Column in Light

Shocking Photographic Behavior at Angkor Temple Complex

I read photographic art and general art news almost everyday, most of the time the news is a story about a massive sale at a top auction house involving millions of dollars.   The mental image of those grand art auctions is much like our picture this week.  Ornate Column in Lightcarvings, marble columns and the hint of sophistication where the clients satisfy their need for the exquisite.

But every so often I find a true gem. This is one of those news events that you can’t believe. You end up reading the opening statement twice before it really hits home.

Three French tourists in their early twenties have been arrested by Cambodian authorities for taking nude photos of each other inside the country’s famed Angkor temple complex, officials said Friday. –


Seriously? I find myself in one of those odd moments hoping that the cause of their little escapade is a little recreational drug use. I find it hard to imagine that three men in a sober and coherent state of mind would decide to pose nude for photographs at a major cultural temple complex.

Of course recreational drug use would not excuse the outrageous, and let’s face it, idiotic behavior, but it would give a better understanding of why they did such a thing. However, I think it’s the youthful lack of understanding cause and effect that truly bothers me though. That they attempted this stunt is bad enough, but they attempted their little stunt just after a few days a small group of women did the same thing causing a major incident and official protest. Well umm…  Duh?

I’d guess that none of the three defendants are really thinking it was a good idea about now. They are facing  a charge of public exposure that is punishable up to 6 months of prison time and may soon face pornography charges that can result in a fine and a year in prison on top of that.

This is in Cambodia. Their prison system is not exactly a well-funded tourist destination. Crowded conditions and poorly paid prison staff accused of mistreatment and taking bribes create a rather unwholesome environment to live in.   Further, these men can look forward to a year and half of very cheap rice and lousy cheap vegetables served twice a day as their only meals for the length of their stay.

I truly wonder if they understand the issues they are now causing at the French embassy and at home with their relatives. All of this aggravation is a result of breaking the 1st cardinal rule of photography and  its proof why the rule exists. That rule is simply to use common sense.

You want to take nude pictures? Fine. That’s nothing new. But go through the right channels. Understand that the authorities may not let you to take the pictures.  Walk away and be happy you won’t rot in a jail that makes an american supermax prison look like a trip to Disney World.

But there is another side effect of this incident that now tugs at my brain. How long will it be before a normal tourist can take a camera into Angkor without arousing undue suspicion of the authorities?   Will this become a case of 3 bad apples ruining it for the rest of us? Will professional photographers be considered simply guilty by association? It’s something to think about.

What are your thoughts?

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