Contemporary art in Cambodia has been flourishing since the country was put back on the international scene a few short years ago, but photography as an artistic medium is only just emerging. As snapshot visitors visit the ancient temples and developing cityscapes, one local photographer gets deeper into the art of still imagery.
A student of Law at the Phnom Penh Panasatra University, 27-year-old Rattana Vandy discovered a passion for photography when he signed up for an art class and was tasked with exploring various art exhibitions around the city. During a visit to the S-21 Toul Sleng Museum, the countless portrait images of Khmer Rouge victims on permanent display left him wondering how he could use photography to positively change world views of his country.
Two years on, Rattana is one of the few Cambodian photographers gaining recognition for his talent behind the lens. Following two successful series in 2005 and 2006 that provided intimate insights into city life at home and at work, Chess is his latest collection. “It was the endless laughs, the expression on the faces, the deep concentration and the ordinary outfits of all the chess players that interested and motivated me to do this photo work, in order to unveil another side of daily life for Cambodians,” says Rattana.
The images, shot in both black and white and colour, carry a nostalgic tone of movie frames as if taken in the ‘60s: an age-old story suspended in black and white or the use of colour bringing into focus youth and excitement. The series reveals distinct characteristics of Cambodian chess, called Ouk Chatrang in Khmer, a game which dates back to the Angkorian period and can be found among the ancient reliefs that cover the Angkor Wat and Bayon temples, depicting a pastime reserved for royalty.
These days however, it is not uncommon to see two people hunched over a traditional wood carved board with little stones or bottle caps replacing original pieces. The board, the pieces, the moves, even the aim show intriguing contrasts to the western version. These are the nuances Rattana captures on film.
- "Ouk Chatrang “Chess”"
- VANDY Rattana
- 01 April - 30 June 2007