Saturday, June 24, 2006
Photographing the market people
A few months back I walked through Psar Leuh, the upper market in Kompong Chhnang with my camera. I very quickly picked up the vibe that these people were shy and most did not want to be photographed. I concentrated on photographing unusual produce. But I was surprised. In Thailand I had never encountered this. Most Thais love to be photographed. Obviously, this is one way in which Cambodian people differ from Thais.
Since I have been doing my own cooking I make a daily visit to the market to buy my vegetables. The stallholders are getting to know me. They love to say 'hello' to the barung. I found an explanation for this in a Lonely Planet guide to another southeast Asian country. When we see a fish tank we often have an urge to tap on the glass and get the fish to notice us. We want to have an engagement with an exotic creature. To the people in Kompong Chhnang I am as exotic as that fish. They want to say 'hello' just to have that engagement.
So now, these people know me much better. We talk. They may speak almost no English and I as little Khmer but somehow we communicate. We become friends. We laugh and joke together. This week I returned with my camera and, yes some are still shy. Some allowed me to photograph them but with the shyness that you can see here. Others simply said 'no'. Still others enjoyed being photographed. I took quite a few photographs that morning of people and market produce. You should find them in the usual places by following the links on the sidebar.