On April 9th 2021, Vice Asia published an article entitled “These People Were Arrested by the Khmer Rouge and Never Seen Again”. This piece was about the work of an Irish colorist from Mayo named Matt Loughrey whose main business is to provide image restoration services online.
According to the artist, is goal was to humanize the victims of the Khmer Rouge Genocide by colorising some black and white archive pictures. He said this work was commissioned by the victims’ families.
On April 11th, a huge social media backlash followed this publication and the story was pulled out by Vice the same day.
What Matt Loughrey did wrong?
He lied about the story of one of the victim named Bora
He added smiles to 3 pictures and changed their expression
He did not presented the original photos to Vice
He did not request permission from the Genocide Museum to use these pictures
It not clear that he had the approval of the families concerned
The first negative story was a petition started on Change.org when the Vice’s article was still online.
“VICE News recently ran an article on photos from the S21 Tuol Sleng prison that were recently colourized and re-digitized by Matt Loughrey to add in happy facial expressions. As stated by the National Cambodian Heritage and Killing Fields Museum, "This was done without the consent of family members who lost loved ones in the prison, [or of] other Cambodian community organizations who are involved in this work. The Tuol Sleng / S21 prison camps imprisoned thousands of Cambodian civilians including children and elders who were subjected to torture, hunger, pain, and to their eventual violent deaths [. . .] In 1979, four years after the prison was opened at the start of the Khmer Rouge regime, only 7 prisoners survived out of the many thousands who were [imprisoned there]."
“We reject Mr Loughrey's attempt to profit and benefit from the traumas of our history”.
"Minimizing the pain and trauma of our community by those who are not connected to the experience is not only revising and erasing history, it is a violent act. Our community is still processing these traumas. Our community is still healing. Our community is still telling their stories. Please listen to them, and most importantly, honor them."
VICE, take this article down. Mr. Loughrey, please stop using photos of Cambodian genocide victims for your experimentation and entertainment. We demand an apology.