Posted on January 14, 2016
In July of 2015 I came to Cambodia for a two week photo class detailing story telling through photography. This is where I made my first contact with Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Since then I have attended and photographed numerous shows and events and I was happy to be able to document some of the activities while they took down the big top and moved it across town to their new home.
The circus is associated with Phare Ponleu Selpak (the brightness of the arts) in Battambang, Cambodia. PPS was started in 1986 in a refugee camp along the Thai/Cambodia border. The founders were seeking a way to help children through the trauma of war by way of the creative arts.
Throughout the years hundreds of disadvantaged Cambodian children have been given the opportunity to gain an education and skills in the visual and performing arts. Circus performing is one skill that is available to the students. Many of the performers in the current shows moved from a school activity to a profession where they are now able to provide for their families.
The original site on the road to Angkor Wat was on leased property and they were facing a major rise in their rent so the time came to look for a new and more permanent site. They spent almost three years at the original site growing quickly on the small lot behind the Angkor National Museum. On January 5, 2016 they moved the show to an outside stage at the current site and began dismantling the big top.
The process was coordinated by Nicolas Charpail and Jerome Gendron from France. During the tents’ previous life it traveled for years and these two men were there for the setup and dismantling over the years. When the tent originally made its way to Siem Reap they were here to coordinate the setup so who better to take down the tent at the original site and reassemble it at the new site?
Takedown and transport of the tent took two days and another four days or so and the tent was complete at the new site. The process was well coordinated and the weather cooperated. There was one short period of rain but that was quickly cleaned up and the work continued.
The more time you spend photographing a group of people the more comfortable they become with you. After they knew I was there for a while they had no trouble hamming it up for the camera whenever they could.
Two days before opening people and businesses from around Siem Reap came to plant trees that they and other have donated. It was a fun time for all. The Shinta Mani Resort and the Heritage Suites Hotel even sent over some of their gardening people to help out with the process and in just a couple hours tress, big and small were in place ready to grow throughout the years that Phare will be here entertaining every night.
Tonight I will photograph the last show performing at the original site. With the tent gone the show will be under the stars. Tomorrow night will be the first performance of ‘Chills’ under the Big Top at the new site. I will be there to not only photograph the show but also to remember what the tent looked like piece by piece along with all of the work and all of the people it took to move a circus across town.