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.

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.

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.

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.
Some of the visitor who decided to go through the books instead of taking their lunch. 
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.

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’.

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.

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.

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.

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.







A day with a Professional Photographer : Rahman Roslan

A day with a Professional Photographer : Rahman Roslan

Labuan is usually one of Malaysia most isolated states and often ignored by most people other than those who are interested in  the business opportunity in Labuan (or cheap chocolate and booze).

Having a photography related event here in Labuan is quite rare as majority of the enthusiast photographer would rather rely on their peer or the internet community to learn something new. When I started photography, I have no one to rely to and most of the time I learn something new through online photography forum and from the local photography magazine. Of course, participating a photography workshop might help but there is none during my time and if there is, it would be to costly and usually somewhere further away from Labuan.

Over the past few years, the photography community around Labuan have become a bit more stronger than before, thanks to the affordable price of an entry-level camera. It is nice to see that finally, Photography is appreciated by people of Labuan and hopefully we could make it even better for everyone to enjoy.


One of Labuan most ‘active’ photography club manage to organize a photography talk where they invite a professional photographer to give a talk on his work experience and tips and trick in photography. I was expecting someone older but instead, I finally met one of the photographer that I have been following for years on wordpress, Rahman Roslan.

He is a 29 years old (I think I got his age right)  freelance photographer who work for a range of client but mostly news and documentary related assignment and one of his recent assignment is the Malaysia 13th General Election. The photo talk was interesting as he share some of his latest work from the recent Lahad Datu Standoff. The Lahad Datu incident draw a worldwide attention to that small part of Malaysia and he manage to interact with the military forces and also capturing the aftermath on the local surrounding. It gives us a thoughtful insight on the job risk and he was kind enough to give a few tips on how to avoid a certain misunderstanding when taking a sensitive picture; for an example, a pool of blood, corpse and even military officers.


His entire talk revolves around the idea of how photojournalist should try to put themselves within their given assignment. He keep pushing us, the participant to refer to someone outside their circle and forces us to look at the work of other famous photographer, particularly from Magnum Photos, AgenceVU, and Noorimages. Since he was talking something about Photojournalism, here is some of the tips that I manage to list out from his talk.

1) Photojournalism or Documentary photography is all about story telling, so make sure your photograph could speak for itself.

I consider this as one of the most important consideration for every photojournalist wannabe. A picture work better in a series and it tells a story in a more poetic way. Rahman was kind enough to comment some of my work and although he noted my keen sense of details and aesthetic vision, he thought that most of my picture didn’t actually tells a ‘story’, apart from being visually interesting.

His word have somehow struck the inner soul within me and hopefully I could capture a much vocal picture in a way that it is related with the project that I have been aiming. to complete.

2) Learn from various kind of photographer, and Internet is your best friend.

Learning is a non-stop journey where we learn new stuff almost everyday. Internet has been a huge leap in helping photographer compared to the past few decades and we can get a good access to most photographer portfolios and communication is faster as email can be replied within hours.

I consider myself as a ‘stalker’, not in a perverted kind of way but I usually email the photographer that I admire (I did email Shinya Arimoto, Kosuke Okahara and a few other), especially if I have a certain question that I want to ask. Usually they reply in great manner and make sure you support them by buying one of their photobook. That way, you will appreciate their work more and learn something from their approach in photography.

That is the good thing about internet, so make good use of it.

3) Keep a good attitude and intention when approaching a subject and story.

Rahman was telling his story while he was taking some picture during the Lahad Datu incident for one of his assignment. He wanted to take a picture around the water village that involves the murder of a few Police officer, so the place is potentially dangerous as there was some illegal immigrant living around the area. But still, he believes that a good attitude and sincere intention will help in getting your story.

Body language is important and so does communication skills.


Later that evening, I manage to get a face-to-face photo review, which is awesome although I was not totally prepared. It was good to hear other photographer opinion on your work but I will keep all his word about my work for myself.


Thank you Rahman Roslan, for the great insight in the life of a freelance documentary photographer.  (I met him again during IPA Street Photography Workshop at Kuala Lumpur recently.)

Here is a link to some of his featured work and website – http://rahmanroslan.com/home.html | http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2011/02/21/photoessay-nur-rahmanroslan/

IPOH : A Day Before ‘Hari Raya’ At The Ipoh Central Market

IPOH :  A Day Before ‘Hari Raya’ At The Ipoh Central Market

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The series of picture showcase here is taken at Ipoh Central Market a day before the first day of Raya for 2011, or to be more precise, the first day of Syawal according to the Muslim Calender. For those who celebrate Hari Raya, they must have understand the final rush of a day before Raya since they have to prepare all the food for the quest and also decoration for the entire house. But one thing that most people didn’t realize is that other people who are not celebrating is also working hard in order to keep a constant supply to the customer.

That guy have been standing there for a while, looking at the street down below.

This uncle sells some eggs and salted eggs, he was keen on his picture being taken. Next time I visit Ipoh, I am sure going to give him a print of this picture. 🙂

This Aunty is also keen with her picture being taken, like the Uncle, she also sales Egg and Salted Egg.

For those who are wondering, this is actually an opened egg kept inside a plastic bag. According to an Uncle, the plastic bag will be send to a Kaya Processing factory, which is convenient since you don’t have to crack the egg manually.

She is a bit shy though, but me and my friend insist on taking a picture of her and then she smile for the camera. 🙂

A very long line of people wanting to buy coconut milk. If i was not mistaken, the old lady is waiting for her daughter.

One of the brightest area within the whole market. 😀

She didn’t realize that I was taking a picture of her before, but his one seems better with the eye contact.

Flowers, the light was not that good but just to let you guys know, the flowers color is yellow.

A Ketupat, its actually a woven palm leaf in a triangular form filled with rice which is later boiled together.

A hip shot with the Nikon D60 and kit lens. No Crop.

He thought that I was taking his picture for a TV Station, and so does everyone around there. 😀

Sacrifices that has been made for that day…

A car was blocking his way out, which the Uncle complain to us, he is actually a nice guy. xD