Photograph 1 from Facing Death
Over 14,000 men, women,

and children were taken to

Tuol Sleng, Prison S-21,

where all but seven were

executed or died from the

effects of torture and

maltreatment.


Facing Death


The Khmer Rouge regime held power in Cambodia for three years, eight months, and twenty days between 1975 and 1979. During that time, as many as 200,000 individuals were designated enemies of the state. Over 14,000 men, women, and children were taken to Tuol Sleng, Prison S-21, where all but seven were executed or died from the effects of torture and maltreatment.

Hundreds of thousands of other Cambodians died during the Pol Pot era in similar prisons, or from starvation, exhaustion, and disease; estimates of the dead range up to 1.4 million people, or nearly one out of every six nationwide.

In addition to extracting written confessions under threat of additional torture, the Khmer Rouge at S-21 photographed one individual after another -- while other prisoners, often handcuffed to those being "shot" by the camera, were forced to sit on the ground, usually but not always out of camera range.

The prisoners whose photographs comprise Facing Death display for us the suspicion, intolerance, and indifference brought to bear on them by their captors and prod us to feel the questions that tortured them as surely as did the beatings, electric shocks, near-drownings, and suffocations they endured before death: "Why am I here?" "What have I done wrong?" "What mistake have I made?" "Where are they taking me now?" "Why are people screaming?" "Am I to die here?" and "Will it be soon?"


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