Kep is located in the south of the Kingdom of Cambodia, few hours’ drive from the capital city, Phnom Penh. After the independent from France on November 9th, 1953, the King Father Norodom Sihanouk with France government had planned to arrange the urbanization of Kep to be a Cambodian premier beach town for a luxurious holiday. It was also considered as a small place for French (had been called as “Krong Barang” by locals, it means French city). Over 150 large and deluxe villas had been built by both of Cambodian and French architects. “Kep-sur-mer” was renowned as the most charming Cambodian Riviera.
Kep was not damaged during the Vietnamese war or the Khmer Rouge regime. Gradually, the city dived in a long sleep. The nature took back and the beautiful houses disappeared. Some of them were hidden into the tropical vegetation as the temples of Angkor. After the Khmer Rouge regime, the poverty of survivors was extreme. This is the reason why; they removed and sold out doors, iron-bars, tiles, and windows, electric cords, copper tubes of the villas. Train delivered those from Kep to Phnom Penh before selling to Vietnam. Then the ancient cottages became skeletons of the past, past of the country. Later on, rich persons from outside of Kep, inhabitants of Phnom Penh, overseas Cambodians, foreigners, have bought some of them; they knew before this pleasant and curious place. When I just look from outside of all 1960’s style villas, I might consider, they are abandoned or became ghost villas as mentioned in documents written by foreign travelers. When I get into them deeper and deeper, I find out that SOMEONE lives and takes care of those houses. They are not empty but full of signs of the past mixed up with the present time. These wide boats seem to run aground on the banks of Kep. Fortunately, they continue to live thanks to the persons who stay there. Entering into all those old villas, it is undertaking a huge and special archeological journey to the ancient times. As Angkor ruins! It brings us a lot of information to approach the past modernity of architecture and reveal the lost Golden Age of Cambodia before the fall: elements of houses in present conditions from living room to kitchen, bedroom, and first of all, the people living here.
As day dream in old villas of 1960s & 1970s in Kep …
Kep, 2011 – 2012
“Someone” has been produced as part of the musée du quai Branly Photoquai Residency Program in 2011. https://m.quaibranly.fr/en/collections/all-collections/photography-at-the-museum/the-photography-residencies/hak-kim/