MID-SEMESTER BREAK 2015

MID-SEMESTER BREAK 2015

   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.

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Woke up early that morning.  All is prepared and ready to wait at the bus stop. 

   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.

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The last time I took an express bus was 4 years ago. 

   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.

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A photograph that proves I have been to Kedah, or at least pass by. 

   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.

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Akmal brought me to the one of the shoreline. Can’t remember the place name though.

   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.

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Mr Jusni Nasirun.

   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.

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I believe there is more than a dozen of cat around the household area.

   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.

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The limestone hill is unique, there is nothing like it at my place though.
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Taken right in front of a Pasembor stall where we stop by to get some food.
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Pokok getah, it’s a common sight here throughout Malaysia.

   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.

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I just found out that Akmal Civic has an Integra DC5 engine. That is very impressive and he is wearing a Honda MUGEN T-shirt by the way.
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The rain makes for a cold damp night.
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Checking through the phone for one last time. We did try to search for a hotel to stay for the night but couldn’t since most of them doesn’t accept check in after 12am.

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.

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Check out the huge roof canopy covering the walkway. The detail is impressive but I do wonder how the building will perform during rainy season.

   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.

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I think the river is some sort of a border between Perak and Kedah. If I am not wrong that is. 
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We did visit some of the famous waterfall spot but it was dangerous to take a dip in it as the rain from last night create a strong current.
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The infamous Ipoh traffic jam, waste an hour of my life here. Hunting for the Nasi Ganja.
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That famous Nasi Ganja. Its legal to eat and halal by the way.

   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.

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Enjoying the colonial style facade.
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The kid didn’t fall, he was trying to stand up.

   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.

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The town council did a good job on this. All state should focus on a project that will benefit the public in general not just mega project.
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*Insert screaming child sound file

   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.

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They stay at the same hotel with me and they seem to catch the same train as I do.
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Few minutes before departure. First time on this super fast train though. 
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I slept for most of the time but woke up because it was cold and I didn’t bring my jacket with me.
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Arrived at KL Central. Finally, a familiar place. 

   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.

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I did rest myself a bit after arriving before heading out to the street of KL.

   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.

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A very KL feel. Crowded and dense.
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Pussy.
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In front of Pudu Raya. 
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A very KL feeling somehow.

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.

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Most of the picture that I took afterward was a bit blurred. But the place was dimly lighted.
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My step back to the hotel was a bit lighter than usual. Nice view though under the rain.

   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.

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Nick in his environment.
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Nick favorite man, the Bankruptcy Man.
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We went to Kinokuniya as the sun is getting higher, which later we spent a hundred ringgits on photobooks.
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Nick was saying that my sunglasses looks funny, which I agree.

   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.

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KL Central. 

   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.

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The moment that I realize that I need to walk for another 10 minutes to the Ferry  Jetty. 
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I am not so sure, am I always the one who is not rushing to the same place?.
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Catching the last ferry to Georgetown.
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Everyone already took their favorite spot and I don’t know where to sit. 
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This kid seems to be enjoying the night breeze. The skyline does reminds me of a wallpaper picture of Hong Kong though. 
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Arrived at Georgetown. Everyone rush to the bus station. 

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.

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Taxi driver are desperate for money and income, but it wont help with their image in the future as they compete with the like of UBER and Grabcar. The guy didnt even use a meter. 

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.

OBSCURA PHOTO FESTIVAL 2016 – An experience | PART 1

OBSCURA PHOTO FESTIVAL 2016 – An experience | PART 1

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.

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Alvin giving a stare to the camera. Looking forward to see his upcoming work on a visual diary of some sort next year. 

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.

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The crowd is very receptive during the talk by Teun Van der Heijden. 

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.

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The design process of the ‘Black Passport’, one of my favourite photobook ever. Current price for a copy is about 450USD. Wish I can have this on my wall for my room.
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Some of the visitor who decided to go through the books instead of taking their lunch. 
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Sim Chi Yin going through some of the photobook. She teach one of the masterclass for the Obscura Photo Festival this year. 

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.

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A collection of photobook on display. Spent a good solid hour going through the books. Immense stuff. Notice the Henri Cartier Bresson book on the bottom left corner?.

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’.

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Daniel Boetker-Smith giving his talk and view on the current state of Photobook Market especially in South East Asia and Australia. 

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.

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Waiting for the program to start. Beer is on sale by the way.

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.

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The hardworking people behind Obscura Photo Festival and of course, the big ass projector. 

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.

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Daniel questioned the narratives and objectives used for the projection. 

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.

Another late night stay before tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

MID 2016

MID 2016

All is well so far for 2016.

As for my University life, all the thing that I try to do from my ‘New year resolution list’ is slowly being done but of course apart from my love life; which is as miserable as it always is. So far for this year, I manage to get into my first architecture competition at the end of last year and managed to get third place out of 20+ participant from all over Malaysia. I also got myself busy with some extra-curricular activities which I try to avoid before in the past, something that I try to actually get myself involve in a different circle of people and at the same time improve my time management skill.

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Part of my presentation board for my design studio.

The thing with my semester break this time is that I will be involve in a several events few weeks before the next semester start which means my ‘holiday’ is not exactly 3 months but only for a solid 2 months. It did force me to change my mid-semester plan short as I did plan to take several design commission but nevertheless, I happen to work at my old company instead since they are short in staff at the moment (a rather surprise decision actually). This in addition will help me ease through next semester financially and hopefully funds me to do something interesting on the next semester break.

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That final project feeling.

Coming back to Labuan for the semester break allow me to be more collective in thought, like considering how much had I progress so far in life (Current Level : 24, 2456 EXP required to the next level) and focusing on what to do next. Photography wise, it’s time to get back to my previous work and to actually review my past work. There is this wise photographer once told me that you need to detach yourself from your photograph that you took and guess what happen when you been away from looking at your photograph for like a year?, that awful nauseating feeling of seeing a newbie works!.

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A remnant of my past documentation work on Labuan. 

True enough that some of the photograph feels as if it works when I show it to Wu Bin last time but now I realize how true his opinion is, it just doesn’t work, composition wise or technical wise. Maybe it’s time to be more ruthless when it comes to editing my work and to be a more tougher critic of my own work.

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A rather slow process to get everything in perspective.

Going back to my contact sheet for my ‘The Promised Bridge’ long term photography project, maybe, just maybe I finally get a grip on what I actually been seeking through the project; that mundane melancholy of Labuan itself.

This will be another tiring mid-semester break all over again.