by Maria Luci
“Ruom” is Khmer for all together, or going together. With this meaning in mind, Two Cambodia-based Wonderful Machine photographers, Nicolas Axelrod and Thomas Cristofoletti, started Ruom Collective. Rather than fight for jobs and undercut each other, Nicolas and Thomas decided to band together to collaborate on shoots. They now share information, contacts and back each other up on assignments. Most importantly, they work together to complete long term photo projects, allowing for “multiple visions and added depth.”
For their first collaborative project, “Blood Sugar,” Nicolas and Thomas documented sugar cane workers and fields throughout Cambodia. The country is experiencing a so called “Sugar Rush”—due to their tax exempt status from EU. The result is that, “more than 12,000 people have been forced off their land to make way for [sugar] development. Crops have been razed. Animals have been shot. Homes have been burned to the ground. Thousands of people have been left destitute. Some have been thrown in jail for daring to protest. Given no option but to accept inadequate compensations, villagers gave up their homes and farmlands.” Nicolas and Thomas spent over three months covering the affects that sugar has had on the Cambodian people. They also brought along writer Clothilde Le Coz to “follow the sugar trail from Cambodia to Europe.”
Ruom’s second project was a self-financed series in Myanmar documenting the 969 anti-Muslim movement. These images have since been licensed to three publications, “mainly anonymously to avoid any backlash from the movement (specifically for the project’s fixer) and from the government regarding further access to the country.”
Nicolas said their goal is to continue to collaborate and explore meaningful projects like these, “either together or with other professionals, especially journalists and researchers.”
Learn more about these projects and more at ruom.net.