Between 1975 and 1979, within the walls of Tuol Sleng a former Pnom Penh secondary school known as S21, at least 14,000 Cambodians were deshumanised, tortured and then almost beaten to death a fex miles away at Chœung Ek. They had been incarcered there by the Angkar Organization, which secretly headed the Khmer rouge dictatorship. The Angkar wanted to obtain from these detinees by any means whatsoever an “acceptable” and “credible” written confession of their supposed misdeeds and what would bureaucratically justify their “necessary” elimination. Only a handful of men, seven in all, were to escape from this hell.
Close on two million or one quarter of the cambodian population were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Since 1980, the buildings of the detention center have kept alive the memory of this genocide
It is said in Cambodia that the victim’s soul have become captive and that they shall remain so as long as the legions of executionner required to perpetrate a massacre on this scale have not acknowledged their crime.
There remains the questions of how to show horror without morbidity, chains without voyeurism and bestial crimes without self-indulgence.
How it is possible, while gazing into the wounds of a mass crime, to have an “artistic” approach, a personnal photographic “take” on matters ? How can poetic images find their source in absolute horror ?
Finally, how it is possible despite everything, not to abandon hope. It is why I have attempted to bring the dead back to life, to let them, at least speak for themselves.
My photos do not only want to see, they want to return and reveal what looks to become force: the indelible mark of the spirit.
These work is therefore not a testimony to the “memory” of the vanished. It is rather a tribute to those who have gone, to their incredible courage and lasting humanity.