MY PHNOM PENH: Nick Sells, Photographer

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MY PHNOM PENH: Nick Sells, Photographer

The man behind Kampuchea Party Republic spends his nights photographing events ranging from embassy functions to nightclub parties

Camera shopping

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I buy everything here in Phnom Penh – I’m quite happy buying from the shops in Phnom Penh.

The ones I use the most are Sabbay Nash on Monivong and Jackie Chan close to the Central Market.

The latter has a real name, but there’s a picture of Jackie Chan outside so it’s affectionately known as Jackie Chan.

I think all the cameras here are grey market (goods distributed through unofficial channels) apart from iQlick.

I don’t know where they get them from, probably Hong Kong or Singapore.

The only difference, I feel, is they just don’t come with a parts warranty.

You’re buying it with slightly less confidence – you can’t be sure you’ll have a camera for at least one year, but I haven’t had any problems.

I’ve had a lens or two that have had a problem, but it’s just been an easy fix, there has never been repair bill over $25, and the lens is far past the 12 months.


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I drive a Honda X-R250. It’s nimble, it’s agile, it’s high off the ground and quick off the mark.

It enables me to weave through traffic and get from A to B a lot faster than with a car.  

I used to renovate Honda Cubs with my Khmer mechanic as Nick the Bike-finder, and I still have the oldest one in the studio, but I never drive it.

I like the old ones, but you’re just not going to get anywhere too fast. I’ve driven cars in Phnom Penh as well.

At first, it’s nerve-wracking to drive a car when you look out the window and see all the motorbikes, but you just have to drive steady.

But I definitely prefer motorbikes – it’s just time-saving. Sure, cars might keep you dry, but you just can’t get around the city very fast.

Taking photos

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I rarely have time to do photography in my spare time, but when I do, it’s street photography.

I like the hustle and bustle, people moving around and doing their daily chores or exercises.

With event photography, lots of events can be cool and a lot of fun, even better when they have a great lighting setup.

On our studio side, I like the challenge of lighting the subject, lighting the model, getting the right effect.

For a camera body, I mainly use the Canon 5D Mark III.

The 6D is another very good camera, but it doesn’t have the buttons in the right places – you can’t get around the camera as fast as you need to.

Also the focusing on the 6D is not as good – it doesn’t have as many focus points.

The 6D does a helluva good job, but you can’t get around the camera as fast.

Transitioning Cambodia

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I don’t read much, but I look at a lot of pictures. I supported Transitioning Cambodia from Nick Axelrod (the book’s photographer).

Nick and I have been here for about the same length of time and he’s documented Cambodia very, very well. Its great – I can look through it and see the same things that I’ve been seeing over the years.

The obvious one is the new amount of buildings popping up.

You sit on top of the Sokha Hotel on the other side of the river looking at Phnom Penh as a whole, and the green building nets are everywhere wrapped around new buildings.

I do like the way Cambodia is heading, but I do miss the quieter streets, and less traffic from when I first ended up living here in 2007.

There’s so much going on now, and I think a lot of it is positive, although some people are being left behind.

Selfie Boooth

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The concept is to inject some fun into an event. It’s fun for the guests, and often with our events it’s for a brand so this is also awesome marketing, as the Selfie Boooth is completely customisable: from the outside, to the user interface, to the printed photograph.

The photograph comes out branded, with a logo or message, or hashtag, whatever you’d like, in less than 10 seconds.

The Selfie Boooth is a source of fun, an activity and gift for guests to take home as a memento.

A recent one was on Saturday for the July 4 celebration at the US Embassy – they had cutouts of Barack and Michelle Obama and American props to hold for the selfies.

Last year, at a Halloween party at Demo, we had a special sound effect – everyone would be posing at the camera and then when the Selfie Boooth counted down for the shot, at zero, as the photograph was taken, we had a large sounds system positioned behind the participants and our software would trigger a very loud banshee scream.

This was designed to get the Halloween look of horror.


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