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Photography: Between a Hobby and Passion

Kuala Lumpur Photography FestivalA few weeks ago I took part in Malaysia’s biggest imaging event, the Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival 2012 and was asked to talk about photography, one of my favorite topics.

Through this festival and related events, the cultural and social interaction and communication among local Malay Muslims and Chinese communities and between Malaysia and the rest of the world have been enhanced. I’ve also come understand how Malay Muslims look at the world and their community through visual images. It inspires me and reminds me how powerful and comprehensive photography is in making social communication and understanding.

In my presentation, “Photography: Between a Hobby and Passion,” I talked about the role of photography both as a communication medium in depicting social reality and as an expressive medium criticizing social injustice.  Using three example projects, I hoped to demonstrate how to use photographic technology to enhance the content presentation.

I used photographs from the “An Unretouched Cuba” exhibit, which I had curated for the Ping Yao International Photography Festival 2012 and my projects with 50-year-old Exakta photographs of Berlin and iPhone photographs of Chicago, Beijing and Shanghai. Since many KLPF participants are amateur photographers or hobbyists who enjoy exploring new imaging technologies and the search for the exotic or picturesque subjects, I wanted to offer them a new perspective on photography in power of manifesting its social responsibility.

I also participated in a forum about contemporary photography, with Alex Ng (Hong Kong Photo Mag), Yang Zixiong (Malaysia Oriental Daily News), Xia Jianguo (Chinese folk art photographer) and helped judge the contest for the best photographer of the year in the annual festival. Along the issue of defining the differences between classical and contemporary photography was a discussion with the audience on how local culture is presented in a global era with modern imaging technology. 

There was an extended debate by photography jurors on the work of Malay photographer Mahd Azlan Bin Madh Latib, which finally took the top honor for the best photographs. ( Photographer Mahd Azlan Bin Madh Latib’s work )  Madh Azlan uses photography as a contemporary visual medium addressing the social concern commonly faced in most economic developed countries. Not only is photography for Azlan a visual presentation of the beauty but also a medium stating the social and psychological tension when the society experiences the material development.