Morning on “Main Street” ~ People Gallery, Kampong Khleang, Cambodia

It’s seven o’clock on a weekday morning. A bus pulls up outside your house and eighteen foreigners with twice as many cameras spread out onto your street, taking pictures of you, your home and your children. How would you react?

Child in pyjamas waving from a doorway, mum and younger child in shadows behind

Welcoming waves, Kampong Kleang

Now, if it were me, I’d be less than amused by what I would see as a huge invasion of privacy. The people of Kampong Khleang, Cambodia, however, took our morning presence in their community in their strides. The concept of personal space is different in traditional villages, where houses are simple and small, and so much regular daily activity happens outside in public view.

It was raining when the bus stopped so that I and thirteen other keen photographers, with our photographic mentors and tour leaders Karl GroblGavin GoughMarco Ryan and Matt Brandon, could disembark – with our cameras wrapped in protective plastic and our umbrellas. People smiled and waved from the porches and doorways of their houses of thatch, wood and corrugated iron as we walked up the muddy road – the only road – to meet a boat on Tonlé Sap Lake.

Thatched house on poles over the Tonle Sap River, Kampong Khleang

Houses of thatch, wood and corrugated iron cling to the road, hanging over the Tonle Sap River, balanced on bamboo poles.

Khmer woman in a brown hat on a red motorcycle

To do list: pick up the morning shopping - then take the children to school.

Portrait: Khmer woman in brown hat smiling

There is always time to smile at strangers.

Three young girls in the doorway of a rough house of wood and corrugated iron.

Three sisters gather in their doorway to watch the strangers.

Three sisters in the doorway of a corrugated iron house.

Family Portrait ~ Three Sisters

Portrait: Khmer girl

Older Sister

Portrait: Khmer Man

Khmer Man ~ still wet from his front-yard morning wash

Smiling Khmer woman in a hammock in front of a thatch house

Relaxing on the porch

Older Khmer man with young boy on a wooden porch

Across the generations ~ Grandpa and his boy

Portrait: Khmer man in a hat

Man in an army camouflage hat

Young girl signing V for peace

Children all over the region, even in these remote villages, use universal symbols when they see a camera!

Two girls on a wood and bamboo staircase

Girls on the front steps

Khmer woman at a black sewing machine

The seamstress starts work early.

Portrait: Solemn-faced Khmer boy

Solemn-faced boy

Khmer girl in school uniform inside a school window

Waiting for the school bell

Portrait: young Khmer Theravada monk

A young Theravada monk ignores the other "visitors" to the temple grounds.

Seven Khmer boys, two in young monk

Boyz in the 'Hood

Portrait: Khmer girl with a serious face

Serious Girl

Shirtless barber shaving a man in the street

Keep still! Street shave. (The round red marks on the barber's forehead and arms are from hot-cupping - a popular remedy for various illnesses.)

Women around wicker baskets of fresh produce in a muddy street

The Market: fresh foods ~ muddy- streets

Three Khmer children look through bamboo railings

The kids upstairs ~ and there is that "V" sign again!

Baby in a hammock with mum: watermelons all around

Mum takes a break from selling melons, while her baby watches me.

This town doesn’t see a lot of tourists. Never the less, the people were completely unselfconscious, smiling and friendly, in our presence. They went about their morning business, engaging with us readily, and most were willing to be photographed.

Some, of course, were completely oblivious to our presence.

Khmer baby asleep in a hammock

Baby in Hammock

I hate having my picture taken. So, I am extremely mindful to make sure I have permission before I take environmental portraits; portraits of people in their natural surroundings. I continue to marvel at how much easier it is to make pictures of people in this part of the world.

Text: Keep smilingIn spite of the difficulty of their daily lives, they seem to know how to keep smiling.

I need to practice doing the same! 🙂


  • gabe - September 22, 2011 - 10:08 pm

    The only way to start and end end day – with a smile! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - September 23, 2011 - 12:24 am

    simple joys, we have a lot to learnReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 23, 2011 - 1:11 am

      Indeed, Signe! “Chop wood ~ carry water.”ReplyCancel

  • Karl Grobl - October 9, 2011 - 11:12 am

    Thanks for this and your Tonle Sap post, you’ve captured some amazing images and your stories and insights are “spot on”. Thanks for sharing!
    All the best,

    • Ursula - October 9, 2011 - 5:02 pm

      Thanks for looking in, Karl.
      It’s slow work getting through the images I collected on our trip. But, I’ll be ready for another one soon! 😀ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Gallagher - April 29, 2013 - 6:18 am

    Lovely set of people photos, Ursula. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 29, 2013 - 6:57 am

      Thanks so much for having a look, Patrick! The people here were very welcoming. 🙂ReplyCancel

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