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Confluence & The Monsoon Masterclass Journey

When I decided to work with Tourism Selangor for the last 3 years, the one thought that became my compass was to make people change their perspective about traveling in Selangor. Somewhat of an ambitious task but with every effort, failed or otherwise was always about that. About wanting to make this state (a backyard for a majority of the urban folks especially) fun and cool.

Knowing that I was not going to continue my contract with the company, I had to make sure that I need to do one last thing I’ve been telling myself since I was at OBSCURA. To turn Selangor into a photography hub as much as Vig has turned Penang into one. Didn’t know how or when. It was just something that I planted in my head while working on #TSBreakAway which had a lot of influenced from OBSCURA itself.

Then a door opened. No, it was merely a key presented on my table by my then-boss Fazly, along the lines about having a budget to do something good before we both leave the company. That’s when I immediately called Vig and hoped that he would jump on the wagon.

That call turned out to be what we now know it as The Monsoon Masterclass program.

There are two parts to this superb program – 5 days photography masterclass workshop with James Whitlow Delano and Monsoon Artist in Residence (Monsoon AIR) with Ian Teh. I really wanted to join the workshop but fate had other plans and so I lived vicariously through seven students’ documentary-styled photography work. Which then turned into a 2 weeks exhibition at The Boulevard, Publika from March 23 – April 6, 2014.

At first glance, you wouldn’t think much about some of the work exhibited but when you read their summaries, you start to develop a storyline in your mind and analyse closely what each photograph is saying from the photographer’s point of view. You create this conversation in your head with the photos; questions like who are you, where is this or how is it possible starts to build up one after another. The next thing you know, you get absorbed into their realm. There are seven different subjects, all of which were documented around Selangor. Some of the stories can knock your socks off, that much I can tell you.

Monsoon Masterclass 01

I couldn’t have thought of anyone better to tell Irene‘s The Afterlife Architect story than Vig

K.G Monsoon Masterclass 03

K.G Krishnan walked us through his story about the Street Sisters in Klang

Hanif Maidin Monsoon Masterclass 02

Hanif Maidin‘s Tanda Mati gives a bigger impact when it’s printed

There are two entities I would go all out for an event they do and know I’ll come back inspired. One is from Kakiseni and another is Vig.

Having followed @monsoonair on instagram and facebook religiously (in other words, stalking) and heard stories from Vig about Ian Teh’s assignment for this program, I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.

Ian Teh spent three weeks in a span of two months exploring Selangor’s coastline with Hanif helping him to do the research and Nadia as his partner in crime, driving from one end of the state to another. I knew bits and pieces of it, of what’s happening, where he is going and all that jazz but if I know Selangor the way I do, she always knows how to surprise us. She just does and she did.

Ian Teh_Confluence Exhibition

Confluence is a sum of what is happening to our country in a wider perspective. It’s almost akin to Ian Teh’s love letter written to her people. Much like how I would conclude my journey with the state, I couldn’t have thought of a better word to describe it than one that he had said the first time when I asked him how did the assignment made him feel.

“It’s bittersweet.”

That’s all it takes and needs to sum it up really.

Ian Teh_Confluence 01

Ian Teh_Confluence 02

Of course, I also know that he knows a lot more about Selangor in that 3 weeks he was diligently documenting the coastline compared to the rest of the nation combined. It is only when you put yourself out there that you would know the nitty gritty side of this enchanting yet bleeding state of ours. Almost to a point that makes you want to do something to give back.

Ian Teh_Confluence 08

Oh yeah, might I add that Ian Teh is a Malaysian born (shout out to PJ peeps!) British photographer. And like everyone else, we have our own preconceived ideas about a certain place..until we actually get to know the real deal.

During the launch of his book Confluence at Publika last Saturday (his exhibition with the same name is also in Publika until April 6, 2014), I didn’t expect him to be such a jovial storyteller. Of course, I say this because, I’ve only know him through his work since OBSCURA and never had the guts to go up to him and say hello when I realised he was sitting a table next to mine at a local mamak spot in Hartamas prior to his Monsoon AIR assignment. Only a week before this launch had I manage to actually talk to him and ask some questions that were in my head for a while. Heck, my first photo of him was of his shoes when I was introduced by Vig. Being the typical doofus that I am, I was too shy and starstruck.

Ian Teh_Confluence 03

There’s this sense of humour you get that’s very British too. Making fun of yourself in a dry manner sorta way.

Anyway, it was interesting that we were gathered in front, all prepared to absorb knowledge as he narrated his journey when I suddenly felt like we were in a reading class of some sort. We were all very close to him, sitting in a semi circle. Listening intently to Cikgu Teh, Veronica chirped.

Ian Teh_Confluence 04

You see that black book he’s holding? Yeah that’s one fine piece of..sweet yummy book if it’s ever edible. It was so impeccably made to a point that the cover designed by Azeem Idzham is probably the coolest interpretation of Selangor’s map I’ve ever seen and the way Shafiq Halim designed the layout of the book, you know there were a lot of thoughts going through when each page is flipped. Tash Aw, Prof Khoo Kay Kim and Eddin Khoo enveloped their thoughts for the essays in this book.

It makes perfect sense yet it’s also capable of breaking your heart. There are only 300 copies of the black version and 100 limited ones for white which you can purchase online here. I highly recommend anyone who loves photography or books of any kind to add this to your collection. You know it’s made with lots of love. Maybe some blood, definitely sweat and tiny bit of tears were involved in the making of this beautiful piece, who knows?

Ian Teh_Confluence 06

But if you had to buy something, let it be Confluence. You won’t regret it.

Also, I managed to record some bits of his session. Wished I had recorded the whole thing! So much humility and honesty in the way he delivered his answers when we asked him some stuff.

This particular video was when someone asked him “Why did you name your book Confluence when you kept on repeating coastline instead?”

He knows his stuff yo.

And then I asked, “What is your best memory during this trip?” .. and you know his Malaysian side had to come out first when he confidently replied “Food!”

In the end, I do think the magic behind The Monsoon Masterclass and Monsoon AIR is something we should respect highly. I felt so proud knowing this finally happened the way it did. That all that hard work and frustrations resulted into this magnificent platform for all photographers and storytellers alike to grow. I only wish for this to continue to be the best it can be, changing one viewpoint a time.

Truthfully, it really couldn’t have happened without Vig, Ian, Nadia and everyone else in the team. They really pulled out a rabbit from the hat this round. They really did.

Watch out world!

Ian Teh, Vig & The Monsoon AIR

To sum up what The Monsoon Masterclass and Monsoon AIR meant to me is exactly the way I had posted on my instagram:

“The only time I had this surreal feeling (referring to the aerial shots of the coastline above) was when I watched my favourite movie from Dain Said entitled Bunohan, which was an Oscar nominated flick too. Coincidentally, both were documented during the monsoon season; only in different states of Malaysia. So my point is, there’s so many great bits in Malaysia by Malaysians..just that there’s too few to spread their magic around. Tash Aw said it well in Ian Teh’s book Confluence – we think we know who they are, we think we know their stories, but in fact, nothing is certain. It’s people like them that made me changed my mind about what I knew and what I want to do in long run.”

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Peru: Lima Ruled by Conscience

Now that I’m settled with the time difference after 11 days of struggling since I came back, my brain has been buzzing about the things it wants to write about. It’s pretty vast considering I didn’t have anything to record it with or the strength to at the time but here I am. Also has a bit to do with reading Fienuts’ latest feature for Travel Spotlight: Gina Hashim a few minutes ago that pushed me to say something..so yeah, here I am typing away.

We’ll go with the flow, what these fingers would like to talk about. They rule this place, I’m just the medium.

So after climbing a mountain of work the past one week and waiting for clients to respond, I decided to finally go through the memory cards to see what photos I’ve actually taken during my three weeks trip to South America (and a bit of Dubai). Yeah, took me three weeks to get to this point and let’s not even start with unpacking my stuff. THAT bag still sits nicely at the corner of my room, staring at me profusely, “C’mon! Sort me out already!” I hear it scream at me.

Right, excuse the kooky side of me.

Where was I?

I was flipping through photos from Peru and a wave of sentimental emotions came crashing like I knew it would. I didn’t think after so many weeks I’d feel the same or maybe even more so now. It’s a strange feeling, wanting to capture as many photos for keepsake yet there I was in Peru (it all started in Lima) where I stumbled upon a dilemma that carried me through the rest of the journey.

I had imagined the kind of compositions I wanted when I landed at Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez, so many of them, I psyched myself to a point that when I head to Miraflores, I had the most conflicted feeling I’ve ever experienced during all my traveling days.

See, after going through Chemat’s Street Photography masterclass last year during Obscura Photography Festival in Penang, I constantly ask myself about what I photograph and if it has any story or significance to it. My trigger happy days has since died off and for the better too I guess.

Lima Panoramic View

Anyway, while I was looking at Lima from the window glass, this one particular question haunted me for the rest of the week.

“Do I have a need when taking photos of them? A reason that will benefit them or a story on their behalf?”

Each time when I answered no, I will put down my camera and just watch as time passes by. Ironically, I feel at peace with that decision. And you must think I’m out of my mind for letting such moments go so easily without a fight.

You’re right.

If I was you, I’d be like “Are you crazy?! All that beautiful epic moments you missed just because your conscience says otherwise? Geez, what a waste”. Well, I could say such thing I’m sure but when you’re there, seeing how they live, and the hard work they put in, how is your photo doing just to their lives? I feel like if I don’t have a story to tell about them from them, I don’t deserve stealing their moment. I felt like a trespasser. Weird right? I know but unless I got to know them personally, talking to them eye to eye and have some kind of connection, I feel that the least respect I can give them is allow them to continue living the way they’ve been doing it. Without me interfering.

That’s just me. For you, this might not even apply at all. And I can live with this new revelation about photography. I might walk away with (waaaaay) less photos of where I went but in the end, this is what that place is suppose to be. I’ll capture it with words, as best as I can.

These days I’ve dabbed into (something like) videos too. Maybe down the road I’ll pick up this trait again. It’s just that I don’t exactly have that much patience for rendering but we’ll never know until we try it (again).

The one thing I remember taking from my trip to Lima, Cusco and Puno is that it doesn’t matter what your background is. When you make the most of what you have and take on the opportunities you’re given, you can be where you want to be.

Rolf and Gonzalo inspired me to keep pushing to do what is best. The best thing you know in that moment for yourself and for the rest who can benefit from it. Their innate ability to constantly learn anything and everything under the sun makes me feel that there are still good in this world. I feel so humbled standing and sitting next to them, sometimes I feel a little shy too because while I was taking a nap in the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, Gonzalo took out his notebook and studied German over and over again.

Tourism is a big thing here in Peru. It’s the source of income for 65% of the nation and what’s even better to know is that their degree in Tourism includes archeology, history and geology. Of course it makes sense but it makes studying to get that paper so much more worth it. Tourism & Hospitality degree here is just the basic stuff. Not hardcore as the ones offered back in South America and the thing is, we should take a page from them. If we don’t know our history, culture and beliefs at the tip of our fingertips, how can we muster such knowledgable people in the tourism sector?

They take pride in what they do, so much blood, sweat and tears invested for their beloved country and it’s so good to feel their passion oozing out from them without speaking.

It’s these kind of people who empowers me to do what I do. They are the ones who fuels me to push through all the obstacles I could face in the future. Just thinking about how hard they work makes me want to work just as hard or harder. Not because I’m competitive but because that’s what required of us to do good things. We don’t sit and give excuses. If we want something good to happen, we make it happen. The rest, we’ll just have to let Him write the story.

For as long as you’ve done your best, the best you can possibly do, no one can take that away from you.

I was lucky to have a friend like Z who was in Peru a few years back for work and had filled me in about his adventure then. Didn’t think I’d ever go there but when I did, he texted me of the places I should check out. One of it was Cerro San Cristóbal. I asked Rolf, who is a German born, bred and lived in Peru, if this place was far from downtown Lima (where we were heading) and he had this priceless look on his face. The kind who didn’t expect the cows to sing sort of look.

Rolf in Streets of Lima

I wasn’t sure what this place is to begin with when I asked Rolf besides seeing a photo Z had taken. Didn’t even do any other read up about this particular trip of mine to South America. And I was warned not to go up on my own and if I do take the cab, make sure to request for the driver to wait at the peak. So as we were maneuvering around downtown Lima, passing by one of the oldest universities in the New World – National University of San Marcos, he pointed to me the cross on a mountain in the horizon.

“That’s San Cristobal. But we’ll have to wait till noon so that the fog clears up a little before we go up there.”

I found out from him that there are only 10 days in a year when Lima will be blessed with clear blue sky due to Lima’s topography which is a desert and surrounded by the Andes mountains (spectacular terrain I might add). So, the fog/haze is really due to the dust and after awhile you’ll get used to this condition, not like the kind I’m used to (still hate it) in Malaysia where haze is mainly made up of smoke.

San Cristobal Panoramic

The drive up is quite a challenge, through slums and narrow roads in between and by the cliff. I wonder if maybe walking up might be a better idea and while you’re going up, try and spot all 12 crosses along the way. It’s also the area you’re best not to explore after dawn, “Not even if you give me a million bucks!” said Rolf.

It’s definitely a stark contrast from the rest of the cities I’ve been too. We’ve been accustomed to think that when you hear the word city, it’s developed, urban and busy but in South America, the cities meant differently. Lima’s down town city is very…unkept. However, this is also due to the history when the military chased the rich families out of the area and turned it into some kind of “public toilet” for many decades after.

Also, if you ever asked someone to take photo of you, be prepared to have some spare coins for tips later. It’s kinda a norm. I mean more often than not that is.

So what’s good to be at the top of Cerro San Cristobal? It being Rolf’s wild card in case the other places he had in mind weren’t good enough, I’d say it’s the view, a 360 degrees of Lima and the Andes at your feet. You can spot the biggest graveyard, a bull fighting stadium, San Francisco Monastery and more! Something similar to Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro but minus the crowd. Peru is what you see is what you get kinda place. My kinda thing. Everywhere you go, you’re walking on ancient history. There’s always Inca this or Spanish that. Just something else. The people are wonderful. So gracious and sweet even if they don’t speak much English but you can get by with speaking broken Spanish. Until then, I didn’t think my rusty Italian would help me much but it did because it’s very similar in meanings.

I don’t know how or where this affectionate feeling for Peru developed, I just know it all started in Lima and grew on me for the rest of the time and I still have one more story about Lima before I get to Machu Picchu!

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Obscura 2013: Finding Familiarity in Art with Chemat

Treat everything we do like it’s a form of art.

I was watching Masterchef Australia Season 4 which Heston Blumenthal was part of the Mega Invention Test. Dude’s most known for his insane creation by merging two unthinkable ingredients together.

Masterchef Australia Season 4 Episode 49 Heston Blumenthal

Photo Credit: Corner Cafe

Anyway, while watching the episode and when he said something along the lines of being in a creative space and under pressure to create something is what’s most exciting – and that thought brought me back to Chemat‘s Street Photography Masterclass workshop during Obscura 2013 last June.

That was exactly how I would’ve explained the intensity throughout my trip then. I’ve spoken highly of this 10 days program and was so inspired that I’m hoping a project I’m working on would see the light of day and have some sense of belonging as it did with Obscura.

Many asked me what it was like during the 3 days workshop in Georgetown, Penang. I only have this to say,

Mind Blowing

I don’t know how else I could have word it out so excuse my french.

I hear whispers, words of terror that Chemat is one to be feared. And yours truly has every right to be afraid too, I mean this is one of the legends in Malaysia we’re talking about.

“Well, worst case is, he won’t like what you do and make you do it again” a friend said.

Right. Like that’s any comfort to my anxious mind.

But it turns out, he’s a lion to his students in MMU. Outside of it all, he’s really a humble man who’s willing to impart knowledge on you. So much wasted brain cells on feeling scared, I learned to relax as we go along during his briefing.

There were about 13 of us. Maximum was 10 but I can see why so many were so eager to register for his session. We were made of from different parts of the world – Washington, Dakar, Germany, Bali, Singapore..basically everywhere around the world. I went into this session alone but end up anything but that.

Obscura Chemat Group Photo

The weirdest part during Chemat’s briefing on Day 1 was that, I was the only one busy live tweeting while the rest make mental notes as he walk us through what makes a street photography, history, etiquettes and more. The things he shared with us were so valuable, I think everyone would get something out of it .. therefore I retreat to the medium I’m more familiar with. I might’ve spammed my followers with bits and pieces of Che Mat’s wise word, hopefully someone find it useful.

China House Obscura Chemat

Before this, I never thought street photography to have such depth. All this while, I’ve been accustomed to just snapping as I go along – he made us stop, think and find meaning in each frame. He made us throw our bad habits; we had to unlearn to relearn this new approach. Street is always about the moment we capture and it still is, just that the technique and mentality has been turned 270 degrees.

Obscura Tweets

After his briefing, we went out together as a group with Chemat. First part of the day was the theory section. The second part is the practice. I was still intimidated and unsure but slowly I found reassurance with myself. Partly because I was still figuring out my new camera. Talk about throwing myself into the sharks.

We were brought to spots Chemat tend to do his shoots, taught us how to be approachable, respect strangers and just simply be. Stick around next to the legend and you’ll pick up details like composing before snapping, waiting and anticipating for a moment to happen and think about the subject before shooting. It’s these nuances that made him great, these nuances that he wants more people to apply into their habit.

Obscura Festival Chemat Street

See, there are a few points Chemat had mentioned which I find most profound. One of which was that – even if you went out and do your usual street photography, it’s ok to come home with nothing (good). So long as you keep doing it, eventually you’ll get something. In today’s world, people want quick fix and instant results. Which isn’t how life works as a whole but people are still adamant to make it happen that way. Having him stressing out the importance of letting go of expectations, you find more patience in everything you do. It’s that secret power you harness what makes your photos tell a deeper story, a better one than before and hopefully one that resonates with other people who view it too.

After all, if a photo is unable to bring out the emotions it speaks, it’s only just a photo. A two dimensional one.

Then there’s the wisest statement I’ve heard in a long time – he also stressed out the importance of one particular street photography rule. Never ever take photos of beggars ( and visually impaired musicians) on the street. That is not street photography by any means. If anything, you’re exploiting their unfortunate lives for your own benefit. Unless you’re doing a story about them, understanding who they are and intend to make your story help them in a positive way, then don’t ever. Taking advantage of others who couldn’t do anything about their situation without purpose is just insensitive.

That’s his rule of thumb. Something we all can apply into our daily life. Think before we share, speak or do something. If we’re doing it just because we want to be part of something (without deeper purpose), there is no point in doing it. Do something with purpose. Do something good.

And it’s always good to have principles to hold on to. At the very least, when you go off track, you can look back and ground yourself to what/who/where you truly are. You’ll pick up these tricks along the way as you discover yourself. Be constantly curious and adaptable.

What did I learn at the end of the trip? What I thought my strengths were was otherwise not the case and I found out that I’ve got a knack for graphic things. I’m more drawn to those and having him pointed it out to me when we were reviewing our pieces really shed so much light into what street photography is all about. So that 2/3 of the day images I took were not hitting the mark now that I had a new direction. So off I went waking up 6am and walked to the other side of Penang, waited and anticipated for moments.

I sat for more than an hour outside Komtar. No one was around at that time, one could just cross the road easily. I went to this place the day before, but didn’t get the shot I wanted. Given that I only had until 9am to get my shit together, I look for something..anything really and found a possibility.

And sometimes..the good stuff happens through accidents.

That was exactly the case with this particular photo I took as part of the concept. The 5th photo that made into the presentation list. Wasn’t part of the plan but it became THE plan. I was trying to capture the uncle at the shop lot but then, a pack of dogs decided to photo-bombed.

Yep, this was the result of that. The one I didn’t expect to snap but I did. In that moment, I finally understood what Chemat has been talking about. Waiting for that moment, composing the subject and just be patient. Everything he said throughout his talk wrapped into one image.

Obscura Street Photography Chemat

So y’know, it helps to go with the flow when it comes to things that’s beyond your control. You’re more relaxed, open-minded and accepting of things. I like this.

When it was time for our final group review before slideshow that evening, I was as nervous as a noob can be. What more being among the most talented bunch of cool people in this class..geez, I’m like somewhere at the bottom. However, that’s not the point of joining this session..I brought back so much more, in fact it helped boost my confidence just a little bit more. We all know what a mess I can be when it comes to the public, having people actually sit and anticipating for our work was every bit a nerve wrecking experience for me. One that was projected to an empty wall at the temple opposite China House with people lying down on the grass and more on the bench, oi, some experience that was! To be honest, so many times I felt like getting out of the place, not wanting for people to see what I shot the past one day. Shout out to Anis for the moral support 🙂

Having a good collection of photos, street photography for that matter is no easy task. It’s something that’s almost out of your control – whatever the result of your photos may be. But patience.. that’s all it takes to build up something good.

As for Chemat, you students are lucky to have him as your lecturer. As strict as he is..it will carry with you to the end. Don’t bother hoping for someone who’s more delicate with you, you bunch of lucky folks.

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The Obscura Point of View: Penang Day 1

This is fate. The Maker’s way of saying;

I’m suppose to do this the way it is right now. On my own.

6 days after coming back from Sydney, I’m packed up and headed for Penang for 5 days. I only ever go back to Penang for Eid Fitr celebration because it’s my mum’s hometown. That or that one time when I stayed in Penang for a class trip back in college.

This is a whole different thing.

I’m rediscovering Penang  from a whole different point of view. I call it The Obscura Point of View.

Obscura Photography Festival

Initially I plan to go for Obscura Photography Festival on my own for Che Mat’s Workshop then it became a team plan until 2 days before I came back only to know that some people weren’t happy about the plan. Then I’m back to square one.

Considering I’ve paid for the workshop and my flight, I might as well just go anyway even if this would be my first solo trip in Malaysia. I mean c’mon, it’s Penang for god sake. It’s generally a lot better than Kuala Lumpur; what with the haze and all.

So, Penang is a go no matter what. It’s easier to go according to your own plan rather than depend on others anyways. Except that as days go by, I get to know more people who are interested to go for the trip. Each one arriving on different days. Whaddya know? I got a bunch of like-minded folks for a super cool event again.

It was slightly weird. I think to be in a familiar place you’ve been countless of times but this time for a different reason. Touched down at Penang International Airport was odd – the last time I flew here was in Dec ’09 to see my late grandma. Even then it was a 12 hours thing. So being here again sorta kinda made me reclaim all these memories for better hopefully.

Instead of heading to Green Lane or Gurney Drive as I would have usually with my parents,

“Chulia Street please” I told the taxi driver.

Very odd feeling, a good one I’m sure. Unsure most of the time but good nonetheless. And being the typical me, I’ll grab by the bull’s horns when I’m on this path anyway.

IMG_2005

Had it not been for Obscura, I wouldn’t have known about Syok at Chulia Street. This place surpassed my expectation. Even Dorsett Penang can’t win this one. Honestly, I think it’s like staying with a big family. Everyone’s so warm and inviting for a chat, always available for a chat actually. Even my roommates are really cool too. I was told, a lot of the Obscurians are also staying here. We’ll see who I’ll bump into tomorrow morning.

The bed’s really comfy, all you need are here – with a good eye aesthetically too. Kudos Karen and her team! Heck, they’ll even lend you their umbrella too 🙂 Bicycles are available for rent as well.

For a moment, I had to remind myself that I’m only in Penang, not another country. Constantly reminding myself that there’s no timezone difference. Brain’s still going cuckoo I guess but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t feel like I’m in Malaysia at all. Pedestrians are able to walk a lot better here and I’ve been making friends with random people in an instant. It just has such a good vibe this state, how far ahead they’ve come now – truly, ultimately I can feel a great community is nurturing it’s power together.

I didn’t realised that Syok at Chulia Street is situated right smack in good food area. Only 3 minutes away and I’m back at my family’s favourite food joint for Nasi Kandar – Hameediyah at Campbell Street. Eating alone is really no big deal, in fact it’s the only time I can check on updates actually.

Hameediyah

Then upon reading my email, I got to know that Che Mat’s students are required to register on site later in the evening at China House. It was only 4pm at that time. Slowly taking my time walking in the rain (thank you God!), I head back to Syok to grab Obscura’s map. Wasn’t sure how far China House was but I’m sure I can just walk to the other end.

When I asked one of Syok’s staffs about the direction, two guys who were chilling at the common area overhead my conversation and spoke out aloud saying that they too are heading the same place to check out Filmmakers Anonymous show and other exhibitions in China House. Hey hey!

China House

It’s then that I got to know Adli and Kadir who runs their own creative space near where I live. Along the way Kadir found this particular shop that fits for his photoshoot or something like that in one of the lanes we walked.

When we arrived at China House, the show was already running and we dispersed. People actually offer you seats and make space for you. All this little gestures are so rare in KL that I’m easily amused by it.

At first, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb looking like a lost lamb and dressed up so..normal. Everyone looked like they below in this festival while here comes a kid who .. came with an open mind to learn. The movies were..interesting. There were one or two I really liked. Ramadan (Umar Muhajir) and Bajet (Zam Nayan).

See here’s the thing about shorties, often I come across either dark genre or emo. And it has become such a stereotype that it had me going “What else is there?” so when I watched Ramadan and Bajet which both are from different genre – one’s more self discovery and adversity while the other is about the quirky side to everyday life – it made me pay attention to the storytelling and craft. Both of which were executed well. There’s a certain depth and natural aspect to it, which I find more appealing.

Obscura Photo book

When the show ended, both Adli and Kadir nonchalantly introduced me to other Obscurians who then I got to know that our circle of friends are quite small. I also got to know that I have two more look-a-likes. People from all over the world are here for this, you’d be missing a lot of greatness if you decide to skip it.

Managed to even check out the Handmade Photobook Workshop by Yumi and Nozomi. which wrapped up today. I really wanted to join this one but oh well. The results of other people’s photobooks were really cool. Each one presented their book and told us their thought process, journey and ideas about it. Loved it even more on how they have to search their materials in Penang. So it’s just not about making the photobook by hand, it’s the journey and exploration. I’m such a sucker for that. Even the photographers who are here to exhibit participated too. It’s just such a shift, there’s no status, hierarchy of any type. Everyone’s like everybody..just with passion.

Obscura

Then, Gianni Frinzi (an award winning publisher) had an impromptu talk about the books he published and won. It was suppose to be about showing his books but eventually with the Q&A session, it turned out as a proper talk about publishing books (mass or niche etc). Truly, in just a matter of hours, Obscura has managed to inject all sorts of awesomeness from every angle – it need not have to be strictly Photography but indirectly, it links back. Gianni spoke about how Amazon has changed the game with distributors and why self-publishing is more important now than ever.

One thing I realised during Gianni’s session is that in order to stay alive (literally and metaphorically) – a person has to have a few cards on the sleeve. Being a jack of all trades is really what’s gonna keep you awake and sated. It’s always finding ways to get something done, expand your mind and make the most of what you have. Not so much about making it big (I’m sure to a certain point it does) but it has a lot to do with striving for the best while keeping it balance because in the end it’s about communicating with your client and knowing what your audience wants. People tend to find commercialism to be..well over compromised but I don’t think that was the case with Gianni. You need a certain standard to achieve greatness and that standard is there for a reason. So strive it. Break it if need and don’t forget to have fun while doing it.

Gianni Frinzi Obscura

It’s those little pieces you know? Doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll change the world but with enough little things to make a difference, eventually it’ll give a big impact.

Work hard, hard work.

It is what it is. No short cuts. Just you and fun doing what you wanna do.

I’m so freaking grateful that Vig brainwashed me to go for his massive festival. No amount of words can describe it.

You know..you’re still not late to join the fun – Obscura goes on till Sunday June 30. So come!

Tomorrow, my Obscura fever begins..one I’m quite terrified to be honest. Why? I hear so many people say the same thing about my instructor – strict. Jeng jeng jeng..

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Umm..all photos above were taken with the iPhone. Sorry.

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Zack Arias & A Sense of Charm in Photography

No matter what I do, I’ll have to inject some art bits in it. Maybe if I can’t do it bluntly but I try to add an art point of view here and there.

To me, art is the essence of life. The x-factor to the things we do on daily basis. Maybe you might not see it that way, but horning your skill, even by sweeping the floor, getting a certain routine formulated .. that is art too.

But I’m not writing about art.

I wanna talk about my fear of going up to people and asking their permission to take photos of them. I have done in the past, sometimes just to challenge myself. And I find joy in knowing that people don’t mind actually. However, I’m still intimidated to go up to people.

Watching Zack Arias doing his thing like it’s no big deal is an inspiration I hope to harness in June. There are two reasons for this,

I: I’ll be heading down under for a break but also to finally come back from the dead in taking street photography with my new sidekick.

II: Enrolling myself for 3 days street photography workshop with Chemat (a living legend in Malaysia) in Penang for Obscura Festival.

So, either ways, I still have to get down on my knees and work on my photography. I’ve been told that Chemat is one guy who takes no-nonsense. Which is good for me but I better know my shit!

I like that Zack Arias isn’t intimidated by people and people are just as fond of him. There’s that connection, that extra zing to capture because he makes them comfortable. Something I want to work on from now onwards.

In a way, it helps build my self-esteem which once upon a time was almost non-existent.

But activities like this, people like him, friends I have make me want to be better for myself. Build myself up because I deserve it, because He obviously has a plan for me for sticking around this long despite me not knowing what it is.

So I think, everything is planned out the way it should be. Just received my new sidekick and it’s time for one heck of a bonding session baby!