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‘Phnom Penh Stars’ explores two worlds of performance in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodian kickboxers are faced with a simple choice: win, and be loved - or lose, and be forgotten. In the ring, there can only be one winner, and the boxers will go to their absolute physical limits in their will to succeed. They will do everything to achieve their goal: being a champion.

Ladyboys spend their lives searching for the physical expression of their innate nature. Women born into men’s bodies, they find one way to express their femininity in the glittery world of cabarets.

Kickboxers and Ladyboys both live for the show - it is the expression of their desire for admiration. But in their search for this appreciation, both go too far. Ladyboys become more feminine than women, and kickboxers define themselves by their strength. At the extremes of masculinity and femininity, they again find themselves on the fringes of society.

Through the calm observation of their private moments behind the scenes, as well as their moments of fame and glory, the photographer explores their intense struggle for acceptance and their desire to be loved.

In the photographic clash between these two different worlds, and their polarized protagonists, a common human nature comes to light.

virgnoel

About the Author

Virginie Noel
virgnoel Belgium and Cambodia

Freelance photographer, working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Belgium.

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