Cambodian Kids at Work

Fishing kid

Friends, you are cordially invited to the opening of Jerry’s photo exhibit on Cambodian Kids at Work, at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 10, Le Popil Gallery in Phnom Penh. The exhibit stems from our project to document the ubiquity of child labor in Cambodia. Not only that, but the lives and circumstances of the kids involved. You will see no photos of the despicable child-sex tourism business; this project isn’t about that. Rather, it’s about the way in which child labor permeates Cambodian culture; the way in which the notion of child labor, such as it is in the West, largely doesn’t exist in a country whose people live on a dollar a day.

This has a great deal to do with food. In much of Cambodia, right or wrong, children simply are expected to work. Some go to school, some don’t, but many spend their days or nights dealing with food, its production or preparation. Kids plant rice, pick corn, hunt frogs, tend cows, shovel salt, sort through garbage at markets and sell trinkets to tourists at restaurants. For many Cambodian kids, having a job means they eat at night. Having a job sometimes means they eat, but don’t go to school. Some parents think it’s natural for a kid to work. Some parents hate having to make their kids work, but say the family simply wouldn’t survive otherwise.

If you’re in Phnom Penh, please have a look. Check our website for a sneak peek at the photos and further details. In addition, Jerry will present his slideshow on UXO in Laos at Le Popil, beginning Feb. 16.

11 thoughts on “Cambodian Kids at Work

  1. What a fabulous photo big brother! So what is the boy in this photo fishing for…if that’s what he’s doing?

  2. what an amazing idea for an exhibition. I wish i could attend. Working children is something my country is also dealing with, alas it always comes down to economic realities.

  3. Karen,
    Thanks for that post, after a couple of days back at work after a short break coupled with a general feeling of being hard done by it takes something like this to make one realise how much worse things could be.
    A lesson learnt!

  4. Joanna! He’s fishing for fish. He does it every day before school. he thought it was weird that I wanted to take his photo.
    Thanks, Trini and Miles, for giving it some extra thought. That’s why I did this. I don’t expect to change Cambodians’views on child labor, but I hope a few more people will think about it.
    And we just arrived in Phnom Penh! Whoo hoo!

  5. Hi Jerry,
    Thanks for replying. I would be interested to know how you approach people prior to photographing them. I realise that Karen and yourself spend a considerable amount of time with these groups prior to writing about and photographing them but what advice would you give self-concious amateurs on a two week holiday?
    Good look with the exhibition, I wish it was in England.

  6. The best – and really the only – advice is to just walk up and start talking to the people you want to photograph. The worst thing one can do is try to sneak a “candid” photo from a distance. People know when they’re having their photo taken (especially by a nervous tourist) and rarely appreciate it when you try to do it secretively. If you take a photo from a distance before you get a chance to introduce yourself, make a point of going over and saÿing “hello”. 99 percent of the time the people will be perfectly happy. When they’re not, apologize and delete the photo from your camera in front of them.
    The hardest part about starting as a photographer was getting comfortable with walking up to people and asking if I could photograph them. It’s common among professionals, believe it or not, so you’re in good company.
    And thanks all for the kind comments. I, too, wish you could be here!

  7. I started working at the age of 14 in amsterdam, holland. Besides going to school all my kids and neighbourkids worked.
    I saw in cambodja many HAPPY kids working

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