Sunday, December 11, 2011

Angkor Photography Festival Edition 7

So, after a couple of crazy nights on the turps in Bangkok we finally made it to Siem Reap for the Angkor Photo Festival. This time round I was accompanied by by freelance photographers Chad Taylor and Theron Kirkman, The West Australian newspaper photographer, Simon Santi, Central Institute of Technology photo-media lecturer Mark England and ECU photo-media technician, Alistair Edwards.
Alistair Edwards carrying out some bizarre photographic ritual at the start of the day
Roger Ballen's Cut Loose, (2005) from the Boarding House series at the John McDermott Gallery
Now, in it's seventh incarnation, the festival has come a long way from when I first attended in 2007. Back then I found it difficult to find out what was happening on any given night and was generally 'underwhelmed' and to a degree, frustrated, by the whole experience. Not any more, like the town of Siem Reap which has changed dramatically over recent years... mainly to cope with the increasing numbers of tourists eager to scramble over the ruins of nearby Angkor, the festival has grown and become a lot more vibrant and user friendly for visitors. That may not be a good thing for the temples of Angkor, but it certainly is for the festival.
From the Animalies series at the John McDermott Gallery. Picture © Krzysztof Wladyka
Opening night at the FCC, that's me on the bottom right... and no, I'm not asleep.
Picture: Tenzing Dakpa - Phnom Penh Post.

This year saw the work of over 110 photographers featured in a series of exhibitions and projections. Chatting to program director, Francoise Callier at the opening of Crickets and Water is Life at the Hotel de la Paix, she reminded me that they really only have a core of four volunteers in situ... pretty bloody impressive result guys. But, to be truthful they are assisted by a small but dedicated team of consultants and co-ordinators, including Yumi Goto and Sohrab Hura... whom it was great to see again this year and I am extremely pleased to hear that he will be back in Perth again next year for FotoFreo 2012

Sohrab is co-ordinator of the photo workshops for underprivileged kids, run through Anjali House  which unfortunately I missed out on seeing this time round as it was one of the many highlights for me at the festival in 2010. There seems to be a real sense of community at the festival in Siem Reap and it was great walking into a venue and see familiar faces beaming in recognition through the crowd. Caught up with another Indian colleague, albeit all to briefly, Kapil Das aka lenskap of fame... and once you've looked at that link, check out this video of one of their 'blowups' in Bombay.
Blowup exhibition at last year's Angkor Photo Festival
I guess, the blowups in Angkor are the festival's equivalent of a fringe, with work coming from around the world and being pasted onto various walls around town. Maps are handed out during the projections at the FCC showing the locations of the images and it's a really cool way of seeing work by a range of photographers... and for many people, a way to acquire images as part of the concept is that passers by, can take the pictures they like.

Here's hoping that with the strong Indian presence at FotoFreo next year, Kapil and Lyle are able to do something similar here in Western Australia... You reading this Lyle????
Another Blowup exhibition
And what did we see and do? The usual... drink beer, talk shop, eat and of course check out the exhibitions... although much of the latter was done in the evening. For those of us who had not been to Cambodia before (Simon, Theron and Chad) the days were filled with photo trips to the temples and other sites around town.
Angkor Wat - Silver Gelatin Print, Edition of 10 © Julian Tennant
Al at the Bayon
And me? I spent a bit of time catching up with a mate from my days studying Industrial Design,  who for the past few years has been the owner of Siem Reap's infamous late night pub, X-bar and devising a cunning plan to plunder some artifacts from the Siem Reap War Museum... but we'll leave that story for another time I think. 
Chad, Al and Mark checking out Matthieu Paley's Forgotten on the Roof of the World: Life in Afghanistan's Remotest Mountains at the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor Garden
Swat Valley Pakistan  at 1961 Gallery  Photo: © Edwin Koo
Stateless Rohingya: Running on Empty at 1961 Gallery Photo: © Suthep Kritsanavarin
So we wandered around town checking out the exhibitions and taking pix. Apart from the blowups, there are really only a handful of core shows and they're all close enough to walk to... although Al would probably disagree on the day we wandered from our 'basha' at the Mandalay Inn to check out the Asian street photography show, Suthep Kritsanavarin's series Running on Empty about the stateless Rohingya people who originate from Burma and Edwin Koo's images from the Swat Valley at the 1961 Gallery. Mind you, it's only a couple of bucks to get around town in a motodop taxi so maybe Al was right and the leisurely strolls were unnecessary under the tropical sun... but fun nonetheless, with some good photo ops along the way.
The start of the nightly projections at the FCC
A bemused Mark England wondering if I am serious about trying to steal the sleeping copper's  AK-47
And in the evenings as the sun set we downed our Angkor beers and meandered along to the exhibition launch for that day, followed by more beers under the stars at the FCC (where I exhibited back in 2006) we'd check out the projections for that night. Then it'd would be a slow meander back down to one of the restaurants or cafes around Pub street where we'd dissect the shows and shoot the shit, before almost inevitably heading back to X Bar for several last drinks before bed.
None of the infamous Happy Herbs Pizza tonight, a post projections snack somewhere near Pub Street

 And before I knew it, we were back in the bright lights and big smoke of Thailand for a few more crazy nights and days. Roll on Angkor 2012!