“In late October this year, I travelled to the beautiful capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. It’s the third time I have been there and it definitely will not be my last. It’s a city that’s both beautiful and crazy all at the same time, but somehow it has captured my heart and I love spending time there and watching it slowly progress.
Myself and a fellow photographer friend Jen Boote travelled to Cambodia in 2011 and 2013 to capture images of women and their babies involved in an organisation called Mother’s Heart. Mother’s Heart is the only crisis pregnancy counseling service in Cambodia and empowers women with choices and support when faced with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. Their work is amazing and the number of women they assist in a year has almost doubled in the two years since we were last there.
Many women in Cambodia die from unsafe abortions and others that continue with unplanned pregnancies are often ostracised from their families, communities and live in poverty. There are no social services existing within Cambodia to help these women. Many women in Cambodia come from extremely vulnerable situations, being that trafficking, sexual abuse, HIV and poverty are real issues today.
Although we capture images for Mother’s Heart’s use, my true love is completing a project I like to call ‘The HeART Project’, where we take photos of the women and their babies and then when we are back in Australia, we produce a photobook for each Mum to keep forever as a precious memory of when her child was just a baby.
These women are all from very poor backgrounds, with little or no family support, and they have very few personal possessions. They just survive day-to-day and don’t even dream about luxuries such as photos of themselves or their babies. An image can make us feel so many things and I hope that I can allow women who are struggling to deal with the day-to-day issues of life to stop and dream and enjoy life a little.
While I was there, someone told me about Portrait Equality and that night I looked up the website. I was instantly excited about what Portrait Equality was doing and what their mission was all about. So, bright and early the next morning with my trusty little Instax camera in hand I headed down to the local market and started to take pictures and give them away. Most mornings I had been getting up and heading out with my DSLR and taking pictures, but the experience and reaction I had when I used my Polaroid and gave the pictures to the person was amazing. From the young to the old, they all loved it and were full of huge genuine smiles when looking at their pictures appearing before their eyes.
We would love to return to Cambodia to take photos again for the women of Mother’s Heart and would love to expand the project to other women’s organisations, so we are now searching for funding sources that may be able to assist us. The response from the women and Mother’s Heart is so positive and the women all were asking when they would get to keep their pictures. It’s just a little bit of hope and happiness in a tough life. And, of course when I return I will have my Polaroid in hand and head out on the streets to take photos.”