I ran across a delightful little brick-and-mortar store stacked floor to ceiling with the most incredible paintings.
The owner showed me around, and introduced himself: “My name is Art.” True enough, I noticed his signature on the paintings. Why this pseudonym? I didn’t ask.
Art has seen a fragile existence in the nation. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, the majority of artists and musicians were murdered. Those who survived had to go into hiding.
Today, art and music flourish brilliantly in Cambodian culture. It reflects unwavering confidence in his true calling, when a man goes by the one word that in recent history could threaten his existence: Art.
He paints every day. Huge paintings. Small paintings. Paintings about Cambodian history, religion, and art.
While he could supply his majestic collection of art to street vendors to sell across the city, he prefers to sell his work exclusively at his own shop. Why? He explains that copycat paintings are endemic among vendors (“same-same!”), and Mr. Art wants to preserve the originality of his paintings, and then put these originals directly into the hands of his patrons who take them home all around the world.
Art’s wife and sister standing outside the store. His wife runs a juice shop down the street.
Shopkeeper Stories is a photo-documentary of small business owners and their trades around the world, sharing their insights, stories and views. You can see all the posts on Instagram and Facebook @ShopkeeperStories