After thought on my Photography project : Between two sons (2014-2015)

After thought on my Photography project : Between two sons (2014-2015)

Few months ago, I finally finished a short photography project of mine where I have been exploring the use of old photograph with a new.

It started during my session with Exposure+ workshop program last year where I present a series of off-shore oil and gas worker in a ‘Diptych’ format. The idea was to show a contrast between the worker and its surrounding. During the early part of the workshop, I intent to capture it from a wider perspective but the main objective is somehow lost due to the subject size within the frame. I have been through some discussion with Steven Lee (my mentor for Exposure+) and we finally found a way to project the idea visually and that is through ‘Diptych’. In my opinion, there is probably a better way to use ‘Diptych’ format since it allow the viewer to subconsciously comparing the difference between the two photograph, similar to how photograph that is placed side by side on a photobook pages.
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 Earlier attempt in documenting the off-shore worker in public spaces around Labuan. It use similar format but different concept. Steven and I have this feeling that there is something off with the way the project being shown in this format.

‘Diptych’ is nothing new in the history of Photography but I always thought that the idea can be use on a different context. ‘Between two sons’ was initially started after a discussion with Zhuang Wu Bin, a renowned photographer and curator in South East Asia, during his workshop in early 2014. He gave his thought on my idea and point out the possible flaw of my approach. It prove beneficial as always and it took me a few weeks before I began taking pictures for the series. Basically its because of procrastination and nothing less.

10417633_1492285394318865_3967842455661001043_nSome of the material that I brought during my workshop with Zhuang Wu Bin at Kota Kinabalu last year.

‘Between two sons’ was something that I had always wanted to do for a photography project, something that is personal and yet subtle in terms of visual presentation. It is used to show my relationship with my father and how our difference came to be due to the fact that we grow up from an entirely different era and circumstances. My relationship with my father is in fact great but this project is to show the little argument that we had throughout the year and the irony of the said argument. Perhaps the initial concept was to show the conflict of our relationship but it is in fact a subtle message of my love to my father. Our difference is in fact counterweight by our similarities.

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One of the few photograph from ‘Between two sons’.

Throughout the project period, all the photo of me was not a self-portrait but actually taken by my little brother or a colleague who happen to be with me for the photograph. There is something interesting from this process where despite me, the photographer, became a subject of my own idealogy, taken by other photographer, to conceive a narrative which is this project. The relationship is a peculiar one indeed and it reminds me of the discussion that we had at Chiang Mai on what makes a Photographer Photographer. The picture was not taken by me but do I have the right to claim the right for the entire series?. Perhaps the discussion could be decided on court (refering to the copyright issue between a monkey and some wildlife photographer) but I would rather not.

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My photographer on numerous session. Brought the tripod along but I found that having a human holding the camera is much more easier/quicker to execute.

I had received numerous comment and feedback after having it posted on one of Zhuang Wu Bin blog. The feedback from my audience on facebook can be categorize into humorous, interesting, and clever. Some people found it to be funny since our looks are similar (i am his son for god sake) and the fact that even at this age, I haven’t been able to settle with a decent relationship with the opposite sex. ‘Interesting’ is often mentioned for the fact comparing two different picture can somehow create an interesting visual narrative. ‘Clever’ was used for people to give me some credit on doing something that has never been done before (it’s not true, there is nothing new with Diptych and in fact the format is widely use in magazine and photobook).

Completing the project was a relief, it means I finally been able to conceive a photography project that I truly satisfied with the output. I am sure it can be better in many way but for now, the work stands for itself. I did plan to have it exhibit in some way but the scale is to small and most likely work better in a group exhibition of a similar theme.

Here I am sitting in my dorm room wishing for the Malaysia currency to bounce back so I could finally settle my long overdue Photography website of mine.

MID 2015

Unlike last year, this year begins with a rather hectic schedule throughout the following month. A trip to Thailand for the Chiang Mai Photo Festival last February prove to be another worthy experience while managing my work and photography interest in the recent month has become a bit more manageable. If everything went well this year, I should be able to compile my recent work into a proper website by August.

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The usual landscape sight that can be seen along my mother hometown. Taken during my recent visit back to my grandmother house.

I also have been thinking about the state of my hometown recently and the possibility to undergone on another project that highlight the stark and neglected landscape in the rural area of Sabah. With the rapid development throughout Malaysia, Sabah is in a rather odd position despite being the most resourceful state within the country. The young and eager graduates have less desire to contribute to the rural area with many preferring a more stylish urban lifestyle in other places which indirectly left many of the village with a community of elder people. It is a very well known issue throughout South East Asia and as cliche’ as it might seems, the project might prove beneficial for myself as a photographer and Architect wannabe in the future.  The opportunity to hear other people stories has always been an important lesson for myself in understanding other people culture and society.

Surely there is many other stuff that need to be done before August, 30 rolls of undeveloped film does sound daunting but hopefully the path will be a bit more clearer for the next few months.

My experience with KLPA Exposure+ 3 program

My experience with KLPA Exposure+ 3 program

Few years ago, I thought mastering all the technical matter of photography will make me a good photographer but whenever I think about that thought this day, I couldn’t help but to smile on how naive I was back then.

There is more to Photography than just simply taking pretty pictures and it is in-fact it’s ability to preserve a mere fraction of a second of something that is perhaps Photography greatest pleasure. Photography helps the world communicate and this is one of the few reason on why I have been interested in Photography in the first place.

While I am still buzzing from the previous IPA Street Photography Workshop in 2013,  I have decided that part of my resolution for 2014 is to join more Project based Photography workshop and a friend of mine recommend KLPA Exposure+ 3 Program for a starter. A quick research on what the workshop could offer reveal a rather impressive line of mentor with a very flexible working schedule. The main objective of the workshop is to expose the participant in developing their own personal project with the help of their own mentor and by the end of the program, they will have to present it in a form of Exhibition and presentation; thus ‘Exposed’ (there is more to the workshop than that).

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My first public presentation during the KLPA 2014 Exhibition at Whitebox Gallery, Publika. (Picture courtesy of Steven Lee)

The workshop is a 3 month program with a monthly gathering in between. Each participant is assign to a mentor and will then be guided through the entire 3 months to complete a Photography Project. The mentors consist of a number of well known Photographer in Malaysia namely Eiffel Chong (not related to the Eiffel tower in Paris),  Steven Lee, and Cheryl Hoffmann. All 3 of them probably doesn’t need any introduction but its worth noting that each of them has their own main forte’ and I just can’t wait to learn more from them.

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Monthly discussion is done often and sometimes weekly depending on everyone schedule. Note how dedicated Steven is in keeping tabs on other participant works. (Photo courtesy of Nurul Munira)

Since I am based in Labuan, interacting with other mentors and participant on weekly basis is basically impossible and luckily they are offering an online session as well as online discussion. The registration is a straight forward task with a few words exchange through e-mail and a few weeks later, It was announced that I will be a part of this year KLPA Exposure+ 3 program. Suprised as It seems, my mentor for the next 3 months is Steven Lee, a rather familiar name but just can’t seems to recall from where (A friend of mine, Flanegan Bainon told me that he used to study under him somewhere during his degree study in Australia).

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Our usual Skype session (sorry for the printscreen Steven)

So basically my whole mentorship was done through Skype and to make it worst, my mentor lives in London so we always have to consider about our time zone difference whenever we decided to set our online session.

In a sense, those who are staying in Kuala Lumpur will benefit more from the workshop since they could discuss directly with their mentor but the online session isn’t that bad apart from the troublesome internet connection from our very own lousy internet provider. I update my work from time to time through email and only arrange a Skype session whenever we need to discuss about something important.

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Our group discussion with the rest of the participant plus another one from Australia. It was fun and all until the internet line went nuts.

I submit a few project proposal to Steven and when he went through all of my suggestion, he share his thought on the proposal and in the end, we pick the Oil and Gas worker as the Project main focus. The reason for this is because we need something that is interesting enough to work with and also to be able to complete the project within 3 months. Due to my work and family commitment, I could only take some pictures during the weekend (like I always do) which require a bit of planning to provide some space for the project to develop.

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My first few proposed approach on the worker in coverall.

We discuss a few method of approach for the project and I personally wish it could be taken in a more candid approach but Steven convince me in some way that such method is weak and it might prove to be difficult to work with within a short period of time. The stand-out of the subject is their different ‘coverall’ that they wear which is what we were trying to highlight throughout the series. Basically a Photography project needs to have a clear objective, consistent working approach and a proper time frame. Its interesting to work on the Project since it is different from what I am used to and despite some early difficulty with the project in the first few weeks, It became much easier as it progress towards the final months.

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We went through my work for the project and everyone gave their feedback from the session. I note down everyone comment on the ongoing work.

The project require me to interview an Oil and Gas Worker around the town area and asking for their permission to have their picture taken for the project. The idea is to show how common it is to find this worker in public spaces but also to highlight the uniqueness of Labuan as an Industrial Island. The coverall is unique to the worker as it represent the company that they are working with as well as their rank within the industry.

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My contact sheet marked by Steven during my first few weeks on the project.

While working through the project, Steven is totally aware of my progress and told me to treat this more as an exercise since I am not entirely comfortable with the new approach but nevertheless he gave me enough guidance and confidence throughout the 3 months period.

Some of the crucial stuff that I learned from the workshop is;

1) Awareness in Photography project objective as a whole.

During the earlier stage of the photography project, we took about 2 weeks before finalizing the project concept. The main discussion during this stage is probably the way we intend to see through the project when its finished. Steven taught me that this is an important matter to consider not only from a photographer perspective but also from the public perspective. The Oil and Gas worker approach shows a common scenery in Labuan that couldn’t be found anywhere else in Malaysia. This in turn will create an awareness on the impact of Oil and Gas industry in Labuan which have been the island main role in developing Malaysia as a developing country.

2) Experiment done right.

I begin the workshop at a state where my mind is deliberately filled with images taken by Alex Webb, Josef Koudelka, and Jun Abe. The idea of capturing a complicated composition with perfect timing is what I thrive to improve during the workshop but Steven bring me back to sense where he pushed me to become more self-aware as a Photographer. (note : refer to Alec Soth working method)

I am an introvert person by nature and asking people for a permission to have their picture taken is like living in a nightmare. Even when I am taking street photograph, I always let other people start the conversation before me. Asking for permission is a hassle but as week goes through, I find it very comfortable and I became much more confident with the project.

By the end of the workshop, my experience that I learn from doing the project is stucked with me and conversation with a stranger becomes more like a second nature (slightly). Sometimes its a good thing

3) Time management.

3 months might sounds like a whole lot of time to complete the project but like 99% people in this world, Procrastination is man worst enemy (or friend). As the title suggest, time management is important and I couldn’t have done it without making a target list handy on my notebook, and a huge calender.

 

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One of the picture from the ON-SHORE project.

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Steven suggest me to make a Photobook of my project and it looks awesome. Printed from blurb with help from Steven, straight from UK.

Past forward to a few months, the project is finally finished with 25 Portraits and we are ready for our public presentation on mid August 2014. The presentation itself provide a good opportunity for the participant to express themselves in a more open manner in which everyone will be getting a direct feedback from the audience. I receive some positive thought from other people after the presentation and it gives me a great deal of confidence for my next Photography project.

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Steven is getting warmed up for an interview regarding the opening and prize winning ceremony for KLPA 2014.

By the end of the workshop, I learn a lot from it. As usual, it took me a few months before I could digest everything that I just learned and hence this blogpost which has been in draft for a couple of months!. I printed a small book of my work which I had been showing around after the presentation and even by today I use it as a reference when explaining people about conceiving a Photography Project.

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Ramlen Salleh giving his presentation on his project for Exposure+.

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A picture of me during the photography presentation at the Whitebox Gallery Publika. (Photo courtesy of Shio Soon Yii)

Exposure+ photography workshop program is probably one of the most effective and reputable photography workshop in Malaysia at the moment although it might not specifically tailored for beginners photographer, the opportunity to learn Photography in a new perspective is certainly a refreshing than the usual camera technique workshop and their awesome network might help you progress forward as an emerging Photographer.

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Picture of me with Steven Lee, Ailsa Bowyer, and Anne Benedicte during the KLPA 2014 Exhibition and award winning ceremony.

I would like say thank you to Steven Lee for all the help during the entire mentorship and not to forget Erna Dyanty and Kak Nurul aka Moon for dedicating their time to keep everyone on track. Looking forward to see the work from the next Exposure+4 participant, they seems to be doing something interesting.

A day with a Professional Photographer : Zhuang Wu Bin

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 for 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 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 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 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 base 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 previous IPA Street photography workshop made me realize that I am not the kind of person to document the street life in urban area 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 thought 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 any 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.

 

 

 

 

 

“SKY”

The interpretation of ‘SKY’ is basically the same to most people and it often associated with the boundaries between heaven and earth. A sky is also a symbol of freedom and the living places for the god and angels.

SONY DSC A lone withered tree branch against the cold vast sky.

SONY DSC Human Technology on the vast limitless world.

SONY DSC One of the most romantic view that I have seen in years.

SONY DSC A veteran fisherman who can’t resist the temptation from the sea despite his age.

Portraiture Project – “MUKA”

A part of my 2012 project would be capturing a portrait picture of those who are closest to me and to begin with the project, they would be my friend during my final year in Architecture Study. What make this special is that they were not taken in a studio but rather impromptu as I try to capture the person itself within our surrounding.

 

Adika – Architecture Student, 9gag fan, a good friend.

The camera used might vary according to certain circumstances but I am sure most of the picture would be taken using my trusty Nikon D60. The project would probably be finish by the end of 2012 and the entire project would be printed on 12×12 Fine art paper which is then given to the people who contribute for the project.

I love meeting new people and there would probably be some picture of the people that I recently met. Wish me luck. 😀

 

LABUAN : Favourite Spot revisit

LABUAN : Favourite Spot revisit

In 2011, I manage to exhibit my ongoing project of Labuan at a gallery in Kota Kinabalu and as the project is still ongoing, I realize that some of the location that I visited for the exhibited picture has a really good potential and I always try to visit it on different tides, time, and weather. In my opinion (especially for landscape), once you know a certain good spot for landscape picture, try to revisit it as often as possible and try to get a different result from your previous try.

This is an abandoned fishing equipment storage place for the local fisherman, I don’t know how long it has been there but for some reason, Its still standing despite the recent typhoon. As for the processing, its entirely processed from RAW and further adjusted on Photoshop CS4. I have been visiting this place for at least 5 times, and each time it was in different tides and weather.

The wave breaker, the curve arrangement of the wave breaker is something unusual for me because usually the design is facing straight  to the open sea. That is until I realize that some people dock their boat behind the wave breaker, the design prevent the boat from damaging other boat that parked nearby when the wave is getting stronger.

This is probably the 4th time I standing at the same place, and I am still thinking some other possible angle for me to shoot.