Artist narrative

Located by the sea, Cambodia is a country covered with lakes, rivers, small tributaries and creeks, teeming with plenty of freshwater fishes. These water bodies benefits the agricultural sector of Cambodia and also its people, as most of the Khmer population are farmers. The Tonle Sap Lake, one of the biggest freshwater lakes in Southeast Asia, contains at least 1o tons of freshwater fishes per square kilometer. Water is also an important method of transportation, allowing people to travel from one place to anywhere in the world via boats or ships. Water is essential to life, and is something that no creature on earth can live without. 

Hence, Water is Life was created and it leads us to see the imaginative pictures which reflects on human beings, animals, and forestry that grow next to water, the lives rely on water, and also to draw attention to the impact on water as a resulting from human beings. I would like to dedicate this work to all the people of the world, to raise awareness about our need to work together to protect water, ensuring that it will free from pollution and be usable forever. 

In the north of Cambodia, Siem Reap is known for its amazing diversity. Situated at the head of the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap, the region groups a large number of small villages that was set up around the Khmer temples of Angkor Wat. Although it is now a growing urban area, Siem Reap is famed for its vast rice fields which colors the landscape. When the monsoon rains appear, the lake expands to cover six times the surface area than during the dry season. The monsoon also announces the arrival of masses of crickets, and with their arrival - the return of an amazing activity. In just a few weeks, children from across Siem Reap will focus on catching these crickets, helping to contribute to the family income.

It is 6pm. One by one, Leap checks the traps which his father taught him to make. The traps are made of wood, fixed with a plastic sheet and a florescent tube powered by a diesel-run generator. Underneath, a basin of water is waiting. As night falls, the insects are attracted to the light and hit the plastic sheets, sliding down into the basin of water. The children have about 3o minutes to collect the crickets before they regain their strength and escape. The abundance of these insects is also linked to weather conditions - when it rains at night, there are less crickets to catch. In Siem Reap, black crickets fetch about US$o.5o per kg, and the larger red crickets is sold for about US$2 per kg. Fried crickets, cooked in oil and some sauce, is one of surprisingly tasty and one of Cambodia’s favorite snacks.

After a busy night, Leap falls asleep in his hammock. Contrary to appearances, Leap’s work is a part of a real industry in Cambodia. The demand for crickets is increasing, and the insects are even exported to neighboring countries. Now, a growing number of Cambodians are thinking of rearing crickets to cater to this growing demand.

This body of work was produced at the 2o1o Jack Picone Photography Workshops in Siem Reap, held by Jack Picone, Stephen Dupont and Tim Page.

Artist bio

MAK Remissa
MAK Remissa is regarded as one of the most successful Khmer photographers of his generation. He credits his awards in the 1997 National Photojournalism competition, held by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and chaired by Phillip Jones Griffiths, as a major catalyst in his career. Currently a photojournalist for the European Pressphoto Agency, his 2005 fine art photography exhibition, titled after a traditional Khmer proverb: “When the water rises, the fish eats the ant; when the water recedes, the ant eats the fish”, was shown in Phnom Penh galleries and at the Angkor Photo Festival. Born in 1970, Remissa and his family was moved to the Takeo province from Phnom Penh five years later by the Khmer Rouge. In 1995, he graduated in Fine Art and Photography at the Royal Fine Arts School in Phnom Penh, and his work was published in publications such as Cambodge Soir and The Phnom Penh Post. Remissa has since exhibited in Cambodia, France, Canada and the US. Recently, seven pieces of his Fish and Ants work was made part of the Singapore Art Museum’s permanent collection. Mak Remissa has been a member of Asia Motion since 2010.

SOVAN Philong
SOVAN Philong is a 25-year-old Cambodian photographer living and working in Phnom Penh. Philong studied photography with Mak Remissa, and has been a professional photographer for almost three years and previously worked at The Phnom Penh Post. Besides covering the news, Philong developed several personal projects, including those he implemented as part of ‘Studio Image’ with the Centre Cultural FranÁais that was displayed at the Royal University of Fine Arts and at the 2009 Photo Phnom Penh night projection. In July 2009, his work was shown at La Nuit de L’AnnÈe at Les Rencontres d’Arles in France. His following project, in which he pushes further his reflections on the portrait by lighting his models with his computer screen, was exhibited in November 2010 at Photo Phnom Penh. In 2011, he also had an exhibition at the 2011 MusÈe du Quai Branly’s Biennial Photoquai in France. In 2010, Philong won the Best Reportage at the annual Angkor Photo Workshops, held in Siem Reap at the same week as the Angkor Photo Festival. The winning body of work, Rabbit in Your Headlights, is a series of portraits of people illuminated by the headlights of a motorbike. Recently, his work was published in Le Monde Magazine, L’EXPRESS style, Internazional Italy Magazine, Globe Magazine, L’OEIL Portfolio, De L’air, IMAGES and The Phnom Penh Post. Philong Sovan has been a member of Asia Motion since 2011.

"Angkor Photo Festival 2011 (Crickets and Water is Life)"
SOVAN Philong and MAK Remissa
03 November - 08 December 2011

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