portfolio reviews and talks, as well as more outdoor outreach activities to involve the local community. As part of Blow Up Angkor, BlindBoys.org also now includes a digital projection segment, visiting local schools and public areas to share specially-curated showcases of photography with Cambodian youths.
What is most challenging about putting this festival together?
Callier: Finances are always a challenge. As a non-profit association we need the support and help of external parties to be able to put on a successful festival.
What about your job do you find most rewarding?
Callier: It is nice to be able to see young and previously unknown talented photographers go on to become recognised for their talent and work as a result of being showcased at our festival.
What are your hopes for the festival’s future?
Callier: To keep our three main values: discovery, education and sharing. To continue to build our family, as the Angkor Photo Festival is like a family – the team, the photographers, we are all very close to each other. We want the photographers to feel that they don’t have to hesitate to ask for our advice or support, and we will help them whenever they ask if we can.