Personal Work | Photo Project Workshop at Run Amok Gallery, Penang (28 Nov to 3 Dec 2013)

This is the first full-fledged workshop that I have conducted in Malaysia. My host is Run Amok Gallery (151-o, Off Hutton Lane, 10050 George Town), an intimate artist-run space in Penang. Artist-curator Hoo Fan Chon is the founder of the space.

It is impossible to thank everyone who has promoted the workshop here. However, I will like to extend my gratitude to Minstrel Kuik, Che’ Ahmad Azhar, Erna Dyanty, Mervyn Leong, Faisal Aziz, Liew Kwai Fei, Eiffel Chong, Yee I-Lann and Kevin Lee, amongst others, for circulating the application call.

Like my previous workshops, the intention here is to take each participant through the process of developing her/his project, starting from the conceptualisation to the realisation/presentation of the work. As usual, I am flexible with how different participants want to utilise the sessions. Some of them create a new project. A few use the opportunity to edit their long-term work. Others take advantage of stepping outside their routine of salaried work to evolve their photographic practices in a different tangent. In the latter, the emphasis is on the process rather than the outcome. It is fair to say that it is a luxury to have the time and freedom to think through one’s photographic practice and to receive feedback from fellow participants, practising artists and me.

In this workshop, the internal critique session takes place on the last day. I always moderate these sessions. I am also glad to have Kuala Lumpur-based Liew Kwai Fei (painting/installation) and Minstrel Kuik (photography/installation/video), together with Hoo Fan Chon (curating/photography/installation), sit in the session and offer comments. The critique session is followed by an open house to conclude the workshop. The participants’ projects are printed at the local labs and displayed at the gallery. Publicising the event on Facebook, we received an encouraging crowd of neighbours, cultural workers and photography enthusiasts. In this way, the participants get to explain their work to the audience in an informal setting.

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Kota Kinabalu-based Jebat has been an avid street photographer. In this workshop, he decides to try his hands on documentary work, focusing on the remaining beca (rickshaw) drivers in Penang. I work with Jebat in a more structured way, encouraging him to explore two different approaches of portraying the beca drivers. The first approach is to engage the group of beca drivers who wait near Cititel Penang as a whole. The other approach is to catalogue the beca, as an extension of the drivers’ identity.

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Jebat becaJebat beca

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Despite his young age, Saigon-based Pham Linh has already done several documentary projects. He decides to join the workshop after a recommendation from Robert Pledge. His proposal for the workshop is rather challenging, which is to examine the consumption of Penang as a tourist destination. This is not an easy project to shoot, without resorting to clichés. One needs to be fairly experienced as a photographer to be able to express her/his perspectives through photography.

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Even though Syefry Moniz has worked as a newspaper photographer for years, he has had very few opportunities to shoot photo stories. In this workshop, he photographs the tradition of the ayahanda (a Malay community united by kinship or tradition), which has been misrepresented in popular culture as a form of gangsterism in recent years, through the vantage of an aging ayah (leader) living at Butterworth.

At first, Syefry expects the ayahanda to be more dynamic. However, as the ayah is already quite old, Syefry finds himself spending most of his time with the leader at his modest restaurant by the sea. He also realises that some of the junior members may in fact be involved in some dodgy affairs. And because of his interest with the community, the ayah falsely believes that Syefry hopes to join the ayahanda. In this way, by pursuing the story, he has experienced some of the issues that affect documentary photographers who pursue long-term work.

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Shio Soon Yi, a student from Kedah studying in KL, returns photography to its most endearing function, which is to preserve memories. Shio’s work revolves around his girlfriend who, despite her young age, has battled numerous setbacks in life. Both of them hope that the story can inspire others to battle on through life.

Shio uses the workshop mainly as an opportunity to edit this work into a book format.

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Malaysian photographer William Sim considers his hair as a site to articulate his identity. He sticks stretches of masking tape onto his hair, taking the tape to represent family protection. Removing the tape forcibly, Sim notes that his hair continues to be attached to it, creating new forms of entanglement.

William SimWilliam SimHair as a site of identity and protection / William Sim / 2 Dec 2013

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A recent graduate from art school, Malaysian artist Chong Yi Lin uses the workshop to further explore her artistic process. In these visual experiments, she uses mark-making as a meditative process to encounter and alter her memories.

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Singaporean participant Lawrence Chiam finds himself drawn to the golden era of photo studios in Penang. In this work, Chiam borrows some of the strategies used by anthropologists and artists. Apart from talking to the current owners of the studios and collecting related artefacts both from the studios and the junk shops at Chulia Street, Chiam also embarks on a series of self-portraits with the assistance of these studios. He speaks of adding himself into the large, communal archive of studio images circulating within and beyond Georgetown. He also documents the exterior of these studios, creating, in the words of Hoo Fan Chon, a street full of empty photo studios in Penang.

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Documentation of the workshop:

Zhuang Wubin

Zhuang Wubin
Run Amok Gallery, home base of the workshop

Prawn noodle breakfast to kick-start the workshop! 28 Nov 2013
Prawn noodle breakfast to kick-start the workshop!
28 Nov 2013
Hoo Fan Chon, owner and curator of Run Amok Gallery, opens the workshop. 28 Nov 2013
Hoo Fan Chon, owner and curator of Run Amok Gallery, opens the workshop.
28 Nov 2013
What are the different approaches in creating a body of work? Closed-door morning lecture / 28 Nov 2013
What are the different approaches in creating a body of work?
Closed-door morning lecture / 28 Nov 2013
Talking about Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann's work. 28 Nov 2013
Talking about Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann’s work.
28 Nov 2013
Making new friends 28 Nov 2013
Making new friends
28 Nov 2013
Syefry explains his interest in the adat ayahanda. 28 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Syefry explains his interest in the adat ayahanda.
28 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
 Special call. 28 Nov 2013

Special call.
28 Nov 2013
Lawrence clears his idea. 28 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Lawrence clears his idea.
28 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Preparation before the public talk 28 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Preparation before the public talk
28 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Preparation before the public talk 28 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Preparation before the public talk
28 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Public talk at Run Amok Gallery: Timeline of Art Photography in Southeast Asia since 1950s 28 Nov 2013
Public talk at Run Amok Gallery: Timeline of Art Photography in Southeast Asia since 1950s
28 Nov 2013
Talking about the social documentary of Malaysian photographer Sultan Ismail 28 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Talking about the social documentary of Malaysian photographer Sultan Ismail
28 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Explorations of identity by William Sim. 29 Nov 2013
Explorations of identity by William Sim.
29 Nov 2013
It's a massacre. 29 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
It’s a massacre.
29 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Lunch at old Penang coffeeshop. 29 Nov 2013 Courtesy of William Sim
Lunch at old Penang coffeeshop.
29 Nov 2013
Courtesy of William Sim
Day 2 29 Nov 2013
Day 2
29 Nov 2013
First batch of images by Mr. Jebat Legacy. 29 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
First batch of images by Mr. Jebat Legacy.
29 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Afternoon rain 29 Nov 2013
Afternoon rain
29 Nov 2013
Malaysian artist Eiffel Chong drops by the workshop. 29 Nov 2013
Malaysian artist Eiffel Chong drops by the workshop.
29 Nov 2013
Lawrence Chiam researches about a slice of history in Penang. 29 Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Lawrence Chiam researches about a slice of history in Penang.
29 Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Day 3 drawing to an end 30 Nov 2013
Day 3 drawing to an end
30 Nov 2013
Day 3 / Nov 2013 Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
Day 3 / Nov 2013
Courtesy of Shio Soon Yi
My bed at Run Amok Gallery 1 Dec 2013
My bed at Run Amok Gallery
1 Dec 2013
Editing Shio's work for a diary-book / 1 Dec 2013
Editing Shio’s work for a diary-book / 1 Dec 2013
Transferring the book layout onto the wall: Shio's work revolves around his girlfriend who, despite her young age, has battled numerous setbacks in life. 1 Dec 2013
Transferring the book layout onto the wall: Shio’s work revolves around his girlfriend who, despite her young age, has battled numerous setbacks in life.
1 Dec 2013
Ashes of time / 2 Dec 2013
Ashes of time / 2 Dec 2013
A story about the adat of the ayahanda. 2 Dec 2013
A story about the adat of the ayahanda.
2 Dec 2013
A story about the adat of the ayahanda. 2 Dec 2013
A story about the adat of the ayahanda.
2 Dec 2013
Kids from the neighborhood wander into the workspace of the workshop to admire the completed projects. 2 Dec 2013
Kids from the neighborhood wander into the workspace of the workshop to admire the completed projects.
2 Dec 2013
Photo book collection of Shio Soon Yi 2 Dec 2013
Photo book collection of Shio Soon Yi
2 Dec 2013
Malaysian photographer Minstrel Kuik and contemporary artist Kwai Fei visit the workshop from Kuala Lumpur. To celebrate the occasion, we had a BBQ behind the gallery. 2 Dec 2013
Malaysian photographer Minstrel Kuik and contemporary artist Kwai Fei visit the workshop from Kuala Lumpur. To celebrate the occasion, we had a BBQ behind the gallery.
2 Dec 2013
Malaysian photographer Minstrel Kuik and contemporary artist Kwai Fei visit the workshop from Kuala Lumpur. To celebrate the occasion, we had a BBQ behind the gallery. 2 Dec 2013
Malaysian photographer Minstrel Kuik and contemporary artist Kwai Fei visit the workshop from Kuala Lumpur. To celebrate the occasion, we had a BBQ behind the gallery.
2 Dec 2013
Setting up the remaining projects for the Open House on the last day of the workshop 3 Dec 2013
Setting up the remaining projects for the Open House on the last day of the workshop
3 Dec 2013
Setting up the remaining projects for the Open House on the last day of the workshop 3 Dec 2013
Setting up the remaining projects for the Open House on the last day of the workshop
3 Dec 2013
The internal critique is an important part of the workshop. It is partially based on the critique sessions of L'Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie at Arles, and modified through my discussions with Malaysian contemporary photographer Minstrel Kuik (who studied at L'Ecole). In my workshops, I moderate these sessions to prevent participants from making personal or unjustified comments. The idea is to allow the participants to realise, through the sessions, how their works are being read by other viewers and how they can improve on their practices. For the critique at Run Amok Gallery, Penang, I am glad to have Liew Kwai Fei (painting+installation), Minstrel Kuik (photography+installation+video) and Hoo Fan Chon (curator/photography/sculpture/installation) sit in the session. Their presence is important. Firstly, because of their diverse backgrounds, they bring different perspectives to the discussion. I think it is crucial to move away from the usual tendency in Singapore and Malaysia where documentary photographers speak only to documentary photographers, and where conceptual photographers speak only to conceptual photographers, often for the token of getting a pat on the back. It is also crucial to have them involved in the critique because I am critical of the fact that I am a Singaporean (hence, a farang/foreigner) conducting a workshop in Penang. The typical way of conducing workshops in Southeast Asia is to fly a farang to an exotic location. In this sense, it is easy to give the impression that outsiders know better. The presence of the three Malaysian practitioners helps to ensure that the exchange is relevant/grounded on a local level. It also allows the workshop and the participants to retain a vital connection to their peers in Malaysia. 3 Dec 2013
The internal critique is an important part of the workshop. It is partially based on the critique sessions of L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie at Arles, and modified through my discussions with Malaysian contemporary photographer Minstrel Kuik (who studied at L’Ecole). In my workshops, I moderate these sessions to prevent participants from making personal or unjustified comments. The idea is to allow the participants to realise, through the sessions, how their works are being read by other viewers and how they can improve on their practices.
For the critique at Run Amok Gallery, Penang, I am glad to have Liew Kwai Fei (painting+installation), Minstrel Kuik (photography+installation+video) and Hoo Fan Chon (curator/photography/sculpture/installation) sit in the session. Their presence is important. Firstly, because of their diverse backgrounds, they bring different perspectives to the discussion. I think it is crucial to move away from the usual tendency in Singapore and Malaysia where documentary photographers speak only to documentary photographers, and where conceptual photographers speak only to conceptual photographers, often for the token of getting a pat on the back.
It is also crucial to have them involved in the critique because I am critical of the fact that I am a Singaporean (hence, a farang/foreigner) conducting a workshop in Penang. The typical way of conducing workshops in Southeast Asia is to fly a farang to an exotic location. In this sense, it is easy to give the impression that outsiders know better. The presence of the three Malaysian practitioners helps to ensure that the exchange is relevant/grounded on a local level. It also allows the workshop and the participants to retain a vital connection to their peers in Malaysia.
3 Dec 2013
Internal critique 3 Dec 2013
Internal critique
3 Dec 2013
Internal critique 3 Dec 2013
Internal critique
3 Dec 2013
Open House at Run Amok Gallery to conclude the workshop: participants get the chance to mingle with the visitors and to explain their projects to the viewers 3 Dec 2013
Open House at Run Amok Gallery to conclude the workshop: participants get the chance to mingle with the visitors and to explain their projects to the viewers
3 Dec 2013
Open House 3 Dec 2013
Open House
3 Dec 2013
Open house 3 Dec 2013
Open house
3 Dec 2013
Open house 3 Dec 2013
Open house
3 Dec 2013
Jebat and his fans
Jebat and his fans
It's a wrap! Courtesy of William Sim 3 Dec 2013
It’s a wrap!
Courtesy of William Sim
3 Dec 2013