The people of The Old Church Building

There’s, in the center of Phnom Penh but difficult to find, a small area around what
was the Chapel of the Sister of Providence, which looks like a village hidden in the heart of the City.
After being a prison during the Khmer Rouge period, the building was transformed, in 1979, into a House for Orphans. But, twenty years later, the government decided to stop the social program and allowed the inhabitants to stay and live there.
Building brick walls, corridors, small staircases and « streets », the people divided the building in small « apartments » and fifteen families (around eighty people) live there.
The future of the building is now very confused because a foreigner wants to buy it and also the houses around to create a spa, exhibition space, and a luxurious project which is still not very clear. But it takes time and the negotiations continue.
I spend one year documenting the daily life of the people, approaching them and sharing their life and problems. They allowed me to take portraits, and I’m very moved by the manner they accepted me and were so generous and confident. To finish this step of the project, I took photographs of what’s on their walls, which constitutes another kind of portrait of them.
I will continue to follow what’s happening to them and what’s going to be the « Old Catholic Church » in the future.
It’s very important for me to dedicate to that kind of project, with a total different rhythm and challenge than my normal work as photographer for the daily newspaper « The Phnom Penh Post ». And I’m very happy and lucky because I had the opportunity of exhibiting the work at the Royal University of Fine Arts during Photo Phnom Penh 2009 and I could bring the people of the church to the exhibition. It was the first time they could see a photo exhibition and that was very exciting and moving.