Looking Back

mickyatesCambodia, Coursework, Critical Research Journal, Documentary, Event, Ideas, Personal, Philosophy, Photography, Project Development, SPWeek1, Sustainable Prospects, Webinar Leave a Comment

I am exploring the long-term impact of the Khmer Rouge Genocide, and especially its impact on education. This includes revisiting our family history which goes back over 20 years with the country and its people.

Rather than creating a documentary about the Genocide (that’s been done), I see it as context for the real focus of my project, which is capturing and making public the Unfinished Stories from Cambodians which have not been told till this day.

Sarath, the principal character in the story, is a colleague we have worked with on Primary School Education since 1999, and he lost 50 family members in the Genocide. I am working in partnership with him and his family to collate and visualise those stories, which we will publish in Cambodia, in Khmer.

My work historically has tended towards the observational, indexical. Whilst this stands me in good stead in covering day-to-day events or reportage assignments, it is not getting the emotional impact (edge?) in my images that I feel I want for the Cambodia project. I define this partly as a need for more intimacy in my work.

Surfaces & Strategies opened up the idea of ‘traces’ in my contextual work. This is starting to nudge work in an interesting direction, and I used this for my Work in Progress – something quite different to my previous work (that Falmouth was aware of, at least ..).

In fact, for Landings I went a step farther and exhibited negatives rather than prints. The rational for that is covered in the Landings Gallery.

S&S also opened up the use of video, novel book designs etc., all covered in my Oral Presentation. I have been researching the ideas of ‘dark tourism’ and ‘aftermath’ photography. I do not want to fall foul of the former, though the learning from the latter has a bearing on how I contextualise my work.

I sum-up my learning from the modules to date (and the feedback) with a simple (but tough to execute) statement of where I need to strategically focus:

Be slower, more deliberate in making intimate images in situ – building engagement, developing meaning and exploring traces across time

I also need to be clearer on how to balance the multi-media aspects of the project (I foresee an installation final project, in Phnom Penh and Europe), and whether this is a family story (Sarath et al) or a more general Cambodian one.

The break was meant to be a break, but really wasn’t.

We have 6 children, living literally all over the world, and during the break we had family visitors, and took a road trip on the Continent to see others.

We also had family illness. My Dad, aged almost 92, passed away in September, exactly one week ago as I write this. He had been extremely active until just 6 weeks prior, despite his cancer. Mum is still with us, at a similar age.

Back on the MA, I have been absorbing really helpful feedback on my S&S work from Gary and Cemre. I was pleased with the results, but obviously there is more to do.

I finally finished going through the images from my last Cambodia. Whilst not directly relevant to the main thrust of my project, I did a series of ‘traces’ of Ta Prohm, our favourite temple in the Angkor Complex, to try to get my head straight on what a ‘trace’ is.

Most people will know the main view of Ta Prohm:

So, traces:

There is a fuller gallery of this work, here.

During the break I have also been exploring further experiments in negatives and colours.

Here are some of them – not really sure where they will go, but fun trying.

I have also been doing more event shooting, locally – examples are Gina Miller and Dominic Grieve, both well known to the UK audience.

Besides delivering to the client, I used these as an opportunity to work on my portrait skills. Portraits will probably figure, one way or another, in my project.

I have delivered both a workshop and a couple of presentations to local photographic audiences, including the RPS. A group exhibition which includes my work starts in Bath tomorrow, with a  book later in the month.

And, I have been reading a lot, as usual. Some of you know that I am a Visiting Professor at the University of Leeds, after over 40 years in global business. In 2017 I ‘moved’ from the Business School to the Interdisciplinary Ethics Applied Group – Data Ethics and Privacy being ‘my thing’. So, David Hume has been a (renewed) pre-occupation, and I have written a few notes for further, more serious work. Whilst he wrote little on aesthetics (the word wasn’t known to him), his empirical, human-nature inspired approach sits well with how I personally see photography.

Bill Jay and David Hurn are also current preoccupations, as I find their approach to photographic practice (and critique) refreshing.

In reading through the materials for Week One of Sustainable Prospects, this stuck in my mind:

Scott Grant divides the world of professional photographers into three distinct areas. He writes:

“The first is the high-end professional who works with a cross section of professional clients within one or across a wide spectrum of photographic genres. They are defined by a high quality client base, which in turn results in a strong financial reward for their work. 

The second is the general professional who also works with a cross section of professional clients within one or across a wide spectrum of photographic genres. They have a slightly less prestigious client base and therefore receive a lesser financial reward for their work. 

The third is the domestic professional. They do not work for professional clients whose job is to commission photography, but rather they work in the wedding, events, and domestic portrait market. This sector is most often self-taught, regionally focused, and dependent on constantly finding new clients”.

I’m not really any of these, though perhaps closest to ‘domestic professional’.

Rather, I have a personal mission to get these Unfinished Stories in front of a broader audience, in Cambodia and elsewhere.


Grant, Scott. 2014. Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained. London: Routledge.

Harris, James A. 2015. Hume: An Intellectual Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jay, Bill & Hurn, David. 1996. On Being a Photographer. Available at: http://www.greenacre.info/Photography/On%20Being%20a%20Photographer.pdf. (Accessed 2/09/2018).

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