Caught between two worlds, that of the East and of the West, of photographs and of songs, Cambodia-based artist Serey Siv brings into focus a menagerie of elements, subjects, and thoughts as a unified collective that is more than mere displacement, illusion, or hallucination. From the streets of Hong Kong to Bangkok, especially those of Cambodia, Serey documents culture that is close to his heart, revealing the extraordinary in the ordinary and turning the stereotypically mundane into scintillating marvels.
His ongoing project puts the spotlight on Siem Reap’s Drug Rehabilitation Center, touching a rather political subject in the form of the Cambodian government’s nationwide crackdown on drug addicts. Although the anti-drug campaign only started early this year, Cambodian authorities have already taken in more than 650 people for drug-related crimes. All that just in the first week of 2017, yet despite such, many groups, especially non-government organizations like the Human Rights Watch, have called for the immediate closure of drug detention centers due to several reported cases of abuse as well as the overall failure to provide adequate treatment. In Serey’s own words, “Unfortunately, many addicts blindly believe the punitive methods behind the rehabilitation center are part of their recovery.”
Serey’s project chronicles the life and times of patients under rehab. Dull, dirty, lifeless walls are juxtaposed with beautiful paintings of life underwater and travel by air, as if directly and consciously referencing the events that are supposed to take place within them: Addressing loss and dressing stagnancy with motion. But rehabilitation doesn’t just happen inside physical structures. The open space outside connects patients to nature, the natural order of things, and serenity in simplicity. Serey takes notice of otherwise menial tasks such as food preparation and wood chopping as means to therapy, group prayers and candid conversations between strangers turned friends, all of which unveiling how human-to-human interaction is pivotal in our never-ending search for salvation.
The Canadian-Khmer photographer and musician has been featured by the likes of The Phnom Penh Post, The Cambodia Daily, and Rolling Stone Japan. He’s held exhibits in South Korea, Japan, and Cambodia.
Serey Siv is also the founder of The Mirage Collective, a unique collaboration among international street photographers including Japan’s Reiko Yagi and Philippines’ Nino Jim Bacalso.