Electric is a collection of beautiful images, shot by Brian Sassmann of the Cambodian capital of Pheon Penh at night, capturing the colours and energy of this rapidly expanding and modernising city.
Q. Where did you grow up, give us your back-story!
A. I was born and grew up in a small town in Kansas. It was truly a cultural wasteland. Any art, fashion or culture we were exposed to was filtered down through commercialised pop-culture driven by consumerism. Travel was an inaccessible pipe-dream, only available in magazines, TV and books. However, the area does have a pure beauty to it. If I stayed there however, I would probably have ended up working as a ‘roughneck’ in the oil drilling patches that are dotted throughout the area. The pervasive and rough ‘blue collar’ mentality definitely propelled me to explore other options.
Q. What was your first break in photography?
A. After landing in NYC, one of my biggest breaks was shooting an ad campaign for Reebok on location in the Dominican Republic with the pop singer Shakira.
Q. You work a lot in fashion photography as well as doing landscapes and more reportage stuff. Do you have a preference?
A. I just love shooting beautiful pictures! Shooting amazing fashion with a talented team in an exotic location is ideal. It also affords me to shoot personal projects after the job, such as the Phnom Penh series in this issue of Make. After shooting a commercial project in Hong Kong I made the Cambodia trip happen, trusting that a project or reportage series would present itself to me whilst there, and it did!
Q. You are known sartorially for your sharp suits and bow ties (often accessorised with a cigar!) When you are travelling to hotter climes do you make the effort to maintain that look?
A. I try to…. However, often the extreme temperatures and rugged environments usually prevent me from maintaining my look! Standing out in certain areas of the world with a camera also invite trouble. I generally dress down in areas of political and social conflict.
Q. You travel extensively; share with us your favourite few spots.
A. I’m living out my childhood dreams of escaping to exotic lands and I have been lucky enough to manage to do this though work. I now feel most comfortable being a “Stranger in a Strange Land”. The state of being out of my natural environment has become my natural environment. Just to name a few favourites: India, East Africa, Vietnam and Haiti. Cambodia was also awe-inspiring.
Q. Tell us about your experience of Cambodia for this shoot.
A. Cambodia has such a docile vibe to it. The traditional “Sampeah” greeting of hands together with a slight bow truly personifies the beauty of this culture. It is a land of contrasts: peaceful people with a violent past, ancient ruins, genocide memorials, street vendors, tuk-tuks, street touts, fishy pedicures, Buddhists temples …all along side shiny new high rises and casinos. The sheer number of people and traffic in Phnom Penh is visually fascinating to witness.
Q. Have you unearthed any real misconceptions about any places you have travelled or the people there?
A. Rwanda is truly an amazing country full of tremendous personal stories and history. Of course it’s internationally known for the horrific genocide of 1994. However, the people are so happy and interested in moving forward. They’ve truly embraced the idea of reconciliation and forgiveness for the atrocities that took place. I don’t know many countries that have achieved this amount of compassion after such a dark stain in their very recent history. Many of their beautiful age-old traditions and superstitions are still deeply engrained whilst they are also forging ahead into the modern world. It’s a beautiful co-existence.
Q. Where is your next location?
A. I have an advertising shoot in Switzerland and from there I’ve booked a ticket to the Ukraine. I plan on travelling through the Carpathian Mountains to find another project. Nairobi is always on my mind. Projects seem to jump out and find me while I’m in this bustling African metropolis.