Artificial Intelligence Brings Back Scenes from the Golden Era of Cambodia

Jérémie Montessuis has used computer technology and design to envision Phnom Penh in the 1950s and 1960s. Visual: Jérémie Montessu

PHNOM PENH— Jérémie Montessuis is a creative consultant, photographer and designer who uses computer technology to recreate images of Cambodia of the mid-1950s and 1960s that have been called the country’s Golden Era.

As he explained, the decades of war and conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s had put an abrupt end to it. To the extent that so many things from that era nearly disappeared from Cambodia’s life whether songs, cinema, furniture or clothing even though they could be found all over the country in the 1950s and 1960s. And some of those objects or styles did not reappear when peace returned, which led Montessuis to want to bring them back virtually.

“I thought it would be amazing to use Midjourney and AI to recreate some memories of the 1960s and 1970s, because so much has been lost with the war, and this Golden Era deserves to be shown more in new movies, television series, photography, etc.,” he said.

The goal of this work is to spread joy by revisiting a time in Cambodian history that is significant to contemporary Cambodian culture, Montessuis said.

He focused on the early 1960s until mid-April 1975. He did not want to show too many pictures of the Cambodian government soldiers fighting and losing the war against the Khmer Rouge at the time. So, there are only a few pictures at the end showing the empty streets of Phnom Penh, he added.

A happy couple of the 1960s enjoy a few moments together. Visual: Jérémie Montessuis

Montessuis said it was important for him to create a very positive image of the Golden Era that would make people feel happy and a bit nostalgic while creating realistic scenes.

“It gives you a sense of presence, like those people are real and really exist: They could be your friends, your neighbors, or your relatives,” Montessuis said. “You feel close to them. I think it's quite moving and touching; a lot of people have been touched in a positive way and have been thanking me for creating those images.”

Montessuis is now working on two projects: one about Cambodia of the 1930s with an adventure theme, and the other about Phnom Penh in the 2030s-2040s. The one on Phnom Penh in the 2030s-2040s is a bit futuristic and science fiction, which is always fun and makes room for creativity, he said, while keeping a respectful view of Cambodia.

Jérémie Montessuis is a French creative consultant, photographer, designer, and AI image maker, with over two decades of experience in the industry.

A photographer since 1991, Montessuis has been working in Cambodia since 2004. He has adopted Buddhism, and has been married to his Cambodian wife since 2006.

This motorcyclist of Cambodia’s Golden Era seems set not to respect speed limits… Visual: Jérémie Montessuis

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