In October 2013, Ruom was contacted by UNDP (United Nation Development Program) to photograph the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals in Cambodia.
The project guidelines gave us complete freedom to research and organize a shooting plan – a rare and welcome opportunity.
There are nine Cambodian development goals, one more than the set eight worldwide goals. Jointly established in the year 2000 by 189 countries, the UN is pushing to achieve these goals by 2015.
The goals are
- MDG1 – Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty
- MDG2 – Achieve universal primary education
- MDG3 – Promote gender equality and empower women
- MDG4 – Reduce child mortality
- MDG5 – Improve maternal health
- MDG6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other disease
- MDG7 – Ensure environmental sustainability
- MDG8 – Develop a global partnership for development
- MDG9 – De-mining, UXO and victim assistance (Cambodia)
The work was spilt up between two Ruom photographers, Thomas Cristofoletti and Nicolas Axelrod. We were given a total of 27 days to investigate, travel and photograph.
We conducted thorough research into each of the different goals, and together set up a shooting plan corresponding to the needs of UNDP. With help from UNICEF Cambodia we made the necessary contacts, and organized logistical assistance to facilitate the documentation process.
During the course of the project, we travelled some 6000 kilometers, through six different provinces, and took roughly 12 000 pictures.
The project had no shortage of powerful and emotional moments. We had the privilege of photographing a woman giving birth. We were humbled by the strength and positive attitude of a young girl who had just had a leg amputated because of cancer. We were amazed at the natural beauty of the Koh Kong mangrove forests, and impressed by the devotion of a remote community to independently set up a school for the village children.
There were also a fair share of trying moments as well: walking some 25km in the jungle during a monk’s march to raise awareness on de-forestation, being attacked by blood sucking leeches, witnessing the destruction first-hand of Cambodia’s forests, and seeing the set-back in the Cambodian health care system.
The teamwork that went into this project and the some of the eye-opening moments we photographed taught us amongst many things about the scale of the Millennium Development Goals, and the benefits they can bring to the lives of Cambodians.