The Prayer of the Yazidis : Noriko Hayashi

Noriko Hayashi is a Japanese photojournalist working mainly on social, gender and human rights issues. I first met Noriko at the Mt.Rokko International Photography Festival in Kobe, in 2015 where she presented a bizarre story on the kidnapping of brides in Krygyzstan called Unholy Matrimony.

She has just published her second book,  The Prayer of the Yazidis – a compelling compilation of photographs and interviews of the Yazidi community  of Iraq, who fled their homeland following the siege and massacre of hundreds by ISIS (DAESH) fighters in August 2014, and also photographs of some refugees and their families resettling in Germany.

Firstly, the book itself. Thread sewn and case bound, it has no hardcover or spine.  There is a translucent plastic gate fold dust jacket protecting the internal pages, and neatly separating the main photographs section and the text. It’s kind of awkward to turn the pages as the loose jacket’s texture is slippery and separates entirely from the book itself.

Nonetheless, when you open the book and skip pass the Japanese Prologue and aerial map (I don’t read Japanese, unfortunately) the images hit you, hard.

Anyone expecting images of front line fighting, death and destruction and war torn streets will be disappointed. The images go deeper than expected and show shattered dreams, loneliness, isolation, trauma & identity, contemplation and mostly, hope. It portrays the stories of mainly young Yazidi women who escaped from the clutches of their Daesh/ISIS captors who abused and mistreated them, their families and follow their resettlement in Germany.

Although the photographs themselves demand careful viewing, for me, the strongest part of the book is the text section – the personal testimonies of the individuals recounting their experiences from the day ISIS militants invaded their homes, villages and towns, their incarceration and separation from the men, their forced slave work and physical abuse, and their escapes.

Their stories are heart-wrenching and tragic. Women were separated from their men. The men were shot. The women taken as slaves, tortured, married off and raped. Their escape from ISIS were the only highpoint of their accounts.

I feel compelled to reproduce one testimony from a girl named Nadia.

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“I come from Kocho, a small village surrounded by Muslim villages.The house where I live with my family was built out of clay in 1952. We had 130 sheep. I used to do things like putting on makeup and going to wedding feasts, walking to the high school together with my friends, or when spring came, going to picnics in Mt. Shingal. My dream had been to become a history teacher.

When Daesh invaded my village the militants gave the order to hoist white flags on the roofs. The villagers were locked up in their houses. During this time the family tried to encourage each other and prayed to God. On the August 15 Daesh gave orders that all villagers go to the village school. I put on a black dress and a pink jacket and left the house. When we arrived in the school, some 700 male villagers who had gathered there were taken away in Daesh cars. I stood by at a window on the second floor and witnessed the men being rounded up and shot on a vacant land. Six of my nine brothers were murdered there and the remaining three managed to flee despite being seriously wounded.

We, some 150 young women, were brought to Mosul on buses. There were already some 70 Yazidi women in the building were we were taken to. A woman said to me, “the women who come here are being sold and married off to the Daesh militants”. Daesh militants came every evening, They chose women and took them. On the fourth day a militant took me to his house and ordered me to remove my clothes. From that day on I was sold and raped by various men. Sometime in November, taking advantage of an unguarded moment, I escaped from a militant who lived alone. After two hours I found a house and asked for help. Although the house belonged to Muslims, they did not support Daesh. They were a very kind family. They took me under their care and continued to hide me. A week later one of the family’s sons brought me to the frontline between Daesh and the peshmerga, near Kirkuk. My younger brother came to get me there. Thirty-eight of my relatives are still missing, including my mother and brothers. ” – Nadia, born 1993, Kocho village, Iraq

These testimonials are printed in English, Japanese and German.

This book does not attempt to patronise the plight of these Yazidi women and families or portray visually the horrors of conflict. Even so, the horrors we read and hear about in the news in 2014/15  – names like Kirkuk, Mt.Shingal, Mosul  – and terms like “rape, mass killings, executions, massacres” become real from the photographs and the testimonies, because these are first hand accounts, from the very people we read about. The several testimonies printed in this book tells of further harrowing sufferings, beatings and torture endured by the victims, and each account is a personal tragedy of sorts.

There is much empathy in Noriko’s photographs with her subjects. Many images show only glimpses and fleeting moments – personal items, places, objects, found photographs – all combine to paint a picture of lost hope.

The Prayer of the Yazidis is available from Amazon Japan , 223 pages, Published by Akaaka Art Publishing, Japan.

 

http://www.norikohayashi.com

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“We can’t live without forests.” Featured artist – Mitsu Maeda

With the recent announcement of the new Baleh mega-dam project in Sarawak, following the Murum project which was commissioned in 2015; combined with the severe deforestation of primary rainforests in this naturally endowed state in East Malaysia, the plight of the nomadic communities of the Penan people have been dealt another blow.

The Penan of northern Borneo are primarily ‘hunter-gatherers’ or nomadic indigenous peoples. In Sarawak, the Penan plight was highlighted by international media attention by their 1960s resistance to the Baram dam clearing. Dam projects and deforestation go hand in hand, and these nomadic people were promised resettlement and land, which to most, were alien to their lifestyle and their hunting traditions. Today, only several hundred Penan still continue with their nomadic lifestyles, and resisting further intrusions into their habitat. Their fight against conglomerates and big, well-connected  business entities are all but futile.

I discovered that Mitsu Maeda, a freelance commercial photographer from Japan, whom I met at Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival in 2014, had traveled into the interior of Sarawak in 2010 and lived amongst the Ba’Marong community, to document their lifestyle. Her project titled “Forced Changes : The Penan and Life in the Rainforest” was published in 2011 by Days Japan magazine. This photo series gives us a glimpse of their nomadic lifestyle, which is fast disappearing and serves as a reminder about the complexities of developmental changes and the importance in maintaining the balance between man and its environment.

I recently asked Mitsu Maeda why she became interested in such a project, and how she managed to travel into the interior to engaged with this community.

In 2010, she became aware of the Penan due to the large scale logging of the forests, where a lot of hardwood timber were being exported to Japan for their construction industry and also paper products.  The nomadic communities were affected most as the deforestation displaced them from their already scarce resource of hunting for food, and habitable land.

“I got interested in their lives in the rainforest itself and also felt that I wanted to cover it as Japan has been one of the largest consumers of wood, paper from acacia plantations, and palm oil from Sarawak. So (indirectly) we were destroying their lives without really noticing it”.

“Vast forests have been logged and become palm or acacia plantations. Palm oil is often promoted as “environmentally friendly”, and acacia is consumed as cheap paper in offices in Japan. But large amounts of pesticides are used in these plantations and it pollutes the rivers which nearby residents use. Now many residents are suffering from skin diseases.”

She arrived in Miri and met with several settled communities before heading into the interior to visit the nomadic Ba’Marong for about a week, living, eating, hunting and sharing their stories. This community of nomads was made up of 8 families and totaled 20 persons.

“I contacted Friends of The Earth which is an NGO helping Penan people in Sarawak. They arranged my trip.”

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Sagun, the leader of Ba’Marong.

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Listening to the sounds of the forest on their way hunting.

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Mitsu Maeda followed some men on a hunt for monkeys and even sampled some of its meat.

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Cutting down a sago tree

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Processing tapioca from the sago tree. They take fibre from the tree, soak them in water, filter, and dry. The process takes almost a day. Tapioca is their main source of carbohydrate since the community does not cultivate rice or wheat.

“I liked the Ba’Marong people a lot. I felt like they really know what they need. And the girl, Sagun’s daughter, she was running around naked but on the day I left she wore a pretty pink one-piece!”

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Ranny with her grandmother.  Older generations prefer to stay in a “hat house” while younger generations live in a house with walls. The grandmother is making rattan products.

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Bathing and washing clothes in the river

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Ranny, daughter of Sagun, the community leader. There are two children in the community but there is no school since the community is nomadic. This is one reason why Sagun is thinking to settle.

“Their life is facing changes and problems. Some of the people in Ba’Marong do not even have Identification Cards or birth certificates which the government is supposed to issue, meaning they are not registered as Malaysians.”

This is why most of the Penans are not able to simply go to the towns to work when there is not enough food to eat in the forest and have to find other ways to take care of their families.

Also, many land disputes are occurring between Penan communities as the forest resources become scarce. Basically, people in a community can only hunt and gather in the forest area which has been decided in community leaders’ meetings in the past. However, as the forest resource become scarce, some communities cannot get enough food and other resources from their area and started to claim other areas. It is ironic that people who did not even have a sense of land ownership now have to fight over it.

“Anwi, the leader of Ba’Marong told me, “I want more people in the world to know what is happening here. Forests for us are like supermarkets for you. Even we settle, we can’t live without forests.” ”

All images © Mitsu Maeda


Mitsu Maeda is a Japanese photographer currently based in Kochi, Japan. Her theme in photography is to capture emotions and senses that she encounters. Ultimately she aims to explore the organic complexities of the individual.

www.mitsumaeda.com

Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival 2016 : Portfolios reviewed.

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Let’s begin!

I recently attended the Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival 2016 in Kobe, Japan as reviewer and below are the notable works that I have personally seen over the 3-day event. I have been coming to this festival since 2013, organised by Takeki Sugiyama and his excellent team of volunteers and staff. The festival is centred around the portfolio reviews, of which there are 21 reviewers and 42 photographers. There are also presentations and slideshows from the guest photographers, this year, being Jamey Stillings, Kosuke Okahara and Alejandro Durán.

The overall standard of work is notably higher, since the director implemented a pre-screening and presentation session earlier in the year, to prepare the selected photographers to obtain maximum value in attending the reviews. This is clearly seen, in my experience last week, of being presented with clear and concise statements, quality loose prints in presentation boxes and a few well-edited work. However, as other reviewers also noted, photographers are still presenting too many prints in their series, and in some cases, too many series. Anything more than 20 images for me, would be too many.

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Kyoko MARUYAMA
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Kyoko MARUYAMA

One of the most arresting images I recall were the two silver gelatin photographs (above) from Kyoko Maruyama‘s project Heart Island project -Awa. Although the series is not complete in terms of photography, she had an initial idea to photograph the inhabitants of this district in Chiba – under threat from possible massive contamination  of the land through the underground storage of unknown polluted soil. The story itself warrants documentation over the next years and has potential.

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Takayuki NARITA

When Takayuki Narita, a young and trendy photographer, with manly long hair and light beard sat down and presented me his statement, titled ROSE GARDEN and printed on paper with light pink roses and pale green leaves, I didn’t know what to think.

Until he showed me his series of garish, over-saturated ‘studies’ of people enjoying themselves in a sunny Osaka park well known for roses – I begin to understand his obsession with the flower. He writes “The modern day flower thieves snatch the images of flowers with the digital cameras, smart phone in forms of megapixels”. As an observer of human behaviour, his carefully composed scenes are humorous as well as reflective of our modern ‘image-sharing’ societies across the world.

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Takayuki NARITA
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Laura VALENTI (Photo Lucida Critical Mass)
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Toshiyuki SHIRAI

I also reviewed Toshiyuki Shirai‘s [without joy, without happiness] series of self-portraits dressed in what is a typical ‘salaryman’ (business) man suit, posed in expressionless faces in ‘out of context’ situations, eg. playground, swings and slides where children enjoy themselves.  He complains of the ‘mental torture that salarymen endure like “a man digging a hole in the morning, and fill it in the afternoon every day, endlessly”. This creative series can be expanded to include other scenarios – like on a beach, in a kindergarten etc  where the contrast can be extended. I like this kind of photo series – of self -examination and creative portrait photography.

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Toshiyuki SHIRAI
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Noriko TAKASUGI

I knew of Noriko Takasugi‘s recent portrait at this year’s Taylor Wessing Photoprize where she was a finalist with her portrait of celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also, her Fukushima Samurai series of portraits which she showed at Mt.Rokko this year. What I didn’t expect was the depth of research she had done in this project which, for several years now, has over 40 fine portraits of modern day samurais, each, dressed in traditional garb and photographed respectfully in and around the Fukushima area. It is time a book is published.

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Ryosuke SAITO
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Another promising work I have seen is Ryosuke Saito’s humorous observational series of ‘tourists, smartphones and selfies’ called “#photooftheday”  (- complete with hashtag).

His witty captures of beachgoers in Thailand reveals more about what I term the ‘experience’ economies have to offer and yet informational exchange still holds true in our social media world. Similar ideas with the Rose Garden series above.

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Eiji OHASHI

Another brilliant colour series is by Eiji Ohashi from Hokkaido.I saw him at Mt.Rokko last year where he displayed a black and white collection of his Vending Machine series. At the time I thought that they could be improved if he captured them in colour instead. This year he showed another set of vending machines in colour, and I thought they were significantly improved, as they showed the placements of these machines in more realistic and contemporary settings. The images are quiet reflections of an essential and modern invention that is found all over the country. He has 9 pieces of this series being shown at the Singapore International Photo Festival 2016 in October.

The photographer known as TOMM is a bubbly person and dons a  pair of Yohji Yamamoto trousers. He showed me his series of raw and gritty black and white photographs of festival people from over 30 such events across Japan called Ikai (Spirit World).

His pictures are to record what he calls ‘tamafuri’ or life soul of these events in modern times Japan, where science makes everything efficient and festivals seem irrational and strange at times. He photographs in black and white to depict the sacredness of their existence.

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I found his images to be varied, strong and well composed, as often than not, photographing at public festivals can be quite restricted in terms of vantage points.

His images are bold and has a sense of immediacy to them, unlike many festival photography series I have seen. I did suggest to Tomm if he could visit the annual Thaipusam festival in Malaysia one day, that would be right his street.

One of my favourite images of the festival came from Takako Fukaya from Aichi.

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Takako FUKAYA

She is a mother three girls and she started showing her black & white images of them playing and doing normal things in and around her home, gardens and recreational parks. I didn’t feel as though she was portraying them in their joyful existence as they seemed too contrived. Nonetheless, when she began to show me her previous series of colour studies of them, right at the end of the review session, it completely surprised me! This set of toned portraits was fresh : innovative and whimsical, using homely props and natural light with effect. Beautiful.

Finally, I was also impressed with Yoshi Okamoto‘s series about women scorned. There is much intimacy and isolation that showed through to the viewer with her work about depression, despair, loss and ultimately, an unknown fate  which lies ahead for the woman in the picture. Yoshi is no stranger to awards, as one of the images from this series was selected as a finalist in the Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards 2016. We also discovered that she has been selected as one of the 100 candidates at Review Sante Fe this year.

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Yoshi OKAMOTO
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Yoshi OKAMOTO (R)

I would like to mention Shyue Woon‘s Car Park series of dimly light atmospheric scenes. This was his first review in his photographic practice and was proposed by myself to attend the portfolio review at Mt.Rokko this year. His work was also projected at the Emerging Photographers Slideshow on the final evening to all the gathered photographers, reviewers and guests.

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Shyue WOON – Emerging Photographers Slideshow

The final mention goes to the Anne-Sophie GUILLET a French photographer on a residency in Japan. She showed two series, Inner Self and Reminiscence.

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Anne-Sophie GUILLET

I’m a sucker when it comes to a strong portrait image, and she has not one but several strong ones in her series Inner Self, which are formal portraits of ‘androgynous’ strangers she met on the street, invited to their homes and photographed. To me, this is such an interesting photo project which does not involve any kind of travel or fanciful enactments but require patience, trust and a lot of goodwill.

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Anne-Sophie GUILLET

Reminiscence goes deeper, and she explores her childhood memories at her grandmother’s house in the French countryside. The house is no longer in the family but she has her grandmother’s objects and belongings to which she photographs at the house and it’s surroundings to immortalise her fading memories.

Each year the Mt.Rokko reviews always bring out some extraordinary work and this year these are the more memorable and meaningful ones for me. I’m sure other reviewers will have their own set of favourite projects, and  would like to close by thanking the festival director Takeki Sugiyama for his constant drive for education and exposure, and to make this event a success in Japan.

Arigatou gozaimasu.

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Open Portfolio Viewing

Occupied Pleasures by Tanya Habjouqa

Christmas came early!

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Any day now.

Today, November 8th.

Phone rang, postman delivered.

I was hoping and expecting to receive my copy of Tanya Habjouqa’s amazing book called Occupied Pleasures, a collection of candid photographs of Palestine and it’s people, which was funded through Kickstarter, which had a planned release date in November 2015. Like an eager kid, I opened the package sent by FotoEvidence from Sofia, and voila here it is!

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“Each image avows aliveness and desolation” – Foreword by Nathalie Handal

Every photo is so well taken and composed, and the colour is simply mesmerizing. I seldom buy photobooks nowadays, simply because I have no more bookshelf space, and also the costs of the ones I like to collect. Another reason is that I also like trees. Once in a while, however, comes a publication worth supporting and this is one.

Tanya Habjouqa

Videohttp://www.tanyahabjouqa.com/page1

Full circle – Gathered Leaves & Influence and Intimacy

One can hardly miss the hundreds of posters around London of the blue swim-capped headshot of ‘Misty’ promoting Alec Soth’s Gathered Leaves exhibition at the SCIENCE MUSEUM in South Kensington.  I spent Monday afternoon at this rather unorthodox museum (as far as photography goes) to visit Gathered Leaves and also, adjacent to it on the same floor, Julia Margaret Cameron’s Influence and Intimacy, a tribute to this quintessential English woman photographer, marking the 200th year of her birth.

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Two major exhibitions, side by side, with some 150 years of photography practice in between. I could say that these twin shows actually form a full circle in photography, from the invention of the medium, the processes and imaging styles of the early pioneers, to a very creative, storytelling contemporary approach using a modern camera. Both artists essentially documenting what they have seen, who they have met and where they have been through the printed image.

Gathered Leaves is Alec Soth’s first UK exhibition and comprises 4 titles or bodies of work, brought together to create this excellent show –  Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and the most recent, Songbook (2014). The exhibition is separated into four distinct galleries, with the Broken Manual photographs having a separate grey backdrop. His images are mainly portraits and still-life studies of the far and out towns he visited in America, some printed very large and are absolutely stunning to see up close. As a documentary photographer, Alec Soth mainly uses allegory to give meaning to his images. In Mississippi and Niagara for example.

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I particularly like his solitary portrait studies in Mississippi and Niagara, less so in Broken Manual, which I thought was slightly over staged and contrived, with his subjects, hermits and their lifestyles, their surroundings slightly disjointed. Perhaps the book would make more sense as there are more images to look at.

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There are hints of Robert Frank and Stephen Shore in some of these images and as a consummate traveller searching for stories, some apparently made up (Songbook) he has produced these rural Americana imagery with great depth and tenderness.

His sitters are often photographed holding something, doing something and often if they do not appear, then a trace or clue of the them is depicted. The subjects aren’t ordinary people in the true sense of the word but people who in his eyes are worthy to be photographed because of what they do or represent within the sub text of his allegory. They fit in to his stories. They all appear troubled to some extent and I feel that is his narrative.

Given enough time, if I were to have sat down for a long period and absorbed these striking photographs, I could be transported into them, and can only wish that I was with the artist when he took them and jointly observed life then.

About 150 years earlier, Julia Margaret Cameron was making albumen photographs (a laborious process then) with a large cupboard of a camera in sleepy Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.

She was given a camera when she was in her 40s by her daughter and immediately fell in love with the concept of making portraits of noble acquaintances, famous neighbours and personages of the period. She made portraits in a most novel way for her era, often of women, children and men friends dressed fantasy costumes, Arthurian legends and fairytales.

At a time when only men photographers were taken seriously in the trade, she bucked the trend with her influential and modernistic poses.

Julia Margaret Cameron travelled to Ceylon and distant lands making portraits, in particular of the ‘natives’ when most other make photographers chose to take landscapes mainly.

She also printed the images all by herself, with all the challenges of a messy and volatile processes of the colloidon print.

Influence and Intimacy is a truly remarkable exhibition of mainly portrait poses, of friends and family, staged with a degree of stiffness included (mainly because the exposures were several minutes then). The small A4 sized sepia coloured prints contrasts with Soth’s modern, bold, colour photographs in size as well as definition, or the lack of in the former.

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However, to compare these small albumen prints to modern photography would be foolish. What I find remarkable about this exhibition is that these intimate portraits were made some century and a half ago and are still preserved and cherished today. As true documents of a bygone era, the faces, features, poses, stares, scowls, frowns, etc of each portrait brings these characters alive, as if they had been taken only yesterday, but instead were photographed at the dawn of photography. Lord Tennyson, Darwin, even portraits of herself remain vividly real.

Both exhibitions run until 28 March 2016.

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

Exhibition : Sanubari by NIRMALA KARUPPIAH

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Nirmala Karuppiah is a Malaysian fine art and documentary photographer and a friend whom I have known since late 90s. As one of the established fine art photographers in contemporary Malaysian photography she has spent the last two decades documenting various dance genres, mainly in the classical Indian discipline Odissi, Cantonese Opera, Northern Malay dance-drama Mak Yong and the healing rituals of Main Puteri from Kelantan, a northern state in the peninsula.

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SANUBARI is her first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom. The Malay word Sanubari has various translations, but one, which aptly describes it in the context of this exhibition is the ‘inner-self’, of deepest feelings reaching fever-pitch and a ‘heartfire’ which laces each work seen in the show.

Nirmala’s intrinsic talent, merged with a deep love and respect for these artforms are evident in each of her work; and Sanubari is aimed at presenting to the masses, both a historic and personal views of these dance genres, seen through her camera lenses in a myriad of perspectives.

Working predominantly in black and white, Sanubari is the artist’s intense pursuit of conserving, documenting and disseminating these artforms which, although has been written about in many journals and publications, still need to be actively trailed.

Exhibition :

M P Birla Millennium Art Gallery

THE BHAWAN

Home of Indian Arts, 4A Castletown Road, West Kensington, London W14 9HE

11 June – 1 July, 2015

Tel: +44 207 381 3086/4608

Email: curator@bhavan.net

Web: http://www.bhavan.netPerfection1

Q & A with Yong Lin Tan – Sony WPO Youth Photographer of the Year 2015

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Photo by Andrew Suryono, from Facebook

I caught up with Yong Lin Tan by email and put the following questions to him, when he had arrived back in Malaysia, after a whirlwind trip to London for a weekend at the Sony World Photography Awards to receive his prize.

Q. At what age did you take up photography?

YLT. I paint since I was a young boy and I was thinking of trying photography as a different medium to create and express. I took up photography as a hobby at the age of 17 when my mother actually agreed to buy me my first SLR camera by signing the 3 years instalment plan for it, as we could not really afford it at that time.

Q. What were you photographing when you first started?

YLT. Basically, scenery of paddy fields in Alor Setar, because my grandparents house is there and every school holiday and Chinese New Year my mom would bring us to visit and have a short or long stay there, for sure.

Q. Do you have any mentor, established photographers whose works you follow?

YLT. I am a self learner, and I follow quite a wide range of works from different types of photography, whether established or just pure hobbyists.

Q. Who do you admire in your field of photography?

YLT. My photography subject’s lecturer when I was in my foundation study in Creative Multimedia – Che Ahmad Azhar, basically his dedication towards his street photography works – “Walk of Life” and the body of work itself, has inspired me.

Q. What is next for you, now that you have won your first major award?

YLT. I will keep shooting in Alor Setar and maybe some other parts of Malaysia, explored or unexplored. I wish to initiate more projects, photo essays and focus on the environmental issues in Malaysia, but it will consume a longer time and I need to do more in-depth research during my free time.

Q. Are you working on any long term projects?

YLT. Yes, documenting and capturing the environment and the unseen life in my mother’s hometown & grandparents home – Alor Setar.

Q. Would this award make you take a more serious attitude to your photography?

YLT. I am serious towards photography since the day I received my first camera. It is still unknown that whether one day photography will turn into my main career or profession but for now I will just ride the wind and do what I love.

Q. Do you believe photography can make the world a better place?

YLT. Definitely, not only photography I believe but any other medium in art such as painting or film which can be used to deliver a particular message and I wish I could prove it one day.

Q. How did you break the news of your award to your parents?

YLT. Haha ..  I called and inform my mother first and she eventually passed the news on to my father, then my grandparents. They are not really that surprised at first because they thought it is just a small competition but when they realise it was the WPO and they will be flying me to London they are actually quite shocked and surprised, and worried as well, because I personally have not been to any airport and have never traveled so far before !

~ Steven Lee

Rokko Mountain High – Have your portfolio reviewed in Japan, 2015

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The 2015 Mt.ROKKO INTERNATIONAL PHOTO FESTIVAL is now accepting participants for it’s Portfolio Review session from 28 – 29 August 2015. The festival runs from 21 to 30 August in Mt.Rokko, Kobe, Japan. In it’s 3rd consecutive year, the festival have explored the themes of Communication and Education in contemporary photography practice. I was fortunate to be involved as a Reviewer and it has broadened my perspectives and views about Japanese photography as well as connecting with many talented photographers from abroad and from Japan too.

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I would recommend any photographer hoping to expand their knowledge and obtain valuable feedback from an international array of Reviewers, to apply for this event, not least, the new friendships, sharing and connections you will make.

Apply here 

See below for past articles :

Festival Update 1 2013

Festival Update 2 2013

Festival Review 1 2014

Festival Review 2 2014

Festival Review Highlights 2014

Festival Feedback Lim Paik Yin 

Festival Feedback Nadia J Mahfix

Festival Feedback Syfrey Moniz

Festival Feedback Ailsa Bowyer

Sarah Choo Jing at A.I.

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I happened to discover this small and trendy pop-up gallery hosted by A.I. Studio‘s director Anne-Marie Tong who is currently showing Singaporean artist Sarah Choo Jing‘s From Across the Road on Redchurch Street in London’s uber trendy Shoreditch.  I was on a 1-day walk’n’ shoot London Street Photography for City Academy, and just finish the intros with my participants at Rich Mix’s studios.

Sarah’s dark and panoramic prints caught my attention from the window. In this exhibition, the artist is exploring themes based on the act of looking, surveillance and voyeurism. She delves in a mixture of photography with over-painting, video and installations and the show is on, till 15 March. More info here.

After lunch, the street photography class visited the exhibition and Sarah provided a brief introduction to the visitors about her works.

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Sarah Choo Jing and Anne-Marie Tong of A.I

A.I., 30a Redchurch Street, London E2 7DP

11am – 6pm (Mon – Sun)

Nearest tune : Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street, Bethnal Green

We signed our last MALAYSIANS book!

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Today, at Dapur, London overlunch, Haliza and myself signed the last copy of Malaysians a photobook which we jointly published in 2006 with a print run of 2,000 copies. We collaborated on this simple but informative book about Malaysia, Malaysians and our varied ethnic make up with simple head shot portraits.

Below is what I wrote in 2006 :

“MALAYSIANS Photographs by Steven Lee and text by Haliza Hashim-Doyle

A new coffee table book celebrating the unique and diverse ethnicity of Malaysia today : Hardback 148mm x 210mm 512 Pages

“Few things amaze visitors to Malaysia, besides its incredible economic development, than the diversity of its people. Even then, if one only visits one city or two, or a beach or mountain resort, the full spectrum of the multiethnic salad we call Malaysia cannot be fully appreciated. It is only when we see photographs of all of them, side by side as in this book that we know what Malaysian diversity truly means.” Foreword by Marina Mahathir.

The idea of producing another pictorial book on Malaysia came about in 2005 when I noticed that there was not a single publication in the bookstores in Malaysia and in the UK, that depicted the people of the country. There were several existing publications showing the sights of the country, its many amazing places of interests and our national monuments, but none showed the diversity of Malaysians, its fascinating mix of races, its cultural heritage and its rich traditions.

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From this point of departure, I began researching into this project and gathered my resources together and now, am glad to say, the project is underway. As a portrait photographer I am always on the look out for an interesting face. It is after all, a face that one sees first, as a visitor to a new country or place, it is also the first impression of a nation.

The book does not aim to document each and every race and creed. That would be quite impossible. However, it does represent a true cross-section of the nation as I see it during our travels across the length and breadth of the country. This glimpse of a ‘Malaysian’ identity, a vision of a Bangsa Malaysia, will be evident through the faces I portray and the stories and quotes that follow, will hopefully encompass all.

A country like Malaysia thus begins this series, because it is my Malaysia, my country and my people. SL”