What is 'Transitioning Cambodia'?
Transitioning Cambodia gives you an inside look into modern life in Cambodia – from the rapid changes to the country’s landscapes that have come with modernisation and development to the less obvious transitions in family life, traditions and values of young Cambodians.
After decades under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and ensuing civil war, the country’s middle class is growing, and so is consumerism. Cambodians are embracing this modernisation. The young now dress in fashionable clothes and munch on Belgium pralines before watching the newest 3D Hollywood blockbuster. Affluent families are moving into apartment buildings that feature gyms, pools, countless air condition units and a daily maid service. Even luxury carmakers like Porsche and Rolls Royce have opened dealerships in the capital Phnom Penh. Countless opportunities exist for investors, but critics say that rapid development has made the rich richer, and the poor poorer. The majority of the population is left out.
For the thousands of people that were violently evicted from their homes in the city center, development meant that they were relocated to barren plots of land. Schools, health-care centers, markets or any income opportunity were out of reach. The ones who fought for their land were violently suppressed, driven out of their homes with tear gas and water canons. Today, their once poor but lively communities have been replaced with sterile real estate projects. In Cambodia, development has been happening fast – but with little regard for collateral damage.
Over seven years, photographer Nicolas Axelrod has documented Cambodia with great attention to detail. ‘Transitioning Cambodia’ is a selection of the best photos, showing the everyday struggles in this country that’s still torn between the burden of its horrific past and the promises the future holds. In the accompanying text, journalist and author Denise Hruby weaves a narrative that shines a light on the people who are pushing Cambodia forward – and the ones who are holding it back.
Nicolas Axelrod is a photographer who has been based in Cambodia for more than seven years. When he first got to Phnom Penh, Nicolas started documenting land disputes, evictions and the relocation of already impoverished communities. Before long, Nicolas widened the angle: Once the land was taken, what was happening to it? And who are the people the poor had to make room for? Nicolas’ work didn’t stop there. In projects that would last months, he documented how society was changing overall. After seven years in Cambodia, Nicolas has produced an impressive body of work of tens of thousands of photographs — the best of which were selected for Transitioning Cambodia.
Denise Hruby is a journalist who first moved to Cambodia more than five years ago and has worked with both The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily. As a freelance correspondent, she has written for international publications such as Al Jazeera, GlobalPost and the Christian Science Monitor. Her reporting has looked at the many aspects of development in Cambodia, and has earned her three journalism awards. From “bar girls” to sugarcane farmers, the stories of people’s lives that Denise tell weave a narrative for Nicolas’ photographs.
Videos about the book
Want to learn more – here are four short videos about the book. From the concept to the making of, and finally the finished product.