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Picture Motor light - Siem Reap (1)
- Philong Sovan
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- Motor light - Siem Reap (1)
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Born in 1986, Philong Sovan lives and works in Phnom Penh. A photographer at the Phnom Penh Post since 2009, he is also a member of Studio Image, set up by the French Cultural Centre in the city, and head of a workshop in the fine arts faculty at the Royal University. He exhibited twice at the Photo Phnom Penh festival and in 2010 he won the Canon photojournalism award at the Angkor Photography Festival.
Philong Sovan forms a part of the new generation of Cambodian photographers. Initially trained as a video editor, he came to photography out of professional necessity; and with the encouragement of local photographer and photojournalist Mak Remissa, he discovered the Photo Phnom Penh festival and Studio Image. It was while working for the press that he decided to undertake more creative personal work.
The outcome was eight months with a community of thirty families living in a former chapel used as a prison under the Pol Pot regime and handed over to a group of orphans – some of whom still live there – when the Khmer Rouge fled from Phnom Penh. With its maze of tiny apartments on three floors, steep staircases and interior streets, this is an astonishing place. Once he felt that the people living there had come to trust him, Philong Sovan gave up his snapshots of everyday life and began taking portraits. Next came a series of still lifes based on collages of decorative items from the walls in the apartments.
One year later he developed a new series of portraits in which he used his laptop screen to compensate for the poor lighting. Subtle and mysteriously inexpressive, these portraits are intriguing and sometimes frightening. Taking his exploration of lighting further, he improvised systems out of such everyday items as drinking straws. In the series on show here the lives of the people of his city are lit up by the headlight of his motorbike, in an approach that mingles documentary photography and the cinema.