I have known KG since 2014, when I mentored him for the very first Exposure+ Mentor Program. He produced a stunning series of stylised portraits of transmen and transwomen living in Kuala Lumpur called Continuum.
Much time has passed since then, and recently I discovered that he had been off the scene for some time, but has since produced this piece, which formed the subject of his presentation at the KL International Photoawards 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, titled loosely as Between Lust and Longing.
KG is one of those rare and extremely talented artists who, can and will surprise you, unpredictable and yet photographs with such personal conviction, and dedication, often obsessive, with every kind of camera he can find, and in this series, his phone, mainly. I think he often lives on the edge.
“This project began as a body of work documenting my personal struggle with crystal meth which started in the year 2011. A quick search online for crystal meth will tell you a great deal of its dangers on the mind and body, the demographic, its use is usually associated with, and some statistics on the estimated number of people currently thought to be using meth in communities around the world – all of which would be completely misleading.” KG
“In the early days of my use, by chance I’d stumbled upon a group of users among the gay community which at the time I thought to be an isolated incident, though soon after I started realising that the community as a whole was on the verge of an epidemic and with it, my battle to stay clean started to decline.”
KG Krishnan was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1989. A journalist, photographer and spoken word artist, his art explores ideas concerning sexuality, gender politics and the intimacy of human relationships in the contexts of contemporary culture.
As a commercial photographer and art director, KG Krishnan’s clientele comprises design institutions, fashion designers, advertising agencies, filmmakers, musicians and lifestyle publications for whom he produces images, film and fashion productions. His work, both writing and photography, has been widely published around Southeast Asia and occasionally appears in European and American publications.
He currently does visual consulting and art direction for production and advertising clients in Kuala Lumpur while working on personal projects.
I have known Paik Yin for 4 years now, from when she first joined the Exposure+ photo mentor program, our very first instalment. Since then I have followed her progress as a photographer, and I can say that she is one of the very few multidisciplinary artists using photography, performance and dance in Malaysia today. She’s not a prolific photographer but her projects, about one a year, are always well researched and presented.
Her work has gradually matured and has become more focussed and disciplined. Keeping to her mantra of ‘body, space and time’ which is clear from her recent projects, her most recent project Metaphor examines the limits of the physical body, transformation in time and the projection of space. This is a series of self-images depicting expressions of contortions, studies and movement signifying the transcendence of the body into something more metaphysical, inspired by the ancient court dances of Apsaras (Cambodia) and Srimpi (Indonesia). These dances have many restrictive movements in the body and take many years of training and contortion to reach the elegance and grace in their movements.
Lim Paik Yin
(From Reflections of a Woman, 2013)
Lim Paik Yin (1980) is an interdisciplinary artist working with photography, performance art and spoken words. Graduating with a B.A in Multimedia (Media Innovation and Management), her art education is supplemented through workshops organized by galleries, collectives and cultural institutions with bases in Malaysia.
Lim’s practice in theater transitioned to the visual arts through workshops organized by women’s rights groups and debut in the visual arts project, Scripted Bodies Art Exhibition in 2005. This group show use the human body as a visual motif to explore the various ideologies and political forces that shape attitudes towards the human bodies. This theme has been revisited in various forms.
She currently writes on photography for Frame Zero media after 5 years working as a photo researcher at Corbis and Click Photos Malaysia. She recently been selected for the Angkor Photo Workshop with Antoine D’Agata and Sohrab Hura and was shortlisted for the Photo Kathmandu 2016 Mixed-Media Residency.
Her photography works has exhibited in the South East Asian region, Spain and the Chennai Photo Biennale in India 2015.
Paik Yin will be running a Visual Storytelling Masterclass on July 8, 2017 at the Nikon Centre, Kuala Lumpur. More information and registration HERE
With a little over a week till Christmas, and soon 2016 comes to an end, I look forward to another awesome year ahead to new projects, new friends and more personal photography projects.
Coming straight up, in February – KLPA2017 will be launched with a brand new and exciting theme. In May, we will hosting the first ever Photography Symposium Asia in Kuala Lumpur, promising a great line up of presenters and focusing on Education and Opportunities.
2017, also sees the second phase of the Two Mountains Photo Project taking shape. Six photographers from Japan and Malaysia have been commissioned to photograph stories surrounding the mythology, socio dynamics and natural aspects of Mount Fuji and Mount Kinabalu.
KL-Ga was also launched this year and we continue with this photoblog for 2017. We have already seen some great single images and stories about the city, as we take on new photographers.
In the pipeline also – is a personal project centred around the printed image and more details will follow.
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.”
Sagun, the leader of Ba’Marong.
Listening to the sounds of the forest on their way hunting.
Mitsu Maeda followed some men on a hunt for monkeys and even sampled some of its meat.
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!”
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.
Bathing and washing clothes in the river
“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.” ”
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.
Depictions of Kuan Yin, Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, Kuala Lumpur
Time to depart Kuala Lumpur after a short visit to oversee the judging of KLPA2016. What an intense week focussing on portrait photography, discussions about ethics and integrity – the unfolding McCurry saga, and great plans in the near future for photography in KL.
I can’t wait to announce the shortlisted finalists, and once all the backroom validations etc have been done, I will do so. Meanwhile, there are exhibitions and events to plan, and the groundwork for a new KL project has started following my announcement on 6 May. This new and exciting project will involve KL photographers and will begin a new chapter in visual mapping and documentation, illuminated by the myriad lights of the city.