Hi guys. This is my first blog post on my very first personal website.
Currently I’m based in Phnom Penh and spend my time working with www.beautifulcambodia.asia on establishing an online magazine and building myself a career as a professinal hotel photographer.
On this website I'm proudly presenting my commerical work and also plan to share all sorts of experiences I get to have because of photography.
This post is dedicated to last Sunday's walk through the outskirts and railways of Phnom Penh and how I got to experience a not so glamorous part of Phnom Penh.
Living in Phnom Penh me and two friends have organized 6 photowalks over the past year. Markus from South Africa and Take from Japan. Maybe one of you saw them appearing on my Instagram or Facebook feed over the last months, where we always shared actively our announcement videos.
If not check out the video linked below:
All photowalks were events were we took a bunch of people (the biggest amount was around 60 participants) through the streets and markets of Phnom Penh. The goal was always to capture the everyday life of people from Phnom Penh.
I can say that all three of us do enjoy waking up early and walking through Phnom Penh. I personall enjoy it because it allows me to experience a different side of the city. A very local side of Cambodia which without photography I would probably not get to experience on the same level.
Last Sunday we decided to meet up at 5:30am in front of the Railway station in Phnom Penh.
Our mission was to go to the railways outside of Phnom Penh.
The railway station is opposite of Vattanac capital, which basically is a futuristic looking luxury shopping mall where on the top levels a hotel of Rosewood is located. Luxury at it’s finest I tell you.
Leaving the railway station behind us we started walking to the outskirts of the city.
In this area, which is also close to the parliament of the prime minister Hun Sen, (which by the way is with more than 30 years one of longest serving prime minister ministers - worldwide) a lot of development is happening. New buildings coming up and let’s just assume that in a few years this will be the new Phnom Penh.
Walking on those big empty streets in the early morning hours we didn't think of any bad, but all of a sudden a motor bike with two young Cambodians pulled up who really tried to grab my camera. This was certainly something all of us did not imagine to happen at 6am on a Sunday morning.
Anyway we continued walking and came across some fancy looking residential buildings and entered after a while the railways.
Immediately I felt that we were about to enter a different world. The smell was intense, garbage was all over the place , people were staring at us and one of the first things we actually witnessed were two drug dealers quite actively supplying some of their customer with whatever they had.
Again this was shortly after 6am on a Sunday morning. So definitely not something usual during this time of the day.
I have to say that at over the past year I’ve spent quite a time walking through all sorts of streets and markets in Phnom Penh and never have I ever felt uncomfortable or anxious. But the railways were different. Besides probably the very poor hygiene, the bad small one of my bigger concerns were actually all the wild dogs who were running around.
I was quite afraid that one of those dogs would actually go after me, bite me and infect me with something I definitely don't want to have.
All three of us quite impacted from what we saw, continued walking along the railway and got to see living circumstances which I honestly would not want to experience for one night. What made this situation even more intense was all the development around this area. Construction cranes all over the place and I just imagined what this will mean for the people living here a year from now.
Next to the railway we could see small houses, little kids running around naked or old people sitting on the ground washing their clothes or preparing their goods to later sell them on the streets and markets of Phnom Penh.
For me personally this was one of the most intense areas I’ve ever came across in Southeast Asia.
Almost at the end of the railway Markus and I came across an old lady. She was looking very curious and observing what the two of us were doing. Take at this time was way back, still capturing other parts of the railway.
Coming back to this old lady, because what was remarkable about her, was her face. Even in what I would consider as very "poor living cirumstances" she didn't look sad at all. Her smile was real.
And when I asked her if I can take a picture of her she even smiled more. Truly an intense encounter.
Over the last week I often looked at back at her picture. There she was living next to the railway and had this amazing smile on her face. How could she seem that happy? What is needed to have a smile like her? And thinking about this for more or less a week I come to the following conclusion:
First of all I will never know from which circumstances she is coming. Maybe what considered uncomfortable for me is considered to be totally good for her because eventually she's coming from an even worse place and at this point of her life is just grateful about how life is.
Born and raised in Germany, I've never had to worry about not having money, or a roof over my head and the fact I'm spending more and more time in luxury hotels I often forget how good my life really is. Complaining is easy, every day we have situations which are not as planned.
But being happy, having a smile like this wonderful woman does not require anything of what's considered to be cool. No money of this world, no status and no circumstances can make you feel good about yourself.
Feeling good about life, enjoying most of your day is a decision you make by yourself.
For sure I will never forget this morning walk.