If you are around Phnom Penh on the 14th of June (tomorrow) and not too busy, please come to Meta House and check out a collaborating of the arts featuring artists from Myanmar and Cambodia.
I had the pleasure in being the photographer for the event and had a great time working with the artists. After taking portraits of the artists in the studio space, I talked to each of them individually to see how they would like to see their art presented. All of them had the idea of taking their installations in places around the city. Little did I know the logistical nightmare I was about to confront!
So featured below are the finished works and a little blurb on the logistics of the photo.
Htoo’s piece represented the culturale similarities between Cambodia and Myanmar. This was a pretty easy one to figure out and he was game when I recommended a temple in the area. This was shot at Wat Lanka and we originally wanted a monk holding the piece. After getting rejected several times by the monks in the Wat, we had to settle for a small glimpse of one on the left side of the image.
I met Sokhorn a few years ago for a fah Thai magazine article profiling the emerging art scene in Cambodia. A great person to photograph, his art never ceases to amaze me.
Vanna’s piece was a hard one to shoot as it consists 3 very large frames, one consisting of a mirror, one with glass and the last covered in silk with wire suspending a lit lantern. We tried a bunch of ideas and ended up putting Vanna herself in the picture. This, however, wasn’t the one we used.
You can see Vanna and she is lit with a snooted Viv 283 hand held by me. What you can’t see is two other artists holding up the glass trying to keep it still for the 5 second exposure. It still didn’t do it for me but luckily I remembered that I shot some stills earlier in the day when Vanna was still preparing her installation. It’s a simple shot but sometimes simple just works.
When I first consulted with Aung Naing Soe, he told me that he was going to encase letters made out of concrete that read LIFE in one big ice block. That one threw me for a loop and left me wondering for the next few days how to move a 8 foot by 3 foot block of ice throughout the city. Luckily, he solved my problem by cutting out the letters out of the Phnom Penh Post and off we went to Boeung Keng Kang market. He wanted to get some people holding the letters in the food stall area but were stopped by a very self-important policeman who refused to let us shoot there. Regrouping outside, we had to change our plans fast. We ended taking the photos of ordinary people around the area in different parts of the area holding the four letters. Many thanks to Danet, our translator for convincing everyone to hold the letters!
Maline’s piece involved over 1,000 Nails held by fishing wire and a whole bunch of cotton wool. Because of the complexity of her piece, it would not be finished before the printing deadline that we had to meet. So what she did was make a smaller version which we shot in the Vann Molyvann designed White Building in Tonle Bassac. We took several images with and without people in the shot but it came down to the one above and this one:
After several views on the screen, we all agreed that the dead space in the one first image worked better for the catalog.
I went back today to see the finished piece and ended up with this shot, which I would have used if we weren’t on the deadline
This one was originally going to be taken across the street of Meta House at night with a long shutter on the camera to drag out the headlights of the traffic going by. Unfortunately, it rained and we had to shoot it inside. I used a snooted Viv 283 at 1/8 power attached to a remote trigger on a lightstand and fired it repeatedly during the 6 second exposure to ring the tree with some light. Below is another image taken at 15 seconds and the Viv 238 bare bulbed at 1/16 power.
Part of the Phnom Penh’s Art Rebels collective, Samnang is pretty funny guy to talk to and I had a great time working with him. His piece brought me out to the very busy Monivong Boulevard where he was pulling a cart filled with dirt from around the city. When I pulled up to him on my Sanyang, he was sitting on a curb drinking some coke out of a plastic bag. I didn’t know that he had carried his cart for over 20 kilometers at the time and had another 10 to go! After a half hour break, he hitched up his cart and at my request, walked in the middle of the road to get this awesome shot.
Ma Ei wanted to take her photo in the park on Sothearos with Phnom Penh citizens doing their evening aerobics. The storm that moved Phyu’s installation inside kept the crowd away so we were left with a very empty park. Walking around, trying to find a new spot, I happened to look down and realized that the shot was starting at me the whole time! I ran over to Ma Ei and explained what I wanted to shoot and she agreed wholeheartedly. The problem was that I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of the sky so I bracketed 1 stop to get that great definition out of the sky and combined the two images in Photoshop. A little desaturation using the fantastic Nik software’s Silver Efex Pro and the image was in the bag!
Hope to see you there!