This is the monument and the grounds of the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. I really have mixed emotions about putting up this shot. To me, this is a pretty picture of an obscene place. I am sure many know some of the history here, but I will recap quickly. When the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia (1975-79), many people were put to death (about 2 million as a best guess), and the places they were put to death was at killing fields, which were scattered throughout Cambodia. The most famous Killing Field of all is here, at Choeng Ek. The people put to death here were held prisoner at S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, and brought here to be killed. 17 000 were killed here, and burried in mass graves. The holes you see in the foreground are two small mass graves which have been excavated. There are something like 134 mass graves in total, about 90 of which were excavated, the rest are still full. The building you see is a memorial built to the victims, and it contains the skulls of those whose bodies have been removed. It houses almost 9 000 skulls, as well as some clothing and personal effects.
The very strange thing here is how truly beautiful the area is. It is idyllic farmland, blue skies, etc. Such a contrast to what happened here. S-21, the prison, is in nowhere near as idyllic an area, it is actually in what appears to be a normal neighborhood, and it looks like what it was before it was a prison. It looks like a high school, albeit one with barbed wire, and a total air or depression hanging over it. S-21 is by far and away the most depressing place I have ever visited. Just truly awful. This is awful too, but not so overwhelmingly depressing for some reason.
Sorry for rambling here, this is a hard one to get my emotions around. I guess the biggest thing is that I feel I should apologize for putting up a "pretty picture" of an awful place. I guess I just feel the pictures showing the skulls of the victims have been taken. I took them too, and may even post them. This is just something different. I guess people are hesitant to show the beauty that Pol Pot and his people destroyed.
Thanks for getting through a terribly wordy description.
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Critiques | Translate
carolynanna (1324) 2003-09-05 11:58
Thanks so much for your story. I actually had a friend that escaped from Cambodia during this time and I have heard her horror stories over and over again. Maybe it is such a beautiful place because it celebrates the lives of the people that died there and remembers them in beauty as opposed to sadness. That is what I would like to think anyway. I learnt from my friend that Pol Pot could never destroy the pride and beauty these people had and still have.
AndyMcK (131) 2003-09-05 12:52
I have visited the killing fields and S21 myself and it is truly an emotional experience. I believe that the S21 was a school and may have been a primary school - my guide in Cambodia grew up in the neighbourhood and attended the school.
As for the picture I feel it is a little over sharpened in the foreground which gives a feeling of oversaturation, possibly a combination of too much sharpening and saturation - but still a good photo of a disturbing place.
BobTrips (1857) 2003-09-05 12:57
The title is a good play on words, makes one think a bit more about the beauty and ugliness of which man is capable.
The Notes are great. Lots of information. So many postings lack good information.
Andy beat me with his post (I was uploading a Workshop). The foreground does look over-sharpened. I've done a simple crop which removes much of the foreground, leaves (IMO) a concentration on the building and the excavated mass grave, the beauty and the horror.
Mike (693) 2003-09-05 18:23
The notes make this picture well worth including, you obviously spent a lot of time on them, it must have been a very moving experience for you, the picture looks strangely sanitised if you know what I mean, the building very picturesque and stripped outwardly of its former gruesome past, yet hiding a multitude of horrors within the building. really moving.
gringofil (0) 2003-09-06 6:55
Thank you for this story and the picture as well. Everyone expressed their emotions when looking at this image and I, too, feel the same.
As for the image itself, I think Bob has given you the right idea with his workshop.
Thanks again, Darren, for sharing this with us.
mrdelurk (361) 2003-09-08 16:06
You deserve the max points for your "ramble". It adds a far deaper meaning to the subject photographed than any picture of skulls could. Darren, do not be surprised that the place looks so nice. The most evil, murderous force on this earth always looks the nicest and the most respectable, yet it killed 170 million victims since 1816. (Statistic by R. J. Rummel sociologist, University of Hawaii). It is not ebola, not AIDS, nor hurricanes or volcano eruptions. It is - our own governments.
For government decision makers, murder is simply a lucrative business. The day when they will make 1 cent more from supporting their citizens (like you and me) than from murdering them in various ways, sites like Choeung Ek, the Jahra Highway Mile of Death, Mena or the Love Canal will fade to the past.
Until then - you get these sites, where people first were murdered for money, and now are displayed for more money. If you want to capture the main force that made these places and keeps them going, frame the tombs or the memorial behind the sign that says "Entrance fee $1". Then your picture will have the deep meaning what your description text had.
Well, that was my reply ramble.
gepall (1830) 2003-09-16 5:25
The image has very beautiful colours and the whole composition is great.Having read all your info i just have to say i wish i could give more smiling faces...
touristdidi (8583) 2004-02-18 11:42
I think everyone should know what evil can exist, if we let it!
- Copyright: Darren Melrose (Darren) (6823)
- Genre: Places
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2003-08-07
- Categories: Architecture
- Camera: Pentax Z-1, Pentax 50mm, f1.7, Fuji Provia 100F
- Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
- Travelogue: Cambodian Whirlwind
- Theme(s): The uglier, grittier side of life., Death, All Saints War Cemeteries. [view contributor(s)]
- Date Submitted: 2003-09-05 11:51