photos and text by Bennett Stevens
He is the first patient I see and he has the eyes of death. It’s my initial foray with Brahmavihara, the small Buddhist NGO who’s invited me here to help them raise awareness about the Cambodian AIDS crisis, the worst and least funded in South East Asia. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m in it now, flung into the orbit of this man’s suffering, almost ashamed to be holding a camera. There is a nagging unseemliness about photographing suffering — the Vulture Effect — despite knowing you’re there to help. By showing suffering, by showing the compassionate action of selfless individuals working tirelessly to alleviate it, perhaps it will move others to compassionate actions of their own.
Bennett Stevens is a freelance writer/photographer. More of his words and images can be seen at http://www.bennettstevens.com/ and http://www.theartichoke.org/.
More of the "facts" about AIDS in Cambodia, as I've gathered them:The great tragedy of Cambodia has been long and well documented, but is far from over. Genocides and the physical and psychological scars they leave behind take generations to overcome. Nearly 30 years after the end of Pol Pot’s murderous reign, even though a good measure of stability has returned, life is still cheap for too many.
My most recent, ongoing assignment work involves documenting the Cambodian AIDS crisis through the grassroots outreach of the Brahmavihara AIDS Project. This is part of a broader, long-term focus on Third World health and social issues and the effects of First World intercession. This focus includes Vanishing Zones, where traditional ways of life struggle to remain viable along the often turbulent borders of cultural evolution/devolution.
I’m currently based in Bangkok working on a film project and on call for news and documentary assignments.