8 Months later

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A jewelery advertisement hangs from a near complete ‘Pavilion’, KL’s new concept shopping Mall. It rose replacing KL’s Bukit Bintang Girls School which had occupied the grounds since 1930

You know…i have been so busy, distracted by necessary evils that I almost forgot about KLGTU! A friend who recently brought my attention back, reminded me of how important this project is, for KL and its community. And for me….a true home grown legacy.

17 months ago when i started KLGTU, i envisaged that it could be completed in 12 months. I was so wrong. I think now it will span a couple of years! Shaped by firstly by time and perhaps rightly so because the rate of change (KL’s speed of development) is high enough to record meaningful changes.

Guess what!

Well its the end of NOv and I haven’t yet achieved any of the things i hoped to achieve this month. The excuses are always valid cause this is not priority. But i am commited to this project and will continue to work at it. At some point it’ll finish and the pics and stories will see light of day! But for now i keep struggling to find the time. Next month is also busy and i have to take some time off to work on some ideas for the Malaysia@50 contest. No No no….not excuses…geez….

Photographers block

After shooting in Chinatown streets for most of last week, I find myself still without a clear direction… of approach …of something to pour focus into… Sure street photography can be organic as I mentioned earlier, but if i wanted more depth in my coverage, I feel that I have to do more…

As i return to Chinatown more often, I can slowly feel that my perception of things around change. From the mysteries of something new, to the boredom of repitition. Its a mixture of “Gosh i am walking down this street again…everything seems the same… hey whats that?…nah…geez what am i looking for?!…” I see potential in subjects but i need to engage them deeper…. i am reluctant to do it…probably because the idea is not dramatic enough? I dismiss it and move on….and the cycle repeats itself…

I would love it if I could just return there more often in a week and just hack at the ideas. Find something. I believe it will always come. But can’t really do that cause of other commitments…so this ad hoc approach also has its effects. But its always going to be like this…probably for the good….cause nothing handed over on a silver plate will ever taste as sweet….

Kampung Baharu Flavour…see you soon

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Just thought I’d release some pictures…before I stop posting for a little while.

It was getting interesting…I was getting to know the neighbourhood and its people. But for commercial reasons, progress there had to make way for progress elsewhere…ha ha ha. Somehow all my recent ‘commercial distractions’ seem to resolve around KLGTU locations. Kinda like different dimensions of KLGTU. I am doing it…but with a different eye. Pretty surreal when you can make – different sets of pictures come out from a similar location – when your objective is different.

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The recent distraction was a story for Going Places about Malay houses and guess where it lead me back to…Kampung Baharu! Anyway I gotta go…its late and tomorrow is another full day. But I’ll be back soon! Pity this isn’t my personal blog, if not my…new adventures for the KL travel guide would be in here too…:)

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This is my second ever lightning shot within 15 days! And I am not chasing after them. Boys and girls, the climate is changing and James Lovelock says that the current climate trend (global warming and its effects) is already irreversible.

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Overload

Looks like I have to be hands-off KLGTU for the next month and a bit. The shoot list for my new ‘commercial’ assignment is pretty intense and got to…deliver. Mind you the locations are pretty similar to KLGTU but the subject matter is a little more in your face and generally I have to keep it bright. The client is the world’s largest publisher of pictorial travel guides. And I am doing the new KL city one hurray!!

Gaining Access

Photographers doing documentary work realize how important the ability to gain access is. When you are trusted by your subjects, that position is a passport that allows you to move freely and shoot freely with minimal impact on the events that take place.

Gaining access is crucial even in at the very basic level, because it is what gets you into a position or creates the opportunities for the sought after visuals. Then as the stakes rise – the more access gained the deeper meaning your visuals can carry.

There are many different ways to gain access (depending on what you want and who your subjects are). Here is how I recently approached Kampung Baharu.

Some research has to be done first, to arm yourself with some background information. I then scout the place out by just walking (a lot of walking) and observing. I start shooting the streets and at the same time opening myself to people who have a story to tell. That usually works to an extent.

But usually not enough if you are searching for something more precise. Last week I had just spoken to an editor of a magazine, she wanted story and pictures about the Malay architecture in Kampung Baharu. That was a bonus because its in-line with KLGTU and it helps build me more content.

I visited Kampung Baharu twice. Once at night and another time during the day. It helps me build my own street contacts and give me a feel for the place. I then thought of the probable contacts I have to Kampung Baharu and by shear ‘coincidence’ I recalled Rizman (a driver for someone, whom I shot an event for, two weeks ago.) telling me enthusiastically about his father’s family currently still living in Kampung Baharu. Right, that is one source, but not enough.

I came across sources two and three the subsequent day. Walking the Kampung Baharu streets, I ‘coincidentally’ ran into two owners of hard to find intact Malay styled houses (they were just entering into their homes, of which most others have disappeared or are infused with modern construction designs,) and they were welcoming for me to comeback to take pictures and interview them.

That very same day, I ran into my forth source ‘coincidentally’ yet again. I had brushed past this particular character twice, earlier in the day. Initially it was the longish stares, then quick smiles and nods. Then I bumped into him a third time. He was sitting in a stall just outside his house. He invited me for a drink and past experiences have told me…take the invite…you never know what it may lead you to…so I walked in, smiled and sat down.

Guess who this person turns out to be? The honorary Secretary for the ruling council of Kampung Baharu! Now that blew my mind because instantly I have access to accurate information and can get hooked up with relevant residents through his contacts.

‘Coincidences’ seem to be a dominant power that helps me gain access wherever I go and whenever I need help. What is this ‘coincidence’ phenomena? Is it like the meaning it carries…(a chance encounter with no link to cause and effect) or is there something else more mysterious to it? I guess that discussion will be left for another time eh…?

Forever Busy

 

You know, people somehow can’t imagine why a freelancer who doesn’t need to go into office can be so busy. Working from home is comfortable and easy but it can also mean engulfing your other life. (More on that another time…)

I have been commenting on how scattered my efforts have been in trying to get KLGTU in shape. Trying to balance documentary work, in between commercial work and social obligations in a single venue (KL) takes a lot of self discipline. One might think it’s easier cause it’s all here but in-effect, I find it – a route tougher to negotiate.

KLGTU is a project that I am committed to documenting (for all the reasons mentioned in "Its Taking Shape" and "ABOUT",) but juggling that with the rigours of maintaining a freelance photography business (you know…all the client servicing, production and marketing stuff…) and having to turn down social gatherings (much easier if you were out of the country) so that I can get things in order, is a drain to your friendships and a pain in the butt cause it affects the power of your network. It seems now that I always have some excuse not to join.

It doesn’t end there. Obligations to my girlfriend also take its toll on the project. Timing my efforts in the streets, doing research or trying to gain access into communities requires a different frame of mind. When such instances open up to you, there is a delicate balance between taking the adventure and trying not to be late in picking her up from the LRT station.

It has been well documented that photojournalists and documentary photographers often don’t have lasting relationships or end up being divorced. I am very wary of that, but like all people with a driven passion…I ask myself what does it mean to become a statistic? The universe tells me…everything happens for a reason. However, an epiphany that came to me years ago suggests that ….one can only accept the ‘everything happens for a reason’ fate only if one has been truthful and responsible in all ones dealings 🙂