Some Distant Memory – Siem Reap Fishermen

Net fishermen on the banks of a river in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

It was 2012. I’d bought a used Leica M6 the previous year and was in Cambodia, a place I’d dreamt of visiting for years. I was intrigued by the work and stories of Philip Blenkinsop and Daniel Milnor at the time regarding Cambodia and South East Asia and going there with a film camera loaded with Ilford Delta 3200 film felt right. The introduction on Blenkinsop’s website, even now, leaves me speechless and I check in with Milnor and his current work almost daily.

Siem Reap is of course known for being the gateway to Angkor Wat and I spent a few mornings visiting and photographing the complexes. I took advice from a friend who recommended hiring a tuk-tuk driver to visit each temple in reverse order to other tourists and doing so meant I had most temples to myself. Only later did I find out that the driver was apparently terrified of ghosts and was petrified of being left alone while I explored during the early mornings. One morning I also met the current Japanese Emperor, but that story is for another time.

After visiting Angkor in the mornings I’d walk the streets and photograph during the afternoons. It was during the heavy monsoon rain on one afternoon that I came across these net fishermen – tuk-tuk drivers in the tourist season, fishermen in the off season – got chatting, and spent an hour or so photographing them. Daily life, no thrills.

Every now and then I think back to that rainy day and how unrestrained I felt just wandering and shooting, meeting strangers, learning, and getting to know a little about their lives despite having no common language.

One day I’d like to return and give them some prints. I wonder if they are still there, still fishing today?

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