Sunday, March 9, 2008
Mugging For The Camera In Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, despite its tranquil setting along the banks of the Mekong River, is a pretty heavy place, although it's not a dangerous place -- that is, if you're not engaged in one of the various illicit industries that thrive there.
There's a general emptiness in Phnom Penh, and the echoes of all the evil and tragic things that happened in and around the Cambodian capital continue to make it one of the most surreal places on Earth.
One thing that's not surreal about Phnom Penh, though, is the fact that kids there have discovered the magic of digital photography. I was walking around one evening taking some photos when a group of these energetic little scamps came running up and started jumping around and striking poses. So I spent the better part of an hour taking shots of the kids and then turning the camera screen around to let them have a look.
I don't profess to know what the lives of Cambodians are like today. I do know they're better now than they've been any time in the last 40 years or so, but it's still a very poor country where life is tough, especially for kids. So anything that makes kids smile like this, in a country that's been knocked down and beaten up the way Cambodia has, is a great thing to behold.
It's hard to believe that not so long ago, people had to wait to see the images they'd shot, and weren't able to immediately light up kids (and adults') faces with digital photos. It's an obvious observation, but one that bears repeating: Digital photography has not only changed the way people capture images, it also adds immeasurably to the travel experience.
The real killer app for travelers will be the widespread ability to print out pics and give them to the folks you're shooting.