Black magic man

Black magic man

We, as foreigners, know this spirit world exists in Cambodia, but we often miss the common gestures

Siem Reap will be engulfed by Cambodian black magic on Saturday when 4Faces bar and gallery unveils its latest exhibition, “Be Unscared” by photographer Jerry Redfern.

Redfern calls his project a “glimpse into the Cambodian spirit world” and says that a glimpse is all us barang can expect. “We, as foreigners, know this spirit world exists in Cambodia, but we often miss the common gestures – a twist of the head, a bit of graffiti, a monk’s breath, the flames of a candle,” says Redfern.

He travelled all over the Kingdom – Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh – shooting images of the Khmer spirit world on 35mm colour negative film. The old film caused random colour shifts, and sometimes an image he thought was dynamite turned out not so great. Sometimes, though, this worked conversely, and Redfern was surprised by a much better shot than expected.

The name “Be Unscared” comes from a sign at the Temple of the Floating Tree near Phnom Penh. “While the sign echoes one of the teachings of the Buddha, it also sums up what Cambodians have been hoping for centuries,” says Redfern. “It’s a call for calm in the face of a dangerous world, whether the danger comes from the beasts of the jungle or those in Phnom Penh.”

One of Redfern’s best memories of working on the project is photographing the practice of cupping in Siem Reap, where hot cups are placed on the skin to create suction. “All the happy workers wanted their photos taken while getting cupped,” he says.

Redfern’s project has been in the works since March, when he came to Siem Reap and met 4Faces co-owner Eric de Vries. “He’s one of the first I contacted and now he’s finally getting a show,” says De Vries.

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