Anthony Karen is a freelance photojournalist. He recently contacted Audacity Magazine and offered to share the pictures in his journey to other countries. We are very grateful for this opportunity to give you some very emotional pictures of people with disabilities in a 3rd world country like Cambodia.
I asked Anthony to give us his feelings about his experience during this shoot. This is what he had to say about his visit to Cambodia.
Well, it’s really hard to put my exact feelings into words. I have so many. Cambodia is well known for its land mine situation and has suffered from the more then 2 million land mines placed by the Khmer Rouge that held the country in terror from 1975 to 1979. The ultimate goal of the Khmer was to eliminate everything – anybody with a trade, education, doctors, lawyers, money, everything, basically, their plan was to make a “year zero” and reprogram children to run the new country with their ideals.
Cambodia being such a far away place, it’s hard to imagine these things. In America, we live in an out- of-sight-out-of-mind society. But in Cambodia you can still feel the ghosts of the country’s tragic past. It first comes obvious when you notice that there are hardly any elderly people around because during the late 1970’s the Khmer focused on killing millions of innocent people.
It’s scary to think that any person you see on the street in their 30s or 40s may have been a murderous Khmer. That’s when it all comes together. Or when I drive through the North Provinces and see land mine warning signs or amputees flock to ancient ruins to try and beg for money from the tourists to feed themselves or their family. It’s very sad.
As a person and as a photojournalist I looked forward to visiting the Emergency Land Mine Hospital in Battambang, Cambodia. The hospital sees on average of 2 to 8 land mine victims every month and that includes women, children and men. Most of the patients are farmers who work in the fields or children who play in the fields and mistake the ordinance signs for something else.
The hospital itself is very clean and sanitary, but you have to understand that this is a 3rd world country and it is very basic compared to hospitals in United States.
The men’s ward hosts at least 30 beds. Eight of the male patients are there due to land mine explosions. The ward fills to capacity. With so much physical and emotional trauma around them, it is uplifting to have the patients greet me with smiles.
I guess it’s nice to see somebody “different” and the cultural exchange made it a treat for everyone. Attempting to become a fly on the wall in order to get candid shots of the patients is futile, so I decide to make the best of it and photograph whenever a face catches my attention.
They are more than eager to pose for me.
It’s funny as soon as I fix my lens on them they immediately put on a “misery face” which can be good in some situations. It’s as if there are two types of people in the hospital. Those who are proud and don’t want to show their unfortunate situation on film and there are those who realize that photographs is there moment to be heard and seen by the world.
I am quickly reminded that war lasts indefinitely for many innocent people. Although I have my physical ailments which make it rather difficult to do the activities I used to do before my illnesses, I found myself touching my legs and thanking God for what I do have. We must live our lives without hesitation and without regrets.
Come back again to read about Anthony’s adventures.