A new gallery, showcasing the iconic monochromatic photographs of the Angkor temples by the award-winning fine art photographer John McDermott, will open this August in Siem Reap’s Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.
The hotel was the first luxury hotel in the town, built in 1932, specifically for early visitors to the temples of Angkor.
With its own legendary personality and heritage, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor can truly be described as an icon itself, so there could be nowhere more appropriate for the new McDermott Gallery to take up residence.
Hailed by The New York Times as ‘the Ansel Adams of Angkor’ (after the American photographer known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park), McDermott first began photographing Angkor in 1995 when he came to Cambodia to witness a total eclipse of the sun.
He was deeply affected by the unique visual experience of watching the surreal light of an eclipse wash over the ruins. It led directly to his long-term photography project aimed at preserving a vision of the temples as slumbering ruins being overtaken by jungle and entwined with village life.
In 2004, John opened McDermott Gallery with his wife, Narisara Murray. Two years later they launched their second gallery during the annual Angkor Photography Festival, an event which draws hundreds of photographers from around the world to the burgeoning town situated next to the majestic temples of Angkor.
“This hotel has been welcoming travellers for 80 years and our story is inextricably linked to the story of Angkor, so I am personally thrilled to that John’s astonishing photographs of the temples will be on display for our guests,” says Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor General Manager, Christian Sack.
“I think seeing the photographs here, in this entirely authentic setting, will enrich their experience and their memories of Cambodia… which is what both of us are all about,” he says.
McDermott’s images, viewed as a body of work in his book Elegy: Reflections on Angkor (published in 2009) is a collection of photographs of the ancient temples, revealed a dark and moody, surrealistic world redolent of the mysterious spirit one feels when visiting the temples.
Beyond simply documenting the ruins, McDermott’s artistry involves darkroom manipulation and a specialized infrared film to achieve the play of shadow and light in the stylized black and white portraits.
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, in the former Royal Khmer compound, is a stunning heritage property. Original Art Deco features blend seamlessly with modern comfort. Originally opened in 1932, it was reopened in 1997 by Raffles Hotels amd Resorts after a significant refurbishment. Last year, the guestrooms and private villas in the hotel’s gardens were sensitively refurbished.