Philong Sovan – In the City by Night

Despite their desire for “modernization”, Cambodian cities are far from the powerful megacities of South-east Asia which they try to emulate.
Most cities in Cambodia preserve their small-town character, a provincial atmosphere inherited from the time as a colonial protectorate. Outside the well-lit major arteries, the avenues crossing the city and the docks where bars and restaurants can be found, lighting is poor or non-existent and every evening the city is plunged into darkness. But the hustle and bustle continues.

The most common means of transport is small motorbikes. Riding through Siem Reap, thinking about how he would tackle his night pictures, Philong Sovan’s headlamp revealed unsuspected street scenes. He realized that these “apparitions” would be his subject, using his headlamp to light them.

In the City by Night is a singular project in both form and content. It suits the body of work of a photographer passionate about light. Sovan is also passionate about documentary, bearing witness to social issues for which he tries to find a non-conventional aesthetic. Self-taught by choice, he started as a video editor. His enthusiasm for the still image arose by accident and he chose photography. Digital, of course, since in Phnom Penh there was no training in traditional photography and nowhere to develop or print. Experience as a press photographer made him understand that he was ill-suited to the superficial coverage of ephemeral events. He began to develop “personal projects”, not realizing that this was quite common. All of these revolved around capturing light.

Born in 1986, Philong SOVAN is an independent professional photographer working and living in Phnom Penh. He began as press photographer in 2009 and joined soon the staff of The Phnom Penh Post and then worked for some months with the Xinhua News Agency in 2011–2012.
Besides covering the news, Philong has developed several personal projects, especially those he developed with “Studio Images” of the French Cultural Centre and were exhibited during the festival Photo Phnom Penh.
After studying one year in France with the support of a grant from the French government at Ecole Nationale Supérieure Louis Lumière where he discovered analogue photography and trained different techniques of printing, he went back to Cambodia in autumn 2013.
Recently, his work was published in Gala Magazine, The Guardian, Le Monde Magazine, L’EXPRESS style, Internazionale Italy Magazine, Globe Magazine, L’OEIL Portfolio, De L’air, IMAGES and The Phnom Penh Post.