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. The image here is from 2016. I was in the privileged circumstances to photograph this older authentic man.
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.
I call him the “Bright Eyed Man from a dark history in Cambodia”.
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.
Here I like the 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.
In those moments I love my work as a (portrait) photographer as it gives me insights into people and circumstances I otherwise never would have realized.
Flowers in Dirt is a series of portraits of 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.
Children’s rights are still violated because families have to survive in poverty. Their governments rake in millions of dollars to combat children’s labor but use often those funds to have other priorities.
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.
Photographic essay and portfolio on Aboriginal life from Outback Australia in 1988.
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 at the largest academic hospital in the Netherlands. Doctors, researchers, and patients came before my lens.
The UMC Amsterdam stands for large-scale with a human touch. By photographing employees within the institution, we get to know the people behind the organization more intimately. Corporate photography with a focus on people and business activities with a human touch.
In the 90s, the Dutch series Flodder, directed by Dick Maas, was a tremendous success. Below is this talented man who would later claim many more successes with his hand on the chest of former playmate model Tatjana Simec.
Dick Maas is one of Holland’s most successful directors. His most famous Dutch films are Flodder, Amsterdamned and De Lift. The young filmmaker Jeffrey De Vore uses unique and never-before-seen images to show the story behind his success in a new documentary.
This documentary called “De Dick Maas Methode” promises to be funny and revealing and will appear in cinemas from 1 October 2020.
Other well-known icons from the 1990s that appeared in front of Michael Klinkhamer’s lens include Willem van Hanegem, Charles Groenhuijsen, Sylvia Millecam (r.i.p.), Maarten van Rossum and Peter Post.
One day I was asked on very short notice by a photography workshop client who wanted to get into exploring model shoots on location in Cambodia. it is fun to use my local contacts and I always have liked the idea of combining traditional local culture and travel photography with something totally different.
For a foreign photographer in Asia that is a wonderful way to meet local people and adapt to a new situations and allow surprising things to happen. I needed a good looking and most of all a willing model around 5 pm, the same day.
You can also contact a professional fashion model agency in Phnom Penh. If you have a good budget for it. But even then you don’t always get what you expect. The same goes for ordering food here or anything else to be honest in Cambodia, but that’s a different story.
A Cambodian star is born.
For this paid shoot, I called a young woman that I knew and noticed someday working at an upscale Phnom Penh restaurant. She was luckily available that afternoon and she was also curious like me to find out how she would perform during a model shoot.
With some young models, you can be mistaken by their good looks, but that is certainly not a guarantee for a photogenic model and pictures. There is some real magic in this to be found. Even some of the top models in the world look sometimes very bland in real life and unremarkable, but once before a lens, there can be a transformation and a star is born!
Are we talking F1.4 Depth of Field here??
Our model named Hagee acted shy and uncomfortable at first but quickly transformed into a talented model and an absolute Cambodian beauty. In my opinion, she was posing very good for the first time. I believe her presence is amazing, all-natural and very nice and appealing, to be honest.
Surprisingly I noticed that she was able to transform herself and play with different attitudes and some role play. That is a quality in a model that I really enjoy to capture. The styling was all very much as it came and the makeup typical for Cambodian girls. Heavy eyebrows and whitening faces.
We needed a stylist and makeup artist really for this but personally, I hate waiting for that. The interaction between a model and photographer is essential in my opinion but for this shoot, I was depending very much also on the amazing Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens to do its magic. The timing of the shoot is also very important regarding the soft warm light and soft shadows.
So, here we have a stunner model in a tropical location right in the capital city of Cambodia with the light just being perfect. Together with this “bokeh” miracle lens by Sigma on my FX Nikon digital camera.
For this job, I was able to deliver a spontaneous photography adventure for my client to shoot. To be honest he was very overwhelmed by what was presented in front of his camera. While our model Hagee was making her poses and having fun, we both took our shots, and for this was a good opportunity to test the Sigma 50mm Art lens. Someone has to do it!
That special Sigma look.
During that same period, I was working with Zeiss lenses on my Nikon cameras as an ambassador for the #1 Cambodian photography gear import company.
Their office called me a day before this shoot and asked me to have a go with their newest Sigma product, being launched in Cambodia for the first time by the official factory from Japan.
At first, I found the Sigma very contrasty and almost too sharp compared to my Nikkor and the Zeiss lenses. But as you can see here the Sigma 50mm F1.4 is perfect for full-length shots and portrait and as such very versatile. That open aperture ability to make the background so smooth and abstract is a great plus for fashion and portrait shooters.
In the end its all about what is in front of your lens and the pictures you can do with it that matters. But it’s fun to improve and use dedicated equipment for your job or hobby. Come and see us in Cambodia and we have a good time exploring the beauty of Cambodia and all it has to offer.
For the pictures here I used several “in-camera” editing techniques for the black and white images. The color pictures where shot in jpg with a film simulation.