There is a Black Cat around Cambodia

Abstract photography for an Abstract country…

He has a white Bolognese doggy living in a black studio of a central street of Siem Riep City. His presentation card – his own design with a Liam Mackenzie stylish form at the side of a colorful flower-stamp, – says that he is photographer, teacher, friendly, it consultant, graphic designer,, funny, polite, intelligent, dependable, determined, organized, tall, awesome, patient, logical, lethargic, rider, loyal., modest, determined, proud, large, stubborn, quixotic and 093 780 386.

All those adjectives can be proven after talking with him in a studio of about 5X10 square meters of black walls, two desks, a black umbrella, some professional Cannon cameras and lights for set photos. Photography in Cambodia is reduced to children and temples, he said and his pictures are a real run through colors, lights, perspectives and unexplored sites from Australia to the Khmer lands.

His first incursion with Asia was in Thailand as a backpacker, until he discovered the descendants of the Angkor Empire and got in love with it to set in Siem Riep. By motorbike he walked also through Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and finally Cambodia. His vocation for travel is already preparing himself to go through South America.

Liam prefers Siem Riep to Phnom Penh and opened his graphic design and photography studio in this city to work in menus, signs and advertising art works. He thinks that so far there is not a lot competition on this area in Cambodia. As for the Cambodian native design, it is different to the Western. In Siem Riep there are many photographers, but they work almost exclusively taking pictures of children and temples.

He defines the subjects of his photographs as abstract. We went to the wide screen computer of his desk to see some of his numberless works. The first pictures to be exposed are of colorful food on luxury restaurant tables of his customers that invite to enjoy a delicious dinner. Then we saw unfamiliar wonderful views of Australia. I asked if he puts names to the photos, but he said no and I try to imagine titles for what are pieces of art. Being persistent, I asked him to give a title to one of the views on the screen, but he said that he is not good in doing that. A good exit door to my proposition is that everybody is free to give the meaning to what they see.

Looking the effects of light on unusual spaces, the pictures seem to be the part of an abstract movie or the fragments of a psychological story of somebody inside mysterious places. How indifferent can be normal transients to corners, flat spaces, the play of the light on surfaces around ourselves. Then we need the camera of an artist like Liam to explore other dimensions of reality.

A Buddhist monk in a cavern became our subject of analysis. Abstraction of the light in a composition of a religious figure inside the texture of the rock. Is it possible to speak about abstract art in photography? If abstract art is the departure from reality to create an imaginary perspective, then photography is not completely abstract since it works with the effects of light on reality. We could understand abstraction in photography also as the discovering of new dimensions of the light. Then I began to understand why no titles for the pictures. The abstract photography proposes, not imposes the perspective of the photographer.

Liam prefers not to use flash and he showed me the effects of music shows’ photographs in Australia of some of his artist friends. The lights of the scenery involves the singer or musician artist to underline the human figure as they were the characters of very wonderful stories.

129-second-exposition photograph of the moon amazed me and he showed me a white light on the sky that is a start. Only this camera could detected the move of the start thanks to the rotation of the earth. This is the kind of photographs I enjoy to take, he says and told me that he teaches to 12-14 years-old children of the city. The lessons are with film-cameras, avoiding digital ones, because the students would put more attention and responsibility to the shutter button. Digital cameras are good because they are less expensive when you have to develop pictures, but for this same reason, students of photography are more careful in what they are going to take when they use the film camera.

I like Cambodia, I like the people, I like the weather, I like the craziness of this country, he said. Somebody described me this country as the perfect anarchy, but it works and I like that description. Liam coincides in the feelings of those who come from developing countries where societies are concern with several rules, but people are not fully happy. In a country like Cambodia, rules are not too many, but still things can be done well.

We finished the interview just at the moment a group of teenagers were outside the studio waiting for their photography lesson. They are learning how to see the light playing above the surfaces of Cambodia, giving expression to an unexplored spaces. They will learn how to see the world like a Black Cat with a White Dog around.


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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (

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