A Ketchum gallery, a Japanese photographer and architects for Hop Porter Park pull together to save the children of Angkor Wat.

From Hop Porter Park to Angkor Wat

Express Staff Writer

The chilling legacy of the Cambodian killing fields, live mines waiting beneath the soil in the shadow of the great Buddhist temple Angkor Wat, continues to claim the lives of women and children in Siem Reap.

An estimated eight million land mines have been planted in Cambodia since the 1940s, resulting in the death or dismemberment of more than 40,000 civilians.

Kenro Izu, a fine-art photographer, represented in Ketchum by the Anne Reed Gallery, came to Angkor Wat in his quest to chronicle the mystical majesty of stone manipulated by man. Previously his "monument" work included deeply-detailed photos of the pyramids, Stonehenge, Callanish and the carvings of Easter Island.

"I feel that life’s source can be found in stones that have existed for hundreds of millions of years," Izu said. "I sense the gods’ presence in stones, and I am naturally drawn to them."

Carrying nearly 200 pounds of camera equipment strapped to his back, Izu traveled as if a pilgrim to war-torn Cambodia to capture via contact platinum-palladium print, the essence of the 12th-century temple.

Using a custom-made, one-of-a-kind Deardorff camera that produces a 14-by-20 inch negative, Izu photographed the solidity of the carved rock over-run by the draping fluidity of massive roots.

Eikoh Hosoe, director of photographic arts for Japan’s Kiyosato Museum, said of this work, "For an instant I perceived an aura projected from the surface of the photographs and a fathomless feeling of spirituality came over me."

In the course of five photography excursions over the past three years, Izu experienced a sense of warmth and tranquillity within a country plagued by war and death. For the lessons he says he learned at Angkor Wat, Izu wanted to "give back" to the citizens of Siem Reap and decided to build a children’s clinic for the victims of the killing field mines.

The $2 million he needed would come from the sale of his Angkor prints. He requested the galleries representing him sell these prints at cost with the money going to his new organization, Friends Without Borders whose first project would be the clinic at Angkor Wat.

When Izu came to Barbi Reed, owner of Anne Reed Gallery, he found her passionate about becoming involved but only if the project included a playground to keep the children out of the fields. She wanted a library, too. A place in effect that would not only provide medical care, but education for mothers and children about the dangers of the hidden mines.

Meanwhile back at Hop Porter Park in Hailey, Leathers & Associates Inc. had arrived to begin initial work on the new playground facility in that city. Reed had seen a Leather’s playground previously in Hood River, Ore., and remembered being impressed.

"I thought, ‘this isn’t just a playground, it’s a village’" she said. "It’s more than just swings and a slide. Here there were towers and turrets, a maze of tunnels, and a tightrope walk that leads to a giant pyramid."

"When I heard about the playground in Hailey, I realized they were the same designers. I called Bob Leathers and he ‘got it’ right away. His was a concept promoting quiet, imaginative play -- perfect for an area around a hospital."

Leathers extols a community-based construction project so all labor and materials will come from Siem Reap. All design time is being donated and Leathers will only charge for the hard costs of traveling to the site.

"When the ‘barn raising’ for the playground gets underway later this year," said Reed, "the volunteers will all be Cambodian."

Construction on the 13,000-square-foot, single-story hospital is underway and the out-patient unit is scheduled to open in December. The Helen Keller Foundation has come forward with plans to construct a building within the complex to treat eye injuries and with the recruitment of an English-speaking archeologist/professor/tour guide as Cambodian point person, the seemingly insurmountable hurdle of overseeing a construction project of this size has been solved.

Pediatrician Dr. Marlene Goodfriend from the University of Illinois College of Medicine has been named resident chief pediatrician and Reed has recruited a US director to handle fund raising, logistics and volunteers. Reed is also coordinating efforts in Washington state, Washington, DC, Connecticut and California.

"The idea was to get volunteers from various places from people who have an interest in children, children in Asia and the crisis of unrecovered land mines," Reed said. "We still need physicians to agree to a ‘tour of duty’ in Siem Reap, and we’re looking for donations of medical equipment and of course money."

The next step in the Ketchum connection is a late May, fact-finding trip to Cambodia. Reed, along with two representatives from Leathers will talk with members of the community and the staff of the new clinic to determine their needs and special requirements.

"This project can change the community," Reed said. "The playground and library will help make the hospital an indispensable part of Siem Reap."

"My photographs may lack a social context," said Izu, "and give no hint of the cruelty of the land mines and the diseases in Cambodia. But I couldn’t simply take my pictures and walk away."

The group still needs to raise $5,000 by the end of May to finance their trip. If you are interested in becoming involved in the project, donating equipment or money, or in Izu’s photographs, contact Reed at 726-3036 or 726-0030.


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