Doing black and white work on social issues, Phan Phearith clearly fits in with a tradition, that of the “photo essay” that reached its zenith in the magazines of the 1950s and 60s, back when the presses churned out weeklies by the hundreds of thousands. Deciding to work this way is a testimony of the photographer’s confidence in the documentary capacity of the still frame, one that can be rigorously framed and organized to tell a story. Through long association with the squatter community around the Phnom Penh train station, he captures how they developed their own way of life based on clam selling. The young photographer won their trust and with tenderness and fellow feeling, made a portrait of their daily life, both in their occupation and in moments of greater closeness with their families when night falls and they move inside their modest dwellings. This way of life is threatened by the rapid transformation of the capital and its break¬neck “modernization.” This detailed, discreet work already appears as a testimony, a form of memory.
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