- PhMuseum 2023 Photography Grant
Once Beating Heart
Dates2021 - Ongoing
- Location Cambodia
Once Beating Heart is a body of work that began in 2021, deeply focused on the great Tonlé Sap lake in Cambodia. The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, it swells to over five times its usual size during the monsoon season, as the water from the Mekong River reverses its flow into the Tonlé Sap. This movement of water pumps the lake like a beating heart, nourishing both people and wildlife in an interconnected web of nature, water, and man.
Fish is the lifeblood of the roughly two million people who call the lake their home, but ever since a series of hydropower dams were constructed up north along the Mekong in Laos and China, the inflow of water into the Tonlé Sap has dwindled and fish supplies have been decimated. Coupled with the effects of climate change, such as a devastating drought in 2019, the greatest in a century, it has left families with little income, threatening their lives and affecting their access to basic necessities such as clean drinking water.
The Tonlé Sap is in a precarious situation. Swirled up in a geopolitical impasse, with each country asserting its right to the hydropower of the Mekong, it is projected that in the next decade, water may stop flowing into the Tonlé Sap.
Exploring themes of interconnectedness, ecology, migration, and the idea of seemingly simple lives being shrouded in a complicated existence, I traveled via a small boat circumventing the 15,000 square kilometre lake navigating amongst floating villages for 16 days, relying on people's kindness and listening to every soul that was willing to share their story.
Once Beating Heart looks at the totality of the Tonlé Sap, the water, the people, the wildlife, and how their existence is connected and intertwined on the lake they call home.
Working on the water issues mainly around Southeast Asia, I have seen firsthand the inequality in expectations of the first world onto the third world. I would cherish an opportunity to have a residency at Landskrona, on the polar opposite side of the world, to research and come to a closer understanding of water’s ability to connect us human beings across borders and issues, such as the rising sea.