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NISAI: An Experience in Cambodia

Date Launched

July 2018

Project Type

Photography & Film

From May 25 to June 6, 2018 I visited my father's homeland for the first time. Needless to say, it was a life-altering experience and one I'll never forget. Along the journey, I documented many memorable moments––ultimately creating a short film and some of my most cherished photo captures.

The Objective

It was my first time on a plane, first time on a motorcycle, first time experiencing my family's home country. I didn't know what to expect other than knowing I'd be documenting pieces along the way for everyone back home––who hadn't been back in decades. With no immediate creative/project-based objective, my true goal was to make memories here. Touching down in Cambodia, I remember being overwhelmed with tears at the realization of the trip's significance.

My stops included Siem Reap, the commune of Kampong Phluk, the mountains of Phnom Kulen, Preah Vihear Province, Phnom Penh, Kampot, and the island of Koh Rong Samloem. Guided by local family, we made great distance each day over a ten day period. I recall each day and each province distinctly; all with the same climate, but with such stark differences in sound, smell, taste, and atmosphere. No experience was greater than meeting distant relatives and establishing close connections through overnight stays. I wasn't alone, and being able to share my time with loved ones meant everything.

The Product

I was filling up and dumping memory cards every night of the trip. I wasn't keen to devote extended time behind a camera at the fear of missing out of the live experience, so I captured moments very quickly on a spur as I could. What I captured was enough to tell the story of each place and call back some eventful moments.

After ten packed, tiring, loving, and stomach-filled days, I made my return home to Virginia––beyond excited to recount stories with my family. In the following weeks, I analyzed my photo and video captures to put out pieces of visual storytelling. From this, I created a short film titled, Nisai, and dozens of albums for my relatives to view.

Nisai is my way of presenting my experience of Cambodia, with the exact arc I felt throughout my short stay. Arriving in Siem Reap, many moments did reflect more tourism and consumerism in the resort town. As I went on, and with the guidance of relatives, I was able to visit more remote towns and villages––where I felt progress and development was not easily as made. My relatives explained each community's background and held discussions with locals of those communities––wanting to learn more themselves. The arc of this trip advanced from just siteseeing to making connections of those around us and the knowledge of each destination's background.

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