top of page

Super Great

For the past couple of months I haven’t been taking many photos. My camera is always with me, and daily I take aim, but just don’t shoot. Mostly it’s because I have already seen that picture: the blue truck with green bananas stacked to the heavens. The pink lotus and yellow-green rice fields. Those smiling brown faces of Khmer kids. Because I am shooting for you, my friends and family back home, I want to show something you haven’t seen before. Since I have been in the country for two years, what used to be startling or unusual is now normal. The Khmer word is tamadah. Usual. What once was extraordinary has become ordinary.

Not long after I arrived in Cambodia I chanced upon a photo opportunity with a Brahman bull. The story of how the bull posed for me is part of it, but you don’t need me to explain anything when you look at the picture. Every photo has multiple story lines in which the viewer brings their own interpretation. The photo of the boy who decorated PC Volunteer’s bicycles with flowers was another miracle. I knew the light wasn’t optimum and hoped I could brighten it up in post. That photo bloomed in the edit. My best photos are shot from the hip, when serendipity steps in and spins it into something I didn’t even know I saw. Like the time I was shooting a traffic jam of water buffalo and cows along a path around sunset, when a girl with a sheaf of rice moved into the scene. She turned her head away when she saw the camera and gave me a splendid kinetic whirl of color. All of these photos were gifts in flight that I was lucky enough to net with my camera.

Perhaps because it’s rainy season and I haven’t been biking the muddy back roads as much that serendipity hasn’t played with me lately. No, that’s not it. Pictures are all around just waiting to be seen. Travel is the honeymoon phase of the love affair with photography. First the heady rush to look at that. And that. Then, a longer look. A close up. Details. Different angles. Then, the affair becomes comfortable, but not so exciting. The blue truck with green bananas is expected at 7 a.m. Themes repeat.

There are, however, a few subjects that keep reoccurring, the fascination still there. The decline of a draped billboard in my village is something I’ve been documenting for the past two years. At first it was a mysterious curtain. What was it concealing? After a storm ripped the drape, no Wizard of Oz was revealed behind the curtain, but new mysteries unfolded. A slow striptease showed more naked billboard. As the drape began to disintegrate, tension grew. Would I be here to witness the end of the act? Looks like not. It’s holding on by a g-string. For some reason this cheers me.

The pictures I notice now are close-ups, particularly of ordinary things, like the back of a dusty truck. It reminds me that there are photographs still waiting for me in Cambodia. All I need to do is open my eyes and take aim, because you never know when you might find something Super Great.

bottom of page