Did you see this one? Sign Art in Cambodian Life

Weightlifter on a Cambodian hand-painted sign

Photo: Robert Joiner

Robert Joiner is a New Zealand photo-journalist who spent the early part of the 2000s volunteering with the New Zealand Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA). Like me he was drawn to the hand-painted signs he discovered here and his images were collected into his first book, ‘Did you see this one? Sign Art in Cambodian Life’. Sadly the book is out of print and quite hard to get hold of but Robert has kindly shared a couple of his photos here and has contributed a short text to my own book, ‘Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie’.

The picture above really is one of a kind; that serious expression, the very pale skin (not found in Cambodia) and hairstyle all combine to make it one of the quirkiest I’ve come across in my brief stint researching the signs. The text translates as, “Welcome. Make your body strong and healthy”. The one below is for a wedding caterer and shows the results of a spit roasted pig in the background. Placing this on the tray avoids the appearance of the pig flying as found on this sign in Kratie. The text on this one says, “Wedding food and all kinds of roast pork”.

Hand-painted Cambodian sign showing a wedding scene and a spit roast pig in the background.

Robert’s book is occasionally available on Amazon’s USA site. It is 66 pages and packed with brilliant photos grouped by the type of business or organisation advertising. It doesn’t restrict itself to one province and has some commentary to help set the context of the relevance of the signs to Cambodia – well worth getting hold of if you can…

Cover of 'Did you see this one? Sign Art in Cambodian Life' by Robert Joiner

Robert’s other book, ‘Kings of the Road’, is a tribute to Phnom Penh’s cyclo drivers but is similarly hard to buy these days. Thank you Robert for sharing your photos and for your contribution to the book. I hope that ‘Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie’ will build on your own work documenting this now disappearing aspect of Cambodian street life.

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