How it started
I’ve got an invitation from Steven Lee of KLPA at the end of April 2014, to participate at the Mt. Rokko International Photo Festival Portfolio Review in Kobe, Japan. My feeling at that time was mixed. I was speechless, excited and looking forward to being reviewed. I started to do some research about the event from Steven’s blog explorenation.net and so on. This is the first time that my works will be reviewed by International / established photographers, artists, photo editors and curators from around the world. I’m very honoured for the invitation that I received. From that I started to prepare my works accordingly and put lots of effort on them.
Preparing the Project
Since I’m in the Exposure+ Photo Mentoring Program run by KLPA, I already have one project (Distance) which needed to be finished during the 3 month programme. I also brought another personal project (Bakul Boy). I’ve started the Bakul Boy project since early 2014. It was stressful but yet energetic and excited for me to do both works at the same time and preparing the final outcomes. With a lots of help, encouragement and support from my mentor (The Exposure+ Programme), friends and my most understanding family, finally I’ve was ready.
I have prepared everything accordingly such as all the prints, postcards, name cards, hand outs including dummy photobooks for my both projects. Unfortunately a few days before departing for Japan, I got into an accident and injured my knee. With limited time, I have to settle everything despite being in pain. But for me, the excitement to present my works in Japan, the pain never bothered me. On 29th August 2014, with a little help from my ‘tongkat’, together with Steven, Ailsa, Paik Yin and Nadia, we finally arrived at the Tanto Tempo Gallery, Kobe. The venue for the Mt. Rokko International Portfolio Review was held at the YMCA, Mt. Rokko, Kobe, Japan.
The ‘R’ Day
The portfolio reviews for this event was held over 2 days on the 29th and 30th August. I was reviewed by 7 reviewers. The reviewers were Yosuke Fujiki, Naoko Ohta, Natalie Matutschovsky, Tsuyoshi Ito, Yumi Gato, Takeki Sugiyama and one bonus reviewer; Fabrice Wagner. I’ve brought two of my working projects, Distance and Bakul Boy.
Distance is a project that I’ve done with the Exposure+3 Programme. The documentary set is presented as diptychs in one print. This project is about two children’s moments in their daily lives. I tried my best to be close as possible as I could, to capture at the same moments in the day, in order to convey their differences. I want to visually highlight how much education is important to a child. The idea of this project is to pose a question rather an answer.
My second documentary project is called Bakul Boy. Bakul Boy is about a little boy named Salmankan from Semporna, Sabah in Malaysia. This little boy followed his family to come to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to search a better life. He worked two jobs daily, the first selling plastic bags (bakul) and the other pushing wooden trolleys between the fish sellers and customers at the wet Filipino Wet Market, in Kota Kinabalu. He has to worked to achieve an education, just to help his family survive.
For these two projects, I managed to complete the photobook dummies.
At the portfolio review, we only have 20 minutes to introduce ourselves, giving an introduction on our projects and network. As for me, the first 20 minute session seems like a short time. I was a bit nervous and have not prepared much, and things messed up a little, but then I’ve made it through anyway.
So for the next session, I planned everything accordingly. Firstly, I gave out my name card, giving a short introduction about myself and then explain and presented both projects. I’ve showed the reviewers my large prints and the photobook dummies. I think we need to plan it well because we only have 20 minutes to present and at the same time we mustr receive feedback as much as possible. If we don’t plan or do it well, then we might feel that 20 minutes is not enough. Time is Precious.
Summary from the Reviewers
DISTANCE – A lot of questions were asked about this photo series. The questions needed to be answered by me. An example of a question being asked was if I could spend more time on the subjects. For every diptych, some of the reviewers asked if may be possible to add a quote from the children themselves. As this series is in colour, the calibration for all the images must be corrected especially the skin tones of the subjects. The sequencing can be change a bit and the images reduced, – “Less is More”. One of the reviewers have also said that my photobook dummies are done in a creative and interactive way.
BAKUL BOY – Most of the reviewers gave compliments and many good comments. They liked it as a photobook rather large prints. This is because the large prints are limited to 20 images only for each project. The prints can’t really show the whole story. I was advised to continue this project, making a series or volumes. Conducting proper interviews with the subjects, if possible, making a video recording too. In the future, I must also have the subject’s personal quotes. Spending more times with them, or make it a long-term project. I also need to be more careful on editing and curating the photos. As for the photobook dummies, most of the reviewers gave a comment that the cover designs are great, but some of the images are repeated and need to be removed if possible. A few of the important images needed to be enlarged up to create more impact.
The Bakul Boy project is the more popular series from the two. Each project is a different story and genre. Even if they are both documentary projects the approaches are different. For each project, intimacy is the key of the success and that intimacy requires time. The skin tone calibration need to be done correctly for the colour series. From my personal observations, my colleagues from Japan are well prepared with their prints and textured paper (paper that we do not have in our country) and some photographers were equipped with white gloves to handle their prints. This is a good example of we need for the next portfolio review.
Even with different languages we are all connected by photography and the arts. Our works speaks for themselves.
As this is my first time being reviewed Internationally, it was a good experience and a learning process for me.
I would like to express my gratitude to Takeki Sugiyama for the invitation to Mt. Rokko International Portfolio Review. Also a big thanks to Steven, Erna and the Exposure+3 mentors for this opportunity. Thanks to all my friends and families for their endless support.
P.S : for those who are into spicy food,…please bring your own hot sauce – ‘sambal ikan bilis’
~ Syefry Moniz, 18 September, Kuala Lumpur