At Bedgebury: Guardians of the Areng Valley

(C) Jon Smalldon 2015 - All rights reserved

If there is a more middle class thing to do on a Saturday afternoon than walking your children round an outdoor photo exhibition that features Cambodian monks protecting the environment in something called a pinetum  then I’ve yet to come across it, which is possibly just as well.  But, class warfare aside, this is a smart exhibition and its location really does work to its advantage.

Guardians of the Areng Valley is an exhibition of work by photographer Lee Duggleby that focuses on the Buddhist-monk-led resistance to the destruction of the Cardamom Forest in southwest Cambodia.  Images are presented in the setting of the National Pinetum which itself is involved with conserving rare and important species of trees.  To show solidarity beyond the images some of those trees have been given a bright orange ribbon.

The photos themselves are striking.  Strong images of the forest and human interaction within it – as well as some well detailed portraits.  The image shown above shows two men on the wrong side of the law in the moments after their arrest.  It’s the first one you see as you come across the exhibition from the ‘trail’ side. Needless to say the boys’ favourite was the impressive shot of a baby crocodile in a human hand.

The majority of the photos are strong enough – and clear enough – not to require the informative leaflet to tell you what’s going on. That there is an informative leaflet though is another positive about this exhibition which is well worth catching and will be lurking in the Bedgebury forest until September.




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