I have just had visitors last week from Sydney, Australia, but at the same time, another friendly chap from New Zealand has contacted me through email, telling me that he is stopping by Kuala Lumpur on this weekend, and asked if he could join in my shutter therapy session. As usual, I attack the streets on Sunday mornings, and it was my greatest pleasure to have yet another visitor from abroad to join my street shooting session. We met up with Tom from New Zealand at Masjid Jamek, together with the usual suspects, we ate light breakfast, and braved the streets of Jalan Masjid India and of course, my all time favourite, Chow Kit, KL.
I found out that Tom was not exactly new to Malaysia, and he has been here at least once a year for many, many years. He has grown to love the local culture and food, and I was surprised when he told me that he loves "belacan" !! Belacan is some sort of sauce made of thick paste based on prawn, which has very strong smell, and not many non-locals can take it. The fact that Tom loves belacan, speaks some local dialect, including basic Malay, was truly something I did not anticipate at all. Tom uses Olympus PEN system, and just recently acquired the lovely Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens, and he was all out to give the lens a test in this shooting session. Chow Kit area was rather new to Tom, so it was indeed a great place to explore local people, culture and food as well.
The Shutter Therapy Gang. Ready for some street hunting.
Photo Taken by Yeow Chin Liang, with his beautiful Fujifilm Klasse S camera
From left to right: Mun Keat, Kelvin Ng, Tom (the dude from New Zealand), Robin (that's me, if you can't recognize me), Jeff and Luke Ding.
Non-digital gang. Count the red dots !!
Photo taken by Kelvin Ng with his camera phone.
The sun was harsh in the morning, and the sky was clear. Our walk was quite a long one, starting from Masjid Jamek, walking through the small streets of Jalan Masjid India, leading to Chow Kit territories. The final target was the wet market, and I was delighted to find Tom loving that place. I believe if you truly want to see a lot of things about Malaysia, you have got to at least go into one of the wet markets, there is so much to see, touch and smell (not all things smell good, but still a must try). The market is so alive, full, of people, buzzing with activities, and the local produce on sale there, vegetables were so vibrant in colours and variety, one can get lost shooting that alone. There are of course many other things to explore, and we did spend some time in the market.
Since this was a "be Tom's guide and show him around" session, I was not fully focused on shooting, hence the photos in this entry were not shot in my best condition. Nonetheless, I was not too stressed or pressured about this, because the main thing that I had in mind was to make sure Tom had some good shots to bring home to, and by doing so, I surely have good subjects to photograph myself. Indeed, Chow Kit never disappoints me, and I always return with plenty of good photographs.
All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro and 25mm F2.8 pancake, unless otherwise mentioned.
On the floor, and on the wall
On a concrete footing/slab.
The people here are genuine, they are real. That is the reason why I like this place so much, rarely can anyone find a place where all the major races come together, and do what they do everyday, being themselves. This is Malaysia at its most natural state, away from modernization, away from steel and glass structures. When they smile, they truly smile to you, and everyone is very friendly. Tom did point something out to me that I have not exactly thought of before, the culture in Malaysia is very different from those that are found in other countries. People here are generally very approachable, and you have no problem striking up a conversation with anyone, hence it is only natural that you make contact, and talk to the people you photograph. It is the culture here to shine your generous smile, and be courteous among one another.
The very "strict and pure" street photography rules were not invented in Malaysia, but in western countries where situations on the streets may be completely different, and some places privacy is highly prioritized, and people get paranoid when you point your camera at them. What I am doing may not exactly qualify as street photography by the rules, but I have been capturing Malaysian culture on the streets, and I believe that is more important, because I was shooting what was real, and what was TRUE. I did not "change the shooting conditions" just in order to fit into the categories of "what street photography should have been". Yes, it is not difficult to shoot real street photography where the subjects should not be posed, and the scenes should be completely undisturbed, but that is completely the opposite of what Malaysia represents. To truly capture the essence of the local Malaysian streets, you have got to establish that friendliness of the people here, the willingness to connect, the generosity of smiles (hence I have a lot of smiling portraits) and the kindness to strike up a conversation. You have got to represent what was there, and not twist it around to suit what you thought was right in the books of street photography. I would rather shoot what I felt was right in my heart, and show the world what Malaysians are.
under the tree
Chilling by the road
Planks of wood
Some street photographers said that they prefer their portrait subjects not to smile because it reveals more character, I disagree with that !! When my subjects smile, their emotion just bursts out of the frame, and that is exactly what I wanted. They smiled, because they wanted to smile, and I did not ask them to. If that is NOT natural, I do not know what is. Smile is probably the most human thing for anyone to do, and it is a universal language that transcends all kind of barriers.
Tom (left and top right) and Luke (bottom right) in action.
Tom and Jeff (top), Kelvin, Yeow and Luke (bottom).
It was great having you with us Tom !!
Roast Pork for Lunch. *slurp
After shooting, we walked (quite a distance) to Dang Wangi, and had lunch at a Hainanese Kopitiam, Yut Kee. We had their famous Roast Pork, and the food was heavenly after hours of shooting under Malaysian hot sun.
I surely hope Tom has had a great experience on local Malaysian streets. More importantly, I hope he has got good shots.
On a separate note, Olympus OM-D E-M5 is already available in many countries by now. How do you find the E-M5 so far? If you already have one, I want to hear from you !!