Going Underwater To Bring Issues to the Surface

Marina Shafik / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Mak Remissa’s photos appeal to Cambodians to protect their water supplies. Photo: Supplied

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Water. That is where life began. Around 3.5 billion years ago the first forms of life originated in water, evolving over time from unicellular organisms to fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals – and humans.

The human body is composed mainly of water and our survival depends on it. A popular maxim states that one can survive three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Yet despite knowing that water is an essential natural resource, people do not behave accordingly.

To counter this, Cambodian photographer Mak Remissa has compiled 18 artistic photos to highlight the importance of water for all life on earth – whether plant, animal or human. His exhibition, “Water is Life,” opened Thursday at the Lotus Pond Gallery of The Plantation and will run until June 21. 

“Water means life to me; we cannot live without water, which is an essential source of life for animals and nature as well,” Mr. Remissa told Khmer Times.

Water, Oil and Nature

Mr. Remissa studied painting and photography at the Royal University of Fine Arts before becoming one of the most famous photographers in the Kingdom. He has an eye for captivating shots with strong storytelling elements.

His photos for “Water is Life” are uncommon. The subjects he chose – including turtles, frogs, shells and human silhouettes – appear as if viewed from underwater. But what looks like subaquatic shots are actually the fruit of an original creative process.

“They look like underwater shots, but I took all the pictures through a glass water container,” the 47-year-old photographer explained.

He uses oil paint for the final touch. As oil is lighter than water, it floats, creating an effect like what you see after an oil spill.

Cambodia and Water

Mr. Remissa took his shots in a village in Kandal province five years ago. They were part of the Photo Phnom Penh Festival in 2010. He decided to exhibit them again because he noticed that the chronic mismanagement of the Kingdom’s vital water resources persists. 

“Cambodia has a lot of rivers, lakes and canals – so do not pollute the water, and keep it safe for usage,” he said as a heartfelt warning to his compatriots.

The Kingdom’s inland rivers, lakes and channels, and the sea that caresses its shore, are home to many aquatic species and make agriculture possible in a country that is highly agrarian.

Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in Southeast Asia, provides fish and essential resources for the daily life of Cambodians.  Pollution and poor sewage management systems constitute a major peril for the Kingdom’s water economy.

Mr. Remissa is launching a new message in a bottle with his collection of photos, and he said he hopes it will not go unheeded.

Mr. Remissa observes life and the problems of water pollution through the eyes of one who lives underwater. Photo: Mak Remissa

Water is home to an endless number of life forms since time immemorial. Photo: Mak Remissa

Mr. Remissa’s shots could be mistaken for paintings but they are actually the fruit of a creative photographic process. Photo: Mak Remissa

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