It’s high noon here in Siem Reap, which translates to hot, humid, and by default, sweaty. But the weather is no deterrent to the dozen or so amateur photographers who have thronged the Angkor Photo Festival office in the hope of scoring a half-hour sit-down with prominent photographers. The portfolio reviews weren’t exactly part of the schedule but a last-minute informal addition, and, in our opinion, a successful after-thought. Photographers Marco Wiegers, Munem Wasif, Wang Xi, and Pablo Bartholomew are, as we write this, engrossed in conversation with their amateur counterparts who are walking them through their work and receiving intensive critical feedback in return. (“You need to work on your understanding of light” is one insightful piece of advice we happened to overhear.)
The walls of the office, the festival’s hub, are currently lined with images from Indonesian photographer Indra Widi’s series “Thanks for Today” which opened on December 3 to high acclaim. Gorgeous silhouettes of fishermen pulling in nets filled with their humble catch for the day form the subject of these 16 black-and-white photographs. Widi was among the first batch of students to major in photography at the Indoneasia Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta in 1994. “There is a great beauty in the moment when fishermen unload their catch of the day from the sea,” Widi writes in his artist statement. “That beauty, however, does not continue when one sees the money they receive in return for their catch. The rigorous labor needed to go out to sea under the blazing sun, risking their lives on the waves—this too was not as beautiful as the silhouettes their bodies cast upon my camera.”
It has been an hour since we began writing this postcard. The crowd has thinned out, small parties of photographers have headed out into the city to grab a bite before the afternoon’s sessions and the “Children’s Day” program, that has been slated for the evening. We’ve spent our time here interviewing some of the most interesting photographers whose work has moved us and whose series pose important questions about the nature of photojournalism, the conflicts between nations and religions on account of terrorism, and the challenges of curating photography. Watch out for our forthcoming postcards.