Every county has those classic shots that capture the spirit of the nation. Not postcard pictures like Angkor Wat, but portraits and slice-of-life photography that touch people at more than a visceral level.
In Cambodia those shots often include kids and oxcarts, students in uniform, monks and market vendors and street sellers. Theirs is the face of Cambodia’s national character.
In “Revisiting Cambodia,” on display at the FCC Phnom Penh through mid August, British photographer Sean Morony collects those classic scenes of the Kingdom and delivers the quintessential Cambodia.
Color plays a key part of many shots. In one photograph, a smiling fruit seller wearing a red shirt sits hovering over a pile of fresh yellow mangoes. In another, two monks sit talking on the steps of Angkor Wat. Conspicuously playing the colors against the grays, the stone background amplifies the warmth in the monk’s robes.
Morony’s style of framing, too, infuses his photographs with a unique sense of perspective and often emphasizes the photographer’s role as observer. In one memorable shot, a forlorn school girl sits on the ground with her book bag as a blurry school mate slips into the frame. The depth between the two students, highlighted by the foreground motion, gives a slightly tense and fleeting quality to the image.
There are others: a smiling flower seller wrapping a bunch outside a pagoda, fruit sellers in the market, shots of the Bayon and statues of Buddha, a boy driving an oxcart.
It is quite a photographic journey, and the result is a collection of timeless Cambodian images, as ageless as the myths of Angkor and as deep and rich as the character of the country itself.