The Night fisherman, Kompong Phluk, Cambodia.

Life on the Brink by Safiya Charles for the Khmer Times

As the sun plunges against the darkening sky, it casts a sedative saffron haze over the flooded plain. The unruly motors that quarreled among sunken trees and factions of water hyacinth throughout the day now retreat – quietly conceding as they glide sheepishly toward their moors. Long-tail boats, pointed like blades on each end, slink effortlessly through the water as serpentine vessels bound for submarine homes. On tip-toes the lodges stand – their heads above water, stilts submerged.

This scene is a familiar one on Tonlé Sap lake. From May to October, monsoon clouds brood over the country, pelting the land with rain and filling the Mekong River to its brim. Unable to empty its flood waters into the sea, the Mekong swells, reversing the flow of the Tonlé Sap river and sending a burst of water so large into the lake that it floods Cambodia’s heartland. Transforming from farmland to wetland, the region and its people provide more than a bulk the nation’s fish.

But life on the banks of the Tonlé Sap is changing rapidly. Climate change and damming along the Mekong have altered the environment and pushed resources to the brink. American photographer R. Scott Davis has spent the past five years documenting these changes through the human lens, following the families and fishermen who are carried by the currents of the country’s great lake in monsoon and tied to its textured earth during droughts.

In the villages of Kampong Chnnang, Kleang and Phluk, Mr. Davis has embarked on a journey to record what he calls the final days of this rustic way of life.