A boy in Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Copyright © 2023 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Monday Memories: A Boy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It was a miserable afternoon in Phnom Penh. But for a photographer who is on assignment – essentially selling a destination – this had to be seen as a challenge, rather than something to dampen the spirits more than the sporadic showers; showers that mixed with my perspiration from the constant humidity.

Late afternoon is my favourite time to make photographs on the street. My cameras love the low light of dusk and it’s often when that photo – the one that gets turned into a double-page magazine spread – happens. But this was one of those really flat light days where you tend to pack the gear away early and go and have a beer.

I took a walk along the waterfront of the Tonle Sap River, where people moored their humble houseboats while they went to shop for supplies of fresh water and rice. With his parents off shopping, this small skinny kid climbed the stairs to the town. With his boat in my view behind him, I shot a couple of frames. At the top of the stairs, the child sat down and watched the sky (like I had been doing), perhaps also considering the weather’s indecisive nature, as he waited for his parents to return.

A month later, when editing my Phnom Penh photos for a travel feature, I had considered including this picture, even though it didn’t fit the brief. The image made no sense within the story that the editor had briefed us to write, so I eventually succumbed to the reality that it was a bad fit and probably didn’t hold any interest for anyone other than myself.

But there was something about the photo that made me want to share it. It’s to do with that feeling you get when travelling where you come across a life being led that is so very different to your own – one that is so alien to your own experience that you find it difficult to cognitively process what that life must be like.

While I personally find the photograph intriguing, without these words to describe my experience, I wonder what the photograph alone would mean to anyone else? You tell me. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Details: Nikon D700, 35mm F2 @ F2.8 @ 1/25th second @ ISO1600.


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Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

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