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Cambodia Angkor A Lasting Legacy

A View of it’s Past and Present

Book Title: Cambodia Angkor A Lasting Legacy: A View of it's Past and Present by Pierre Odier

Cambodia Angkor A Lasting Legacy
A View of it’s Past and Present

All the profits from the sale of this book goes to the landmine victim children in Siem Reap at the orphanage of Aki Ra.

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Today half of the Cambodian population is under 20 and 80% of the total population lives in rural villages struggling to eke out a minimal existence. An elder generation that has managed to survive the atrocities of the past is too exhausted to confront its trauma. For the younger generation it is hard to believe that it is possible that such brutality could have been done to Cambodians by Cambodians. The prime Minister of the royal government Hun Sen sums up the mood of a nation in saying to his people, "Dig a hole and bury the past."

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things there is wisdom and healing that comes from forgiving and forgetting, but there is a well known adage as well that tells us that, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The future of the Cambodian people may well depend on their willingness to find a balance between the two.

In the mid-1980s, the award-winning movie "The Killing Fields" launched the Cambodian tragedy into the public consciousness. It deals with the genocide of nearly half the population of Cambodia at the hands of the Khmer Rouge which was the ruling Communist Party between 1975-1979.

Today, Cambodians are trying to put their past behind them and look to the future, yet their children know little and are not being told about the atrocities committed in their country. The genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge not only obliterated lives, it also systematically erased historical records of the ancient traditions and rich cultural heritage of the Cambodian people.

The Khmer dynasty was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Its greatest legacy is Angkor, the site of the capital city during the empire's zenith. Angkor bears testimony to the Khmer empire's immense power and wealth, as well as the variety of belief systems that it incorporated over time. Modern researches by satellites have revealed Angkor to be the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world.

Like so many cultures and civilizations of the past, the Khmer vanished many years ago but left an indelible reminder of their existence. Its legacy has become the foundation for the emergence of a new society in Cambodia that struggles to retain an identity. Today it is hard to envision the scale and extent of this lost civilization, as it has only provided us with a collection of monumental ruins in the process of being devoured by a natural environment. It is also suffering from neglect and indifference of a government more intent on perpetuating its power than preserving its past.


I was at an annual Pasadena Antique show and there under a table full of expensive Hispanic art was a box full of yellow old dog-eared envelopes used to protect photographic negatives. What immediately caught my eye was the word Siam on one envelope. That name told me that whatever was in the box was from before June 23, 1939, when that country became Thailand.

I wasted no time putting in an offer for the envelopes which was immediately accepted and I rushed home with approximately 1000 four by five negatives in it. I could not determine who the photographer was but the pictures covered not only Siam but also Bali, China, Java, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Nanking, Shanghai and Cambodia. I had stumbled upon an absolute archival treasure. From some of the dates on the envelopes I determined that all images where created in 1920.

Of all the negatives the ones that got my attention were from Cambodia. These images were absolutely fascinating and depicted the ruins at Angkor Wat. I immediately printed them up in my darkroom. The moment the images began to take shape in the developing tray I was hooked. I wanted to see more. I wanted to learn more about this mystical place on the other side of the world. So off I went to see for myself and create my own images.

In Cambodia I found a young man who was willing to help me find the exact locations of my old images. It took us eight days to locate the sites and for the most part we were able to position my camera in the same spot as the mystery photographer of 1920. What started as a curiosity turned into a bit of an obsession. I wanted to capture the changes that time and the elements and neglect had wrought on this grand monument by placing the old and new photos side by side.

What I also found in this place were people who have persevered in the face of long suffering but who are, at the same time, in danger of losing touch with a glorious past and a magnificent culture. In spite of an indifferent outer world to their enormous struggles, there persists a faint but discernable spark of commitment to preserve the threads that connect them to their ancestors and a proud heritage.

This book pays tribute to that commitment and the modest hope that that spark is never extinguished.

Complete with illustrations.

Hard Cover
ISBN 978 0 961163297

Book Title: Cambodia Angkor A Lasting Legacy: A View of it's Past and Present by Pierre Odier

Soft Cover
ISBN 978 0 961163211

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