at a glance
“Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam — different Impressions in Black and White Photos,” by Doris Boettcher.
Opening night reception with the photographer October 1, 6:30 p.m. Exhibit on display through October 29.
In her exhibit at the FCC Phnom Penh titled “Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam — Different Impressions in Black and White Photos,” Doris Boettcher follows the Mekong River from Laos down to Vietnam, clicking away at the exotic scenes that define Asia and capturing the details of a diverse and historic region.
Boettcher worked for years as a travel guide in the region before settling down in Cambodia, and her knowledge of Southeast Asia comes through in her photography. She displays a knack for capturing those serendipitous moments that so often compel our travels.
Standing on the bank of the Nam Song River in Laos, the photograph Boettcher takes provides a study in contrasts. A row of long-tail boats shine in the sun against a backdrop of dark, shallow waters. The smooth, flowing textures of the river drift by jagged and immovable karst mountains. Fisherman at work down in the river stand juxtaposed with a photographer at play up on the river bank.
With her photos of Vietnam, Boettcher shows off her affinity for spotting rich textures and subtle details. In one photograph, Boettcher again finds herself at the water’s edge. In a deceptively simple composition, a lone fishing net pregnant with potential energy hangs just above choppy waters. In the sky, an afternoon sun shines through receding rain clouds. The scene is an eye blink in time but could easily describe the country, if not the region, as a whole.
When she turns her lens toward Cambodia, Boettcher focuses more on people than she does elsewhere, which is probably the result of a deeper understanding of local life that has come with calling Cambodia home. It is the people more than anything, she says, that makes Cambodia great.
In one shot, a young girl walks briskly with a soda bottle tucked under her arm. It could be filled with petrol or tea. Whatever it is, her purposeful stride and sharp look give the impression that the mission she is on is an important one.
Other photographs catch a trio of monks strolling across the causeway at the Baphuon, a group of kids laying about on the now nearly famous “bamboo railway”, a family at work on a dilapidated houseboat.
The photographs catch just a brief moment in time, but like all great photography Boettcher’s images allude to a reality much greater than that in the picture alone.
In all, Boettcher’s narrative of the region frames the big pictures that captivate – the gorgeous riverscapes, iconic pictures of Cambodian monks at the temples, the fisherman’s life in Vietnam – yet at the same time does so while reveling in the smaller yet not insignificant details, the subtle contrasts and complex textures that make the Asian way of life so alluring.