Before I got to Pelita Hati Gallery, I had no idea how big a turnout it was going to be. I had not anticipated anything extraordinary or expected to make any interesting encounters. However, as soon as I arrived, I was greeted by a cheerful fellow photographer named Mohd Azlan. He was tall with a big frame. When he speaks, you can’t help but remain focused to his facial expressions, frequently punctuated by occasional small parting smiles. They were bright and calming. He’s one of a few people I’ve come across who articulates his speech, slowly, word by word.
Mohd Azlan is a radiography technician by profession. He gets to play with expensive hi-tech monstrous equipment that sees right into you; your coronary veins, organs and even your brain in multiple sections, hi-res that is! However, for photography as a hobby, he takes pictures (manually without a light meter, mind you) using a Rolleiflex, medium format twin lens reflex (TLR) camera.
He processes his own black and white but send colour pictures to the lab due to cost concerns. I thought that was cool. The entire process of capturing an image is reversed; Left is right, right is left, and 1/15 sec is supposed to be darker than 1/30 sec?! Confusing indeed to the uninitiated. His business card reads “Cardiac Imaging – Visual Artist”. I don’t suppose that’s a common title to be seen on business cards.
Mohd Azlan’s series of square format pictures about a girl had a vintage look to them. I thought they were very interesting and “philosophical”, until I had him explained them to me. They turned out to be far more abstract than they looked. They depicted the various personalities assumed by a growing girl as she advances through life; a visual documentation of both a biological and social evolution. The same female subject displaying different characters in different stages in her life.
The crowd was growing in numbers and by 4pm, Y.A. Bhg. Toh Puan Dato’ Seri Hajjah Dr. Aishah Ong, Pro-Canselor Universiti Malaya arrived. She officiated the event after speeches by herself, Professor Dr. Rosmawati Mohamed (Consultant Hepatologist & Organising Chairperson), Mr. Unni Kumar Menon (advisor to the World Hepatitis Day Malaysia Campaign) and Mr. Raja Annuar (Director of Pelita Hati Gallery).
Frankly, I thought some of the works in this exhibition were pretty good. Besides that of Mohd. Azlan’s thought-provoking works, there were quite a number of light painting pictures by the Indonesian group B.U.L.B (Barudak Urban Light Bandung), which was an ingenious play of acronyms with the SLR camera’s “bulb” mode. B.U.L.B is a group of young Indonesian photographers (some of whom are still students) with good imagination, patience and memory, all of which are important when executing light painting.
The other light painters besides Hikarimoji Light Graffiti is Firdaus Herrow, a fellow light painter who is currently doing his Masters in visual communications. An art student in UiTM, he’s very passionate in what he does. I also met Airulazli a.k.a Haris from Rupajiwa Studio. He’s from an architectural background and has been in the photography business for 5 years. He worked 3 years in a desk-bound job before he took the leap into running his own photography business. I ran a check into his portfolio and I must say, his works are pretty avant garde for a Malaysian photographer. I especially like his experimental portrait captures and high fashion shoots.
Haris is a nice humble guy and I certainly can’t wait to learn from him. He and his team whipped up a very cool photographic art installation idea in just a matter of weeks. However, the entire physical setup of the installation took them 8 long laborious hours!
He took black and white portraits of people to capture their immediate expressions when asked 3 questions about hepatitis. It’s a concept which has been done before but I thought the idea was well executed in this context about disease awareness.
I also especially like Azalia Suhaimi‘s picture of a girl’s dress and shoes, as if one’s looking down on them from above, with a nicely placed handbag & flower at lower frame to anchor one’s gaze. It’s titled “Run Away With Me”. Pretty well thought of. Her indisputable signature of warm vintage-like effects certainly adds to the atmosphere of a little girl’s fun play time on a bright sunny day.
I met with many other interesting artists who shared their love and passion for the arts and specifically, photography. I even met one english man who claims to find such photo exhibitions to be a rare occurence in Malaysia (despite the SLR-craze bug that bit the local community for quite awhile now). I was quite surprised to hear that, but on second thoughts, it resonated strongly as the truth. Yes, any Tom, Dick or Harry with a camera can take a picture, but can they communicate and sell their vision beyond just mere pictures? Do they have a statement to make? How impactful are their expressions? Even if they do exhibit their works, how receptive would Malaysians be? Hence, the possible lack of photo exhibitions.
Now who would want to buy works where you could produce yourself in your own back garden or bedroom-turned-studio? I guess when it comes to art exhibitions, sculptures, installations and the more common oil paintings or collages dominate the scene, not photographs. This has to change.
“Being There” provided that platform of change to a certain extent. Majority of these participating photographers have a day job. They pursue photography as a hobby. How many of these photographers will go on to have their own exhibitions subsequently? A handful maybe. That’s my point. It fizzles out before it could ever make an impactful statement. But if things were to change for the better, we need a few photographers who would spearhead this initiative in continuing the momentum forward in having more meaningful photo exhibitions.
All in all, it was truly a great exhibition. I learnt a lot from other photographers and made a few good friends. My outlook of the business of photography has taken on a wider perspective with my newfound resourceful network to tap into.
To add to my elation, I got my first two red dots! My deep appreciation and thanks for the support.
Here’s to a successful World Hepatitis Day celebration, the Malaysian way!