Visions of Angkor by...Aurélie Fischer
by Aurélie Fischer
The magic lens of a photographer in a class all of her own.
Author: Aurélie Fischer
"When I go and spent time in Angkor, I feel like Alice in Wonderland...lost in Wonderland, more precisely", remarks Aurélie Fischer (1984, Mons, Belgium). The vision of this atypical photographer is not emphatically pursuing the magical, some exploration "at the frontier of the hidden world", to use the conventional phrase. What is supernatural here is the intimacy of the artist with her subject, the joyful and inspired acceptance of a life-changing experience. To be peacefully in awe with the ancient temples, to embrace this unique encounter of sculpted stones and powerful tree limbs.
Aurélie's first visit to Angkor in 2014 nearly never happened: a few days before boarding a plane in Europe, she fell severely ill. Against doctors' advice, she flew to Cambodia, and her first exposure to the Khmer temples "became part of the healing process", as she expresses it. Then, during a second visit in 2017, "I wanted to photograph the Khmer New Year celebrations at Angkor, and when the night fell and the temple went all illuminated, something astonishing happened: instead of asking me to stop photographying, the policemen invited the people to move away for a while so I could take some shots of the lightened-up temple and surrounding tree canopies."
Then it was 2021 and the pandemic when Aurélie found herself in the eerie semi-lockdown the country was living through, the only foreigner in a small village near Kralanh. "Once again the context and my personal circumstances contributed to a more intimate, spiritual experience". For months before that third exploration, she had wandered around Cambodia, finding magic in the surreal lights and water reflections of the Kampot salt marshes. That series, which she exhibited alongside some recent Angkor photographs for her solo artshow at Sra'Art Gallery in Phnom Penh, "Contemplations', literally puts the world upside down: seen within a mirror held at the bottom of the print, reality and reflection find back their respective realms, but what is in fact "reality" and what is "reflection"? "La vida es sueño," life is a dream, reckoned Spanish poet Quevedo.
Aurélie has titled the first photograph in this collection "End of What?'". She is standing in a pond, contemplating Angkor, and there is an out-of-this-world element in the scene. She recalls for us: "I have set my camera in the back, and after I triggered it with the remote I noticed the concentric ripples on the water surface. Like this girl emerging from somewhere below, like some...alien in the distant shadow of the temple."
Autoportrait near baray
The Queen (Model in Salt Field), 2020
All photos courtesy of the artist.
About the Photographer
Aurélie Fischer (b. 1984, Mons, Belgium) is a freelance photographer based in Cambodia since 2020. After hearing the "call of the East" in the 2010s, she visited Angkor for the first time in 2014, spent some time as a volunteer in the experimental city of Auroville, India, and photographed the huge Hindu pilgrimage of Kumbh Melah, spending several hot days and freezing nights amongst the pilgrims, and falling under the spell of what she called its "divine anarchy".
Tiptoeing on the fickle frontier between the real and the immaterial, she developed augmented reality installations, the latest one, 'Contemplations', focusing on Angkor and hosted by Sra'Art Studio, Phnom Penh, in September 2022.
Artist with virtual reality goggles, Sept. 2022 (photo ADB)