Polaroids from Cambodia

cam-polaroid-monk-tunes I like this candid shot of a monk listening to tunes at the Vispasana Centre in Cambodia. The modern monk robe features a small breast pocket for mobile phones, pens and ipod. I wish my khmer was good enough to ask him what he was listening to.

Notes from Cambodia features my first impressions of Cambodia and Cambodia the gallery features my released images. This story is the offbeat polaroids and a look behind the scenes of my 8 days in Cambodia, shooting with photographer Nathan Horton.

Cambodia was a fantastic experience and high on my list of must-return-to countries. The images I captured are, I feel, my best ever, and changed my approach to street, travel and portrait photography and got me completely hooked on portraits. I shot from sunrise to sunset, meeting hundreds of people and not wasting any opportunities and burning a lot of energy from the sheer fact of everything. Energy I did not quite have at the time. I travelled at a time when I was incredibly tired of travelling, possibly not the best of planning on my part. I have a knack for exhausting myself.

As an introvert, I do now enjoy very much being social and meeting new people but it requires much energy. Solitude is the recharging tool of choice but hard to find, perhaps the greatest challenge for an introvert in Asia. Cambodia can be quite full-on, there are thousands of people, motorbikes, cars, food stalls and chaos all around you. Not many places to recharge as the other challenge is looking so incredibly different and feeling like the alien who fell to earth.

The people of Cambodia are splendid; warm, smiling, curious, happy and very chatty even when you do not speak the language. Photography was easy as most people were willing to pose for a photo and interested in this travelling nomadic alien. The town and temples of Angkor are a wonder that will blow your mind. The food is great (albeit could use more chili). The villages are like visiting another universe, a plethora of cultural experiences. The landscapes are often wide open flood plains and I wish to return and see the green countryside after the wet-season. Despite battling fatigue I had an amazing time and recommend Cambodia highly, it is authentic and genuine Asia like few other countries.

Cambodia Tales

A street barber in Phnom Penh. Reflections are fun to play with and wandering around the backstreets of Phnom Penh is a never ending source of great street photography potentials:


The floating village of Kompong Chnnang; a boy expertly drives his boat in effortless balance. The floating villages are something else, a unique experience. The houses in the background are not floating of course, the floating village itself is better seen in this image.


Internet café in a village outside of Battambong.


Kids hanging out on Silk Island. They have been attending a wedding so are dressed to impress. Always smiling and curious, the kids of Cambodia were tons of fun (at least when they’re not selling you postcards “ok ok you buy postcards, one dollaaaaaaaa”, that gets on your nerves after a while because it forces you to be rude and ignore them and then you feel bad too because the family needs the money).


Fresh food market in Phnom Penh. The markets of Phnom Penh are the largest, most interesting and most chaotic I have seen in Asia – a great source for portraits and funny situations. My face was sore after smiling for hours as I captured hundreds of portraits and primarily using a winning smile as ways of communicating.


Such as this woman buying a turkey in a striking red suit:


We had our monk friends and models Thun and Purt pose in many temples and places, here we had them climb all the way to the top of Ta Keo. We followed soon after, and that is one very steep temple to climb.


Our 77 year old nun who happily posed for us in quite a few pictures was always a million laughs and always smiling, this is very much her personality:









Deep fried Tarantulas are a delicate snack in Cambodia. They grow the tarantula’s for this purpose and apparently they are very easy to breed making this a good income. They looked quite disgusting to me, dripping with oils and fat so I only took a snapshot and no bites:


Cambodia weddings are hard to miss, you hear them from far away. The tradition is to party hard and long and use as many large PA speakers as you can possibly get your hands on. We stopped at one wedding in the country to shoot a few snapshots, featured here is the happy couple looking striking. Love the purple. We were instantly invited to come in, sit, drink, eat and dance! “No” not being an option, Nathan and I danced with the guests in front of the band hammering out tunes at 180db.


Just a small glimpse behind the scenes, perhaps I will do a Part II some day. My collection of images from Cambodia are in my Cambodia gallery. Personally I find my Cambodian images to be the best work I have done and I love these images and my Cambodian experience, hectic as it was. Big thanks to my guide Nathan Horton. More images to come.


13 Comments on “Polaroids from Cambodia”

  1. Hi Flemming,

    Fantastic blog post good to see you are back in one piece. I love the wedding shot and the fact that you were instantly invited to join in with the wedding. Its moments like those that you have to experience, they can't be bought. The nun looks like she has a wicked sense of humour. 🙂


  2. Hi Flemming, sounds like you all had a blast up North!

    Thats the great thing about photography… we can revisit our own personal journeys!


    PS I have added you to my Blog links.

    1. Indeed. You never got to do the Sheldon wake-up call on True North though, that would have been funny (well as funny as things can be at 5am).
      Knock Knock. Flembotaruny. Knock Knock. Flembotaruny. Knock Knock. Flembotaruny.

  3. Dam…I knew I forgot to do something important….knock knock…Flembotaruny….knock knock….Flembotaruny…..knock knock etc etc….is it too late! 🙂

    I'll get you when you next you are down for sure mate!

  4. I was impressed when you first showed me these images. I'm still impressed. Some of your best work. Timeless (except for the ipod of course). NG material.



  5. Monks with mobile phones and iPods… How things have changed since in the last few decades! I've long meant to visit Cambodia (plus have a return to Thailand — where I now expect to see monks with mobile phones and iPods…) This is such an inspiring post, and the images are priceless. I would also skip the tarantulas, but the rest sounds marvellous. The woman in red with the turkey was a great find. All these images are special, though. So special, I'll now tweet this post @andrewgphotos

    All the best from Santiago, Chile.

    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for your comments and the tweet. I know what you mean about finding a classic timeless looking monk featuring a mobile phone a somewhat odd and amusing sight. But why would they not use technology as much as the rest of the world. Still, it makes for a compelling image.

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