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About a woman

by Lye Tuck-Po
17/12/23

Original posting: 14/3/2009
Here's a photo taken during an afternoon interview in Cambodia [in 2006]. She's a friendly woman, who often hailed to me to stop for a chat. She and her family live along a path down which I cycled out to survey the rice and maize fields in the village. A few times I engaged her husband to take me around the lakes for landscape surveys. Usually I stopped by briefly. This time I went into the house with my field assistant.
She started talking about the Khmer Rouge period. She was sent to work on a fishing boat in the Tonle Sap. Times were hard. There were quotas they had to meet. She had never done that work before, and must have learnt fast. Not only to fish but to navigate the Tonle Sap, which is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. I regret not knowing the language well.
My assistant, a young Cambodian, had trouble following her: she was talkative, went from one topic to another without stopping. My thoughts adrift, I was becoming sleepy, and took a couple of photos to keep myself alert. Later I showed her the photo: she was startled. So engrossed by her stories, she didn't realise I had taken a picture.
I didn't check the camera settings and under-exposed the photo. After much photoshopping, I posted it on Flickr with apologies. I needn't have worried. The commenters pointed out aspects of the photo I hadn't previously thought of.
"But the mood! The atmosphere! The technicals can wait."
"It seems to capture her personality in a way that is not too intrusive and in a way that allows the viewer to ponder..."
"this is such a moody, great documentary photo. I feel the sad sharing of secrets, and the mood of the story you relate. Of course, it doesn't look like it was lit in a studio...it was shared in a space of dark confidence."
Feedback is great. It's why I continued to post on Flickr for so many years. I still keep a minimal amount of photos there, but have migrated to Instagram -- where my students live, and where there is almost no feedback.
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