Portrait Photography: Portraits of Cambodia

Photographer: Simon J. Newbury

As many of you are aware, I travelled to Cambodia in July on a photographic trip. I wanted to photograph as many portraits as possible as well as visiting Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh and travelling north to Siem Reap to visit the temples. I was fortunate to meet and photograph a huge range of Khmer people. My final collection includes fisherman, market traders, water buffalo farmers, arable farmers, children, Buddhist monks and beggars.

Obviously there was a language barrier. My Khmer is non existent so I worked with an interpreter on some days and relied on candid shots and expressions on other days. You can tell if someone minds or not if you are photographing them! Although the poverty is often easy to see I found the Khmer people to be a friendly and happy people.

With only two exceptions the portraits from the collection are all made with natural ambient light. This was something of a departure to my usual style. The Urban Portrait project, for instance, was all shot using mobile lighting. Clearly such apparatus doesn’t lend itself to this project and travel so it was an interesting project technically as well as thematically.

Portrait photography has always been a strong passion of mine. To get to meet so many diverse people in the space of time that I was in Cambodia as well as managing to make so many portraits has been an amazing experience.

There are many stories to be told from the faces of the people in the collection. One of my highlights is the beggar I met on the journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. It is a very enduring portrait and it was only after I had taken the shot and thanked him (and made a small donation) I noticed that he was wearing a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt. That alone tells a story. Another highlight was the visit to the Buddhist Academy in Phnom Penh. It’s not open to the public but our interpreter explained that I wanted to do some portraits of some monks. We were given access to see the classes in action and made a set of portraits of some young monks!

I have made a slideshow (complete with traditional Khmer music).

There is also a gallery on the main website!

Cambodia Portraits by Simon J. Newbury Photography