February 20th, 2008
This is a cursory glance at the front entrances to a variety of brothels in the Toul Kork neighborhood of Phnom Penh. Many of these are wood-shack store fronts or residences where, at night, the red lamp is turned on and the girls gather at the entrance. At some, closer to the heart of town, the pimps stand out front calling to customers while the girls lounge inside.
Doing proper night photography, what with a tripod, bracketing, waiting for the right moment, is not exactly appropriate. So I sat on the back of a moto, driven by a trusted guy, sans-helmet, with the camera ISO jacked to the max (3200), at f2.8, the shutterspeed as fast as possible (around 15/sec), and no strobe. Snap snap snap away.
It’s not my favorite way to make pictures, especially when the girls figure out what you’re doing and turn away, as it’s pretty much against the way I like to build relationships, understanding, and trust. But the avenues I’ve been trying have yet to come through. With time ticking, I went for the moto ride. It’s also a safety thing for the pimps aren’t necessarily the nicest of people.
Brothel raids, particularly for underage and captive prostitutes, have pushed traffickers’ brothels out into the fringes of town, to the provinces, or to the other main tourist hubs of Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. It has also driven them underground into smaller brothels, massage parlors, and karaoke bars. However, for the Khmer men and the sex tourists, bar girls and more traditional brothels still exist.
Welcome to Toul Kork at night.
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