Vandy Rattana’s first encounter with photography was through a picture book of Russia found in his home. When he was growing up in the 1980s, his family didn’t own a TV. Therefore, the book was one of the few sources of imagery that Rattana had. At 24, Rattana’s university teacher gave him his first camera, a Yashica FX7 with a 50mm lens. With the kit, Rattana made “Looking In” (2005-2006), an honest and accomplished set of work.
The self-portraits are done in a “non-traditional manner” because the photographer is always absent. Rattana’s obsession to record the mundane reality of his surroundings – family at home, colleagues in his office – stems from the need to counterbalance the cliché perception of Cambodia as a land of monks and beggars. More importantly, he aims to preserve memory through his work.
“Memory is important in Cambodia because we have lost most of our past records and photographs due to war and genocide,” notes Rattana. “We have few photographs of how our parents and grandparents lived. Our past identity is confusing, which leaves our current identity in flux.”
[Untitled / From “Self-Portraits” / Courtesy of Vandy Rattana]