South Africa-born Brit Bruce DeVincentiis first picked up photography five years ago. His first exhibition, Another Time, Another Train, features 16 photographs taken in the capital’s forgotten locomotive department. Ahead of its opening, the photographer sat down with Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon.
What drew you to photographing an abandoned space?
It’s one of my favourite forms of photography. It’s just interesting, the decay. It’s almost like being the first one in. There are quite a lot of [abandoned spaces] in Phnom Penh. It’s about showing everybody else what you see, in the way [that] you can see it.
How did you find the warehouse?
If you go north along the railway lines, there used to be a lot of abandoned carriages. There’s always been this building right down on the end that we were never able to get to. [My friends and I] looked inside and you could see the old steel locomotives. So I emailed John [Guiry, Royal Railway CEO] and he let me into the space. It was quite lucky.
Over what period of time did you take these pictures?
I only had about three hours to shoot and that’s the only time we’ve ever been in. All I knew was that there were some locomotives [inside], but I had no idea of how many were in there. I had to be able to shoot them all. It must have been at least fifteen inside. From what I’ve learned the locomotives don’t actually belong to the railway company, they belong to the government.
What story do you think these photographs tell?
I think [it’s] the history that is behind the locomotives. The trains, they played quite a role in the history of Cambodia, and they’re basically just left there to rot. They’re beautiful pieces of machinery, they really are. It seems a real shame to not make a museum out of them, to do something. They’re just hidden away and it’s part of the history and there’s a chance it will just be turned into scrap. Hopefully [the government] can do something with it.
Another Time, Another Train opens Wednesday, November 23, at 6:30pm at the Lotus Pond Gallery at the Plantation, #28 Street 184. The exhibition runs through January 4. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.