Unfinished Stories

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Had another good webinar with Wendy, where we focused on how best to describe the core of my FMP work – Unfinished Stories.  The challenge is how best to describe the work, not in terms of ‘how I got there’ or the Cambodian history, but what it is that the audience is about to see.

If I can get this right, it would form the centre of any public relations work, as well as outreach to potential new galleries and museums (including Genocide / Holocaust museums around the world) to show the work again.

At this point, here’s my best approach:

The Khmer Rouge Genocide killed 1.7 – 2.2 million people. Forty years later, its devastating impact on Cambodian society still resonates. What happened to the individuals that survived these horrific times, however, has often been left unspoken.

Mick Yates’ Unfinished Stories uses photography, interviews, text and video to bring to light some of these previously unheard personal stories.

In 1999, Mick and Ingrid Yates founded a primary school program in the Cambodian Reconciliation Areas. Working in collaboration with Save the Children, the Ministry of Education and ex-Khmer Rouge members, the partnership rebuilt the education system. Keo Sarath and Beng Simeth, both survivors of the Genocide, led the programs and have dedicated their lives to education.

For Unfinished Stories each photograph carries a simple quote from Sarath or Simeth. These quotes point to the almost unimaginable horror of what they lived through. Khmer text, with its traditional characters in a contemporary font, anchors the images in place against the memories of the past. The text has a secondary English translation for an international audience.

The photographs themselves are captured using infrared technology, underscoring the now strange phenomenology of the landscape. These places are timeless, normal, and today are often beautiful. The serenity contrasts with the traumas that occurred. 

The resultant series is complex, out of time and paradoxical. Individual images are calm and simple. Yet they are also intensely personal and horrific.

I’ll be seeking feedback.

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