This year Obscura Photo festival was something to remember. I didn’t join through the entire week but it was a short break that I needed after an intense week in the office.
Obscura Photo Festival 2018 program schedule went out late and most their full list of activities was out few days before their opening ceremony. Nevertheless, it was something that I knew I shouldn’t missed out on and bit of excitement came inside of me when they updated their facebook page stating ‘PORTFOLIO REVIEW AT BLACK KETTLE THIS SATURDAY’. Among the name on the list was Hajime Kimura, Maggie Steber, and Ian Teh.
It was exciting as I just finished my 5 years project on documenting Labuan shorelines and I needed some feedback on the project as a whole. Of course, this could be counter-productive as I could risk getting unnecessary influence or direction into the project. But I am quiet matured in my artistic insight compared to years ago and the review might just give me an extra perspective on what I need to do for my next upcoming project. I went back from my office that night and started arranging a series of my scanned negatives for printing tomorrow morning. I hit the bed early so I wouldn’t overslept for the registration tomorrow at 10am.
As expected, I had trouble waking up on time and it was hectic as I rushed to the printing shop near my office. The shop was open and the printing went on smoothly until the time when the owner ask me whether I want the picture to be cut to sized. But seeing that it takes time for the old owner, he was kind enough to let me cut it myself using one of their cutting machine. By the time I finished cutting the print, it was already 10:25am. 25 minute late for the registration.
I arrived at Black Kettle around 10:55am. However a woman at the registration counter told me that I am already late and the session already started half an hour ago. But despite her fiery glare, she was kind enough to put my name into the list. For the portfolio session, we are able to set an appointment to whichever photographer that I wanted. The list of photographers are;
It was an easy choice on who I want to meet, and since I dont know half of the other photographer (sorry, but I manage to google you guys afterwards) the choice was set to Hajime Kimura and Ian Teh. The only regrets is that I didn’t went for Peter Bialobrzeski as well, it seems his work and opinion might be worth listening to.
My portfolio review session was set around 1pm and 3pm for Ian Teh and Hajime Kimura respectively. It left me with some time to prepare myself and seeing the people around the room shows that I am the only one who seems to be unprepared. They present their work with laptop, business cards, and glossy prints while I am the only one with a lousy cheap inkjet print on cheap paper. So I thought since I already registered, why not grab a lunch and maybe get my laptop as well. At least it makes me look prepared in a way.
The first session is with Ian Teh, the entire room is filled with photographers doing a review session. It does made me nervous in some way but I was hoping for the best. Ian Teh needs no introduction, I have 2 of his books and been a fan of his work on China Industrial landscape.
This is my first time attending a portfolio review and to be honest, I don’t have any idea what to do next after saying ‘Hello’.
During the session with Ian Teh, I gave a brief introduction about myself and the work that I was about to present to him. The work is of course my recent project on my hometown. Overall, the feedback was good. Most of his concern is basically on what I actually want from the series. I wouldn’t share most of his word here but it was positive. I did ask him how he would usually do for his project and he gave me some great insight on his own editing approach on TRACES and Confluence project.
One thing that I realized is that you have to come with a clear idea of your own project (I actually do, just the final edit need time to decide) and also a final edit of your work. Mine was so half-assed that it became hard to comment on especially since its a portfolio review. But the experience was good and I learn much.
My next session is with Hajime Kimura. Again, this guy needs no introduction as well and I had his book reviewed many years ago in this blog. Currently he is a full time photographer and working on some interesting project which he will present tomorrow.
Of all the photographer in the room, Hajime is someone that I can relate to slightly. He is an Architecture graduate and one of his big break in photography happen to be done when he went out in search of himself. Hence, his first photobook.
Hajime is a funny guy and somehow have this bright smile eventhough we just met. Typical Japanese I presume. We exchange greeting and sat through the session. As I was arranging the prints on the table, I manage to tell him my admiration on his work and stating that our work is similar in certain way. He reply with a bow saying thank you and quickly going through my work. Again, I wont be sharing much of our session but enough to say that it was positive.
And yes, I manage to ask him about the camera that he use for the Kodama photobook, It is a Nikon FM2n with black and white film pushed all the way to 3200 ASA.
I intend to take a few picture around Georgetown area but looking at the time, waiting for a few hours before Obscura Festival opening ceremony seems like a better idea. I know a friend that is coming all the way from KL and will be arriving soon so I also think it would wise to stay and catch up with the others.
The opening ceremony is held at Hin Bus Depot along with a number of photographer exhibiting their work. Going through the previous edition of the photo festival, this year exhibit seems to be staying away from the conventional photojournalism and documentary issue. The theme for this year exhibition is ‘Multiplicity’ which is curated by Anshika Varma. There is a long write up on her curation but simply put, this year they explore the hidden human condition that seems to blur the line between reality and fiction. I dig most of the work shown here.
As the night approaches, more people gathers around the gallery area. Some familiar people pop-in and a number of VIP seems to be there as well for the opening ceremony. It was a warm atmosphere and surrounded by the exhibited work, people can simply take their time while waiting for the event to start.
The opening ceremony was a success, everyone was happy and the atmosphere turn casual as everyone decided to catch-up with one another. It was great opportunity for those who wanted to do some networking. For me, I am just trying to enjoy my weekend.
The next morning, I attend the Photobook Presentation by Atsushi Fujiwara, Matt Alett and Hajime Kimura. They have an evening session as well but I got caught up with my office work.
One of the highlight of the session for me is probably the chance to go through Hajime Kimura photobook. Ever since I continue my study, I never got the chance to get his latest book after Kodama. I read about his scrap book photo book concept that earn him some awards and I finally I got the chance to go through it.
Overall, it was satisfying. I didnt manage to follow the whole week of activity but catching up with some people while learning something new is always a good way to keep the drive going. The photo festival is a success as well and here I hope that the next edition would be better. This year exhibited work is a great departure from the usual documentary/photojournalism approach, a rather refreshing change of view.