About Me

Sok Sobi. I enjoy taking pictures of people and places, particular interest in Landscape, People and Travel photography. Pictures and stories that bring Social Awareness and the potential for long term social change or policy are important to me. I use Canon Digital Cameras (EOS 1Ds,1D Mk1,2,4 plus Powershot G11) with a selection of Canon lenses, the 24-105 IS f4L being my favourite at present. I use Lightroom & Photoshop Elements to edit my work. Canon equipment and lenses give me just what I need, reliability and high IQ. I am now living and working in Cambodia, South East Asia, using Phnom Penh as a base to explore the region. I publish stories that are important to me on my blog but always try to give a balanced picture.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Playing along the Riverside

The Khmer like things colorful, very colorful. In the evening the place is flooded with balloon sellers, food sellers, photographers that will take your picture and return the prints to you in half an hour. A busy and bustling place, but there's always time for a nap..
People visit the small stupa on the Riverside  to make offerings to Buddha and release birds for luck. It is a place I visit often as there is so much going on and some good pics to be had.

David Bailey: Photography is not fun | PhotoRadar

David Bailey: Photography is not fun | PhotoRadar

Don McCullin photography: Imperial War Museum North interview | PhotoRadar

Don McCullin photography: Imperial War

Sony World Photography Awards 2010 amateur winners | News | PhotoRadar

Sony World Photography Awards 2010 amateur winners | News | PhotoRadar

21 street photography tips from the professionals | PhotoRadar

21 street photography tips from

Take better character photos | PhotoRadar

Take better character photos | PhotoRadar

Nikon D3S vs Canon EOS 1D Mark IV: head-to-head review | PhotoRadar

Nikon D3S vs Canon EOS 1D Mark IV: head-to-head review | PhotoRadar

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Stories to come

The Markets of Phnom Penh.

The River People

Dr.Bob visits PIO

The Riverside. Phnom Penh. Series 1

The Riverside along and up to Sisowath Quay is a vibrant and busy place at weekends and evenings with people walking, exercising and visiting the small Stupa opposite the Royal Palace to make offerings.
It is a time to meet friends and have fun at the end of the day for many. 
I love to watch people.The tourists wandering aimlessly and not seeing the things going on around them. The ''Barang'' old men interacting with young children, many quite innocently and some maybe with more sinister intent. 
The Monks resting and chatting at the end of a hard day, their robes vibrant in the early evening light. The young Monks seem to gather on the quay before returning home in the evening. There are a number of monasteries quite close by.
The darker side of the Quay can be seen by the number of children begging or scavenging in the waste bins, or selling flowers along the quayside. Their faces tell a less happy story.
The youngster selling water or cold drinks, not more than 10 years old, carrying heavy coolers full to overflowing. Theirs is a hard life.

The Scavengers Move On

Since the closure of the dump in Stung Meanchey in 2009 the people who worked as scavengers have had to move on and find other things to employ themselves with. The government effectively baned them from the new dump several mile outside of Phnom Penh so they could not follow the garbage.

Phymena Noun, Executive Director with PIO, tells me that many have continued to live in the Stung Mean Chey area of Phnom Penh and are still picking garbage but on the street before the trucks get to it. Many can be seen pushing their little trolleys around the city, full of cans, bottles and plastics.I supect, but have no confirmation of this, that a few of the children will have gone into the begging trade. The kids at the PIO school continue to attend and their is no shortage of kids that would like to be able to join them but PIO can only offer so much due to limited resource. There are many children working and begging on the Riverfront a main haunt of tourist and more affluent Cambodians. I would like to find out more about what they have been doing since the closure of the dump and will be working over the next few months to discover the answer to this question.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Cheung Ek genocide memorial

The Cheung Ek genocide museum is located in Cheung Ek commune, Dankoar district, about 15 km from the centre of Phnom Penh. This is the location where the Khmer Rouge took their prisoners for execution. The prisoners were made to wait here for 24 hours before they were killed by a blow to the head after which their throats were slit. Babies were killed by bashing their heads against a tree. There were separate graves for men, for women and for children. Former friends of Pol Pot who were executed here had separate graves too.
Visitors can walk along 86 mass graves from which the remainders of 8,985 men, women and children were unearthed after the liberation of the Khmers Rouges. Some of those skulls, bones and pieces of clothing are now kept in the nearby massive stupa.
There were killing fields all over the country, but Cheung Ek was believed to be the largest.
Every year on the 20th of May a ceremony is held around the stupa to bring peace to the spirits of the deceased.

A very sobering place, and so sad that this should happen to such a gentle people as the Khmer.

People Improvement Organization - Part Two

The PIO School at the dump in Phnom helped to bring to life an education for some of the poorest kids in Cambodia, kids whose families could ''never'' afford to send them to school. These kids were (and still are) part of the families financial support structure.
They spent from dawn until dusk, many barefoot, dangerously sifting through the garbage being brought to be dumped in a regular procession of trucks. Scavenging through this mess they search for cans, bottle and plastic that could be sold for cents, maybe earning the children a $1 a day. In this fetid stinking mess they worked until PIO came up with a better offer. It took a while before the children started to attend school regularly but good old fashioned Cambodian ''bribery'' eventually won the day as families who sent their kids to school received a rice quota equivalent or more than the child could earn, this good bribery was I believe the turning point and children turned up for school on a more regular basis, but many still worked on the dump after school, but they were coming. The kids also received food at school, often their main nourishing meal in the day.

A few of the families were still sending their kids to work rather than accept the rice or even accepting the rice and not sending their kids to school. Remember these are the poorest of the poor they take what they can get, when they can get it, its survival.

Today it is a different story with over 200 kids attending class we are now struggling to keep up with the demand for more classroom space.Happy kids who want to be there and work hard at their studies. They come because they want to come and they appear to get more than just an education, support,advice and health care coming on board.
The kids also get to do things that they never would have done before PIO, go to the Zoo, become an Apsara dancer dancer, albeit for a day.

People Improvement Organization - Part One

The People Improvement Organization was founded by a Khmer woman called Phymean Noun. Seen here with Dr.Bob Renner, the head of a dental team,(KIDS),that visits the Schools once a year.

To understand PIO I think you need to understand Phymean and so the first part of my story is about her and her and the reasons that led her to build the agency.

Phymeans Words. I have had a tough life, when I was 10 years old my parents were separated. I lived with my mother and a few years later she got cancer. She was sick for a few years and in my country we didn’t have good doctors. She preferred to use natural medicine to treat her cancer. She finally passed away when I was 15 years old after a long fight with cancer. I was alone, a 15 year old girl living alone and responsible for my 2 year-old niece. At that time, the rest of my family and cousins were either killed during Pol Pot or had fled for the refugee camps in Thailand. Life for a 15 year old Cambodian girl is very different from a 15 years old Western girl. Girls at 15 in Cambodia are looked as someone who will be married soon and will work their lives to take care of the husband and family. I was different from the other Cambodian girls; I never forgot the most important lesson that my mother taught me… the importance of educational.

I survived my life alone with my niece and worked hard to continue my school, because I knew education is very important for me and my future. If I was not strong during that time, I don’t know what would happen to my life. Maybe I might work in restaurant, a beer girl or karaoke girl or maybe worse. During that time, every night, I lived in fear, worried all the time that some guy will come into my house to steal something or rape me or do something bad. In Cambodia school is not free; the students must pay the teachers a “study fee”. I had to find someway to pay for my school. After my mum died I had to find job to do in the day time and go to school at night. In 1988, I got a job with Ministry of Industry and they sent me to work at the electrical power plant as a secretary. I had to bring my niece every where with me. I would take her to work with me in the day and then to school at night. Every day I finished work at 5:00pm and then go to school at 5:30pm. From my school to my house I rode a bicycle almost 5 Km every day. When I got home from school at 9:00pm I had to cook and feed my niece and then read stories for her until she fell asleep around 11:00pm. Once asleep, I would hand copy stories from books until 12:30 or 1:00am since we had no photocopy machines at that time. They paid me one book (120 pages) about 500 to 600 riels which was about $0.12 USD. Yes that’s right, every night I would write the text from one book to another for people to read. It was the only work available that would let me take care of my niece at the same time and not lose my self-respect.

Many years later, through hard work and determination, I was able to finally live a comfortable life compared to others in my country. I had a good position with an International NGO, I owned my own house and my own car, I had a savings account and could buy what I needed. I had no need to worry about anything anymore.
One afternoon, I was eating my lunch by the riverside. As I was eating a BBQ chicken, a group of street children came up and asked for some money to buy food. I told them to wait and come back when I was finished. When I was done, I threw out the bones and watched in horror as the children immediately ran to grab the leftovers from the garbage. They tried to suck the bones and get every last piece of meat.  I called them over and asked them to sit down on the grass with me. I bought them a new chicken and began a conversation that changed my life. I asked them why they were not in school. They answered that they wanted to go but that their parents were too poor to afford it. Some of the kids had 10 siblings. I remembered how hard it was for my life to live without the support of a parent. I knew that there was something I could do for the children who did not have the opportunity to go to school. I dreamed every night about if I can somehow help all those children that want to go to school just like other kids who have their parent’s support. I know how hard it is to grow up without the support of parents. Those children are the future of the country and they can change the world. In 2002, I decided to resign from my job and started an organization to help these children. It is called the People Improvement Organization (PIO).

My life is connected to those children who need help… nobody wants to work on the garbage dump and sleep on the street. I feel very joyful and warm when I see the poor children happy, enjoying themselves, smiling with hope for the future. Now I am very happy to see them enjoying study at PIO schools and not worried about paying the teachers like in public school. My long term plan is I want to create foundations for PIO in Europe, Canada, Australia and USA to continue my work helping these children. I will continue to support those who need assistance and I will never disappoint the children in Cambodia and the people that support me.

After 35 years

I have manged to realise a dream I had since I was a young man. To live and work in Asia and also to become a photojournalist of sorts. I have always had an interest in photography and been in awe of the picture great photojournalist like Dorothea Lange, Don McCullin  and Robert Kapa and many others. Not Paparatzi but true Photojournalist by definition of their work.

People and their stories, their way of life, the hardships the good times and the bad. There are many such stories I wish to tell.

Stories like the ones told in the picture here about kids struggling to get an education, work for their families and be children also, what a balancing act they perform. They only are able to manage this with the help of agencies such as PIO People Improvement Organization.

There are a number of other NGO's that work primarily with children that I hope to visit very soon but PIO has welcome me with open arms and I will first be documenting there story and there work.

These kids so want to succeed, they are happy kids but have very difficult lives coming from extremely poor families in one of the toughest districts of Phnom Penh. Their families fight poverty every day.

Visit my main site

Please take a few minutes to go and visit my main site at Fusion Asia . Lot to see, lots more pictures. Up to date accounts of my work.

I am working currently on the plight of street children in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in Cambodia. There are many such children working alone or as parts of organised begging gangs that can be seen around the city. More pictures soon !
Cambodian men, women, and children are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Thailand, Malaysia, Macao, and Taiwan.    Men are trafficked for forced labor in the agriculture, fishing, and construction industries. Women are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in factories or as domestic servants.  Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor in organized begging rings, soliciting, street vending, and flower selling. 
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Youth Rehabilitations found that 76 percent of trafficked persons returned from Thailand had come from families who owned land, 93 percent owned their own house and had no debt on the land or house, and 47 percent stated that their mother was the facilitator of their trafficking.

My Blog

I have opened this blog to exhibit recent examples of my work. My photography is changing and hopefully developing to suit the place and life I am now leading.

I have been living and working in South East Asia for the past 6 month, Phnom Penh, Cambodia being me base of operations.
I would like to welcome all those who take the time to visit my blog and I hope you enjoy the selection of my work.

I have become very interested in the use of photography as a social motivator, hi-lighting social injustice, reviewing the good happenings and keeping up with the bad.

The images you see here are from a recent visit to the school at the Phnom Penh, Municipal Garbage Dump, now closed, but the school remains for the children of the scavenger people who used to work on the dump. It was established by Phymean Noun, a Khmer woman with a need to help these kids. The organisation she established, PEOPLE IMPROVEMENT ORGANIZATION, now educates and cares for 600 hundred children in three different schools and a recently established orphanage for kids from the dump who's parent have died or have been abandoned.