Photo Project Workshop at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (5 to 10 Jun 2014)
First of all, I wish to thank Jebat for giving me a reason to visit Sabah. From what I have seen thus far, Sabah is an amazing place. It offers further evidence that Southeast Asia has always been the meeting place of different cultures, long before the advent of the word “globalisation”.
I have been running photo project workshops since 2008. Over the years, I have tweaked the structure of my workshops, incorporating input from previous participants. My relationship with the participants is a collaborative one.
For this edition in Kota Kinabalu, which runs from 5 to 10 June 2014, our home base is Arena Belia. This is where daily discussions with the participants are held. Arena Belia also has dorm beds for those of us who stayed there for the duration of the workshop. The talks are held on the first two days: the private session is at Arena Belia while the public session is at Yayasan Sabah College. For the rest of the days, participants work with me on an individual basis.
Most of the participants use the occasion to photograph the projects that they wish to pursue.
Paik Yin, on the other hand, uses the workshop to edit her ongoing work, examining the spaces where man-made nature converges with man-made urbanity. She also uses the occasion to formulate her forthcoming work. In her case, Paik Yin does not produce anything tangible during the workshop. Rather, she uses this as a process to think through her photographic practice.
Mark Chai, who volunteers in an NGO for the undocumented Suluks in KK, uses the workshop as an opportunity to make family portraits for the kids who come to his classes. As the issue of undocumented peoples is a highly sensitive one in Sabah, his photographs are not uploaded here. In his case, it is better to err on the side of caution.
The remaining projects are featured here.
On the last day of the workshop, an internal critique session is held, so that participants can receive feedback from one another. A short editing session rounds off the critique. The workshop closes with an Open House, which allows participants to share their work with the public. In this way, the Open House requires them to explain and defend their projects. The potluck marks the end of this six-day workshop.
Kelvin Ah Kian uses the workshop to embark on his long-term work on the shoreline of Labuan. He sees the shoreline as a site to consider the history and evolution of the island. In this workshop, he switches from digital 35mm to the analogue medium-format to explore his approach for this project. This is the result of a sustained discussion with me over how he prefers to work and his temperament as a photographer.
Kelvin Ah Kian shares his experiences of attending this workshop here.
This is the first time Muhammad Afif embarks on a documentary project. His work is about a newly established Maahad Tahfiz (Islamic boarding school) at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The work is partly inspired by Afif’s childhood memories of studying in an Islamic school. To continue the work, he will need to get closer to the students.
Abd El-Salam uses the workshop to unearth the history of the Japanese community in Tawau. To photograph something that has become obscured is always challenging. Al-Salam follows the footsteps of heritage lovers in Tawau in order to learn more about the pre-war Japanese community in the southeastern tip of Sabah. The next part of the project will require him to track down the descendents of the community.
Mohd Shukur Jahar photographs his kids growing up from the vantage of a doting father. The photographs of his home contextualise the story. He uses the workshop to tweak the framework and structure of this ongoing work.
Razie Alfiedan uses the workshop to begin his documentation of his home village of Penampang Proper, a village that feeds off the river that runs through it. Like many places in the world, it is slowly changing in the name of “development”. Alfiedan uses his camera to collect stories from the families who have lived there for decades.