We worked for a day in a school in the suburbs of Phnom Penh. I decided to make it into an improvised photo studio, so that the focus would be on the expression of the person being portrayed.
With a full frame camera (Nikon) and a 50mm lens set to an open aperture of F2.8 I got soft and a bit classical looking fantastic portraits.
These people and children were not really poor, more lower middle class. With my daily photo tours I came to see and meet people in the slums who really have it much, much worse. The choice of an NGO is based on facts and figures, where as a photographer I have no insight or a say in those considerations. As a photographer I am just lucky to be able to help were I can with my camera. The result of this campaign is amazing!
I care for Cambodia.
In my next upcoming blog I will show my own NGO actions for a young boy in the slums with eye problems. These people are so poor that they are overlooked by mainstream NGOs. The Cambodia’s untouchables.
At just over 3,000 pairs of glasses, we need your help to accomplish this goal. Every donation makes a significant impact on this campaign and the lives of those who will benefit. A $5 donation will provide a child in need with glasses, your contribution will help change lives.
During my time in Cambodia from 2015 until 2020, I was involved and worked as photographer/videographer for local and international NGO’s in Cambodia. (NGO stands for non governmental organisation) Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of being an photographer is to be hired and contribute for Oxfam-Kinderpostzegels or Cambodian Children’s Fund and other NGO’s. Proud to have worked for Cambodia.
Happy to share here some reflections on those projects with amazing powerful images and background story’s from the land of wonders Cambodia!
Cambodia is home to more than 3,000 non–governmental organisations, these NGOs in Cambodia provide a wide range of services to communities across the country.
For me the reality of real life is to show respect and attention to those in need and SEE them! Open a dialog and help where I can. Call it my social consciousness and desire to capture life at its most extreme form of survival. Provide a platform to people in need, not to exploit but to expose and to make life a bit better a day or a dollar at the time. NGOs do good work at best but also over look those at the bottom of their privileged feet, as I experienced many times in the capital city Phnom Penh.
The pictures I present here are the ones close to my heart, mostly unpublished and part of a personal story.
The Netherlands Children’s Stamps Foundation gives vulnerable children in the Netherlands and abroad opportunities for a better future.In 1924, the Netherlands was the second country to start selling children’s stamps. Since then, children’s stamps have been issued every year. The sale is organized by the Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland, which uses the proceeds to support charities for the benefit of the child. In 2015 I was hired to shoot a video promotion clip in Cambodia. Watch it here.
The assignment for Kinderpostzegels was to shoot a video clip for dutch audiences. I had to stick to strict guidelines in order to match the video clip part that was done in Holland. The basic storyline was about two young boys, both orphans living in different parts of the world. In need of the same care, love and education. Different cultures and different circumstances, but the same loss of natural parents. Living in a foster home. The boy in Holland is living with a foster family and the boy in Cambodia with his elderly grandparents.
During the shooting in and near the provincial town of Pursat we also went to a children’s orphanage school compound, where I found these kids waiting in anticipation for the foreigners. Clearly the children are dressed up into new pajamas and the whole scene has been set up for our purpose.
Through all of this I was very deeply emotional touched by the children when I looked deeper and closer into their faces and eyes, as you can see in the images here. There is something disturbing and neglect about these kids when I look back. Bless them!
Deep rooted corruption and imbalance of wealth in Cambodia has been the situation for decades, even centuries to be honest.
The United Nations, the EU and US Aid, have invested billions into Cambodia since 1992 to promote a form of democracy and to keep divided political fractions (Khmer Rouge) from fighting.
The result in 2021 is still immense poverty. Especially now during the 18 months of Covid-19 lockdowns and forced closed borders. This has hit millions of people already on the edge into a free fall and enormous poverty, social unrest and domestic violence
During those decades after the Khmer Rouge extremism and recovery years many NGO’s and aid organisations have stepped into Cambodia. Always follow the money. UNICEF resides at the most prestigious office building of Phnom Penh, where there is a world of air cons sweetly humming and the view over the city is splendid. Good for UNICEF!
Whatever the reason, or motivation of the NGO’s, the outcome is very often the same. A selected group of people will benefit and those who need the help the most are being looked over. NGO projects are targeted towards selected groups or political or religious goals. During 2020 the words ”woman empowerment” and “diversity” were the catch phrases for immediately NGO funding for example.
At the same time smaller local NGO’s like the Cambodian Children’s Fund are working relentlessly for more than 17 years on grassroots level doing an incredible job and providing daily education programs and real support for the most vulnerable children in Phnom Penh.
Cambodian Children’s Fund
Pictures below show the progress made for these children after 3 years after taking the into the CCF nourishing and education programs. Two life’s with a decent future. (I made these two pictures separate between 2010-2013 and was present when Scott Neeson found them during his daily community walk at the Steung Meanchey garbage dump in 2010.
Criticism and cynicism aside, the video’s and images that I was proudly assigned to shoot for NGOs in Cambodia are my testimony to the wonderful Cambodian children and people I captured with a smile, dignity and hope for a better life.
Most of my assigned videos and images ended up into an annual reports, online for websites, magazines to raise awareness and the main goal, get funding!
June Newtonpartner of photographer Helmut Newton dies at 97.RIP 10-04-2021
Under the pseudonym Alice Springs, June Newton earned her spurs in the seventies and eighties as a portrait photographer of the greats of the earth. Artists, politicians, royalty, she got everyone in front of her lens. “And the funny thing is, I’ve never been to Alice Springs,” she says. “In 1970 I started to publish my photos and asked Helmut under what name I wanted to work. We took an atlas and opened it on my native Australia. I closed my eyes and poked somewhere on the map with a needle. He stuck in the middle of the continent, on the town of Alice Springs. “That is your name,” said Helmut. “
For this portrait of John Irving, we met at an Amsterdam five-star hotel located on the canals. I brought with me a portable light studio and a white backdrop. John proved to be a very cooperative and talented model. From the images, I shot all pictures were very good and this image was used for the HP/de Tijd magazine. Sometime after the first publication, six portraits of John were used for six paperback dutch cover picture versions of his popular books.
IK JAN CREMER
Jan Cremer is a legendary artist from Holland. He wrote a bestseller book in 1964 that was self titled, I JAN CREMER. During his long career he published a string of books and his art painting is widely collected around the world. For this image we recreated his famous 1964 book cover with a brand new Harley Davidson this time. This image is an out take from that session for a car magazine, in color. I like this version because of the depth perspective, the moodiness and his relaxed manner of posing.
Of Course I knew about Peter Post and was invited to his villa on the outskirts of Amsterdam for Esquire magazine. I also knew he was like me the son of an Amsterdam butcher. In the old days I was told, cyclists had to put a tender piece of meat inside their cycle shorts to protect their behinds. So, I brought him a good juicy and bloody steak and did some pictures with that. Blood running from his hands. For those people who know a thing or two about the hard life of a professional cyclist understand the connection was clear. But even without the bloody steak, you can see the scars and stitches in Peter Post’s worn but still good-looking face.
I met Jan Montyn for the first time prior to a magazine photoshoot 20 years ago. I was not so much aware of his incredible life story then. This time we had a much more personal connection but Jan was facing health issues and did not live much longer. I personally like the introspective character of this portrait of a man who witnessed hardship and wars and came out of that incredible life of war and conflict to be a great etching and writing artist.
During the late 1980s early 1996 I was full time working for many glossy magazines. This portrait of Thom Hoffman was made for RAILS, an inflight magazine for the Dutch railways.
I used the romantic travel aspects into this image. Thom Hoffman dressed in a nice trench coat, reminding us of Humphrey Bogart. His reflection in the window worked perfectly with his casted film roles. Playing a handsome but somewhat conflicted character in his latest movie, The Fourth Man, a psycho thriller.
At the time of my meeting with Bernardo, he was working on the Sheltering Sky movie. One of all time favorite movies and book by Paul Bowles. This somewhat introspective portrait was shot in a very small production office in London, using a film spotlight and my trusty Hasselblad camera.
I was able to have a private portrait sitting with Polanski in the Pulitzer hotel Amsterdam. The bronze statue of the young female in the background refers to his personal life regarding relationships with women.
Peter Klashorst is after 60 years of making art a 100% certified “art barbarian” and one of the last art Mohicans. He was at a very young age confident enough to sell his first paintings and never stopped. We met before in the late 90s for a magazine picture in Amsterdam and we had immediately a good interaction and fun. We met again in Cambodia late 2010 for to cover his art latest show about the killed Khmer Rouge victims that he photographed at the Tuol Sleng torture museum in Phnom Penh and then he recreated their images on life-size intense painted canvases. I wrote the six-page feature article and images for this article published in HP/de Tijd magazine. After that, we did many more articles and newspaper stories. https://michaelklinkhamer.blogspot.com/2011/05/peter-klashorst-in-phnom-phen-cambodja.html
From 2013 until the recent 2020 Covid crisis I conducted daily photo tours in Cambodia. During those many photo walks, I was able to meet locals from all walks of life. This presented a privileged circumstance to photograph these portraits in and around Phnom Penh on a daily basis. Some images are taken from the local Cham minority living on the banks of the Mekong river. Some are from the city markets and inner streets or alleys. Often we visited hidden locations such as temples or monastery and the slums of Phnom Penh.
Here are some of the successful images published from our Cambodia Photo tours. You can find many more great pictures from our photo tours here
This portrait illustrates the Cambodia of the past for me in a man’s dark almost wooden mystical mask. The proud Khmers stuck between a rock and a hard place. Wars, food shortages, the torture of no freedom. Resignation in this man’s beautiful face.
Cambodian man smokes local tobacco wrapped within a leaf for good taste. He was sitting on the floor with his mate in the cool local buddhist pagoda hall drinking tea. They offered me some smoke, which was fine, strong and flavorful.
I was also offered to drink some light china tea and try some small sweet bananas. We just smiled and sat there for a moment. Exchanged eye contact and mutual understanding without a word really spoken. Just being and feeling content.
Still, I am always thinking about a potential image and pointed my camera for some casual portraits….”Remember never, ever walk away from somewhere like this without taking the shot”.
During my Phnom Penh phototours we often visited this hidden pagoda temple complex named Areyksat temple. This place was particularly nice for its abundant vegetation, and silence away from noisy Phnom Penh city.
Also the spiritual context and buddhist monks and young novice monks living there would bring a great setting to do pictures. I discovered this location during one of my bicycle rides and in order to bring other photographers during my tours I asked the head monk for permission to enter the temple grounds. The head monk is a very friendly and handsome young man called Rin Bory. We got along real fine and he speaks english. He was and is very determined to rebuild the old temple into a new education and library for the community. Many afternoons in the heat he would greet us with his friendly smile and provide us with some cold water. There are always around 30-50 young buddhist novice monks staying there. Rin Bory also provided me with insight knowledge regarding Buddhism and the Cambodian state of affairs regarding religion. Thank you Rin Bory! I hope we will meet soon again my friend. Saum Arkoun! (thank you in khmer language)
This young and quite handsome man strolls along the huts and lives along the Mekong river slums settlement. From there you will seen the Phnom Penh skyline. The contrast can not be more dramatic to see the makeshift huts from cheap driftwood and metal roofing on the one side and the golden towers and lights shining from the biggest Casino in Cambodia. We only exchanged some smiles and I made this picture in the blink of an eye.
I often went to see the Cham people in Phnom Penh. They are living a semi-nomadic life along the major rivers and lakes of Cambodia. This man is a proud fishing man and just came back from the makeshift mosque they have built. He has a very nice face, as we did not particularly connect but he allowed me to take his picture.
This man hasn’t lost his pride and spirit despite his sometimes hard circumstances. Especially during the Khmer Rouge war in mind from 1974-1979. Those years of horror and war played a big part in Cambodian history until today.
There was immediately a feeling of respect and fun between us, right away. Unfortunately, I was not able to have a Khmer conversation with him. I wish I could have had. Who is he, and what happened in his life and how are things for him today? He must have seen things in his life so far.
Then again, it’s also fine to keep it to friendly eye contact and use my camera between us, and just enjoy the moment of human interaction. I like the visual story of mutual intrigued fascination, as well as the light in his eyes. His fragile worn and strong body and his sparkling eyes and smile and well-groomed hair.
It’s those moments I truly love my work as a (portrait) photographer as it gives me insights into people and their circumstances I otherwise never would have realized.
Flowers in Dirt is a series of portraits about underprivileged children that I photographed in Cambodia. My aim is to show the potential of these children and look reality in the eyes.
#1 Boy playing in the dirt in Phnom Penh-Cambodia
I passed by, he looked at me surprised. I got this picture before he knew it. Dirty smudges on his face, dirt, and garbage around him everywhere.
It’s just a kid playing but what a face! What is the story here? Who is the boy? Is this neglect or just playing? Poverty yes, most definitely but that is also the harsh reality of Cambodia.
Those eyes, and mouth such perfection! A sublime flower in the dirt. I look at what’s around me and notice the beauty and ugliness sometimes in a strong distilled way, like here. Many facets are here to be seen, beauty and dirt, hard and warm. I believe those opposite elements make often a good photograph.
I can see here also the famous ‘gypsy boy’ painting. This is my photographic homage to that famous kitsch painting.
On a deeper level, I believe the potential of each individual child is amazing. Who decides which ones may blossom and get a real change in life…or stay down and suffer? Shouldn’t every child in 2020 have an equal opportunity?
Child labor in 2020 is still happening in most parts of the world in Africa, India,and Asia.
#2 Just another brick in the wall, child labour and no education.
This brave boy is working for a stone brick factory in Cambodia. Complete family’s work there under hardship conditions. Often deeply in debt by loans to their employer. Locked into an endless circle of modern slavery.
This boy is fighting to survive and doing a grown man’s job, while his small body is undernourished and not fully developed. A little smile, his muscles overworked, one eye closed because of the weight of the bricks.
#3 Alms offering to Cambodian Buddhist monks as young as 6 years old.
Children in Cambodia are admitted into the Buddhist novice monkhood from an early age. Here we see a young boy barefoot with his older monk boys collecting offerings, money, and rice in Kratie.
Michael Klinkhamer is a Dutch photographer and journalist working mostly in Asia for the last 10 years. Michael lived permanently in Cambodia since 2013 and is now during Covid- available back for assignments in Amsterdam-Netherlands.
September 2021, I released my photo book ”Time travellers along the highway’ a self publication, with Saal digital containing 35 full size un-cropped portrait images nicely presented in this 30x30cm volume. Feel free to contact me about this photography book or print exhibitions.
The term Outback came about in the 19th Century. It was used to refer to places that were ‘out the back of X (insert a place name). A similar term is ‘back of beyond’.
Basically, it’s somewhere inland in Australia, a long way from the sea.
Recently I revisited my photo work in Australia from 33 years ago. This body of work was photographed in 1988 and published and exhibited previously in 1990. This time I scanned all the negatives and selected 37 images available for online blog portfolio, future exhibitions and book publication.The Hasselblad 6×6 camera and lenses and produced a timeless classic image quality. *Note all images are uncropped full frame 6×6 negatives, available as 50×50 cm prints.*All images are available for fine art printing and exhibition or collecting purposes.
Photography with a Hasselblad
Using the latest digital editing capabilities in 2020. Timeless black and white photography is the result. (* All photos are printed from the full negative.)
What I’ve made then and now see again is an almost an unreal experience of rediscovery, beauty, raw humanity and harsh reality from Australia from 1988.
Old photos brought back to life
For all the photos I took I got permission from the local tribe elder to be allowed to take these images. It was an honor and a self-confrontation given their culture. But more about that during my ‘Time travelers along the highway’ project.
*Warning:Some people in these pictures may have passed away.
We all remember him in the Netherlands. The genius vanity and politician Pim Fortuyn. Undisguised gay, very well-read, and often seen with his 2 poodles on his lap. He was sometimes rebellious like an artist.
But everything was based on the fact that he was a professor, a businessman, the author of many popular books and very eloquent.
He was not a fool! He was a genius and open-minded. But a bit different. You want to capture that in images. Whatever you think of him, he brought you a sense of security or discomfort.
He drove a big Jaguar XJ. That gave him status or pleasure. Above all, however, it was extraordinary that he had made a marble bust of himself in Italy.
I was commissioned to photograph Pim Fortuyn for opinion magazine HP/de Tijd. Precisely because I want to highlight what some people find ridiculous. Real is real and that was Pim Fortuyn (r.i.p.).
“Usually I wear jeans and raggedy work clothes, but for this exhibition, it’s fun to go on chic black” laughs Narouz Moltzer (Amsterdam, 1963) at me from his black BMW car. He is happy and cheerful!
We are in his car on our way to the prestigious Cobra museum in Amstelveen where he participates in a group show with his sculpture chosen by guest curator Aziz Bekkaoui. We first talk about his passion for automobiles, something which I share with him.
BEN COBRA is an exhibition in the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen and can be visited until 5 April 2021. We are looking forward to it. I am just back from Cambodia due to Covid after 10 year and almost depressed from that. Narouz the happiest and a very successful artist in Amsterdam at the moment.
Luckily we both know the old Dutch saying saying “everything for the arts” and from thereof, the most beautiful things are often born. Money comes secondary. The mood is immediately right between us.
The man behind the happiness and the art
Together with his fourteen year old daughter Indi they strolls relaxed through the large hall of the exhibition and look at each work of art with full attention and concentration.
The sculptures are linked to a well-known cultural person who was photographed in relation to that Cobra statue. I see his love for creation. Especially for his own creation, his young daughter.
COBRA (or CoBrA) was a European avant-garde movement that was active from 1948 to 1951. Its name was formed in 1948 by combining the initials of its members’ home cities: Copenhagen, (Co), Brussels, (Br), Amsterdam (A).
Dutch artists such as Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, are well-known founders of the group. Cobra was officially founded on 8 November 1948 in Café Notre-Dame, Paris.
Narouz his portrait at the show is photographed with his bare upper body fully tattooed. I feel his pride and modesty at the same time. We are silent for a moment.
“I won’t let myself be photographed with my tattoos anymore, people already know it.” He dryly breaks the silence.
In short, as a photographer, I have to come up with a very valid argument to get the artist posing for my photo like that. I have often succeeded in doing so during my portrait photography sessions, but whether it will be possible or even necessary this time remains to be seen for now.
Inspiration for photography is sometimes quickly found
The sculpture of Narouz at the exhibition originated in 2008 and is actually part of a larger work. In that sense, the little sculpture ‘Boy with Hoop’ now stands a bit naked also.
“I detached the statue from a whole family sculpture actually” explains Narouz with a smile.
Suddenly Narouz is inspired by how he would like to be portrayed today. In Cobra-like movements dance in front of the camera in a black suit. For me that’s easy. Let the camera roll!
Apart from the background, it just shows him in an almost childish and playful manner, and expresses the way who he is basically.
What does the Cobra movement mean to a modern artist today?
After the photo sitting, we talk about what the Cobra movement stood for and still stands for today.
According to Narouz, the Cobra movement stands for the pure, the childish, the naive, the not serious. Probably exactly that what makes an artist or anybody happy.
There is no message in his sculptures or paintings, it is the expression of just keep playing like a child and stay creative. Create whatever you want and follow your basic intuition. Don’t think too much!
How does the happy artist Narouz create?
Clearly happy to explain, Narouz tells me how he loves to work in his studio.
“I am an artist and I create what I like. Not necessarily Cobra or any another already invented style, I’m never busy with that”.
Narouz does not belong inside the box. He paints beautiful canvases with figurative images and patterns and creates impressive bronze sculptures.
Sometimes he finds amusing and useful things on the street and then makes a sculpture of sort out of them. That is his way of working. Let it come and let it go. Covid or no Covid, he has been doing his own thing for years.
The sculptures exhibited here are made by the oldskool Cobra artists and are linked to other art lovers by Aziz Bekkaoui. “In fact, I am the only performing sculpture artist at this exhibition with my own piece.”
How does an artist get appreciation for his work?
The Cobra Museum is a very prestigious museum. It is great to be linked to this museum. That is good for my art “ranking.” You are valued more, I think, by curators and art critiques who eventually determine your status. Collecting points on your CV is always kinda fun.”
While he is laughing, I can see that he does not care much about those term of operandus. His true happiness comes from within. He really doesn’t seem to be concerned about it. But by now he understands how it works in the art world and is happy to play the game.
He continues: “When I’m at work in my studio I let that go completely of thought like that. In a real museum you realise that your work resonates with other artists and curators of museums”.
It’s not always easy as an Amsterdam artist
During our conversation it also becomes clear that life has not always been a walk through the park for Narouz. All the more appreciation for his cheerfulness and positive attitude. I want to know more about how he became like this.
His father died when Narouz was only 3 years old. Of course, that had an impact on his youth. Just like his Portuguese, Moluccan and Indonesian roots.
As a young boy he lived for years in a boarding school when his mother was remarried to a brutal stepfather at home. His time at the boarding school was fun, he adds. no drama there.
For years he was the artist’s companion, assistant, and friend of Aat Veldhoen. The famous Amsterdam painter, folk graphic artist and freethinker from the 1960s. He started independent art at the age of 27.
Thanks to Aat Veldhoen’s mentorship he quickly understood that making art is a definitive choice of life. Fortune or misfortune does not count there. Go on, keep on goin! That was the motto of Veldhoen’s life. A life lesson also engraved into Narouz.
Your life’s creations are what it is all about. Covid or no Covid is a similar thing. He will continue in the interests of creation and expression. That is the only thing that makes him really happy.
About Ben Cobra
For the exhibition Ben Cobra, renowned designer, artist, and guest curator Aziz Bekkaoui has invited a diverse group of more than 25 special, colorful, pioneering, outspokenly creative or otherwise striking individuals: from the children’s mayor of Amsterdam Ilias Admi to the choreographer Uri Eugenio, from the chairman of the supervisory board of the University of Amsterdam Marise Voskens to the writer Arnon Grunberg.
By linking these contemporary non-conformists to the museum collection, he shows that Cobra’s search for hope, the urge for absolute freedom, spontaneous expression and social and artistic renewal are as important today as they were then.
Portraits made at the largest academic hospital in the Netherlands. AMC-Amsterdam. Doctors, nurses, researchers, and patients came before my lens for the AMC Magazine in 200-2021.
The UMC Amsterdam stands for large-scale care with a human touch. By photographing employees within the institution, we get to know the people behind the organization more intimately. Photography with a focus on it’s people and activities with a human touch.