Cambodian Trees

Capturing a Cambodian Spiritual Reality

In 2009 Valenciennes University professor of photography, Clement Briend Dazzled Cambodians in the city of Phnom Penh with his unique art form for the Photo Phnom Penh Festival.  Clement created projections of sculptural representations of spiritual entities such as genii and the gargoyle fantasy creatures that permeate the Cambodian spiritual paradigm.  These images were imposed upon the trees of the city at night, making the larger-than-life beings come alive in an ethereal landscape of haunting beauty.  In this way Clement illustrated the Cambodian reality.

“Cambodian culture is deeply rooted in a spirituality – marked by a belief in genii and fantasy creatures.  In a dark cityscape, night reveals the presence of divine creatures on trees and subsequently makes them come alive and real.  Such nocturnal visions allow us to grasp the way magic profoundly influences how Cambodian people perceive the world.”

Clement Briend’s work redefines photography – in that it has historically been an art of capturing reality, and he has developed a photography based in capturing the surreal.

“I always wanted to photograph the world without it being too faithful to what it is.  I always imagined devices that can transform and intervene with the light in things that I photograph.  The focus became photographs that include projections and hence the idea of doing shows with the projected images.”

Clement chooses his projection surfaces very deliberately before crafting his art.  His process generates a mutually complimentary relationship between tree and image.  Clement has modified large format projectors to his own specs to create photo quality images through optimized light sourcing.  He then captures the amazing nightscape artwork on film.

“It’s a beautiful surprise when the projected spirits awaken and reveal themselves at night as though they are made of the towering trees themselves.”

“The photographic light installations echo the spirituality of the few sprouts of nature in the predominantly urban landscapes.  It is a visual imagining of the divine figures that inhabit the world, as seen through an environmentally aware spiritual eye.”


Angels and demons molded of twisting trees tower over the urban landscape.


A deviant gargoyle visage gazes down upon passersby.


Clement Briend used vibrant colors to bring his spiritual entities to life.


Clement’s careful selection of foliage is evident in the perfection of Buddha’s glowing countenance.


The ethereal imagery is awe and emotion inspiring.


A face of spiritual significance interjected in a nightscape of urban modernity.


Here the mutually complimentary contours of tree and image are beautifully pronounced.


Clement’s creations blur the realms of modern urban reality and spiritual consciousness.