The day I moved to Cambodia, nearly 10 years ago, I would have never guessed that my passion for photography would one day lead me to a new professional path. Initially, I simply wanted to document my time abroad. I’d arrived in Phnom Penh for work and was captivated by the local beauty. I needed a sophisticated camera to capture my surroundings, so I bought my first SLR camera back in 2009 upon the recommendation of a well-known professional photographer in Phnom Penh. After saving up for a year, I bought the Canon 400D model. The only problem at that time was that I didn’t know how to use it and I was not the type to read instructions, so for a while I used it on automatic mode only and took photos simply to keep nice memories of my journey.

From the time I got the camera, I couldn’t find any more excuses not to take pictures but I knew I needed a technical class to learn the basics of photography, at least to understand how to create beautiful compositions, portraits and landscape photos respecting the Rule of Thirds. Following a desire to find an appropriate photo workshop, I searched different options and finally came across Nathan Horton Photography Tours. Nathan Horton is a British photographer who’s been travelling extensively in Asia for the past 25 years and who currently lives in Cambodia. I immediately fell in love with Nathan’s creative images and signed up for one of his photo tours to Silk Island, famous for its gorgeous hand-woven silk wares made by local artisans.

I was so excited to attend this photography workshop, as well as meet other passionate photographers from all over the world. After we gathered with the group at the meeting point, we caught a tuk-tuk - the most common local transportation in Cambodia – to head to Silk Island and start our photo expedition tour. I felt like one of those photojournalists who is sent on a mission to the other side of the world as the tuk-tuk crisscrossed the busy streets of Phnom Penh. We were dropped off at Kien Khleang, a beautiful golden Pagoda, to take pictures before embarking on the local ferry to Silk Island.

On the way to the island, we could not escape the strong sun and the extremely high temperatures, typical weather in Phnom Penh from March to September. On board the ferry: men, women, children, families, bicycles, motorbikes and cars. A continuous to-and-fro, transporting passengers several times a day between the land and the island. Colors, noise, smells, views and people: this is what’s called LIFE!

When we arrived, Nathan gave us a global tour of the island and introduced us to the people he knew, so we could start documenting our beautiful journey through the lens of our camera. We visited a retirement home; saw hundreds of children smiling, laughing and playing, and observed local artisans and street vendors. We could not have had a more diverse landscape for our photo story telling.

So this is how my photographic journey started, almost a decade ago, back to my roots in the land that my parents left 40 years ago to make a better living in Paris. What I remember from that special day were the beautiful smiles of Khmer kids, their expressions and enthusiasm when connecting with us. All this was only made possible thanks to my first camera, which has been given away to my auntie last November when I returned… Finally, things come full circle.


Two years ago almost to the day, I signed up for a Julian Wainwright Photography workshop in Saigon just for fun, maybe because I enjoy photography and celebrations. At that time, I had just quit my 9-to-5 job and had already decided to leave my little Vietnam - this sweet land I called home for nearly four years - and reconnect with my native Paris.

I remember this day as if it was yesterday, a sunny day in February 2015. I drove my motorbike to Work Saigon in district 3 where the workshop took place and I remember arriving late. I was surprised at the large number of people that were there, mostly Vietnamese. I understood why: weddings are a very important life milestone for Vietnamese people. The first part of the morning workshop was purely theory with Julian's general presentation about wedding photography and then a review of his portfolio.

After the first part of the workshop, we had a lunch break at the Secret Garden rooftop near Pasteur where we ordered some vegetarian and pescetarian meals. The ambiance among the students was great: we talked about photography, techniques, weddings and exchanged about our respective jobs as well as life in Saigon. I enjoyed it very much. After the delicious meal and exchanges with the participants, we caught a cab to return to the class to continue the wedding workshop with coffee and pastries.

The second part of the workshop was dedicated to reviewing one-by-one all the photos each student sent to Julian before the workshop. I remember how amazed and impressed I was with everyone's work and my insecurity at that time had made me felt very bad when comparing my portfolio to the other students’ work. I was happy that all the pictures got reviewed anonymously on the screen and thought to myself that I would never become a wedding photographer anyway (just to feel better) :)

After the theory lesson, the workshop continued with a photo shoot with a Vietnamese couple who acted as models for the group to be able to practice what we had learnt in theory. We all grabbed our bikes and drove to the cathedral in district 1 in the hustle and bustle of the city. The couple was photogenic and looked happy so we all had the opportunity to create a nice portfolio for future reference. We had fun trying all different poses, playing the paparazzis for movie stars!

After the photo shoot session, we all returned to Saigon Work to end the workshop with a lesson about Adobe Lightroom before we all went for a beer altogether on the street corner of the school...

Two years later, I still remember this great moment with nostalgia and I miss it. Irony of fate, exactly a week ago, I had my first wedding photo shoot here in the City of Light, although I had never thought one second to become a professional photographer back then. All the best happens when you least expect it and when you do what you truly love. If you happen to be in Asia one day, I really recommend Julian's wedding photography workshop!

Thank you, Julian, for this memorable day!