Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Amateurs, Kampot

The small Cambodian town of Kampot, known around the world for its pepper, lies on the narrow coastal plain that stretches between the Gulf of Thailand and the Phnom-Damrei (Elephant Moutains). The town as it is at present owes much of its appearance to the French, who turned Kompong-Bay, a village largely populated by Chinese, into the administrative and commercial centre of the coastal region from the mid-1880s onward. In spite of the devastation brought about by the Cambodian civil war, the Khmer Rouge regime and the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, much of the colonial architecture survived. The majority of buildings are of the classic two-storey ‘Chinese shophouse’ design, with slight differences in façade styles. The twenty-seven built on the riverside in 1901 were among the first ones. Over the following years dozens more were constructed along the streets further away from the river.

Regardless of the particular design of the façade, some space was always available between the two floors for shopkeepers and tradesmen to paint the name and nature of their business. If the buildings are still standing, albeit sometimes in a dilapidated state, very few painted signs remain and those that do are very faded. One of the "best" preserved ones is this rather puzzling ghost sign written in French.

Amateurs agrandissement

These two words on their own clearly don't make any sense (agrandissement means enlargement). Since there is not enough space above or underneath, I suppose this ghost sign began on the façade to the left and extended to the one to the right. Unfortunately, as shown on the photo below, the former was completely rebuilt recently. As for the latter it still bears tiny traces of black paint but it is impossible to decipher anything at all. If I were to hazard a guess regarding the business advertised there, I would go for a photographer, who maybe also sold a couple of cameras to amateurs (given the limited solvable demand in town and the surrounding area, this can't have accounted for much)? Agrandissement can also be translated as expansion or extension but here I think it refers to photo enlargement.
Unless some old picture of the street emerges, I am afraid what the complete sign said will remain a mystery.

Location: Kampot / Pictures taken in December 2011

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