Behind (2013)

Behind is a series of images that utilizes photography, performance, and public space. The young artist Neak Sophal invited individuals, some familiar to her and some strangers, to perform the act of self-censorship by showing their backs to the camera instead of revealing their faces and identity. She approached people on sidewalks, in front of their doors and on streets, purposely investigating public spaces and those that populate them where they are most exposed and often the most vulnerable. Situating the participants within their environment Sophal carefully composed the scenes asking them to face a wall or other structure—a position that suggests withdrawal, avoidance or even punishment.
Many of the participants who were chosen live and work on the street or in poor urban housing, a border of conflict over privatizing urban spaces. Making the series poetic and poignant with increasing reports of contention over land, resources and rights that continue to escalate between marginalized populations, corporations and governing powers. With limited outlets for expressing grievances and frustration, communities oscillate between hopelessness and violent protests. Through a simple gesture the artist explores feelings of fear, shame and being powerless in a quickly changing society.