One of my favorite portraits a shot a few years ago has always bothered me...because I saw the girl and the cow, pulled over on my motorbike, took an image, smiled and rode away, knowing I had a nice image, but not expecting it to be a future favorite of mine. The whole process took about 15 seconds.
It was only after I downloaded my files and studied the image that I realised I had captured one of my favorite environmental portraits to date.
Something I love to do when I get a good image is return a copy to the subject. Usually this is easy as I often spend some time hanging out with them before I shoot.
For 2 years or so I have been trying to find this young girl with no success...until yesterday.
As I was riding in the general area again, I stopped at many farms asking people if they knew her or her family. No luck until suddenly we rode up to a farm and there she was sitting on a hammock underneath the house.
This was the first time I got to show her the portrait, learn her name (Ken) and meet her family (father and sister were with her). I explained through my translator Sammy to them how I had taken many thousands of images in Cambodia and yet this one was my favorite.
Dad insisted we take some portraits together with his family, which was a real honour.
Unfortunately, I learned Ken's mother had passed away a few years previously so her and her sister were the house makers as well as working the fields with Dad. We can only imagine how hard their life is in rural Cambodia but at least they have family around them and there is a strong sense of bond there.
After we had taken some portraits of Ken in her home she ushered me to a nearby field for a surprise - the same cow from the first portrait was still there! I don't think the cow remembered me but I took a quick shot of them together as a reminder to show how they had both aged in the last few years.
This is something I really cherish about photography, I have a deep respect for my subjects no matter who or where they are and regardless of whether I engage with them or not.
I was very happy and honored to meet this family and get to share the photos with them.
I'll ensure they get all the prints and I'll pop by now and again to drop off supplies and make sure they are all doing ok on future visits.
A great end to the day shooting in the south of Cambodia.