A good way to gain an insight into the daily lives of children and young people in Cambodia is to let some kids take photos of their day-to-day experiences.
That's exactly what German photojournalist and local resident Michael Scholten did for two months in 2009 when he provided cameras to eight kids – four boys and four girls – and asked them to take photos of their daily lives in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The photos will be on display at the FCC Phnom Penh from Sept. 1-30.
Scholten had pitched the idea of getting some cameras for the kids to shoot photos of what they see on a daily basis to Sony Europe.
"Sony really liked this idea and they gave me eight cameras," he points out. It wasn't the first time Scholten had supervised a project involving young people shooting photos of their daily experiences as he did that when he was living in Mongolia a few years ago. He recalls being quite surprised at the quality of the photos taken by the young Mongolians.
"They were great – some of them were better than the ones I took," he says. The eight young Cambodians who Scholten enlisted to take pictures of their lives in come from various backgrounds.
"I wanted eight different lifestyles," Scholten explains.
One of the young photographers was Ny Saveth, a Buddhist monk originally from Prey Veng Province who has called Veal Sbov Pagoda along National Road 1 near Phnom Penh home for the past few years. Ny Saveth was 15 when he took photos of his typical day, which day started at 5 am in the morning when he and 40 other monks prayed and walked in small groups to collect donations from their neighbors.
Long Sinat is a Khmer boxer who was 14 when he took photos of his daily routine at the boxing club where trained every day from 6 am to 7 am in the morning and 3 pm to 4 pm in the afternoon.
"My favorite pictures were of the monastery and the boxing club," Scholten says.
At 14, Chan Kav, was living with his parents and three brothers at a dump site in Phnom Penh where he collected various items from the dirt and waste – cans, bottles, aluminum and plastic – for a meager 8,000 riel a day.
"He was born there, and unfortunately, he'll die there," Scholten says.
Seng Srey Nich took photos when she was 13 of her daily encounters selling flowers to tourists on Phnom Penh's riverside, a job she had been doing since she was 4 years old.
The colorful images of Cambodia's classical Aspara dancers were caught on film by then 10-year-old dancer Soy Srey Nich, who lived in an orphanage that is part of the Apsara Arts Association in Phnom Penh.
Yos Lyny, also an Apsara dancer, was 11 when she took shots of what she saw every day at theNational Action Culture Association, an orphanage for young Apsara dancers.
Suon Rachana photographed her day-to-day life when she was 10 at the Happy Family orphanage in Siem Reap.
Yeng Hong, who lived with his family in Siem Reap, was 15 when he chronicled his daily encounters selling postcards and books to the tourists visiting the Angkor Wat temples.
While the young Cambodians had no training in photography before they set out to take their photos in 2009, Scholten said they all managed to produce some great photos.
"I was really happy with the results," he says. "And I'm really happy that three years later, I can show their photos."