At a Glance
Cambodia: facets of today’s life. Photography by Michael Lindemann, opens June 22, 6:30 p.m. Through July 30.
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With a body of work encapsulating everything from the “shining stars” to the “shady sides of life,” photographer Michael Lindemann’s vision is a testament to eclecticism. So far, his favorite subject is Cambodia.
Lindemann’s most recent show about the Kingdom was held in Munich in December 2006, and partly financed by the Munich municipality. It was billed as a “mulit-sensoric” exhibition, and it’s easy to see why: the critically acclaimed show contained more than 120 large-scale photographs and was accompanied by original Khmer music, traditional decorations, samples of food and historical documents. The art of Lindemann, as the photographer puts it, is all-inclusive.
“My photography captures the world’s diversity and its unfamiliarity. Unseen facets of life are the main aim of my work as a photographer,” he said. “I try to combine this with beauty and surprise, well-known aspects and new sights, information and aesthetics. My pictures deal not only with the shining stars but also with the disheartening sides of life. Therefore, I try to catch reality as purely as possible and avoid manipulating the original content of a picture.”
Beginning June 22, Lindemann will bring his wide-ranging artistry to the FCC Phnom Penh. His exhibit, titled “Cambodia: facets of today’s life,” will also be shown later this year at the FCC Angkor.
“I have visited Cambodia four times already. At first I was attracted by my lack of information and knowledge about the country. But very soon I was captured by the joviality of the locals despite their economic situation. I’ve watched the development of the country with amazement — but also with some fear,” Lindemann said.
Lindemann’s show may come as a surprise. The photographs range from the traditional to the unknown, and in every shot there is an element of the unfamiliar.
“You will find split seconds and remote eternities. Uncommon images and endlessly returning motifs,” he said. “The exhibition intends to show the different facets of Khmer life and culture: removed moments, strangeness, surprises and most of all, the regained smile of the local people (the mysterious ‘sourire khmer’) will be demonstrated,” Lindemann said.
“It will be impressions of the forgotten countryside and slumbering villages far from development. Also the big cities, whose inhabitants are on the edge of economic progress. These people of the present are restlessly drudging into the future and slave, under the most basic working-conditions, for a better life.”
Lindemann’s lens does more than celebrate. He also strives to portray the counterpoint: the gritty reality that many Cambodians face every day.
“I have also documented the shady sides of local life: working kids, HIV-positive people, inhabited ruins and shattered, uninhabited huts,” he said. “But, above all, you will feel the Cambodian passion for life that takes in every fringe of luck with unruly joviality.”
Lindemann was born near Cologne, Germany, in 1960. After university, he became a civil engineer for the Technical University in Zurich, Switzerland. For 12 years he has worked for the State Bavarian Environment Agency in Munich/Germany. Despite an engineering background, his technical education is combined with a passion for the arts.
“Photography got my interest since early youth. This motivation, and positive feedback on my occasional pictures, were good enough reasons to deepen my skills in photography,” he said. “Nevertheless, I started to take pictures seriously only about eight years ago.”
Beside photography, Lindemann is a storyteller in his native German. This talent is apparent in the narrative elements of his photography and has enhanced his traveling and insight into unfamiliar cultures.
“Above all, my pictures should broaden the visitors’ minds and raise their understanding about the difficulties of Khmer life. Cambodia is one of the last remaining blank spots on the maps. We, in the West, know nearly nothing about this little country — maybe just something about the holocaust in the 70s or the danger of landmines in the countryside. But even these simple clichés are bleached by time and progress,” he said.
Motivated by such thoughts, Lindemann came to Cambodia with his mind “like a white sheet of paper to be filled with stories and pictures.”
According to Lindemann, it didn’t take long for Cambodia to captivate him, and ultimately, become a passion.
“No image leaves me unimpressed,” Lindemann said. “I try to stay versatile and movable and travel with little equipment. Sometimes the most striking things are kept on memory and not on film.”