How a Blacksmith changed my perspective

Wearing torn jeans in a hot congested shop, Lut works hours and hours to finish an axe, in Siem reap Cambodia around mid day.

Been traveling around Cambodia for almost 4 months now, June 2019. such a beautiful country and one can’t deny its richness in culture, and part of this culture is their metal forging or blacksmiths. I’ve seen lots of fliers where they invite tourist to visit some of these “metal works”. At first, I was really not into it. Outside the skirt of town in Siem Reap, I’ve met a blacksmith whom I always see every day in front of my homestay.

Blacksmith Shop next to a muddy canal with all the rubbish.

I got curious about him as he just have a little workspace next to a filthy canal just by the road. Lut Vireak, 25 years of age used to work in a grocery store as a security guard. Married with 1 child, his mother is the one who looks after their child when he and his wife are at work. March 2019- Lut lost his job as the company he worked for was acquired by a Japanese company and most of the staff were dissolved.

Bare hands, Lut endure the sting of the metal sparks.
Whilst visiting Lut’s house together with his 1 year old son.
In a dark kitchen. Lut’s wife preparing for lunch.
House of Lut is a small land next to his mother in Law’s house given to him and to his family.

He started to work full time as a black smith which he learnt from his uncle when he was young.

“ It was an exhausting work as you needed to raise and smash the hammer over and over to forge the metal, and you need to ignore the heat of the burning coal”, Lut said.

Hours and hours of pounding metals to create a knife.

 Owning a land in Cambodia, even if you are a local is not a breeze, as the commercial and farming is the propriety for most of provinces for land ownership, what more of you don’t have the money to buy a land.

Lut wanted to put up a shop in the center town where there’s a bigger chance of getting customers and clients, but renting is not an option for him specially if he just earns $10 – $15 per day.

3-4 sack of charcoal is needed to finished an blade of axe, trying to ignore the heat of the oven.

To maximize his budget, Lut buys scrap metals instead of new ones as he can re-purpose old metal scrap from car parts and others. It takes about 4 hours to finish a full big axe and 3-4 sack of charcoal is needed. “ If only I was able to go to school or atleast learn English, maybe it will be an easier life for me” Lut added whilst showing me some of his tools. Lut is one of those people who live by the day.

From metal scraps, it needs lots of sweat to turn the scraps into usable metals tools.

Seems like Lack of education is rampant most on third world countries, I’ve met some people NGO’s who volunteers to teach specially English language so these countries, different private donated schools are in place, but could only go on certain lower levels of education. So most of the people are forced to work at early stage as a skilled workers.

What he earns today will be used today another bending of bones next day to survive. He said “even though I do it everyday, I’m still not get used to the sting of the fire sparks, I don’t use gloves as it reduces the force of hands”.

Living here in Asia and seeing skilled workers on the streets seem to be a normal view for me. But connecting with Lut gave me a new perspective of what I have and what I don’t know. I’ve started to connect more about the people around me, so then next time I’ll take photo of someone , I’m able to understand what I’m photographing. What I can photograph and what should I photograph.

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