Photo Essay

Black Wood / Dirty Hands - Charcoal Sellers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Charcoal Vendor - 5

In the Kingdom of Cambodia (population 14 million), one of the world's poorest developing countries, most poeple still use crudely produced charcoal as fuel for their daily cooking - even in Phnom Penh, the sprawling capital city of 2 million.

Although relatively clean-burning cooking gas in canisters is fairly priced and widely available, most Cambodians still use charcoal, the least expensive alternative that they can purchase on a daily basis from pushcart vendors who sell it by the kilo.

"Black wood" is how Cambodians translate the Khmer word for charcoal into english. It is dirty even before it is used for cooking and once it is fired-up it is not only filthy, but also unhealthy and a significant contributor to the increasingly dangerous air pollution in Phnom Penh, the only big city in a country where most people still live in villages and work in a poverty-stricken agrarian-based economy.

This is a series of black and white portraits of charcoal vendors, mostly lovely women (with dirty hands), in my Phnom Penh neighborhood near Psar Kandal, a bustling working-class market area not far from the National Museum and the Royal Palace.

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5 responses

  • Mark Strodl

    Mark Strodl said (23 Dec 2009):

    I think that we are alter egos. Nice !

  • Eye Trigger

    Eye Trigger gave props (23 Dec 2009):

    what's a shame on us! living but don't caring! Rad it

  • Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman gave props (23 Dec 2009):

    Nice story and series

  • Nelson Campbell

    Nelson Campbell (Deleted) gave props (9 Jan 2010):


  • Amanda Richard

    Amanda Richard gave props (9 Jan 2010):

    Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

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