Local photographer uses his photography to express human rights issues

Cambodia, child at Boueng Kak Lake. Boueng Kak Lake, or what used to be a lake area, is in the centre of Phnom Penh, Cambodia capital. Over 10,000 people were recently evicted from the premises and the large aquafier was filled up with sand to make way for private company condominium development, leaving thousands of people displaced and without a home. 2009 

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but for photographer and University of Toronto Scarborough student Philip Skoczkowski, it’s worth so much more.

“The type of capture isn’t really important, but it’s what’s in the frame that’s important,” he said.

Skoczkowski, 22, has been pursuing photography for seven years, but has been more serious about it for the past four. His recent achievements have included an exhibit entitled “Land is Life” at UTSC on Oct. 3 and a trip to Cambodia over the summer.

Skoczkowski has been travelling to Cambodia taking photos every summer since 2009.

“Southeast Asia is kind of my hub right now. Cambodia and Burma are on my eye because the countries are very similar,” Skoczkowski said. “There’s a very strong opposition women’s movement over there.”

After meeting Cambodian human rights activist Mu Sochua, Skoczkowski decided to photograph his travels, focusing on human rights issues.

“I’m constantly expanding the relationships I have with people and getting deeper to understanding what’s happening (in Cambodia),” he said. “How the government is treating people and how people are fighting back.”

Skoczkowski has always loved travelling, having lived in Canada, Poland, and Singapore. His father’s job forced him to move a lot growing up, but he said moving around has been one of the best experiences of his life.

“Moving so frequently basically taught me how to adapt to certain scenarios,” he said.

He hopes that one day, his travels will take him to Tokyo or the Himalayas, two places he would love to photograph.

“I love landscapes that take hours to hike there and really put in the effort to physically get some place to get a shot,” he said.

The fourth-year international development and new media student describes his photography style as street photography, where it isn’t planned and everything is spontaneous.

“I want to document lifestyles and portray them in a way that has some kind of meaning in the human development sense,” he said.

Although his life may be chaotic while juggling school, work and photography, Skoczkowski has a few new projects planned for the future, including a show for International Development week at UTSC in February 2013 and a project about underground music culture in Toronto called Toronto Stories.

“I want to portray development issues from my perspective,” he said. “I also like to leave a lot of space for the viewer to really fill out the gaps and make something more out of the photos. Add something that makes them stop look and feel any kind of emotion that provokes any kind of thought.”

About this article

By: Evan Michael De Souza
Copy editor: Jodee Brown
Posted: Oct 26 2012 12:25 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life