Michael Scholten has certainly covered a lot of ground as a globe-trotting photo-journalist. The Phnom Penh resident and German national has taken photographs in about 40 countries around the world. Scholten has been organizing photo exhibitions at The FCC in Phnom Penh in recent months featuring photos of Cambodia taken by fellow German photographers. For the month of December, Scholten’s own photos are on display at The FCC.
While most of the 50 photos in Scholten’s “Southeast Asian Delights” exhibition are images of Cambodia, he also decided to include pictures he took in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
“It might be nice for people to see some of my photos from the other countries,” Scholten said.
Born in Rees, Germany in 1971, Scholten recalls first picking up a camera when he was about eight years old. By the time he was 12 or 13 he started developing film. Scholten later got together with a friend with a video camera, and the two started making amateur films.
He originally considered a career as a camera operator, but he says that there weren’t too many opportunities in Germany’s film industry in those days.
After finishing high school, Scholten enrolled at Muenstein University in Germany where he majored in English/Linguistics/media studies, and also spent three months in Los Angeles studying English and film at UCLA.
After university, he took a job with a German TV and film magazine as a reporter, and for the next 10 years he interviewed actors, actresses and directors on TV and film sets in Germany.
“It was one of the best times of my life,” Scholten recalls.
In July, 2007, he decided it was time for a change before quitting his job and embarking on trip that would ultimately take to about 40 countries around the globe. It was at that time, he says, that he became a full-time photographer. During his travels he took photos in countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas and elsewhere around the world.
Scholten returned home to Germany for a visit in 2008 when the mayor of his hometown arranged to have Scholten’s photos on display, in what would be his first exhibition, in the town hall. The opening attracted 320 people, he recalls. “I think it was really worth sharing my experiences,” Scholten says.
Neighboring German cities took an interest and other exhibitions followed. Scholten’s photos are on display in two permanent exhibitions in East Germany, one consisting of images of Easter Island and the other is a display of photos of currencies (coins and bills) from around the world.
Scholten first came to Cambodia for a brief visit in 2003 before returning for another visit in 2008. He came back to the Kingdom again in 2009 when he decided to make the country his new home.
Scholten initially lived in Siem Reap where he was the general manager of a travel agency before the daily routine of working in an office eventually took its toll on the free-spirited world traveler. His decision to leave that job led him to establish new roots in Phnom Penh in 2011, where he lives to this day.
In September, Scholten organized a photo exhibition where photos taken a couple of years ago by Cambodian kids, which he had arranged after getting Sony Europe to donate some cameras, were on display at the FCC. He has sold photos to raise money for two charities: the NACA NGO for orphans and the Aspara Arts Association.
These days, Scholten keeps himself busy doing freelance work for German magazines, but has no intention of returning to his native country for good anytime soon.
“On the day after my 39th birthday, I left Germany and moved to Cambodia with the intention of staying here for a very long time.”