My partner always likes to make fun of my Cambodian portraits saying that all I was ever really interested in photographing was people with older, craggy faces. I always counter by saying that I think a face that looks like it has been lived in always tells a better story. But that isn't the only reason why I photographed so many portraits of older adults....there is another story to it as well.
See that face...the mischief in it? Yup....you can see it gleaming in her eyes. This woman is an extra special memory for me. Whence first we met she was out in the field harvesting her crop of rice. Like all the other photographers on our tour I was eager to get a shot of her working in the field..her hat and that bright blue top against the sea of yellow green rice. I really thought that was the frame that would make me all fuzzy inside. But I soon learned that wasn't the case.
She came out of her field chatting a mile a minute to the group at large. At one point she started gesturing at me and clearly looking in "awe" of something. Eager to hear what it was I asked one of my companions to please translate....there was a bit of trepidation and a significant amount of reluctance before I got the translation. But even before I heard the translation I knew what she was fascinated by.
Bold as you please she walked up to me and REPETATIVELY PATTED and SQUEEZED my bottom. Seems she was in awe of my "generous proportions" and "perceived wealth". I think the poor translator was afraid that the Westner in me would be horrified by and hurt by it all. A silly concern really coz I'm happy to take any admiration with a sense of humor and a good sense of appreciation.
So we spent a good moment with her patting and squeezing my bottom....she eventually worked her way over to my tummy and patted and rubbed it for a while. I got such a kick out of it all I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. I gestured that she had to let me take her portrait now that she had fondled me....and she was glad to accommodate me.
All through out my travels through Cambodia I was fondled or admired multiple times by a variety of grannies.....I was never warned about their upcoming attentions. Usually I would be stood in the middle of a market...or a field...or wherever, and the sensation of a hand squeezing my bottom was my first notice that I had drawn the attention of an admirer. I got such a kick out of it...I know it sounds positively mental...but it was just great!
Without a common language and just the use of gestures the conversation was easy to follow....it usually went along the lines of "OOOOOOhhhhh....you have a nice big bum and tummy".....squeeze squeeze pat pat.......followed very quickly by hand gestures as if to take some of my chubbyness and stick it onto themselves.....I'd always laugh and gesture as if to sweep some of it in their direction. We giggle and laugh like a pair of loons. I always got the best smiles from them...and eventually I'd put up my camera and gesture as if to photograph....and they always smiled and nodded. Everyone of those grannies just made my day. So there you have it...one of the truths behind why I have so many portraits of Cambodian Grannies...