Outcry over photo-editing job on genocide victims

Sad reminder: A file pic of visitors looking at portraits of victims at the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Cambodians slammed an Irish artist’s decision to add smiles to the pictures. — AFP

Those who lost family during the Khmer Rouge genocide slammed an Irish artist’s decision to digitally add smiles to old black and white pictures of victims killed by the regime.

The ultra-Maoist Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge installed a reign of terror from 1975 to 1979 that left an estimated two million Cambodians dead from starvation, hard labour, torture and mass executions.

The brutal regime took photographs of thousands of its victims, including those sent to Tuol Sleng or S-21, a former high school which was converted into a prison.

An estimated 15,000 people were interrogated and tortured there before being put to death in a neighbouring field.

Artist Matt Loughrey has been adding colour to the black and white photos of victims as part of a personal project, but claims that he added smiles to some of those killed has provoked a backlash.

A selection of the images and an interview with Loughrey was published on the Vice news website over the weekend, attracting a torrent of criticism both within Cambodia and social media.

The article appeared to have been pulled from the website on Sunday afternoon.

Earlier, Vice added a disclaimer to the article before it was removed.

“It has been brought to our attention that the restored portraits published in this article were modified beyond colourisation. We are reviewing the article and considering further actions to correct the record, ” Vice said. — AFP

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