The current legal proceedings against Khmer Rouge leaders is once again bringing to light the regime’s horrible atrocities. One of the most powerful archives from the Cambodian genocide are the photographs from the Tuol Sleng Prison. In an essay on American Suburb X, Peter Maguire, author of Facing Death in Cambodia, discusses the portraits of inmates at S-21 torture, interrogation, and execution center.
Maguire writes, “Each of the almost 6,000 S-21 portraits that have been recovered tells a story shock, resignation, confusion, defiance and horror. Although the most gruesome images to come out of Cambodia were those of the mass graves, the most haunting were the portraits taken by the Khmer Rouge at S-21.”
In addition to discussing the history of S-21 and the photographs, Maguire also talked to Nhem En, who took many of the photographs at S-21. Maguire asked En about what was the most difficult part of taking pictures of people who would be killed. Here’s En’s response:
“It was difficult to take pictures of the newcomers who were blindfolded and tied up when they were leaving the truck. Sometimes they arrived in chains. Sometimes we got reprimanded; for example, if we took a picture of A and the photo was not good and A was already killed, then we were charged as the enemy. In here, if we did not carefully do our jobs we could not escape from being jailed or stopped from working.”
Here are some of the photos and you can see more here: