Autoethnographic Photography

After some deliberation on my previous blog posts, This Cambodian Life, and Ellis, Epiphanies and Photography, I decided to complete a personal autoenthographic photo series.

As a result of the Pol Pot regime, where all photographs were destroyed, modern Cambodian photographers have had to re-establish collections of photographs. Here, photographs of day to day life has immense value.

Inspired by Cambodian photographers, specifically, Vandy Rattana, Neak Sophal, Vuth Luyno and Pete Pinh (their works can be viewed here and here) – I photographed my final day of classes at uni.

At first, I thought the task would be simple – it was not. Photographing my life, with the sole purpose being to capture the moment, instead of focusing on making it look aesthetically appealing, required a shift in perspective; I was not looking for a good angle, but to snap it how I see it. The purpose of this task is to collect memories of my every day life. However, when I now look back on the pictures, I do see the beauty in every day actions, especially my morning beach yoga views and mediation incense burnings.

The photo series below consist of 57 individual images. It is not necessarily each individual picture, but the collective impression portrayed when scrolling through that captures the sounds and sights of my day.

“You can hear something a thousand times and not know it; yet if you see it with your eyes just once, you know.” — Khmer proverb.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
























































More On Dating Sims: Hatoful Boyfriend

My group and I presented today on dating sims but unfortunately we ran out of time to go in further detail on Hatoful Boyfriend and the Western Influence. Below are my notes and references for my speech, and here is the post to our Prezi and our individual YouTube clips.

Additional note, this is copied from my word document so some things may be out of correct formatting.

Hatoful Boyfriend

  • An otome dating sim trying to find love between human and bird
  • You pay as a young girl given a rare opportunity to attend an elite school for birds.
  • An elite school called St. Pigeonation
  • She doesn’t say how she got this opportunity other than “it’s a long story”
  • There is some interaction, you can choose classes or activities
  • It does take a while for the game to get somewhere + slow & gradual audience immersion
  • Where Ibrahim’s game (Sunrider Academy) had a point reward structure, the only points you get in Hatoful Boyfriend are to increase your intelligence, charisma and wisdom which changes depending on the class you choose – I’m yet to find out what they’re for though.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend’s first release in its current visual novel format was a freeware demo released as a downloadable application on 31 July 2011
  • Hatoful Boyfriend was originally created on a limited budget and with limited promotion
  • It wasn’t until word of mouth got through Twitter and other social media that it started to boom
  • At the beginning of the game you are able to select whether you would like a human portrait or not upon meeting different birds – the portrait only comes once.
  • The idea behind the game is that the pigeons become seen less like pigeons and more like people, with personalities, characteristics and the use of portraits
  • A sequel, Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star, was released on 29 December 2011, with an English version being released on Christmas Day the following year

Game play experience


  • Several official adaptations of Hatoful Boyfriend including books and publications, webcomics, drama CDs, web radio, web series, and plush production line.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend drinking game
  • Erick Scarecrow released a Kickstarter in November 2015 with Hato Moa and Devolver Digital, asking for $25,000 to create a production line of three characters from the Hatoful Boyfriend universe, specifically Shuu, Ryouta and Okosan.
  • The campaign ended on December 6 2015 with all stretch goals reached, adding seven more characters to the production line. A total of $145,015 had been pledged in less than a month.
  • Because of the success of the first Kickstarter, the following year Erick Scarecrow, Hato Moa and Devolver Digital released a second Kickstarter campaign
  • They didn’t raise as much as the first but it was still above their target, raising $54,455

Doesn’t stop there!

  • Hatoful shop – Okosan Plush for ages 15 & up? http://hatofulshop.limitedrun.com/products/572747-hatoful-boyfriend-okosan-plush
  • Beanies, ponchos, assortment of bundles, socks, tags and lanyards. Not to mention my favourite item, the body pillows – where you can have your sleep with your very own snuggling pigeon boyfriend!
  • One side of the pillow shows the human portrait, the other the pigeon form
  • Last but not least, the less ‘official’ side of things. Redbubble and CafePress are websites and companies that host customised products from users.
  • Redbubble had a majority of customised shirts made by fans with a few miscellaneous things like these stickers.
  • The HatoStore by Cafepress had a bigger variety of products with bags, mugs, pins, shirts and a few others.
  • I thought I should also mention Line. The Line store had stickers for sale but they’re not physical stickers, they were the digital stickers, like the ones you can download on Facebook (think Pusheen). I thought this was interesting having a cross platform and not just physical products.
  • Another thing I should mention, Line has official licensing for the stickers, it just wasn’t the official page from Hato Moa. Thought I could slip that in there.

Before I move on to our next topic…

I encourage you to check out a Sydney Morning Herald article which is linked in our references list, they state some very good points and they have some really interesting facts in their research, in a part of the article SMH states “The developers from Voltage surveyed Japanese women extensively, asking about their lives and needs before adapting their games to match”. I found it really interesting and if you would like further reading on dating sims I highly recommend it.

I will firstly give a quick brief of three games.

England Exchange! An International Affair is a Visual Novel made by a UK company called Hanako Games.

  • Released April this year.
  • You’re an American student on exchange in England, living, working and studying in London.

Dream Daddy, is a gay dating sim where you date dads. It’s made huge success since its release earlier this year.

  • The success of Dream Daddy was due to promotion of the very popular developers, Game Grumps, a largely recognised Let’s Play web series.
  • As of October this year, Game Grumps has 4 million subscribers and over 3 billion total video views.

Coming Out On Top – released in 2014 but came to Steam as of October this year.

  • Created by an American heterosexual woman under the developer name of ObscuraSoft, and funded through Kickstarter
  • The dating sim involves the white main character coming out to his two roommates
  • He also has a pet goldfish you can confide in with a possible story route of being sexually mounted by this pet fish

Without getting too far into the western gaming concerns and getting off topic, the success of the western dating sims has identified a growing interest in games that think about and explore relationships.

  • The Sims has been a leading figure here for many years, but recent games like Gone Home and Life is Strange are pushing toward more human complexity.

On another scale, we have dating sim parodies. Mostly made by fans using Ren’Py development software but here are some examples.

Shia LaBeouf Meme Master Dating Sim – Free to download and consists of Shia LaBeouf memes. https://gamejolt.com/games/shia-labeouf-meme-master-dating-simulator/77971

  • Found on a website called GameJolt.
  • Free to download and play. Also has a walkthrough.

Resident Evil 4: Otome Edition http://www.pcgamer.com/resident-evil-4-otome-edition-is-a-dating-sim-played-from-ashleys-perspective/

Also on GameJolt, A Day in the Life of a Dating Sim (early access) https://gamejolt.com/games/a-day-in-a-dating-sim/143694

However, because these are all fanmade parodies, there wasn’t much information on where they were developed. It was more so what software was used. I found it hard finding any parodies in a western art style like that of Dream Daddy or England Exchange.

…But with some digging I found this Kickstarter!

Grand Old Academy has a free demo for Mac and Windows on their Kickstarter page.

  • Released in May this year.
  • It’s described as ‘Hatoful Boyfriend but instead of pigeons they’re politicians’. If you’ve ever had a desire to date Donald Trump you now can!

This concludes our presentation. Are there any questions?



Notes and other bits:
The Guardian gives an in-depth look at how Dream Daddy became a success in the West.

  • The Guardian mentions in their article that ‘daddy’ is a broad term saying it “usually refers to a character, who is larger and typically older than the average player, someone serious but with a sense of humour – someone you look up to even when you’re playing the game as them.”
  • Continuing they say, “some modern characters are more overtly paternal, such as Joel from post-apocalyptic adventure The Last of Us, Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite and Nathan Drake’s surrogate father figure Sully in Uncharted”
  • “It is usually refers to a character, who is larger and typically older than the average player, someone serious but with a sense of humour – someone you look up to even when you’re playing the game as them.”
  • “…Leaving straight women, people of colour and a huge proportion of LGBT people out in the cold. It’s not that games by and for this diverse market don’t exist but they often don’t receive the publicity they need to get them into the hands of as many people who want them.’


Comparing dating sims/VNs to a soap opera or romance novel in interactive form.

Who We Are Now is a dating sim based on queer romance in the post-apocalypse. Out of four male candidates, you get to freely choose which relationship you want to invest your time in. In exchange for helping the person you choose, the village elder gives you a place to stay. https://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/06/a-charming-post-apocalyptic-gay-dating-sim/

Dating Sims

This topic is presented in a Prezi by Amy, Hayden and Ibrahim. Links to our individual YouTube highlight videos are below.

Ibrahim, Sunrider Academy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLrWpaqNwbw

Hayden, Lucy the Eternity She Wished For: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=24&v=6jFem6Oc1sk

Amy, Hatoful Boyfriend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgk7gWAI6yA



What sets anime apart: A look at anime through Sailor Moon

In my previous post I uploaded a video of my initial reaction as I watched the first episode of Sailor Moon (1992) and the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal (2014), and then compared the two. This can be viewed here.

As I experienced watching the two shows throughout the video, I was somewhat unclear as to the direction of my investigation. I couldn’t quite articulate the differences I was seeing between the two shows and I put it all down to the lack of experience I have in watching anime.

As a child, Sailor Moon was the first anime I had been introduced to. Besides this and the ever popular Pokemon, I had never been exposed to anime. For the film buff and aspiring entertainment journalist that I am, I have always been more concerned about the more western productions. I’m now ashamed I haven’t considered broadening the scope of entertainment. So for my individual autoethnography project, I’m taking the first step towards broadening my experience by starting with anime.

Anime in general is quite a large topic and a very divergent one at that. Yet I have noticed that they also carry something similar that sets anime apart from every other animation. Their use of expression and other tropes.

Sailor Moon had a more emphasised and obvious tone clearly showing it was anime especially through the expression (this can be seen in the above featured image). Sailor Moon Crystal has been made 22 years later and with modern computer graphics. From initial assumption, I thought that Sailor Moon Crystal had been targeted towards a more western audience because of this slight change, as well as the less obvious tropes included in the show. I tried briefly researching this to see if it were true, but nothing has been mentioned about the possibility of target audience change.

When trying to research Sailor Moon for even the basic information (dates, series info etc) there wasn’t as much information as I thought, not to mention conflicting information. The main sources are from Wikipedia and fansites, although this is a great indication and help to start off with, if I wanted more reliable and scholarly information, it will prove to be quite difficult. Therefore I’m narrowing my focus for the project. I will concentrate my autoethnography project strictly to anime art tropes, using Sailor Moon as a base. Finding more reliable sources to help me recognise what sets anime apart from cartoons.

A YouTuber called LavenderTowne redesigns Usagi (aka Sailor Moon) into a cartoon, giving a great insight to the difference of anime designs and cartoons. In her video she mentions how anime is more realistic due to the closer depiction of human anatomy compared to western cartoons which tend to be more exaggerated. I thought this was a good place to start as LavenderTowne uses her own experience and memories of cartoons growing up, referencing and giving examples of current and previous cartoons helping the audience relate and understand easier. This reminded me of a journal, Autoethnography: An Overview by Carolyn Ellis, Tony E. Adams and Arthur P. Bochner. In the journal Ellis et al states, “they [researchers] seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience” (Ellis et al, 2017). Here is LavenderTowne’s video:



Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

LavenderTowne, 2017. What if Sailor Moon wasn’t an anime? Redesigning Usagi 3 ways!. Online video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm4CwGYifp4

Digital Artifact: Improving My Japanese Fluency Through Playing a Japanese Video Game


In this project, I am using the Japanese PS Vita dating simulator, ToLoveRu – True Princess as a means of improving my Japanese language fluency. You may have read in my previous blog posts that I was using the Japanese children’s television program Doraemon to improve my Japanese fluency, however this just wasn’t working for me. I often found the extremely casual, juvenile speech to be too fast and too difficult for me to understand. I also found myself losing interest quickly as the storylines were not relevant to my interests and were very basic as they were targeted at young children. All in all, Doraemon and I just weren’t working out. My language learning philosophy is that if your method of study isn’t engaging, you’re not going to learn, and I quickly realised I wasn’t learning as much as I’d hoped to.

So I set out to change this. As an avid anime fan, I decided to look at some Japanese video games to help me achieve my goal of increasing my Japanese language fluency, because I thought that this might be more interactive and therefore more fun. Coincidently, my boyfriend James had recently bought the Japanese PS Vita Game: ToLOVERu – True Princess from PlayAsia, a website that sells a variety of goods imported from Asia to international markets. Both James and I had only just finished watching all four seasons of ToLoveRu a few months ago (Japanese audio with English subtitles) so we were really keen to start chatting up our favourite characters in Japanese. No English available. To give an exceptionally brief overview of the ToLOVEru (pronounced ‘toraburu’ or ‘trouble’ in Japanese), it follows Rito, a 15-year-old boy whose house becomes home to a variety of humanoid aliens, who all develop crushes on him. ToLOVERu – True Princess is a dating sim based around this premise, where the user plays as Rito and interacts with the various girls. The girl Rito ultimately ends up with is determined by the player’s interactions with each person.

Autoethnographic Methodology
Without going off on too much of a tangent, I feel the need to justify my autoethnographic research method for this project. I used the personal narrative methodology to analyse my experience playing ToLoveRu – True Princess, as this worked best for my approach. Although the personal narrative style does receive criticism for relying so heavily on one’s own thoughts, experiences and research (Ellis et al. 2011), I felt that this methodology suited my autoethnographic research perfectly and have been careful to include multiple academic sources to validate my findings. Learning Japanese has always been a very important, emotive and personal exercise for me, and I really wanted to look at revolutionising the way I learn the language. In the past, I’ve embraced more traditional learning styles, such as textbooks, drilled repetition and flashcards, however I feel as though now I am at the level where I can branch off and use more creative mediums to further enhance my fluency. I chose this method because I wanted to test for myself whether using unconventional learning methods had any merit, and also, if I succeeded, to provide other language learners with the inspiration to move beyond their comfort zone and engage with authentic texts from their target language.

Experiences –ToLoveRu – True Princess

Accessing the Game
Accessing ToLoveRu – True Princess was actually a lot easier than I initially thought. The growth in popularity of Japanese popular culture on a global scale, combined with the media demands of diasporic Japanese audiences, have undeniably given rise to websites like PlayAsia (Tsutsui 2010) where fans can access exclusive Japanese content and artefacts from almost anywhere in the world. Although you probably wouldn’t be able to go out to your local EB Games to purchase an exclusively Japanese title, international websites like PlayAsia have contributed to the accessibility of Japanese video games to non-Japanese audiences. Although many Japanese video games never get English releases, avid fans can quite easily seek out titles online through resellers like PlayAsia and eBay. Popular gaming titles are often translated into English by bilingual fans and uploaded to the Internet to allow non-Japanese-speaking audiences to enjoy the games in their own language (Lee 2011, p. 1131). Although a fan transaction of ToLOVEru – True Princess was available online, I chose not to use it as I wanted to experience the text authentically.

Perhaps one of the most interesting epiphanies I experienced while playing the game was that even though the characters still spoke quickly and storyline was more complex than Doraemon, I actually understood so much more of what was going on. The most notable feature of the game that helped me was the fact that the character’s verbal speech was reflected in Japanese text at the bottom of the screen. This is a feature I tended to overlook in most videogames I’ve played as I could usually just listen to what the characters are saying, however here, subtitles in Japanese proved to me vital to my understanding. Not only could I listen to the characters speak, but if I missed any words or didn’t understand, I could read the text box to catch up with what was happening. Even though there were quite a few kanji I didn’t know, I could understand most of them thorough matching the kanji to the character’s speech (for example, I couldn’t read all of the kanji in uchuujin,宇宙人 [alien] however when I heard the character say the word aloud, I matched it to where I was up to in the text and remembered it for the rest of the game).

Co-viewing, or consuming a digital medium when physically accompanied by another person, also played a substantial role in my ability to comprehend what was happening in the game. Co-viewing and co-manipulation of multimedia texts are widely praised in academia for being a driving force behind children’s language acquisition and creating a linguistically enriching experience (Meskill 2002, p. 169), therefore I knew I was doing the right thing by playing ToLOVEru – True Princess with James. If there were parts in the game where either James or I became lost, we’d jump in to help one another, make guesses and discuss our ideas together, or consult our electronic Japanese dictionaries. Often, making inferences based on our individual knowledge of the characters, anime storyline and the gist of the in-game text was enough for us to power through the storyline. Yes, we may not have understood every single word, but as long as you get a sense of what is happening and are enjoying yourself, who cares? Overall, I think that cooperatively translating and playing this game with James significantly improved my Japanese comprehension and retention.

I actually found playing ToLoveRu – True Princess to be a really enjoyable, educative experience that prompted me to look into games as a medium for education on a larger scale. A quick Google search of ‘learn Japanese through video games’ retrieved thousands of results. There were multiple blogs documenting learners’ personal experiences and recommendations for games that could be easily understood by language learners, not to mention a large number of smartphone apps that were games designed for Japanese learners. An examination of academic literature also revealed that videogame-based learning has continued to surge in popularity since the early 2000’s due to the immersive and interactive nature of the medium (Hwang & Wu 2012). According to Squire (2006, p. 19) a player’s understanding of their target language is enhanced by the “developed cycles of performance within the game world.” This notion was reflected in my own experience playing ToLoveRu – True Princess. Not only did I already have a firm grasp of the general plot features and progression of the dating-sim genre, but I also had a deep understanding of the characters’ personalities, individual storylines and the game world in which I was playing in, which was a huge advantage to my ability to understand what was going on.

Although I think using Japanese video games to further one’s fluency is definitely worthwhile, I feel that it is important to note that I would not recommend this method for players who had little to no understanding of Japanese. I felt that in order to enjoy the game’s story, it was important to have a strong grasp of the language in place before trying to translate or understand the Japanese – it would be really difficult. I know that I would have felt a bit overwhelmed had I not already possessed a deep knowledge of the language’s writing systems, grammar and vocabulary. It is for this reason that I’d recommend beginner-level Japanese learners to either familiarise themselves with the language more prior to using games to learn, or use games as a supplementary learning method. This is not to say that you can’t just blast blindly though a non-English game without caring about learning anything – that’s absolutely fine – however I think in the heavily story-line based dating sim genre that it is important to understand exactly what is going on.


Reference List

Ellis, C, Adams, TE, & Bochner, AP 2011, ‘Autoethnography: an overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, viewed 15 October 2017, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt;

Hwang, GJ & Wu, PH 2011, ‘Advancements and trends in digital game-based learning research: a review of publications in selected journals from 2001 to 2010’, British Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. E6-E10.

Lee, HK 2011, ‘Participatory media fandom: A case study of anime fansubbing’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 8, pp. 1131-1147.

Meskill, C 2002, ‘Chapter 4: The role of the aural in language teaching and learning’, Teaching and Learning in Real Time: Media, Technologies and Language Acquisition, Athelstan, Houston, Texas.

Squire, K 2006, From content to context: videogames as designed experience’, Educational Researcher, vol. 35, no. 8, pp. 19-29.

Tsutsui, WM 2010, Japanese popular culture and globalisation, Association for Asian Studies Inc., Michigan, United States.

The Iron Chef Experience


With absolutely no experience with Iron Chef prior to this autoethnographic process, we intend to present a researched series of recordings that not only reflect prior research and understanding of Japanese culture but further authentic reactions and reflections  with the influence of our own cultures.

It is our hope that this project is not only informative but entertaining!

So sit back, relax, grab some popcorn and enjoy!

-Dimitri and Caitlin

A Cheesy Tale: A failed story of Japanese Cheesecake

The process of cheese making was first introduced to us over 2000 years ago in 200 BCE. The cheesecake is believed to have originated in Ancient Greece and was ‘served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C.‘ (Bellis, 2017) as a form of superfood.


Originating in Ancient Greece, it is believed that the cheesecake was originally eaten as a superfood during the first Olympic Games.

The cheesecake was introduced to Japan after the Meiji government encouraged the adoption of foreign foods through ‘a recipe book published in 1873 making the first mention of the cheesecake.’ (Thompson, 2017). However, it was not adopted until the postwar period when American forces introduced American-baked cheesecake.

Contrasting to traditional cheesecakes, such as the New York style cheesecake, the Japanese cheesecake contains more of a soufflé texture and can be described as light, wobbly and fluffy. ‘Rikuro Ojisan‘ in Osaka was amongst the first shops that began serving this style of cheesecake, in the 1960’s. Its popularity has since boomed with the introduction of other Japanese cheesecake shops.


The ‘wobbly’ Japanese Cheesecake

An example of this presents itself in Uncle Tetsu’s, which opened in 1970 in Fukuoka. As of 2016, Uncle Tetsus’s crossed the border and made its way to Sydney, Australia.

This occurrence has allowed us to experience this different texture of cheesecake that is loved by many in its home country. The cakes uses ‘Australian cream cheese and Australian butter and Australian milk and Australian egg and Australian flour and sugar…’ (McNab, 2016).

We decided to create our own Japanese cheesecake, based on a recipe we found online. The video below features our experience creating this cheesecake as well as comparing it to the traditional New York style cheesecake and Uncle Tetsus’s Japanese cheesecake. It is a demonstration of our autobiographical experience with the Japanese cheesecake as we utilise storytelling conventions such as ‘character, scene, and plot development.’ (Ellis & Ellingson, 2000; Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). The video also demonstrates the “showing” (Adams, 2006; Lamott, 1994; Ellis et al, 2011) technique that is used to bring ‘“readers into the scene” – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions (Ellis 2004, p.142) – in order to “experience an experience”’ (Ellis, 1993, p.711; Ellis & Bochner, 2006; Ellis et al, 2011).

The only kind of cheesecake we had been previously exposed to was the New York style cheesecake. As described in the video, this cheesecake has a thicker and creamier texture and taste, complimented with a biscuit base. The Japanese cheesecake had a lighter, sponge-like texture with a much eggier taste. Noticing these taste and texture differences was our first major “epiphany” during this process. Ultimately this has provided us with a deeper understanding (Ellis et al, 2011) of the kinds of cheesecakes that are out there and how they differ amongst cultures.

By experiencing the unfamiliar through the Japanese cheesecake we gained a bigger appreciation for the New York style cheesecake, as we favoured its flavour more. This therefore allowed us to ‘practice self-reflexivity’ (Alsop 2002, p.1) and to transcend beyond our immediate self and society. Additionally, this experience exposed use to Alsop’s notion of being ‘home and away’ where we studied our own culture whilst simultaneously studying the “other” culture (p.2).

Consequently, the glass that once divided the familiar and the unfamiliar has been shattered as our knowledge of the cheesecake has expanded.

We were pretty disappointed by the outcome of our Japanese cheesecake, so we were excited to try Uncle Tetsu’s to see if it would differ to our own. After watching a few videos reviewing Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake, our excitement seemed to dissolve when we finally ate it. We experienced what Alsop describes as ‘Heimweh’, a German word meaning ‘Homesickness’ (p.5). We soon longed for the taste of the familiar. Despite this, we had no issues with the Japanese cheesecake as it was just an extension of a food we already love. The texture and taste of the Japanese cheesecake is simply different.


Ellis, Epiphanies and Photography

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno),” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

In my previous post, with the benefits of hindsight, I narrated a past cultural experience. This was the beginning of an autoethnographic story. The analysis of both the experience and how I communicate my experience reveals my cultural framework. Once I recognise such frameworks and the related points of epiphanies,  will I be able to see how my cultural framework structures my project investigation.

I begin my previous post sharing a personal feeling. When reading back on my post, I can remember being hesitant in sharing this information. I know that it is normal to feel conscious about sharing feeling on a public space, but the fact that I did not shy away from the core of my project work shows that, when it matters, I am able to use language to openly communicate. The nature of an autoethnographic narrative encourages this emotive storytelling. It was interesting to do this in an academic context where we are usually not encouraged to share our feelings and personal bias.

I then in my previous post discuss how I regard travel. It is obvious from the beginning that I am using travel as both a way to recharge my personal batteries and also as an escape. I mention my passion for travel and that I value my privilege as a white person. This idea of being me describing myself as a ‘white person’ was interesting to read. I am a very brown female with curly black hair, raised in a very brown family. And in my day to day life in Australia I pride myself on being vocal about racism in Australia as I do often notice the differences (both good and not so good) of being a person of colour in a very white costal town. Here I realise that many aspects of my life, for example my medical care and travel access are defined by the constructs of my life as an Australian, not as a migrant in a white country.

I narrate that the first structured activity I do when arriving in a country was a visit to a historical site. Reading my previous post I reflect to recognise I was raised with the idea that to understand, respect and enjoy a culture, I must learn about their history, from their perspective, in their land. This is something that I have always done as a solo traveller, but did not previously recognise it was something that stemmed from familial travel routines.

I have always valued art. I grew up in a house of classical Indian music, foreign films, so much food from different parts of the world and different languages of literature. As a child there were many reasons I disliked travel with my parents – we never went to theme parks or stayed in luxury hotels,, Instead we were focused on history, art and food. I moved out of home at 17 and thought that I had left my parents travel habits behind (I do love rollercoasters and the very occasional night in a fancy hotel), but they had taught me so much about how to travel.

This cultural framework, being primarily my life as a first generation migrant and my rooted familial values, is what has structured my project. My access to travel and style of travel lead me to Cambodia and the S21 Museum. It was here that I was exposed to the nature of photography in Cambodia.

While epiphanies are self-claimed phenomena in which one person may consider an experience transformative while another may not, these epiphanies reveal ways a person could negotiate “intense situations,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Autoethnography identifies these epiphanies as points of understanding. To put simply, it is only when something stirs or changes that we can recognise a shift. When reading the beginning of my narrative, it is clear that I had one of these epiphanies pushing me to seek something. It was an ‘intense situation’ that demanded reflection and action. At the time, my shift was to travel. In Cambodia I had epiphanies about how strong humanity can be. And about how humanity shares their emotional experience. It is this that inspired me to also use photography as a way to communicate loss.

…writing personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences,” – Ellis, Adams and Bocher 2011.

Writing and reading the previous post does feel therapeutic. Using photography as therapy is an extension of this autoethnographic expression as a form of therapy.

This TedxTalk by Bryce Evans provides an investing presentation on photography therapy and how it can help a person navigate through their mental health. Bryce Evans says in this video that – “Everyone knows how to take a photo…photos allow you to connect instantly on an uncurious level, without the stigma to of it (‘it’ being mental health),”. HIN both my previous post and the paragraph above, it is clear that I value maintaining a healthy mental health and believe creative outlets can help me achieve this.

My values framed by my family, my experiences as a migrant, unfortunate ‘intense situations’ in life, my love of photography and focus on mental health has evidently structured my DIGC330 final project.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

This Cambodian Life

I find that my sense of curiosity and wonder peaks when life takes unexpected turns. One such peak occurred earlier this year, late May. A time that forced me to dig into the dark of my stomach and pull out the reserve of energy and hope I hold within me. And although these few handfuls of memories and aspirations fed me through to the end of semester one, I could feel my tank was emptying. And so, like many other privileged first world citizens, I felt the prick and itch to travel. To a space where no one knows me. Somewhere away. Something new.

I soon found an internship in Cambodia and bought a plane ticket. I love how the soles of my feet buzz when getting on a plane, excited to soon be touching unfamiliar earth. And so while many travellers take the obligatory selfie at the Sydney airport Departures sign, I take a picture of my feet.

After several disappointing airport coffees and a room temperature spinach tart, my plane number is finally called. I have never been able to sleep on planes, so instead I re-read for the umpteenth time my trusted Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia. Like many travel guides, the accompanying photographs are stunning. Tantalising street food stalls. Lush green temples. Rich red dirt roads. Streets that scream colour. Bars that promise fun. I could not wait to be living the photos and take pictures of my own.

Photography, specifically travel photography is a personal interest. It is not the pictures that I value, but the moment that it brings – the ability to take me back to a moment so vividly.

After an eighteen hour journey, I arrive in Phnom Penh. Inside the airport it is hot and the customs officials are not welcoming. Outside the airport the locals are smiles and waves. I leave the buzz of the airport and make my way to the side street to find a tuk tuk. I only have one hour to check into my hostel, shower and be ready for a tour of the S-21 Museum and Killing Fields.

The first photographs I saw of Cambodian life taken by Cambodians was at the S-21 Museum. A place that was first a school – a prison and torture centre during the Pol Pot regime – now a museum sharing the harrowing experience. A stark contrast to the photographs in my travel guide. It was here that I learned how the Pol Pot regime destroyed almost all photographs taken before their reign.

While in country, I started looking for local photographers and photo galleries. I spoke to the artist as often as I could and none of them had photographs pre-1975. If a solider found a photograph during a regular raid someone could be killed – the cost of holing onto the physical photo was too risky.

There are many Cambodian photographers who now dedicate their art to documenting their day to day lives, exploring their personal and community identity.

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Vandy Rattana  photographs the every day life of Cambodians. The photographs capture the rebuilding of physical structures, land waste, poverty, office life, family life and meal times. The photographs have philosophical and historical purpose. The image below is a photo of a construction site.

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Neak Sophal photographs the experience of Cambodian women and poverty post Pol Pot. In the picture above, she frames the colloquial Khmer saying, “No rice for pot,”.

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Vuth Luyno photographs the experience of the modern LGBTQ community in Cambodia. The younger population are more likely to accept LGBTQ individual but there is much discrimination and many elements of taboo. In the picture above, he aims to communicate the normalcy of gay relationships – to the right is Sitha’s family, to the left is a recreation of a memory.

Sitha, pictured on the left , describes the context of the memory she chose to reenact:

“I met my wife during the Pol Pot regime when we were digging a canal opposite each other… During rice transplanting month, I went to ask for some salt from her, but she refused…During harvest month, we met again and started to talk, and we fell in love… This love is difficult, because they didn’t let us meet… After 1979, we didn’t get married properly but we created wedding rituals. I play the role of head of the family, as husband and with her as a wife, and we have adopted three children—two daughters and a son—and have six grandchildren. My children call me dad, and my grandchildren call me granddad.””


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Pete Pin has conversations with individuals about their life, then takes a portrait that captures the story and intentionality of the person. In the photo above, he was interviewing his Father.

Cambodia for me was a place of learning and love. It was also a place where I was reminded daily that this is a place of loss. As a field NGO researcher, every conversation I had with a local citizen would inform me of the horrors of their war. Almost every family had lost one or several members to the regime.

Here, I learn that modern photography is important. It documents their lives, shares their experience and the work that needs to be done. There is vulnerability and at the same time strength.

There is no way to measure or compare sadness and suffering. So I would like to begin this paragraph by saying that my personal life can never compare to a genocide. Inspired by these photographers, I would like to create a photography portfolio for my final DIGC330 assessment. As a student in my final semester of uni and a women working through loss, I want to document this section of my life. I am hoping to include both pictures of my day to day life, landscape and portraits to create this portfolio.

Photographs are all the courtesy of the artist and found here. I was not able to write about all the artists, but I highly recommended visiting both the site above and the site here.