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Nicole Gibson bio picture

Nicole Gibson

Welcome to the Nicole Gibson Photography blog! Years ago, Nicole became captivated by the power of visual expression and storytelling, and today what she loves most is to create images about the world, about humanity, and about the human condition.

Nicole Gibson is an award-winning photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She was awarded First Place in the 2010 International Photography Awards, in addition to 8 Honorable Mentions. She is also the winner of the 2008 Vincent Versace Award for Photographic Excellence. Nicole’s work has been published in Photoshop User Magazine and B&W. Her work has also been sold to Bethany House Publishers, used by various non-profit organizations, and represented by India Picture stock agency. She is also a member of the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers

Cambodia’s Killing Fields

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I remember a day, when I was in grade school, that a new girl joined my class. She had darker skin than me and a pastel floral dress that looked very un-American. The teacher told us she had come from Cambodia, as a refugee. We grew up together in the same schools, but I never knew anything about her country or the events that brought her to my classroom. Many Americans don’t.

Only 30-ish years ago, the guerrilla communist group known as the Khmer Rouge (rouge being the color of communism and Khmer being the ethnicity of Cambodia), began fighting against the democratic government for power and eventually won. Pol Pot was the leader of this new regime, and from 1975-1979 they tortured and killed roughly two million people – about a quarter to a third of the entire country.

The regime’s goal was to take the country back to “year zero,” exterminating essentially everyone who was not a peasant farmer. The educated, the religious, foreigners, those who wore glasses… The regime drove everyone out of the cities and eventually to labor camps where they were slowly starved and worked to death, to prisons, or to the “killing fields.”

Across Cambodia there are hundreds of killing fields, where the Khmer Rouge took people to die horrific deaths and to be buried in open mass graves. Many of these fields are still surrounded by landmines and are not accessible, but there is one just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh that has been opened for the public.

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A place you would expect to be far from civilization, the site is surprisingly near to everyday life and is a place many people pass on a daily basis.

As you enter the space, you first come to several signs marking significant locations.

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You pass by mass graves that have been marked off…

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…and you pass by mass graves left open, gaping, one after another in the earth.

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Excavation has been done, and yet, especially when it rains, bones continue to surface, and the clothes of the dead lay openly in the path, reminding you of the very real and recent deaths of the humans underneath your feet.

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Visitors walk around this place of death inside fences that are wound with barbed wire, and yet in a vision of striking contrast, just on the other side of the fences are scenes of everyday life, now returned in measure to the remaining people of this nation.

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Though the worst of the Khmer Rouge holocaust happened in the late ’70s, civil war persisted in Cambodia until the end of the 1990s. The country continues to be rebuilt and to get on its feet once more, but the work is hardly finished. The Khmer Rouge regime is now, mercifully, in the past, but the genocide continues to color the stories and lives of Cambodians – and, I hope, to catalyze a better future to come.

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