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Photography : A journey to Cambodia, 2019-2023 by Salomé Jartoux

Original series proposed by Salomé Jartoux, who had already delighted us with the publication of the photographic archives of her uncle who visited the Kingdom in 1993. Exclusive to Cambodge Mag.

Cambodian family at the thai border - 2019
Cambodian family at the thai border - 2019

As soon as I arrived in Cambodia, in February 2019, I immediately started taking photos. Silver photos of people, landscapes, roads and villages. The only things I knew about the country were Marguerite Duras' books, and Kim Wilde's famous song "Cambodia". I knew my uncle had been there for a short time in 1993, but I had no recollection of what he had said about it.

I went to Cambodia somewhat by chance, not really knowing what to expect, following my intuition and the advice of people I met along the way:

"You have to go there, it's a very special place".

From what Google Images showed me, I imagined a town filled with hippies living around a lake, cycling and enjoying yoga all day. A naive vision far removed from reality, I admit.

Cambodian women from Kep
Cambodian women from Kep

First impressions: the light of this country captivated and enchanted me. The right mix of colors on clothes, houses and walls. Everything was magnificently disordered, but I could find this disorder within myself. It wasn't foreign to me, I understood it in a way.

"This is in stark contrast to life in Paris, where people don't smile much, warmth is scarce, living space is scarce, and finding a ray of sunshine is a challenge, even a celebration.''

Paris is perhaps the only place in the world where melancholy and sadness can be transformed into joy, into contentment, into a very fine and rare pleasure in itself. A masochism learned early on through the arts and letters, and which shapes the mind, which molds the personality. Cambodia is the exact opposite.

Family in Kampot - 2019
Family in Kampot - 2019

I thought I'd only be there for two weeks, in Kampot, and now it's been five years, on and off. For the first few months there, I only took long, wobbly buses across the country, to get a better feel for the weather, meet the locals during lunch breaks on the road, take their pictures, capture the cars, the old trucks, the constructions, the cars packed with workers. Or a whole family standing on a scooter or children riding motorcycles.

I'm always thinking that I should have taken more shots, I'm always thinking about missed shots, when I'm driving around and I see a beautiful scene that's impossible to capture while driving.

On the road between Phnom Penh and Kampot - 2019-2020
On the road between Phnom Penh and Kampot - 2019-2020

Cambodian markets are very interesting to observe and photograph. Full of life, colors, smells and bustle. Women carrying huge bags of fish and oysters. Men sewing, making jewelry, smelting gold. Unknown fruits, new vegetables. A multitude of new sensations and impressions, it's teeming with life and I love walking around to observe and melt into this very special atmosphere. 

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