After getting my own passport for the first time, there was various choices of destination that I could visit with a year saving that I earn from working full-time as a project designer.
Choices range from Singapore, Indonesia, and even Hong Kong. (saving was just enough to cover a week trip around this country)
But I eventually choose Indonesia as a friend of mine invited me to follow him on a week trip to Indonesia to meet up with some of his friends at Jakarta and at the same time meeting up with some photographers for future collaboration on possible photography workshop and photo festival at Sabah. (At the time of writing, Kota Kinabalu Photo festival has went into its second edition back in December 2016 with numerous mentors being invited from Indonesia such as Agah Permadi, Erik Prasetya, and Romi Perbawa)
It was a significant time to visit Jakarta as they are preparing for the upcoming election week with Jokowi being the locals favorite, Christmas is coming and New Year eve is just a week later.
Personally, I didn’t do much research on Indonesia apart from the do’s ‘and don’t. As I will be tagging along with my friend. He assure me that everything is already planned, just standby enough money for the entire trip. No kidding, we even joke on being a millionaire overnight at the airport!.
Another thing to note that all the pictures taken during the trip was using Ricoh GRD III and the brand new Ricoh GR. It was a loan unit from a good friend of his and the camera perform flawlessly but I am not used to it at some point hence the blurry pictures. I had some problem with the Ricoh GR Auto ISO.
For the rest of our stay at Jakarta, I am quiet fortunate to received the hospitality from Pak Agah Permadi, a well known photographer himself, thanks to Mr Jebat for introducing him to me. The plan was to go to Bandung in the next few days and so far we will visit some of the place that is quiet favorable by photographers (more like tourist photographers).
On the next day, after we got our breakfast. We headed to the famous marine port, Sunda Kelapa. It has a lot history to it and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect.
After spending more than 3 hour at Sunda Kelapa, it was time to grab our lunch. The sun was high and its getting hot, we were lucky that it was cloudy during our stay or else, the sunlight would be very harsh. We grab some nice lunch where they serve local delicacy ‘Masakan orang sunda’ but I don’t know the name of the place. It was Friday and I decided to the church next to the Istiqlal Mosque.
I regret for not exploring the area around the mosque but it was full of people and was super crowded, and I am afraid that I would run into problem since I haven’t got any local sim-card at the time. Istiqlal Mosque is huge and the design is fascinating for those who want to visit Jakarta.
The main agenda of the day was to visit Antara Journalistic Gallery and to meet with some of the person in charge for future collaboration. More info can be gather here.
Afterward Pak Agah bring us to the camera store nearby, there is an area where they sale cheap camera accessories. They bring me there because I ran out of memory so I bought the 16gb Sandisc instead which is cheaper than buying in Malaysia. Later, I use the Ricoh GR for the entire trip.
To be honest, we didn’t go to many place that day, the traffic was terrible and we don’t want to force Pak Agah to drive us around the place as it was inconvenient. That night we did have a plan to meet with Rony Zakaria, one of my mentor during IPA workshop in the last few months. He is also an award winning photojournalist for this awesome work around Gunung Merapi.
In the next morning, I was told that we will accompany Pak Agah to get his youngest son, Qhairan, for circumcise. I was curious on how they do it here in this dense urban area and decided to tag along. I had nothing to do that morning anyway.
After our morning session with Qhairan circumcise (or Khatan) is done. Pak Agah bought us some food for lunch and it’s finally time to say goodbye as we will have to proceed to our next destination which is Bandung. We haven’t got the bus ticket but it can be bought easily since it was not fully booked that day. Funny thing is that we got the entire bus just for ourselves.
The main agenda for our visit to Bandung was to meet up with the local ‘underground’ photographer that is led by Sari Asih. We didn’t manage to meet her but instead we did somehow were welcomed by Tandia Permadi and Aditya Pratama (he runs Unobtainium selling photobook in Indonesia).
On the next day, we are accompany by Aip. He is a good photographer with a rather interesting body of work. Can’t recall his website though. He did show us around the town area and also gives us the direction to some of the custom boutique where Jebat is planning to make his club t-shirt at.
Our stay in Bandung was lovely, although we didn’t get to visit some of the famous places due to the warning from the geological department. Nevertheless I bought some t-shirt, jacket, and a nice black jeans which later I wear for the next 3 years.
It was on New Year eve and thing is getting interesting in Jakarta. The traffic surge like crazy towards evening and noise were everywhere. Pak Agah did warn us that it is not a good idea to go to the Tugu Monas as the traffic is mad and you wont be able to go back home on time afterwards. We really want to go there but we don’t want to trouble Pak Agah either so instead we spend the night at his house instead. We are tired from the train ride anyway but the sounds of the fireworks towards midnight makes for some interesting visual and sight.
As this is our last day at Indonesia, again there was nothing much to do as the traffic is getting busier but Pak Agah told me that it is so much better than usual. Apparently during holiday, most of the people will go back to their hometown and most of those who stay at Jakarta is only the local that are doing some odds job.
We did manage to visit the high-end area of Jakarta and Jebat got his Hardrock cafe t-shirt from Jakarta. It’s a stark contrast to the other part of Jakarta though.
Mid-semester break is definitely what every University student are looking forward to every semester. The 9 day of holiday away from tedious group assignment and laborious series of test and quizzes, mid-semester is truly a week of blessing to everyone especially for those who had been away from their family for a few months.
It’s the same for me although a week of holiday is probably better off spent by traveling around the peninsular side of Malaysia. It’s been like this since my Diploma years where the cost of my return flight ticket to my hometown is used to support my week long traveling to various places in peninsular Malaysia. Malacca and Kuala Lumpur is my favorite.
So when my mid-semester break is approaching, the thought of going somewhere interesting grew on me despite being drowned in the sea of endless assignment and project deadline. The list is endless (maybe not, as it’s capped off within a certain budget)
Go to Kuala Lumpur and spent time at Kinokuniya.
Go to Langkawi and spent days at the overprice hotel. But I thought it’s better to go there with friends.
Take a train Ride all the way to JB and then to Singapore before returning back to Penang on flight.(Good idea but didn’t have enough money)
Take a bus to the scenic route to Kelantan and Perlis through Kedah.
Maybe just stay in Penang and explore the area on bicycle.
I did a post on my facebook wall and a few friends notify me that they would be more than happy to meet up with me when I got to the places. So a long time friend that I got to know through our interest in photography had decided to bring me along to explore Kedah and Perlis. Last time I met him was years ago in Kuala Lumpur and it is great to have a true local to show me around the scenic view of Kedah. Surely this would turn out great.
Up until then, there was nothing solid being plan. All that I had decided is that it would be from Kedah and somehow afterward I gonna take the train to Ipoh and then Kuala Lumpur, all through the brand new KTM ETS train.
I bought the bus ticket a week earlier just so that I would not be disappointed for missing the bus ride as University students will be going back to their hometown by Bus and most of them are from Kedah and Penang, so go figure.
I woke up extra early than usual on that day while double checking my rucksack and camera bag, I also made sure that I bring some books to read along and it’s Haruki Murakami new book ‘Colourless’.
I took the morning bus to Alor Setar from Stesen Bas Sungai Nibong. Grab a quick Gardenia vanilla bun for breakfast before I went off across the Penang bridge and all the way to Alor Setar. Falling asleep was the easiest part when you only get a few hour of sleep before the trip.
Upon arrival, I was welcomed with the sight of newly refurbished bus station. The big steel structure consisting of a series of repetitive steel trusses covering the entire area which seems to be recently painted new. It was few hour past afternoon and after meeting up with Akmal at the bus station entrance, we decided to get some lunch before heading somewhere else.
Kedah has a spectacular scenery. I knew it from the words that my friends has told me, they say the paddy field seems endless over the horizon and it is true. A glistening green field with a patch of solid limestone hill along the foreground. Certainly I wish to visit it again, as well as exploring the shorelines.
That evening, Akmal decided to bring me to some random places around the area as well as showing me how the paddy field actually work. It seems the layout is determine by the paddy field owner and each has its own name or code given. Can’t remember the detail for the name but the Kampung address is based on it.
I have another reason to visit Kedah other than to actually visit the Paddy Field. There is someone that I have been wanting to meet for so long and that is Mr Jusni. He is one of the person that has inspire me to widen my perspective on the world and he has consistently share the beautiful landscape of Kedah through Flickr. Without him, I won’t be taking photograph using film camera, and thanks to him, I am a fan of Olympus OM camera.
Akmal used to stay around Mr Jusni area and they are quiet close. He call Mr Jusni for some short teh tarik session and finally I was able to have a chat with him face to face. As expected, he is a great guy with a lot of experience. We also share similar passion on cycling and he did brag that Kedah is a good place for cycling.
Afterward, we decided to go back to and get some rest. We are staying at Akmal parents home for the night before going to Perlis or Perak tomorow morning. The hospitality that I received throughout that night was beyond on what I would expect, wish I could repay their kindness in someway. They also keep a lot of cat with many different unique character as well.
On the next morning, we already prepared for our trip to Perlis. The journey will take long hour and basically we are trying to find a way to keep the journey fun and interesting. Akmal did share his story on his hiking trip to Japan with the Ricoh GR and also some tips on how to travel to Japan for cheap. We discuss a lot about bagpacking and stuff but I do wish to visit that part of Japan someday. We spent a lot of time inside the car that day, a total of perhaps 6-7 hours where we eventually decided to go to Ipoh instead.
After spending hours inside the car accompany by Queen Bohemian Rhapsody album throughout the day, we finally reach Ipoh after a rather heavy downpour. Since it was late and we dont want to waste any money to stay at the hotel for one night, we decided to sleep in the car instead. It was a bit damp due to the weather but we slept through the night anyway due to being exhausted.
We woke up rather early that morning, I believe it is partly because it was uncomfortable and Akmal need to do his morning prayer. To be honest it was enough but Akmal seems to be rather okay about it, as expected from someone who loves camping outdoor. Afterward, we visit University Teknologi Petronas which is just next to the oil station that we parked for the night. Akmal is an alumni of that place and it is nice of him to show me around the area. The university building is designed by Lord Norman Foster from UK and this a very exciting building to observe. We did take our breakfast at the cafeteria though and that place is rather huge.
After a good walk around the University, we decided to grab our lunch at Ipoh for some of the famous Nasi Ganja. But of course not without visiting some of the interesting place in between. I did told Akmal that I enjoy looking at old abandoned kampung house and he did exactly that, we drive along this kampung area and there is so many thing to look at.
After we check-in at the nearby hotel in Ipoh, we decided to take some rest to make up for the lack of sleep last night. Afterward that evening we decided to walk through the town area and its amazing on what a few years could do to the area. The ugly empty landscape in front of the KTM station has become a great public space while the path towards the clock tower has been reworked somehow.
We take our late lunch nearby and then decided to stay at KTM station for the night just to immerse ourselves with the nice cheerful vibes around the area. The surrounding area is rather happening with parents bringing their kids while some people renting out rollerblades and hoverboard. I spent RM15 just to try the hoverboard around the area, I look like a giant kid among kids.
The initial idea was Kedah – Perak – KL – Penang, I already told Akmal about it and basically he is cool with sending me all the way to Ipoh. We bought the ticket earlier and there is only one ride left which is at 5:30am, it sold out quicker because tomorrow is Deepavali and that is a public holiday. I wish I could take breakfast before proceeding my trip to KL and accompany Akmal a bit before his ride back to Kedah. After saying goodbye to Akmal, I walk myself to the train station from the hotel.
I didn’t stop by to any place afterward, I just informed a few of my friend that I will be in KL for a short while. I decided to go to my favorite bagpacker hostel just to make sure that there will have a room for me. Surprised to find out that they remodel the ground floor into a nice Cafe with proper expresso machine and stuff, I didn’t try it during my stay though so can’t say how good it is.
I got a message from Nick that afternoon that he will be at his favorite bar at the Pavillion, its nice to catch up with fellow ‘Street photographer’ to chat on geeky stuff about photography.
Contrary to what people thought about me, I don’t drink as much as they think. I do enjoy alcohol but not to the point that I will passed out for no reason, unless there is someone that will take care of me. Nick brought Daphne along with Scott and it was an entertaining chat that we are having that night. Not sure on what but it was fun.
Fun until I have to walk to my hotel slightly drunk, but if I could cycle back to my hotel dead drunk at Chiang Mai, I can do the same at Kuala Lumpur by walking.
I remember that Nick told me last night that he will accompany me for tomorrow morning, I wish I could woke up early but being the student that I am, the earliest that I could was 9:30am. Nick brought me to a decent nearby stall at Petaling Street before we hit the street with our camera and stuff. Chasing shadow and light.
After a wonderful stay at Kuala Lumpur, it was time to say goodbye. It was great to catch up with some of them but the next time I visit KL, I will try to catch up with some old friend as well. For now, I will be going to KL Central to catch the evening ride to Penang. My luggage is getting heavier thanks to the loots that I bought from Kinokuniya.
The ride to Penang I believe will take at least 6 hour instead the usual 9 hour before they upgrade the train into the ETS. Train ride nowadays has become so comfortable that you could actually just sleep on your seat which is more comfortable than taking the aeroplane. The toilet is cleaner as well but the train ride that I took stop to many times for my liking, maybe I should make it clear that it’s not a non-stop train ride.
I arrived at Butterworth around 11:20pm, almost midnight. It took us another 20 minutes walk from the train station and maybe another half an hour for the ferry. The thing that I worried now is my transport back to my dormitory. Rapid Penang stop working by 11:30pm and I arrived at Georgetown at 12:10am. Go figure.
As I mentioned earlier, going back to my University in the middle of the night is one of the problem that I didn’t expect to encounter. My phone is so outdated and it couldn’t even install UBER or GRABCAR apps. For once, I have to rely on Taxi eventhough I knew it would be very expensive as hell.
It cost me RM35 to go back to the university eventhough I share the same taxi with some nice aunties who is concern on my safety and also on my wallet. God bless them but fuck the overpriced taxi driver.
After arrived safely at my room, I took the time to clear my bag and then took a long shower before hitting the bed. Until next time.
As it has always been, New Year celebration is pretty much the same each year with the only difference is whether you gonna celebrate it alone or with a random bunch of people, plus the economy outlook in Malaysia means that the fireworks won’t be as grand as the previous years.
I am currently writing this during my exam week. There is only one paper left and the gap in between allow me to focus on other stuff such as my design for a Timber design competition and other miscellaneous pending task that I should had finished last year.
If anyone wondering how I celebrate my New Year this time, it’s by being stuck in a UBER car for 1 hour and a half. We still manage to catch the firework though.
As for 2016, there has been a lot of realization and newly acquired responsibilities. I realized that if I were to be successful in the next few years, I need to change a lot in terms of my habit, sleeping late is certainly something that I want to reduce this year and so does keeping up with my fitness level. I also happen to be in relationship with a certain someone, which as sudden as it seems, was probably one of the best thing to happen in my life.
Photography wise, I believe I did became a little bit mature in approaching a story. There was a time before where I think the highlight on my journey in photography is by being able to present my work to a huge crowd of people. It’s an egoistic dream of course but I believe I had pass that phase last year, photography has always been about the content and story but less on the photographer.
And 2016 has also been a sad year for me as 2 of my main camera malfunction with the Ricoh GR suffer from the same lens mechanism error and the Sony a900 with its focusing motor problem. With my restricted student budget, I don’t think it is worth to get both of the camera repaired. So currently I am thinking of my future working setup and the camera will need to be well equipped than my Nikon D60. Some of the candidates are the Sony a600 and probably a Nikon D5500. Then again, maybe I just get a new lens instead or go fully analog with my Olympus OM-1.
As for some of my new year resolution;
Try to update my blog and instagram more.
Curate my online work properly.
Be more considerate.
Sleep less in a good way.
Eitherway, 2017 is the year where I will try to focus on the thing that are important to me the most. There has been time where I was distracted and somehow lose my sight on it. It should be another great year ahead with many stuff to explore and appreciate. Especially with my Rusa.
That night was as good as it gets, not that I am getting laid in any other way though.
A friend, Mr.Hasnoor, decided to show the way around Georgetown to find the best place to take pictures of the Chinese offering and the procession. It was tiring for everyone since we have been spending the rest of the day out in the city, and as for me, I have been walking non-stop around the town area up until the projection night at Hin Bus Depot.
Hanif is a friend that I met few years ago during IPA workshop few years ago along with Ms Shafina (who happen to have her face covered) that I met during the last KLPA Exposure+ exhibition at Publika. This was taken after coming back from the Chew Jetty.
The next morning were meant to be spent to visit all the photo exhibition that is laid all over Georgetown. The list of all the exhibition is very impressive with Photography works coming from Europe, America, Africa, and even Malaysia. The list for the photo exhibition is as follows;
The 1% Show – Curated by Myles Little
Royal Malaysian Police – by Eiffel Chong (Sorry Eiffel, couldn’t make it)
What News of the Snake That Lost Its Heart In The Fire – By Arko Datto
The Immense Night – by Alisa Resnik
Paradise Right Here – Curated by Waswo X Waswo
Vertigo – by Gihan Tubbeh
Whiteout/Whitenoise – by Anne Nobleand Anna Brown
Everyday Africa – Curated by Peter Di Campo
Belonging – Curated by Daniel Boetker-Smith
West County – by Talia Herman
Rhymes of Eurasia – By Ikuru Kuwajima
Before I went to the photo exhibition, I decided to attend the last talk for the International Photobook Show. When I got there, I was already exhausted from last night and decided to read all the photobook that I haven’t gone through yesterday instead. Unfortunately, this also mean that I didn’t listen to the sharing by the Photobook making participant on their project, which is interesting in many way but somehow I just found that the book on display is much more interesting especially the Black passport (which this time I spent more than 30 minute going through it and the beautiful infrared photograph taken by Ed Thompson, The Unseen.
The first exhibition that I visit is the “Paradise Right Here” curated by Waswo X Waswo. For some odd reason, I only have it taken using my smartphone. The series is impressive and it speaks volumes when you had seen the prints being hanged outside the gallery. Rightly fitting for the narratives that they were trying to showcase, the choice of such print size justify the quality of the series as it try to show the strength of the subject that has to gone through life hurdles after overcoming a serious sickness.
The second exhibition would be the “Rhymes of Eurasia” by Ikuru Kuwajima. I happen to found it when I was looking for the toilet at INCH food bar during the International Photobook show. The series is impressive with all the panoramic picture shows the grandeur or rather the uniqueness of the countryside of Central Asia and Russia. But as much as I find it interesting, I somehow feel that the location of the exhibition has somehow reduce the impact from the work itself. The arrangement of the prints seems random with prints is hang all over the eating area (probably so you could enjoy the exhibition while eating) while the interior lighting doesn’t do justice to the prints as it is very dim (my camera made the picture brighter), the space also feels a bit claustrophobic, just barely.
This was hang next to a table.
The prints is nice but they are not attached to anything.
A rather dark place to exhibit such beautiful prints.
The next visit is a bit tricky, not only I got lost despite the map in hand, I also happen to pass by the venue a few time. It is located in some empty shophouse near Lebuh Victoria and the only sign that tell that there is something being exhibited inside is the plastic chair with open metal shutter opening, plus some small Obscura Photo festival poster. I didn’t take any picture of the building facade though.
One of the exhibition that I look forward to is the “What News of the Snake That Lost Its Heart In The Fire” by Arko Datto and “The Immense Night” by Alisa Resnik.
Both of the exhibition are held inside the same place. The space is worn out empty shop house with barely minimum finishing over the wall and floor. But at least the lighting was better and the emptiness of the entire space compliment well with the exhibited work, especially those by Alisa Resnik.
Upon entering the building, I was welcomed with a rather subdue picture of a white horse, the same picture that is used on Obscura Photo festival website and promotional material.
Alisa Resnik series were entirely ‘dark’ with a rather cool cinematic feel to it that is accentuate with a mix of blurry and sharp photo. The entire idea seems to revolve around the mysterious and cold feeling of midnight where each photograph seems to raise more question as you go through it, neither does it feel restricted with a certain narrative either.
“These images materialize into projections of your memories and start living their own lives. They tell the stories for you, the stories you might think you’ve seen with your own eyes…becoming part of you, and you’re sentenced to return to them again and again.” – Alisa Resnik
Apparently, there is a total of 97 photographs taken by Arko Datto being arranged in grid all over the space. It cover a rather huge space on the wall and going through all of it by myself takes times, but surely interesting in it’s own way. The idea seems to be done on purpose where it tries to create a confusing visual that befitting with the photographer ideal of seeing the people Penang in confused state. The blue hue combined with the strong flash binds the entire series together rather well.
“When it calls, we manifest. We rise from the undead. We slide out of our wet holes. We untwist our bodies from warmer bodies. Our pleasure oozes across the concrete like murder. Our lungs fill with the miasma of stale sex. We take stock of the rusty pipes and tungsten halls. Rub nitrogen from each other’s eyes as we consider these flimsy walls.
We take the stairs. The black sun beckons. We storm the high roofs of high rises as windows shatter on the floors below. We are those glass shards in free fall, screaming with joy as we slice into the belly of the rising tide. We spill out of these skeletons. Smoke rises from the calluses on our feet.
When it calls, they sing. The clouds in the sky sing a song to send skulls flying. We fly. We fuse. My erstwhile selves sink into the deep. I turn to the smoldering sky.” – Arko Datto
According to the exhibition statement, most of the picture were taken in the past 3 months of the artist stay under the Hotel Penaga Artist Residency programme in collaboration with Obscura photo festival. His work on Penang is a nice reference for myself who is planning to do a photo project in Penang but certainly I won’t be trying something so flashy to begin with.
Overall, the entire photo festival program and activity was great. It was unfortunate that I was unable to visit all the exhibition due to time constraint but it was great to catch up with some old acquaintances that I met before during my previous photography event. Hopefully the next Obscura photo festival will feature something better or as interesting as it was this year, and I have more time for it.
Obscura Photo Festival is an annual photography festival that is held yearly at Georgetown, Penang. It is currently in it’s 4th edition which is also the number of time that I had missed the festival. I nearly missed the recent edition and somehow managed to salvage the remaining few days of the festival.
Like any other International Photo festival, it has became a great stop for a gathering among International photographer community prior to the upcoming Angkor Photo Festival this November. The festival has certainly grown a lot compared to its first edition where there is more serious photography discussion with the participant and at the same time with the public. It has also manage to brought in some great name in Contemporary Photography to share their view on current issues and also their perspective on their own work.
Among the program on the list that really capture my attention is the talk from Shahidul Alam on “Finding New Narratives in Photography.” and of course the International Photobook show. I missed the talk due to my commitment for my University Faculty programs but somehow able to drop by for the International Photobook Show at INCH.
The Photo Festival starts on 15th August until 31 August although the first few days are for the Masterclass workshop while the exhibition is open to the public on 19th August 2016.
On 24 August, I finally managed to get myself free and spent the rest of the day solely for the Photo Festival. The morning was terrible as I was staying up late that night and only to get lost on my way to INCH.
When I arrived there, the talk was already halfway through and the atmosphere were rather serious with a few casual laugh in between. Most of them are totally focus on the talk while some other were browsing through the books that is on display. A scan through the room shows a few people that I knew online mainly Daniel Boetker-Smith from Asian-Pacific Photobook Archives and also Sim Chi Yin who is rather famous recently with her works from China (I am a fan of her work). I didn’t notice anyone familiar until Alvin (a friend from KL who joined the masterclass workshop) say Hi to me.
The first talk was done by Teun Van der Heijden, famously known for his photobook design ‘Black Passport’ for Stanley Greene. He is a creative designer that works on photography editing and photobook design and to summarize his talk, it was more about how, why, and his preference in making a photobook. The talk was interesting as he keeps on showing example from his previous work (which is available on display during the International Photobook Show). There was a few interesting point that were discussed which I wish I did a recording of it. It was on how he recently working with a fine art photographer to conceive a photobook while despite all this, he still prefer or rather, more comfortable to work with Photojournalism type of work. There was also something that he mentioned on how working with the two genre is different and what we can learn from this and reapply to any other project in terms of visual presentation or impact.
Of course, the Q&A session were ruthless and perhaps rightly so since we are surrounded with talented photographers of such high caliber.
After the first talk were done, everyone were going downstairs to take their lunch. I already taken mine so I decided to spent my time browsing through the books that is on display. The main objective to go to such event was to gain inspiration and I am taking my time to go through someone else photography zine and dummy book. Not to mention some rare and expensive books as well.
Rainbow Transit by Per-Anders Petersen
Rainbow Transit by Per-Anders Petersen
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
Remnant of recent Past by Pip Erken
There was also a number of photobook on display and particularly those finalist and winner that have won some ‘Photobook Award of the year‘, can’t seems to recall the name of the award though. Just to name a few, there was also the super expensive Henri Cartier Bresson recently republished photobook ‘The Desicive moment’, the writing were good but I still can’t understand why it was that ‘famous’.
The second talk of the day is by Daniel Boetker-Smith,an enthusiastic photographer/educator from Australia. I knew him from Photobook Australia and he is also the Director for Asian Pacific Photobook Archive, big stuff.
Throughout the talk, he discuss the current state of Photobook market especially in Asia and how aspiring Photographer that want to publish a photobook can do so for themselves. There was also some discussion on the pro’s and con’s of self publishing where opinion were threw in by some of the audience. Since I had no such intention to do a photobook at the moment, I tend to ignore the whole talk apart from the Asian Pacific Photobook Archive effort in promoting photographer work to a wider audience.
A summary on what Asian Pacific Photobook Archive has been trying to achieve in the past few years is to promote the joy of Photobook viewing in a form of travelling mini library. This is achieved by joining/involved in as much Photo Festival that they can afford to. Through their effort, there is some Photography project that manage to capture the attention of a Publisher and from what they said, there is a follow up collaboration with the photographer.
The next program of the day is the Projection Night “Judgement of Line Orientation” curated by Anshika Varma, which if I was not mistaken, a Photo Editor for NGEO India.
One irritating things that I don’t really like with the Photo festival is that the programs doesn’t start punctually. But this is understandable and can be well tolerated as most of the participant and audience has probably been tired from following all the program for the past few days.
Before the projection night starts, they were giving out some handouts that gives some short description on the selected photography works and also the curator statement on the slideshow.
Here are some of the short writings on the projection;
“Judgement of Line Orientation stems from exploring social structures created for people to find a sense of belonging as a community. The works included explore and question the act of creating such norms. These questions become more relevant in the context of our current times when constructs are blatantly exploited by the politics of nations and its powerful to divide. The photographic interrogations included draw from a strong base in the photographers personal thoughts or politics. For the curator, it questions the need and relevance of these structures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multipletures and its impact on how we choose to live our lives today. The curation questions the formation of our multiple identities for nations, religions, mythologies, families and gender homogenization and its subsequent politics.”
Aapo Huhta – Ukkometso
Alejandro Chaskielberg – Otsuchi Future Memories
Andre Fernandes – Killing Kittens
Diego Moreno – Guardians of Memory
Dragana Jurisic – Yu the Lost Country
Kosuke Okahara – Ibasyo
Laurence Rasti – There are no homosexual in Iran
Magda Biernat – Adrift
Vasantha Yogananthan – Early Times
Yoshikatsu Fuji – Red String
The projection showcase a bunch of visually interesting narratives that really challenge the common society thought on a bunch of issues such as cultural minority, mentally challenged, and also towards understanding the common theme such as love. There is a lot to learn from it as well and hopefully it could go through (in some way) to the works that I had been working on myself.
After the projection night was done, I was somehow been able to join a group of friend for late supper before taking our time to take pictures of some people burning offering to the god. It’s that time of the month in Chinese Calendar and the whole town seems geared towards it as well.
For those who know me personally, I am probably best described as that annoying bastard with a camera (probably). Clicking and snapping picture in random situation, like when its raining heavily and suddenly someone ran across the street without any umbrella!, its going to look nice on frame and guess who will be missing from the group?.
Taking picture has became a second nature for me and what started as an interest has somehow turn into a habit; an addictive one at that. Mind you, I started ‘photography’ when I got my first smartphone in high school and that was more than 9 years ago. Within this so called ‘journey’ in photography, the one thing that has always been loyal by my side is non other than my beloved camera. After all, what is a photographer without a camera?, an eyewitness?.
Camera is also the reason for a photographer excuses in many situation; for it might as well be called their source of superpower.
“What are you doing here?” “I am a photographer Sir!” as you wave your Leica around “Okay” followed by a slow thumbs up.
“Can I take your picture?” as you nudge your Nikkor lens slightly. “Sure, why not?”
“Can you let me in?” while slowly raising your white luscious leather covered L lenses camera. “Sure, just enjoy yourself” as the bouncer open the door for you. Sounds of some techno song struck through your ears.
Of course, none of the dialogue is true. It probably happen to someone but its plausible at most. Having a camera by your side is like having a free passport to anywhere, you will never be short of excuses if you are clever enough. After all, the camera is your sidekick or in some cases, your Wingman.
Camera is a companion that most photographer choose and consider as a set of tools. You can liken it to a knife that the chef would choose to make the right cut or a soldier who choose which gun caliber suits best for a situation. Camera is a tool for the professional where its uses can be very specific rather than subjective.
I personally have 6 different camera, each have a rather different use as I see fit. From a Ricoh GR for a casual day-to-day shooting to a Sony A90 for a rather serious attempt or maybe vise versa . I also use film camera for a certain photography project that I am currently working on. The reason for using a film camera has more to do with how using the camera alter my usual approach to my subject than the actual final output from the film camera.
“If you want to change your photographs, you need to change cameras. Changing cameras means that your photographs will change. A really good camera has something I suppose you might describe as its own distinctive aura.”
– Nobuyoshi Araki
We photographer need camera and the need varies depending on our intention. Of course, an artist never brag about the brush that they are using but they still going to have a set of it to make a painting. To imagine how this actually work, think about Hajime Kimura works in color or Henri Cartier Bresson using the large format camera, can’t really imagine how their picture would be right?. Specific demand require specific camera, so choose the right partner.
Still, everything that I mention here doesn’t justify the urge to get all the best camera in the world (My dream camera is the Pentax 645D). You only get what you need. Like someone I met few years ago said, photography is a bit like marriage, you need to balance everything considerately or risk losing everything.
I remember the time when a friend of mine happen to brought some photobook from Japan. We were hanging out at a friend place at 1Borneo Shopping mall while discussing some geeky stuff on Photography; mainly on famous photographer and camera equipment. The topic that suddenly came out during that time was how Japanese photographer had a rather peculiar way in approaching photography. Araki with his cheap porno shots (not that I have a problem with though) and Daido with his understanding that everything has its beauty.
As we finally agree on that matter, another friend of mine happen to brought a photobook of his personal favorite photographer and I recall the way how he describe it as “Soft, serene, poetic” through Facebook message. I was skeptic about it for a while and a few pages through the photobook confirm my thought beforehand. It was more of a “Mundane, cliche’, flat”. I found the photobook to be boring for a while with no obvious narrative apart from its suggestive title and the book was none other than those of Rinko Kawauchi.
I wasn’t a fan of people using the highly popularize lomography tone (I used to refer the soft pastel color tone of Rinko work as Lomography tone) on their work and while Rinko works isn’t exactly ‘cross processing’, but it’s the fact that she use the film negative to create a soft tone images was very distasteful in my opinion at that time. I see it as a cheap way to romanticize a mundane scene and amateur photographer around the world have been copying her style to utter failure.
Rinko Kawauchi is a highly successful international photographer but I haven’t really consider much about her work until few years ago during Zhuang Wu Bin workshop. He mentioned some photographer who has successfully document their family life and one of them is Rinko Kawauchi. I was shocked, not because of her mesmerizing visual photograph but the fact that there is another side of Rinko Kawauchi that actually document stuff (yeah, I know). The misunderstanding was entirely my fault to begin with. Rinko has always had a clear concept in her mind and it was just me being oblivious in making a certain statement without actually bothering to give it a second look.
The book that was shown during the presentation was ‘Cui Cui’, a compilation of Rinko family photographs that was taken for the last 12 years. The fact that it took her 12 years to compile such collection of impressive photograph is a feat in itself and in photography, the sentimental value of a photograph increase overtime. Such was the editing itself was impressive and it has shed a new light on Rinko Kawauchi, she is a fucking genius!.
Sadly, the book is not mine and getting it online is rather hard as well since the book is no longer being printed. I needed a reference of her work to remind myself of my own shortcoming, or more like an inspiration for future work. The only book that I could get was ‘Utatane’ from Foiltokyo, part of the 3 early photobook that she published during her debut in 2001; which also earn her the 27th Kimura Ihei Photography Award .
Much of the quality of Rinko work comes through the vibrant color of her photograph which can only means that the level required for the printing should be nothing less than good. Foiltokyo is a well known photography and design book publisher, so there is no such flaw to begin with as the book binding and choice of paper is rather appropriate given the price and the size of the photobook.
NARRATIVE AND SEQUENCING
The thing with Rinko’s photo editing and sequencing is that it never really get boring. seriously.
I am sure that a lot would argue with the fact that all the picture that Rinko took could be taken by anyone, it’s so fucking simple. True, but not all of the photograph is that simple and many people had try to copy her ‘style’ before and fail miserably. The main reason is simply because I believe she has a lot of photograph to work on (or to choose from) and she sequence all her photograph in a form of pair which could either form a relationship between the two or against it.
The sequencing can be funny sometimes, interesting on the other, clever in some part, and simply weird in many way. It’s very hard to pinpoint where the narrative is going through for ‘Utatane’ but this is the kind of editing that allow you to enjoy the entire series even though you had left it on the bookshelf for years. ‘Utatane’ means ‘Siesta’ which according to the definition from Google, its a noun that state “an afternoon rest or nap, especially one taken during the hottest hours of the day in a hot climate.”. So her editing did in many way reflect that; a short dream that happen when you took a nap.
‘Utatane’ is not as famous as her other series such as ‘Aila’ and ‘Illuminance’ but it does give you some insight on how his dreamy looking series works. There is simple brilliance throughout the book and you can feel the warmth of summer Japan all from Rinko personal perspective.
Need some warm sunshine feeling of Japan?, grab a copy of ‘Utatane’ and immerse yourself in it. I did notice that her other series (Illuminance and Murmuration) is also impressive but for now, this would suffice to satisfy my curiosity on Rinko’s work.
Until then. Or when I get some spare cash to spend.