Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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The Lost Staircase

Spiral Staircase

Lost Print: A retro staircase spirals up the side of a mansion in Cambodia

Cyanotype Print on 100% cotton French paper, A3 size including borders, #1/20 Edition Varie, 2006

One afternoon I rode on the back of a motorbike up the side of a barely-paved road to a mountain in southern Cambodia. Still bruised from the ride from Sihanoukville to Kampot the previous day, we took a break and parked next to this house, which looked over the side of the mountain to the plains below. The air was still and silent. Mists roiled up the mountain above. The house was crumbling and its external staircase led to the hollow shell of what had been a luxurious holiday home the century before.

Bokor hill station is a wondrous place which is no longer remote. The road has been paved, more curious tourists arrive each year, and it is only a matter of time before the grand casino is remodeled into something very unlike its former glory. [Bonus: scientists have just discovered a fascinating carnivorous plant on the mountain – a brand new species.]

Later I printed this as one of twenty images of my first complete Cyanotype series called Bokor in Blue. This is a very limited edition of only twenty prints of each image; every print is unique due to my printing technique [this is called Edition Varie]. I exhibited them at the Four Seasons Bangkok, then in Cambodia, where one of them was stolen. Shortly afterwards I moved to Hong Kong, and in the chaos of moving I left this original, master print with my friend, the owner of The Artists Place in Bangkok.

And over the years since, I had presumed this – the twentieth print – lost until a month ago.  I knew there had been another print to the series, but couldn’t place which image it had been. But last month when I opened the door to the guest bedroom of the house I rented from The Artists Place, I saw the picture and a fragment of that journey finally slipped into place. The memories fit together again, the series is whole once more. [And I now have backups and archives of everything I create.]

Now I am in the process of printing The Lost Staircase’s nineteen remaining images in the edition onto fine cotton papers, and they are available for US$350 each.

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