I didn’t think too much of it at first when I first opened Vice’s article on the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
The article covered a project by Matt Loughrey, an Irish artist who has been working to colorize headshots of the people that were murdered in the S-21 prison in Cambodia, now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. A quarter of Cambodia’s population died as a result of the Khmer Rouge’s genocide. “These portraits, recently colorized,” the article noted, “humanize the tragedy.”
It was a harrowing gallery: photo after photo of victims staring straight at the camera, with the color making the tragedy somehow feel even more shocking than any statistic could ever convey.
But there was something that was strangely off-putting about the photos. In many of the portraits, the victims were smiling.