A day with a Professional Photographer : Zhuang Wu Bin

I somehow manage to join Zhuang Wu Bin photography workshop in the last few weeks and to be honest, it was one of the best workshop that I have ever joined especially in terms of photography theory and history. The workshop focus on conceiving a Photography Project and it is not limited to just Journalism and pure documentary but it can also be conceptual as a whole.

Zhuang Wu Bin is well known around South East Asia as a Researcher, curator and a Photographer. I am familiar with his name from his featured article in Invisible Photographer Asia and of course from his project on the Chinese community in South East Asia. A photographer that I thought were very serious in nature but actually it was the opposite when I went through his workshop.

SONY DSCThe great and hungry Zhuang Wu Bin

The workshop was organized by a good friend of mine, Mr Irrezizam or famously known as Mr Jebat Legacy, founder of Jebat Photography Club in Kota Kinabalu. It was a great opportunity for all the photography enthusiast in Sabah to be able to work with an experienced curator for the whole week. It didn’t took me long to write up an email to register myself for the workshop but I was in for a surprise because the workshop actually begin much ‘earlier’ than I expected. Although the workshop start a few month before the registration date, our discussion on photography project begin right after a few e-mail exchange and soon it become more like an essay writing class. What I was doing is basically trying to understand photography through writing.

The way the whole online session goes was rather frustrating but Wu Bin always gives a clear reason and explanation whenever that I got confuse. My initial idea on how to use the workshop was rejected by Wu Bin and he told me that such project could be edited easily by myself and the series itself is rather hard to edit because I have already finished the project. The project that he refer to was the photograph that I took during my undergraduates study, something that I choose for its sentimental value. It took me a while to understand the purpose of the whole exercise but once I understood Wu Bin intention, I quickly proposed my ongoing project on the shorelines of Labuan.

It took a while but he finally agree on helping me with the project.

As a photographer, I am really confident in my skill to capture the desire image but when it come to constructing a clear concept on my photography project, I am not any better than most amateur photographer. The project that I have been doing revolves mainly around the Island of Labuan. My desire to capture the island intimate story from a local perspective is what has been my motivation throughout the year, or so I thought.

Wu Bin like how the project is conceive but he told me what he thought was wrong with the series and the picture that I have took so far. The main problem is mainly the lack of consistency and clear objective, be it in terms of visual or narrative. The purpose of the whole exercise is mainly to make it ‘easier’ for me to went through the 6 days workshop. After a few (43 email to be exact) e-mail exchange and excessive facebook chat, we finally got a solid foundation for my project (sort of). From here on, I had a better understanding on my own intention on the project and now I finally decided it was the right time to use medium format camera for the project.

Fast forward to a few days later, I finally meet the man in person and it was not as epic as I expected. (it was late evening and everyone was hungry)

SONY DSCZhuang Wu Bin (on the right) chatting with Shukur during lunchbreak.

The workshop is an intensive 6 day session complete with one-to-one critique session during anytime of the day (depending on Wu Bin schedule) and by the end of it, we will have an internal critique session, editing session and an open house session. The workshop was held at Arena Belia in Putatan and we basically stay at the hostel throughout the workshop. It was actually a great idea because we can hang out with Wu Bin at night although he is usually tired around this time.

SONY DSCPaik Yin and Wu Bin is having a late discussion on photography project while I am stuck at the toilet developing my film negatives.

The first day of the workshop is basically a presentation by Wu Bin on ‘Documentation Impulse’ and only to sort our project later with him to clarify our schedule for the entire workshop. I personally knew most of the participant in the workshop except for Paik Yin and Mark Chai but everyone is rather excited to show their finding before the workshop start. For my ongoing project of the shorelines of Labuan, I decided to stay for the workshop in the first 3 days before heading back home to Labuan for 2 days to shoot some material based on the feedback from Wu Bin.

SONY DSCLooking through Abd Salam project on the Japanese descendant in Tawau.

SONY DSC SONY DSCWu Bin going through with everyone before letting them go to shoot for their project.

The way I used the workshop is a bit about finding my own voice or standing in Photography. Having joined the IPA Street photography workshop before made me realize that I am not the kind of person to document the street life for most of the time. I had very little attachment to the town of Labuan and with how Wu Bin slowly explaining to me his thought about my project, it finally make sense.

For the workshop, I decided to use a Film camera, a medium format TLR camera to be precise. I have always wanted to shoot the project in film but I always thought that digital camera would be the best because of its quick nature for reviewing and editing. Wu Bin manage to persuade me to try myself with a film camera and I took the initiatives with a loan Seagull TLR. The reason for adopting another new format is basically to slow my pace a bit and also to allow myself to become much more consistent in terms of visual approach. Square format is also one of the easiest to compose mainly because of its symmetrical geometry.

SONY DSCZhuang Wu Bin camera for most of his latest work on the Chinese Community in South East Asia.

And during the workshop, I manage to develop my negatives for the first time, thanks to all the help from a friend of mine. Wu Bin didn’t like it at all because it makes the whole toilet smells bad.

SONY DSCThe developing set, thanks to Shukur and Ejump for the help.

SONY DSCSetting up the toilet to dry the film negatives.

SONY DSCHaving my negatives scanned at ProArt. Mrs Kan checking through my negative before scanning.

Other part that is worth mentioning is about the opportunity to meet new people. I finally met a few passionate photographer of my age and it was great to know this people personally since all of them have different perspective on how to use photography. So I met Shio So0n Yi who I knew quite a while on facebook for his documentation on his girlfriend and this time he even bring some contact sheet with him to show to Wu Bin for some comment. Shio is one of the participant from Wu Bin previous workshop and he will be assisting Wu Bin throughout their trip around Sabah. (lucky bastard…)

SONY DSCShio best camera pose.

SONY DSCShio contact sheet from his latest project on understanding the Malaysian culture.

SONY DSCWu Bin looking through all the contact sheet.

During the final day of the workshop, it is worth noting on how the editing session goes and its interesting because not every project is edited in the same way while some other are rather hard to edit especially those that works around local history. The internal critique session is interesting because all the participant can share their thought on other participant work followed by Wu Bin explanation on some necessary key information that we should remember.

SONY DSCEveryone preparing their answer and question base on my photo project

SONY DSCMark Chai explaining his project to everyone.

To wrap up the whole workshop, the organizer did an open house session where we will invite all of our friend to come and eat while looking through our work for the workshop. The participant are required to explain to the visitor about their project but it became much more casual afterwards. Some great people came to the Open house session which include Su Chung Chong, Flanegan Bainon, Uncle Peter and many other photographer that I only saw on facebook.

SONY DSCHappy Wu Bin.

SONY DSC SONY DSCThe open house session.

SONY DSCFlanegan and Su Chung.

Hanging out with Zhuang Wu Bin for the last 6 days of the workshop is a great experience itself. He is a passionate teacher and willing to go further to explain something especially those from his research material. There is a few quote that I manage to note down from the workshop and that include;

“…How can you call yourself a photographer if you are not sensitive to the people (subject) around you?…”Taken from our walk back to the car from our rather weird dinner experience at Kampung Air.

“…Editing is only an exercise to make stronger project by highlighting the good and hiding the flaw of the whole project, but is never mean’t to fix a badly conceive project…” - While explaining about photo editing during our one-on-one discussion.

“…You are rushing on your approach and easily distracted on other stuff. FOCUS!!!…” – On telling me his thought on my project during the first few days of the workshop.

SONY DSCWu Bin in lecture mode.

There is more to write down on anything that Wu Bin have to say throughout the workshop but I decided to keep it for myself to allow other people to know him more in person. He have a great deal of experience as a photographer and curator and I believe it gives him a slight advantage when he is giving his comment on photography practice. With his research focus more around South East Asia, he is probably one of the best person to go through regarding any great photography practice or project in South East Asia.

The workshop was by far the most casual (and serious some times) of all the workshop that I have attend so far. There is this nice school camp atmosphere to it and I agree with Paik Yin on that matter (owe her some chocolate as well).

SONY DSC SONY DSCBunk bed session with Paik Yin and Shio.

As a conclusion, it was a great workshop and probably worth all the money spent (on the workshop fee’s and film). So what do I learn from this workshop?, a LOT!!!. But one of the main thing that everyone should focus on is probably being consistent and having a clear idea on how to execute the project, something which Wu Bin keep on stressing about throughout the workshop.

I am going to miss everyone though. Zhuang Wu Bin runs a few blog by himself and a blog post of this Photography workshop can be find here along with his other previous workshop.

http://zwubin.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/photo-project-workshop-at-kota-kinabalu-sabah-5-to-10-jun-2014/

- http://zwubin.wordpress.com/

SONY DSCWu Bin going through my negatives before I went to scan it at ProArt.

SONY DSC This would be a great motivation for the next few years.

 

 

 

 

 

HIROMIX WORKS by Hiromix | A Review

Photography, in my opinion, is perceived differently in many different culture but for certain, Photography is widely accepted as a form of story telling.

People have their own idea on what makes a good photo and how it should be presented but there is always a gap between a ‘Snapshot’ and ‘Pleasingly Aesthetic Looking Picture’. A snapshot is often consider as something that is taken quickly without any significant meaning other than to preserve a certain candid moment, and while it also known as something mundane, the question whether a ‘Snapshot’ could be consider into a narrative series is simply tempting to answer.

Although there is a lot of opinion on this matter where a bad picture is consider as an Artwork/Masterpiece (Daido Moriyama is often being labelled as an overrated photographer). ‘Snapshot’ in my opinion is the true way on how photography should be done, taking picture on your own impulsive reaction is often something that you will cherish later on after you have the prints printed. I am not promoting the idea of  a badly taken picture but more towards how people should approach something with their camera.

I have been thinking a lot about my standing on photography but there is always this thin line between what people call Aesthetically pleasing and Meaningful picture. Snapshot is often shoved aside without much consideration in the world of contemporary photography but a trend for this so call ‘snapshot’ have started back in the early 90′s by a teenage girl who happen to won a certain famous photography competition in Japan. The girl is non other than Hiromix. (her real name is Toshikawa Hiromi)

002

I stumble upon her work on Tumblr and I was fascinated with how honest the picture is and the description on the picture was good enough for me to look further on Google. The picture was a self portrait of Hiromix from her famous entry for the Canon New Cosmos of Photography 1995. A rather blurred with highly vivid color from Cheap film negatives were the characteristic for all of Hiromix work. Apparently he seems to be rather famous in Japan not only as a photographer but also as a member of a band, a literal figure of what the Japanese would refer to as an ‘Idol’.

History aside, her work is the epitome of what candid photography should look like and since it was taken back in the early 90′s, her work reminds me of what Girl with Instagram would take in their everyday life (selfie, your breakfast, lunch, dinner, friends, mirror, skirts). She basically has been ‘Instagraming’ before it was cool and hopefully I could get a copy of her work that was publish by the famous German publisher.

_K033662

I got instead a copy of Hiromix photobook and its called Hiromix Works. Its Thick and well thought, from the cover finishing and all the way to the type of paper used for the book. Hiromix book is pretty hard to find on the second hand book market but I am pretty sure it is still available in many places if you look at the right places.

_K033675Picture of some celebrity for a Music magazine. Expect quite a few famous people from the Music Industry in the photobook.

Hiromix Works is a compilation of picture that was taken by Hiromix during the years where she works as a Photographer for a Music Magazine called ‘Rocking On’. The book is designed by a group of designer and art director and I must say that the book is sequenced quite well. There is no such clear narrative throughout the photobook but for a compilation of the work of one of Japan most iconic photographer in the early 90′s, this is really impressive and not that overwhelming for first time viewer as well.

008The sequence were nice and befitting with the objective of the whole photobook. 

Content wise, the photobook contain a lot of picture of some Japanese Superstar, none that I know of but I am pretty sure that they are famous. This indirectly what makes the photobook interesting as most of the subject in the photobook is quite good looking, even the guys. The photobook has no such pages number but instead it was divided into years from 1995-1999.

In term of Hiromix photography style, I could say that there is a high level of intimacy within every picture. It is far from technically perfect picture that is often associated for a Music magazine but I guess this is what the Magazine is hoping for to show the life of a Celebrity. Hiromix candid approach that is shown throughout the photobook is just one of the few variety in the photobook and some of it was taken in a rather Professional matter.

_K033674Not the best product picture that I have seen but this is just some of the picture that was taken by Hiromix for the magazine. 

_K033681I kinda like her style, she makes celebrity looks like a normal human being. 

On why I find Hiromix work to be appealing is probably just how she manage to keep the same vibe that is shown during her earlier work during her teenage years. The same punchy and intimate gesture of her subject shows the level of mutual understanding between the photographer and the subject. I am sure that none of the picture could be taken without some sort of understanding and to be honest, there is quite a lot of her self portrait with her subject, most likely taken after the end of a photo shooting session.

_K033666Probably some of the weirdest picture from the photobook. Its interesting but I really wish those guy were some hot femal Japanese artist!.

Self portrait is one of Hiromix trademark and somehow the art director manage to slip in a few of this in some of the pages and I personally believe it gives the whole photobook some sort of an approval stamp as well. For example, even the last picture on the photobook is a self portrait of her brushing her teeth!.

009Some of the self portrait of Hiromix in the photobook.

Here is some interesting thing that I found while browsing through the photobook. Usually people avoid placing their picture in the middle of the book gutter but the designer seems to find this as a good idea. It doesn’t affect the mood of the whole photobook but I find it quite annoying and there is a lot of it as well. I am not sure why but I would like to hear the reason behind such decision.

001Annoying and disturbing, but I think some might agree that it makes for a good pause while browsing through the pages.

To conclude my thought on Hiromix works, I decided to show one of my favourite picture from the whole photobook. Its a picture of some girl eating ice-cream. Composition wise, its good although it looks quite random when I look at it the second time but maybe its just me falling in love with the girl in the picture. A cute girl licking an ice-cream have some sexy element to it and the ice cream contrast well with the background. I thought the sequence is quite nice as well but this is just a few of those nicely sequenced picture from the whole series.

_K033671The details from her face is interesting as well, usually celebrity wear quite a thick make-up to cover those up, or Photoshop was uncommon and expensive during that time.
_K033670The sequence.

For a teenage girl who have once shock the photography world in Japan, she done quite well in the industry. Being one of the first pioneer for a ‘Girl Photo Diary’ theme, she create a certain awareness among the young girls especially at the time where the country is dominated mostly by mens. I hope to get her other photobook that was publish by Steidl to compliment with this photobook that I got last year. I also did some research on the internet but it appears she is on a hiatus from Photography, the last photobook of her was Hiromix Works. I just hope she will make a come back someday with a rather fresh new series of picture. I am quite certain she has a lot more to offer.

My Top 5 favourite Photobook for 2013

My list for ‘My top 5 fav photobook for 2013′ is probably insignificant compare to the thousand of list from the like of New York times but I decided to go through with it anyway as a highlight on the interesting photobook that I manage to get my hand on from last year.

DSC_0482

It was certainly difficult to list a ‘Top 5′ as most of the book that I got was bought according to my preference but a good photobook doesn’t only inform the viewer on its subject but also inspire them. I learn a lot from photobook and to be honest, I prefer to look at other people work instead of taking picture for my own photography projects. It doesn’t sounds good on my wallet but the thrill of waiting the photobook to arrive by post is really exciting (and flipping through the pages is a bonus)

Here’s is my Top 5 Photobook for 2013, the selection is based more on personal reason than artistic opinion but still it’s worth mentioning beforehand.

1) Junko Takahashi – School Days

School is a special place to most people and looking through the book really reminds me of my teenage years. Junko Takahashi -School days made it into my list simply because I enjoy looking through the nostalgic documentation of normal Japanese school life. Each of the picture portray the life of a Japanese high school student and most of the picture consist a mix of portrait and candid snapshot inside the school.

SONY DSC SONY DSCSONY DSC

Junko Takahashi was literally an unknown photographer to me but her book can be bought from Amazon.

2) Andri Tambunan – Against all odd

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is probably one of the most well documented disease throughout mankind history. Andri Tambunan did a great job in documenting the effect of HIV among the people of Papua but what makes this book so interesting in my opinion is the amount of visual story within the book. He doesn’t only document the suffering of the victims and the family, he also managed to inform us the roots of the whole problem within Papua itself.

DSC_0495

DSC_0498 DSC_0499

Overall it is a complete book that is not only full of interesting visual but also well written and the well researched article is well written. The book can be sourced from the photographer website though.

3) Ian Teh – TRACES

China is a country known for Communism and extreme capitalism. Despite their major advancement in terms of economy as the world largest force in manufacturing, this has given a negative impact to its people and also to its beautiful landscape. China is not a country well known for its environmental effort and this has prompt Ian Teh to capture the other side of China which he has been doing diligently for the past few years. Its impressive on how the book was sequenced where the panoramic landscape picture is being complemented well with another few series from the nearby coal factory worker. There is a good narrative feel to it with a simple conclusion as a whole and yet, its feels poetic.

DSC_0484DSC_0485 DSC_0488

Ian Teh photobook can be bought online. - http://deepsleepeditions.com/

4) Kim Hak – UNITY

When Norodom Sihanouk, the late Combodia King died on 15 October 2013. It send a massive shock wave  throughout the nation. Kim Hak decided to document the funeral procession as the entire Cambodia mourn on the death of their beloved King. The historical event was capture well by Kim Hak and the consistent color throughout the photobook really adds to the atmosphere.

DSC_0490 DSC_0492 DSC_0493

I really like the photobook simply because of the well captured image of an important historical event of Cambodia.

5) Hajime Kimura – KODAMA

Hajime Kimura interest on the Matagi people led him to an adventure that saw him cycling all the way to the Northern Japan. The high contrast black and white imagery flow smoothly across the pages and the printing is probably one of the best in my collection. The Matagi people is probably one of the most unique existing tribe in Japan even though they are keen in preserving some of their tradition in this modern world.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

The book is probably out of stock at the moment as its only printed in 500 copy but no harm in asking the photographer himself to see if he is planning for a second reprint.

Worth mentioning; Nozomi Iijima – Scoffing Pig, Shinya Arimoto – Ariphoto series, Hiromix – Hiromix Work, Aik Beng Chia – Tonight the streets are ours, Aji Susanto – Nothing personal.

A day with a professional photographer : Shamshahrin Shamsudin

Labuan have been blessed with a couple of exciting photography event this year and I am truly grateful when Rahman Roslan decided to visit Labuan for a photography talk after being invited by our local photography group. Whatever the reason is, having his very own ‘sensei’ coming to Labuan for a Photojournalism workshop is indeed exciting. This is the guy who is responsible in guiding some of Malaysia very own young photographer into an award winning photojournalist while at the same time, involved in almost everything related to Malaysia photojournalism industry. So, what happen when this iconic figure came to Labuan for a 2 days of Photojournalism workshop?, lots of laughter and serious idea exchange.

0041

I present you, Shamshahrin Shamsudin, one of Malaysia veteran news photographer who is comparable to the like of Bazuki Muhammad and Jimin Lai.

The Photojournalism workshop was organized by Jebat.net photography group from Kota Kinabalu and was fully supported by the photography community in Labuan. The 2 days program consist of theory lecture, photo presentation, practical exercise and a photo review session. Its an intensive full day event that saw Shamshahrin being busy for the entire day and many didn’t want to missed the chance to ask him for his word of wisdom.

0039Impromptu group photo during the last day of workshop.

Most of the participant are coming from Brunei, Labuan and Sabah, and most of them are working either as a lecturer or as a professional photographer. Although the workshop starts on 2 November, most of us have decided to meet up a day before the workshop and hang-out at their homestay near Labuan Financial Park. It was a good idea as it allow most of us to catch up with  everyone and at the same time, having a nice chat with out workshop tutor before tomorrow workshop.

0008Heated discussion in session.

Everyone seems excited in meeting Shamshahrin, especially one of my friend who have been a fan of news photography especially those coming from Reuters and AFP. They manage to spark some serious discussion with Shamshahrin and to make the atmosphere much more interesting, I even put a bit of effort in bringing some photobook for sharing. There was a lot of question raise on photography ethic (even with the recent World Press Photo of the year issue) during their discussion but seeing Shamshahrin having his hand full with other people, I realized that I might not have the chance to ask him for his opinion on some of the question that I have listed in my mind but chances appear during midnight where everyone is trying to take some rest for tomorrow and again, somehow I manage to pull Shamshahrin all the way until 2 in the morning, and to be fair, here is some of the point that I manage to discuss with him;

On approaching a project.

One of the thing that I  ask him is on how to develop a good photography project. His answer was calm and short, find an interesting story to tell and just keep on shooting.

Our discussion was a bit loose and I couldn’t grasp the whole point that he mentioned but I’ll try to write it down nevertheless. According to Shamsharin, photography project (Documentary photography) can be divided into 3 which is Poetic, Narrative, and Thematic. Every approach is hugely depended on the photographer themselves and its up to us to know or identify the main objective of our project.

Poetic is probably one of the most abstract in terms of approach and usually could be identify through its ‘artistic’ approach. One of the best example on this is probably those from Jacob Aue Sobol, Antoine D’Agata  or Martin Parr. Poetic usually involves a high level of thinking in terms of its artistic approach but nevertheless, its one of the most exciting to look at on any gallery wall.

Narrative is one of the most common approach in most photography project where it rely on its proper picture sequence or script to tell a story. Although it usually isn’t fixated on certain type of picture, the aim is always to give the whole story to work as a conclusion. I couldn’t remember the name of the photographer that Shamsharin told me to refer to but I believe it was some South East Asia photographer.

Thematic, on the other hand is a photography approach based on a certain theme and usually it involves a wide range of subject matter. I remember that Shamsharin told me that this kind of approach require a lot of research and dedication as it usually takes years to complete such project to perfection. One of the best example is Ian Teh on his lovely story on China Industrial landscape and Andri Tambunan on the HIV victim at Papua, Indonesia.

The discussion is pretty deep and I really regret that I didn’t try to take down some notes but I couldn’t really help it even if I wanted to as there was a lot of stuff that was mentioned here and there. I did told him that I plan to make a project with ‘Labuan’ as its main subject but he told me that it depends on what kind of story that I want to tell. If its revolves around economy or history, then I need to take some time to do a proper research because taking picture is easy but what binds the whole picture together is the research.

0005I brought about 10 different photobook that night. 

0006Jebat even brought his copy of Kevin WY Lee recent work, Bay of Dream. Awesome project and print quality, as expected from the Invisible Photographer himself.

0010Someone is telling their experience from travelling to China recently while comparing it to Hajime Kimura works.

0007Flipping through Kosuke Okahara magazine.

The following days were a bit more different but as the workshop progress over the day, it become much more casual than I expected. The first day is more on theory, an introduction to Photojournalism. Shamshahrin manage to explain it in a clear manner in which everyone could easily grasp some of the complicated part in differentiating Photojournalism from other photography genre. It was a great session nevertheless.

0014One of the most excited participant of the day.

On the second day,  there was a practical session along with some photo review to conclude the photography workshop. To be honest, I joined the workshop in a hope to learn something new (which I truly did) but its not because I wanted to become a photojournalist in the future (who knows right?) but more to gain extra knowledge on the true definition of news photography and how to clearly differentiate a certain genre in photography. Shamshahrin did point something on my work when I show him my portfolio but his response was like ‘meh’ and he told me to just keep on taking pictures and try to develop a good story out of it.

Another friend of mine received a rather special attention from Shamshahrin but I am not surprised because his work is really impressive (plus he even prepared a series of slideshow for comment complete with title and description). I even learn something from listening to his comment on my friend work so again, it was worth it.

0024 0026 0027There is some interesting story to tell during the second day of the workshop (practical session). One of the main point that we were told during the workshop is that news photography is all about the content and its story value, and the funny thing is that, there was a fire accident at the village nearby during the practical session. It was pretty rare for Labuan to have such emergency case but it give us a nice experience to be able to take picture alongside one of Malaysia top photojournalist under a real-life scenario. By the time we were at the scene, the fire have already took out several houses while the firefighter is busy containing the fire from spreading to the nearby area. The experience was indeed something that we wouldn’t forget.

0030 0032

0035

0034

Overall, the workshop is truly amazing. It strengthen my belief in my own photography skills and at the same time, it gave me a better understanding on Photojournalism. There was a lot of interesting idea exchange during the whole workshop and it truly is as some of participant is coming from different background. All us learn a lot from Shamshahrin and hopefully I could meet up with him again in the future.

So what did I learn from the workshop?, Patience!. Patience is what differentiate a good photographer and a normal photographer. According to Shamshahrin, there is no such thing as luck. Luck is something we could create if you are prepared for it but every person have their own definition on luck though.

And here’s some interesting quote from him during the workshop, and a damn good one as well - “A picture worth a thousand words, that is true, but then again, it should only apply to news photography and not on every photography genre or story.”

A WALK THROUGH PASAR KARAT

“Never go alone if you were shooting around Petaling street!, someone just got murdered over there a few months ago.” those were the word that my old physic teacher told me during my stay at his house in Kuala Lumpur. “You better off by wearing a cap, you look to much like a tourist without it.” he further added. That was the first advice that my teacher actually gave to me when I told him of my interest to explore Kuala Lumpur all by myself.

resize ipa 03

Some antique foreign money that is on sale

Kuala Lumpur has always been a fascinating place for me ever since I was young. Its a place that represent Malaysia on international level and I always thought it was the most advance city in the whole Malaysia. I have never consider it as a dangerous place before and that is until I have seen the street life of Kuala Lumpur with my own eyes. Its Crowded, hectic, and heavily congested. The scene changes within a specific period of time where office worker commute their transit via the LRT in the morning to the joyous crowd at the Chinatown in the evening, its truly a sight to behold especially for someone who is used to the calm life in suburban area of Labuan.

resize ipa 06

The view of the Maybank tower from my hotel window.

Over the year, there is one particular place that manage to slip through my list and that is the infamous Pasar Karat.

Pasar karat is more of a flea market that open during the weekend. From what I heard, It’s full of interesting character that is looking for a legit source of income, a place that is full of interesting character. I still remember the word from an old Chinese photographer that I met  years ago who used to shoot around the street of KL Chinatown, he did show me some of his picture from that area (which is not that impressive) and how he keep on mentioning that you need massive ‘balls’ to shoot around the area as it was guarded by a triad who have their own member guarding the area within a certain radius. The fact surprised me a bit but it doesn’t deter my curiosity to explore the area.

resize ipa 04

A guy showing off the duck that he just prepared at the back of his restaurant, where Pasar Karat is actually located.

Even after the next few years, I couldn’t find this elusive Pasar Karat but eventually, I found it by accident and to my surprised, its just next to the hotel that I used to stay in Petaling Street. It was during the recent IPA KL Street Photography workshop and around that time, the street photography community is buzzing with the work by Che Ahmad from his ‘A Walk of Life’ series and some of the picture from the series was  taken at Pasar Karat. It was Che Ahmad (one of the mentor during the IPA Photography workshop) that pinpoint the location for me but I never really knew that it was that close to the place that I was staying.

resize ipa 05

Street dentist service. Slightly unhygienic yet popular with the people due to the cheaper service fee compare to the Licensed and certified Dentist.

On the second day of the workshop, I decide to find the Pasar Karat as it seems to be an interesting place for our photo assignment (and to recreate CheMat iconic picture) and I have to be early as they only open within a certain period of time which is from 7am until 10am.

And guess what, it was really just down the balcony of the hotel that I was staying and soon I find myself immerse within the crowd of people;

resize ipa 13

The moment when I realized that the Pasar Karat is just next to the hotel that I was staying.

The Pasar Karat is as mentioned earlier, a flea market that consist many people from all walk of life trying to sale something or simply looking for a bargain. Few minutes later I discover that the Pasar Karat stretch along the back lane of the shop houses near Petaling Street (i have no idea on the street name around Kuala Lumpur), which is truly interesting as it does seems to be full of potential for interesting story and picture ( I was participating a street photography workshop at that time).

resize ipa 12

The busy crowd along Pasar Karat.

I was a bit hesitate whether I should pull my camera out and hang it around my shoulder but after I remember the story that the old Chinese photographer told me a few years ago, I decided to walk through the area just to get the idea on how the place actually work.

resize ipa 10

I have a nice chat with them and they were joking on something which I couldn’t remember what, but something about animal.

The atmosphere is again, surprisingly familiar, and it feel pretty much the same as the busy hustle of Gaya Street at Kota Kinabalu. After a few minutes of walking, I couldn’t sense any malice from the people as the rumour were saying and every time I smile at them, they smile back. There is probably some slight misunderstanding with the people and soon I started to loosen up.

resize ipa 11One of the most friendliest guy that I met at Pasar Karat, he told me the medical benefits of the Lintah Gunung from Sabah.

resize ipa 07

I am basically an introvert and some of the easiest way for me to start a conversation is by pulling out the camera which I personally believe, an all access passport/excuse to almost any situation that I could imagine.

resize ipa 08

After a few conversation with the people along Pasar Karat, I finally realized something that people who sale their stuff along Pasar Karat doesn’t have any permit to sale on that particular area from DBKL. A guy that I manage to talk with told me that people over here often got chased away by DBKL (Dewan Bandar Raya Kuala Lumpur) and usually not in a friendly/polite manner. So its quite often that people mistaken someone with a camera as a DBKL officer in disquise, hence the usual warning to not take their picture.

resize ipa 09

I did strike a long conversation with him and he was nice enough to reassure me that the place was actually very safe to what most people think off, but a bit of precaution wouldn’t harm anyway.

It is certainly nice to hear the other side of the story and after spending a total of 1 and a half hour around Pasar Karat, I manage to snag a few bargain on some old NGEO Magazine. If  people say that Pasar Karat is a dangerous place to visit in Kuala Lumpur, then they obviously never try to stand in the middle of the LRT track. Regardless of what other people have to say on Pasar Karat, I truly wish that DBKL have a proper way to handle some of the issue.

IPA KL 006

I really have no idea on what the guy was trying to say but he did mention that the girl in the picture was her daughter. (this is not from the same guy from the previous picture).

Pasar Karat is really an interesting place to visit and I really recommend people to visit that place although just try not to offend the people with your camera. The next time I visit that place, I will be sure to wake up a bit early. :)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,164 other followers