“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.
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.
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.
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.
Traditional dentist service. Slightly unhygienic yet popular with the people due to the cheaper service fee compare to the 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;
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photographer nowadays have a lot of option to publish their work to their audience and I believe the rise of social media on the Internet have been very influential in this trend.
With photography become more accessible to almost everyone, more people wanted to share their picture in the instant that they have captured it and personally, I don’t really like it but the idea is certainly tempting (i have an Instagram account by the way) but sometimes its not the best way to present your own personal photography work accept for those thing related with your friends and family.
Internet has make photography to be accessible to most part of the world and promoting your work has never been this convenient. This has somehow reduce the demands in photography prints and it is pretty obvious as most of the local photo lab around Malaysia is closing down, even in my own hometown. The fact that this has slowly changing the usual trend from 10 years ago means that photographer need to adapt to survive and somehow I find people just need to be more open minded and take advantage of this opportunity.
Facebook is a powerful online platform to promote your photography work and if used wisely, more people will be exposed to your work. I find this true as I manage to find a lot of inspirational work from a photographer that I didn’t even know exist such as Hajime Kimura, Kosuke Okahara and Aik Beng Chia, just to name a few. A few months ago I saw a photo essay on IPA website called ‘Scoffing Pig’. It was good and nicely done which impress me on the photographer effort to answer such difficult question on the life of domesticated animal. A few days later, I happen to saw a familiar picture with a prints of a pigs, which is oddly similar to ‘Scoffing Pig’ that I saw a few days before and to my surprise it was. This prove that internet is a good way to promote your work to international audience and this is just a few of those that I found on Facebook.
There was something interesting about it as it was not just a print but an ‘accordion’ shape book that consist the work of the photographer from her series ‘Scoffing pig’.
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING?.
I actually like the series, not because of the photobook design.
Sometimes I ask myself on the life of those caged animal which were raise and born in a farm where their only sole purpose is to be slaughter once they have reach their suitable age. It was certainly weird to live a life like that only to wait for your own death knowing well that everything is temporary. The photographer really have a strong stand in this and it was certainly shown on her portrait of the pigs which is pretty strong and human like in my opinion.
Nozomi Iijima is the daughter of a farmer, born and raise around the cattle pen and piggery. She have a very interesting story to tell;
“With my house between a cattle pen and piggery, I grew up with the calls of livestock and the smells of grain and dung. My parents worked at the pen everyday, and often faced injuries from the kicks of cows. Once during elementary school, my classmates came to visit my house as part of a school excursion. One of them said, “I feel sorry for them.” I was a little distressed to hear that because I felt the same way. I asked my friends “So, you don’t drink milk?” or “Don’t you eat meat?”, but that did not ease my mind. I have been thinking about this for a long time.”
You can have a look at her work on IPA Website and if you are interested in getting a copy, try looking at this link : http://reminders-project.org/rps/nozomi-iijima-newsprint-scoffing-pig-is-now-on-sale/
I got the photobook along with a newsprint and a handbag through a pledge that they offer on the Photography Stronghold website. It was worth it although it took a long time before I actually receive it but it was certainly nice to be able to support a fellow photographer on their work and in return, to receive a piece of their own personal work right on my door step. The concept for the pledge is really interesting and I probably would do the same somewhere in the future.
The package arrive in a nice package and I particularly like the newsprint more than the ‘accordian’ shape photobook.
Concept wise, this is certainly new for me as it open up another new possibilities in showcasing your work in the form of a photobook plus its entirely handmade (accept the newsprint though). I believe newsprint is probably cheaper to make compare to a conventional designed photobook which means it could be produce in higher volume or quantity at once. This would be great for a project which require a worldwide attention or something that is related to a certain political or environmental issue.
Somehow I believe the dark stark black and white imagery from Nozomi suits well with the newsprint medium as it doesn’t make you to concern over the image sharpness or quality.
The accordion style photobook on the other hand has a different feel to it as the unconventional way to look through the image is different than most photobook but it offer greater possibility to make an entire series of picture to look much more attractive in terms of sequencing. The printing seems to be alright as well. As you can see, somehow the black and white image suits well with subject and the message is pretty clear to me, “Animal is a living thing!!!”.
GOING THROUGH THE BOOK
I am a fan of high contrast black and white picture but a lot of people doesn’t seems to do it as well as Daido Moriyama or Hajime Kimura. High Contrast black and white picture tend to look superficial if it is not done properly and it certainly need a proper image editing before before sequencing it into a book and surprisingly, it works well in Nozomi Iijima photobook, although I prefer the newsprint better than the DIY photobook.
The accordion photobook is interesting in its own way as you can stretch across the table or display shelf to show the entire spread in the series, something that I might do for myself in the future considering the creative outcome from seeing one here. There is also a different series at the back of the photobook cover which consist a series of portrait of the pigs, presumably Nozomi own piggy in their farm. This series is interesting because the way the picture were arranged reminds me of the picture that was used to show a deceased person. (or those who lose they life in wars.)
High contrast black and white enhance the rather dark atmosphere of the farm surrounding and the portrait of the pigs is so human like, it reminds me of those old portrait of a fallen soldier during WWII and to think that this pig is soon will be killed for human consumption, I couldn’t help but to think that this series is all about the common life of a farm animals. This is a photo series that reminds us the true nature of commercialism and that life is somehow different with other living things, especially those we call ‘food’ and ‘pets’.
Flipping (or rather scrolling?) through the image on the accordion book is a nice experience and I wonder why I haven’t thought about this before. For a DIY photobook, its not bad and it certainly easy to make as long as someone is willing to spend some time gluing those paper together. The sequence is nice although I would prefer some of the picture to change from here and there but overall, its good.
Impressive, those are the word that I could say when I finish going through the newsprint and photobook.
D.I.Y photobook shows us another unexplored medium in the recent years where internet has been involves in practically everything in our life. This give me a new appreciation on printed media and its power to influence people to such degree and combine with the effectiveness of the internet in spreading coverage (or propaganda), DIY photobook could certainly lift your photography to another level.
Nozomi Iijima photobook have reach its target worldwide and I am sure there should be more coming out from her in the next few years. Her ‘Scoffing Pig’ series is truly impressive and despite the rather high contrast imagery throughout the series, I couldn’t help but to feel content with the fact that she manage to capture all the intricate detail of the life of a living life stock. This certainly provide another interesting addition to my collection and if people were wondering on whether or not to get a copy of the newsprints, you guys probably should.
*I was just informed that Nozomi Iijima was one of the finalist for IPA Photo Award 2013, check it out : http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2013/07/23/photobookasiaaward2013-finalist5/
**Some of my family member (who are not photographers) are really impress on the series.
My high school year is probably one of my most cherish memory in my life.
For me, school was not a place to gain education but more as a place to hang out with my friends. Let’s be honest here, nobody go to school just to learn some algebra. The main reason will always be because of your friends. Its not that I have a problem with Malaysia education system but let’s face it, School was one of the ‘coolest’ (convenient) place to hang out especially during extra co-curriculum.
It was a bit more chaotic than I remember and seeing some of the old picture that I took during that time really recalls a lot of nostalgic memory. My first love, my first fall down the stair in public, my first fight against someone over some silly stuff, and to be honest, School is the place that most of us share similar memories.
Everyone have their own high school memory and Junko Takahashi photobook called ‘School Days’ really evoke this nostalgic feeling during my high school years, even though the picture was taken in different place with a different culture.
I saw Junko Takahashi work on my Tumblr newsfeed and I was suprise to see how simple the photographs looks. It wasn’t something from her School Days photobook but from her latest work, ‘The Receptionist’. There is a subtle glow in her work which seems to be a common staple for a photographer coming from Japan and later on I found that there is a book of her that is on sale at So-Books (http://so-books.tumblr.com/). Her work reminds me or Rinko Kawauchi although with a slightly higher in contrast.
A click on the website preview provoke me to buy a copy and for 1500yen, it seems to be a bargain but I hesitate for a while since I have used up all my budget on photobook for that month. But I was lucky that a friend of mine happen to visit Japan recently and he agree to get that copy for me (although he ended up with more photobook than he could carry). Personally, I believe I have a good taste in photography and usually I could immediately tell a good photobook (or movies) from seeing one of its pages and Junko Takahashi ‘School Day’ photobook really have that certain vibes which is similar to the first time when I saw Hajime Kimura photography work.
Photography should be honest and clear to other people and I find the subject in her photobook is probably one of the honest subject to be approached by a photographer.
COMPACT, TIGHT, FIRM.
Well, it sounds decent enough but ‘School Day’ is just like any normal A5 sized softcover photobook would be but of course of a good quality, especially in term of printing and binding. The printing was good and I really like the rendering of the warm vivid color of the photograph. It gives a good retro atmosphere to the whole series. A flip through some of the pages reminds me of some of the scene in Anime where the main character will always sits at the end of the classroom facing the windows (I am a fan of Japanese manga by the way).
One thing that I notice is that people could somehow experience the life of a Japanese student in their school and as someone who grew up with Japanese anime and manga, this give me a wonderful insight on the actual life of a real Japanese student. Although this was taken from a teacher perspective.
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING?.
This picture was taken by the photographer when she is working as a teacher in one of Japanese High School. The matter of perspective is really important here and it should probably be one of the highlight in the photobook. The fact that is was taken from a teacher point of view who is probably trying her best to mix with the student is truly admirable and as a result, the intimacy with the student is truly obvious in the series just as if it was taken by one of the student.
It reminds me of the nostalgic feeling during my high school years and I truly wish I have taken a lot of picture with my friends. All the silly stuff that we did, just like the one in the photobook where the kids is playing baseball or cricket in the hallway. Crazy stuff!.
If the pictures doesn’t give you this fuzzy feeling in your stomach, then I don’t know what you have been through during your teenage years. The photobook seems to be rare and it quite hard to see a copy of it online so if you saw one, just grab it. Its worth it.
GOING THROUGH THE BOOK.
Like any normal book, you need to flip through the pages to see the next picture.
The picture were well printed and all the photograph have this warm colour tones in which probably because of the film used by the photographer. There is a sense of intimacy in the entire series and it started out with a few portraits of her student before slowly getting into the candid surrounding around the school.
This is one of my favorite picture. It truly reminds me of my school years and to be honest, I believe my classmates is much more crazier than this.
And it is nice to see how the photographer decide to add a series of picture on a spread pages. This doesn’t work well unless there is some obvious changes within every frame but then again, it gives you a good idea on how the school atmosphere is. I could swear that I heard some Japanese while flipping through this book.
For a small and rare book, this is truly a stunning addition to my collection.
I consider myself lucky to get a copy of this as it seems to be pretty hard to find elsewhere on the internet other than in some second hand book store in Japan. Junko Takahashi did a wonderful job in capturing all the picture for the book. I wish I could meet her and say ‘thank you’ for going through all the effort to make the book a reality.
The photobook could also serve as a way to introduce the Japanese school culture, especially for those Anime fans. As for photographer, it might depends on their interest but I simply love the photobook and totally recommend it to whoever manage to get their hand on it.
A few month after the IPA Workshop, I am left with a lot of thought on my future in photography. A few years ago, I thought getting myself published in some photography magazine would be suffice to satisfy my hobby but as years goes, it seems that I am a seeking for a different objective in photography.
Truth to be told, I am not really clear with myself on what kind of photography that I wanted to achieve. This have lead me to explore street photography although my perspective on street photography is heavily influenced by Daido Moriyama and Severin Koller Street photography is basically just one of my experiment in seeing my surrounding in another dimension and it is a nice departure from the usual trend that I usually do around the island.
With that being said, I believe that I am more interested in exploring in a certain genre of photography than to actually doing ‘street’ photography. So the next big question for me now is, WHAT’S NEXT?.
Most the feedback that I got over the year is the fact that I REALLY need to produce a good body of work which represent myself better than just showing up with a bunch of good picture. So here are the list that I would probably do before next year.
1) Built a freaking website for my photography work.
I have been shooting for more than 5 years now and I believe it’s probably the right time for me to sit down and compile the appropriate work that I have taken over the years. I always planned to make a website of my own but I simply don’t have the time to spend on learning some of the basic computer coding.
One of the design idea for my website from last year.
Somewhere before the end of the year, I will probably done preparing all the necessary picture that will be featured on the website. I have been struggling to find the appropriate server until someone introduce me to 4ormat (http://4ormat.com/) and after a week of free trial, I am convince on the fact that it is easy to customize the entire website layout plus the yearly plan seems reasonable as well.
The website would probably consist some of my ongoing project along with one of my completed photography series. I hope it would look ‘okay’ though.
2) Join more photography workshop.
I didn’t join any photography workshop before simply because the workshop was either to far away or it is simply to expensive. Usually both.
The impromtu photography talk with Rahman Roslan is eye opening for me.
I apply for the IPA Workshop Grant because a friend of mine suggest me to try my luck and it took me about an entire week to write the grant application letter. I wasn’t hoping for anything from it but I am being honest with myself when I was writing the application letter and I am really glad that I was chosen.
Kevin WY Lee with his Sony and classic IPA T-shirt. I should learn more from him in the future.
It was my first photography workshop and It was great as it expose me to a lot of new stuff plus the chance to meet with some of the world best photographer is simply amazing. The next photography workshop that I would join is probably any IPA organized workshop or some other photography workshop outside Malaysia but I should definitely join more.
3) Set some photography project.
One of the thing that I should really be focusing on in the next few years.
Photography debate and work is one of the most highly talk about on the coffee table during the IPA Workshop.
Sometimes I have a certain thing that I wanted to capture but I never really manage to define it properly and usually it got stuck midway. This is going to change though and thanks to many other photographer that I have met over the year, it is finally the time that I become a bit more mature in photography and to start doing a personal work for myself.
The project might take more than a year though and hopefully it goes well.
4) Travel overseas?.
A friend of mine told me that I should stop buying photobook and use it for travelling instead. It make sense though and it is probably the right time to visit other foreign place other than Malaysia. But still, I believe there is a lot more to explore in my very own country but it should depend on the circumstances and of course, my bank account.
Travelling alone to other foreign places???.
Place that I am likely to visit is probably Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Hong Kong. I wish to travel by myself and explore the places on my own pace but having a travelling companion might be a great idea but I don’t have any likely candidates anyway.
But I am looking forward to go this places as I have my own personal objective to visit each places.
Things might not be like what you were hopingfor but sometimes having a target in sight might just do the trick. Hopefully it will be another good year for me.
Some people update their blog on weekly basis but I don’t really have such time to spend on writing. Some people would probably realize that my English grammar sucks in which I believe one of the reason on why I don’t like to update my blog as often as I would like. But nevertheless, this year prove to be another interesting year although I have a lot to catch up with my Architecture study.
To cut it short, recently I got myself a workshop grant from IPA (Invisible Photographer Asia) for one of their Street Photography Workshop at Kuala Lumpur. It was a workshop that is organize in conjunction with the closing of KLPA Winner exhibition at Galeri Petronas, KLCC.
It was my very first photography workshop and the entire 3 days of intensive photography workshop has given a huge impact on my photography journey. The whole workshop program was good for amateur (or advance) photographer and one of the thing that I was really looking forward to was meeting new people. Like most people, once you met someone that you have admire (celebrity or some sort) for a long time, you will lose your word even when you are facing them face to face. I am talking about world class photographer here, someone who have themselves established in the worldwide photography scene.
I met Ian Teh, Rony Zakaria, Andri Tambunan, Eiffel Chong, Ox Lee, Che Ahmad and many other photographer, who is mainly from Asian region. I want to ask a lot of question but I didn’t want to be a bother to them, knowing that most of them have probably more than 10 years in experience. I am an introvert by the way and sadly I couldn’t really apply my approach on street photography into a normal ice-breaking session.
The first day was great and somehow a bit overwhelming for me. I didn’t expect to be expose to a variety of new things such as a certain philosophy, ethic, issue and debate especially on street photography (and journalism). Some of the stuff that I was taught is nothing new for me but I never really apply it properly to my work. Ox Lee has been very patient with me although I was hoping to learn more from him in the future.
The other great thing that I experience during the workshop is the fact that I manage to meet a few people that I have been following through online community such as Flickr and facebook. I met Nick Wade, a British who happen to work in Kuala Lumpur for the past few years and he is also a keen street photographer. Check out his work on Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickwade/. Nick is one of the tallest guy in the workshop, so it’s easy to spot him.
The other great highlight is after the workshop session. They always hanging out at a certain restaurant all the way until midnight. It was pretty obvious that all of them know each other which make it more awkward for me to approach every photographer personally. I was lucky that Andri Tambunan was one of the friendliest and most approachable of the whole bunch, and like the other photographer that I met, I have also been following Andri work ever since his photography project was featured on IPA website last year.
He taught me a lot of stuff on editing and approaching a personal project while relating all the stuff that he explain to his project on the HIV Victims at Papua, Indonesia. (Which is awesome and he is making a limited run photobook as well).
Check out Andri Tambunan work at - http://www.andritambunan.com/
Another thing that I am looking forward to is getting a comment or critique on my current work. I have a group of people back at my hometown who I can rely to for a critique but they will always be a bit biased on their review as they are very familiar with my work. I wanted to show my work to a group of professional people so I prepared a a few prints in a file holder.
And then they told me that it is better to show them in small prints of 4R or 5R as they can lay it out on a table while they could arrange it at will. It is also easier for them to pinpoint a certain picture as they can simply pick it up instead of flipping through the clear holder. Another new stuff that I learn and I will certainly keep that in mind in the future.
They give out a honest comment on my work which I truly appreciate plus they have somehow help me in finding my own true sense of photography style. I have show my work to at least 5 different photographer during the session and each one of them have different comment on my work. I have a list of their comment on my work which I have noted down after I got back to the hotel room, I will post it up in this blog someday.
After the end of the 3 days workshop, I learn a lot and by a lot I mean a LOT!!!. My head was constantly filled with thoughts and information in which I find it a bit hard to digest properly into my memory (even after the next few days). The workshop have provide me a boost of confidence on my capabilities as a photographer and it will certainly help me in becoming a better photographer in the next few years.
A few things that I learn which is worth mentioning is the fact that editing is an essential process for every photographer;
“If you cannot edit your own work, you basically are admitting that you are unsure of what you are doing as a photographer, because your vision, the story you want to tell, is not clear to you. Of course, editing is difficult; but it is a fundamental part of shooting, of storytelling, and you cannot responsibly disavow your obligation to perform this final stage of the act of creating imagery. It is, in a sense, the second decisive moment in the process.” – Jon Anderson (Andri keep on stressing this quote into my head.)
And this is the picture that was taken by me which is edited and sequenced by Ox Lee for the IPA KL Street Photography workshop. Surprisingly, he manage to sequence my picture into something interesting, something that I have never really thought was good in the first place. He select the similarity that was obvious from the whole file that I took for the workshop which is more on the ‘close-up’ and ‘Intimacy’. I receive a few comment (which I will keep it for myself) for the selected picture which I will improve in the future and I will certainly need to thanks Che’ Ahmad for all his advice and encouragement.
I really want to thank Invisible Photographer Asia for giving me the opportunity to learn with some of Asia finest photographer and hopefully I could meet up with you guys again in the future. But for now, I have to focus more on getting myself a proper website.
A Sino Kadazan with a passion in Architecture and Photography.