Mak Remissa is regarded as one of the most successful Khmer photographers of his generation. He credits his first and third place awards in the 1997 National Photojournalism competition, held by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and chaired by Phillip Jones Griffiths, as a major catalyst in his career.
Currently working as a photojournalist for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), his work is often seen on the international news wires. His 2005 fine art photography exhibition, titled “The fish eats the ant”, was shown in Phnom Penh galleries, the Angkor Photo Festival, in Kobe, Japan in 2013 « Life Being, Earth Being », and GETXOPHOTO festival 2014 in Bilbao, Spain. And was nominated as one of the best exhibitions at Dali Photo Festival in China in August 2015.
In 1995, he graduated in Fine Art and Photography at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, and his work soon appeared in numerous publications such as Cambodge Soir and the Phnom Penh Post.
He has also worked as a free lance photographer for other organizations. Remissa has exhibited his fine art photography in Cambodia, France, Canada, the US, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, China, Japan, Singapore, and Myanmar.
Seven pieces of Remissa’s Fish and Ants work was recently made part of the Singapore Art Museum’s permanent collection. Four pieces of Remissa’s work “Left 3 days” was recently made part of a permanent collection of the Musée de L’Elysée in Lausanne and Musée Guimet in Paris. And eight pieces of the “Left 3 days” was recently made part of a permanent collection of The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Australia. Mak Remissa exposed his fine art photography « Water is Life » during Angkor Photo Festival 2011, the «Ruptures and Revival: Cambodian Photography in the Last Decade» in Singapore in March 2012, Yangon Photo Festival 2012 in Myanmar and the Xishuangbanna Festival 2014 in China.
Remissa’s work “Left 3 days” was a finalist in the Art Award of the Invisible Photographer Asia Awards 2018.
Remissa’s work “Left 3 days” was exposed during PhotoPhnomPenh 2015 and is part of the amazing exhibition “Renaissance” during the 4th edition of LILLE 3000, curated by Mr. Caujolle, from September 2015 to 17 January 2016. And was exposed at the LANDSKRONA Photo Festival 2016 in Sweden and the Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2017 in Australia.
Finally Remissa latest work “From Hunting to Shooting” was exposed during PhotoPhnomPenh 2018.
Left 3 Days, 2014
Like other Cambodians, some of my family members died from the killing, starvation, overwork and torture under the Khmer Rouge regime. Most of those who have survived the regime do not wish to recall such painful memories nor do they try to remember, it in order to avoid continues emotional suffering. Therefore, the story of genocidal crime that happened between 1975 and early 1979 in Cambodia have faded away gradually from the people’s mind, like smoke being blown away by the wind. Indeed, we, Cambodians, don’t want such a tragic and painful event to ever happen again in our motherland. That is why, right now, in oder for the next generations to know our history, so that it won’t disappear with the passage of time, it is important to reconcile the victoms with the view of mending their fragile memories and emotional suffering.
“Left 3 Days” is a keyword to recall some memories during my childhood at that time; particularly on 17April 1975 when Khmer Rouge troops took control and occupied the capital city “Phnom Penh”. During that time earsplitting gunfire shots could be heard for miles around the city. For everyshot fired, a shiver would run down my spine. The soldiers clad in black — most are very young of age– were ordering all residents to leave their home for only three days, even patients had to leave the hospital in the city without any clear information. My family hid in our house over a night, hoping the situation may change for the better. However, to our dismay, the capital city that was once so lively and rich with life became a ghost town.
As ordered, everyone was evicted out of the capital city. The only living human beings left are the Khmer Rouge troops that are searching for remaining citizens from house to house. Due to worsening situation, my father decided to leave Phnom Penh the next day. My parents and other family members are tasked to carrying heavy and overburden belongings. We were to head out of the city, along the national road “3”, walking to Angkor Chey district in Kampot province. There, my father’s hometown reside.
Crowds of the city residents walked since dusk to dawn. Some would wander around with no clear destination in mind. If one were to tire, they were not allowed to take a long period of rest for the Khmer Rouge troops are chasing behind them and forcing them to continue onward. Whenever night falls, they would rest by the roadside. Many dead bodies lied on both sides of the road and corpses would float upward in ponds, lakes and water canals. Due to the severe drought and corpses floating in what little water sources that are left, finding drinking water was questionable.
Words alone cannot describe the pain and horror inflicted to the victims but what have been mentioned is just a fracture of the past events and a glimpse into the primary plan of the Khmer Rouge to evict the citizens from Phnom Penh to rural areas.
I wish to dedicate this work as a memorail to my respectful father, grandfather and three uncles as well as all victims, who died in the heinous Khmer Rouge regime.
Born Phnom Penh, 1970
Lives and works in Cambodia
Prix Pictet Fire
May 26 – October 15, 2023
Fotografiska Museum New York
281 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10010