Angkor Photo Festival. The Interview

New emergent photo festivals are drawing the attention from the international photo communities. Created in 2005 Angkor Photo Festival is not more a child, it’s becoming an adult and definitely it’s now one of the reference points for Asian photographers and not only.
The 2012 edition will be held from December 1 to 8.

8 slideshow nights, 130 exhibiting photographers (on more 1,200 submissions from 67 countries), 10 exhibitions and a lot of hight quality, friendly atmosphere, many photographers and works to (re)discover and a great location (Siem Reap, Cambodia) close to the unique and fantastic Angkor Wat site.

I had the pleasure to interview the Festival Director Jean Yves Navel who, with the Programme Coordinator Francoise Callier, the guest curators Munem Wasif, Eddie Marsman & Marco Wiegers (Noorderlicht Festival) and then – among the others – Camille Plante and Jessica Lim, is working hard to create again a new amazing edition of Angkor Photo Festival.

Let’s start from the beginning. How was the festival started? Why Siem Reap?
I’ve been living in Siem Reap since 1998. In 2005, Gary Knight [nominated chairman of the jury of 2013 edition World Press Photo contest] came to Siem Reap to give a photo workshop with VII agency photographers Antonin Kratochvil, John Stanmeyer and James Nachtwey [he left VII in 2011]. Some days later, we had a conversation with Gary Knight and the idea of creating a photo festival in SR came out.
The location of Siem Reap is also crucial, as at that time there were no established international platforms in Southeast Asia for photographers to turn to.

©Zhang Xiao
Click the picture to read my interview with the artist

You use three words for focusing on your festival’s values: discovery, education and sharing. Can you tell us more about them?
The three words actually reflect the goals of our three main activities and events. Through the Angkor Photo Festival and the Angkor Photo Workshops, we want to Discover and, in some cases, rediscover talented photographers from all over the world and to showcase them on an international platform. The Education aspect comes with the Angkor Photo Workshops and the Anjali Photo Workshops for the children of Anjali House. The former is a free workshops that aims to provide affordable and accessible professional training for emerging Asian photographers. The latter aims to use photography as a tool to foster creativity – an important part of educational development and encouraging self-confidence.
Last but not least, Sharing is a component that stretches across three events, and involves everyone – the team, the photographers, visitors, and our international audience. Our activities are all about sharing of amazing projects and work, sharing of ideals and ideas amongst each other, and of course, sharing our passion for photography.

© Hiroshi Watanabe/Tanto Tempo

For my personal experience (I visited the festival last year, it was the first time), Angkor Photo Festival is also “interactive”. I don’t mean it regarding computer stuff, but the other meaning: here is very easy, funny and absolutely exciting to interact with many enthusiastic photographers, well-know artists, curators and editors. What is the secret?
The secret is that the festival is like a big family. When we plan our events and activities, we aim to keep things informal and intimate. Hence we don’t require any prior registration, and everything is open and free.

Toy Stories
© Gabriele Galimberti/Riverboom/INSTITUTE

What do you tell us about the festival’s mission of highlighting emerging Asian photographers? You talk about “Asian photographers” but do you think it is possible to talk about “Asian photography” as well?
Each country’s history and social politics has a different way of influencing the way photographers work. Previously, occidental photographers were sent here to document Asia, but no many people in the West were looking at the work of Asian photographers, apart from some big and well known names.
The goal of the festival is to be able to promote the work of these local photographers on an international platform, and throughout the year, we are also constantly looking out on their behalf for exhibition opportunities, other photography festivals, workshops, publications etc. In 2006, there was a big change because of Francoise Callier who joined the team that year, who made a real effort to search for emerging talents from Asia.

Siem Reap. Cambodia. How are the relationships between you and the local people and authorities?
Thanks to our association’s president H.E. Roland Eng, who is a Cambodian Ambassador-at-Large who has a passion for photography, we are on excellent terms with the authorities, as well as with the local people, who are happy to be helped in various ways.

What are your goals for the 2012 edition and which ideas you have in mind for the upcoming editions?
To remain the same, but to improve and be better in what we do!

Giraffe Behind The Door
@ Asmita Parelkar

© Nguan

Amelia Photographs
© Robin Schwartz / Clampart Gallery

A Nation’s Diary
© Yan Ming

Energy [R]evolution
© Zhang Kechun/MoST for Greenpeace