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.