Fakhrul did me last weekend. We were talking about how lately our weekends were wasted on hanging out at the city centre, eating out, browsing shops and spending money on things we didn’t even need to begin with. I need to get on with my photography and he must find his lost stroke on drawings and paintings again. So he drew me.
When you’re being painted or photographed, there is a sense of intimacy that is uncomfortably strong. Every inch of your being, your face particularly in a portrait is being observed and analyzed. You won’t help feeling ashamed, unless you’re a really confident person. You would smile to feel normal again, but he knows you’re trying to hide your emotions. You would move your head hither and thither trying to avoid that awkward gaze but then he would ask you to stay still. You would look down and blushing, but he would need your eye contact to get into your soul. What would you do as a sitter?
So when Kikin asked me in Random whether if I would do a portrait of anyone, I couldn’t quite explain my refusal until I can tell how awkward it might be to experience an intimate moment with strangers. Maybe being unprofessional I am, I just don’t think I can bring out the best of someone that I barely know in a photograph. Portraits that I did aren’t the best you’ve seen, but I admit there was a certain level of intimacy and closeness that almost everyone can feel when looking at them. I didn’t “ambush” Tadika Tokai when I first came there. There’s a story behind the series. My mother in law owned an unoccupied house in Tokai which she rented to an ustazah and I followed her there to meet Fakhrul’s relatives when I learned about Tadika Tokai. After few more visits and getting to know the children and the ustazah, only I felt the urge to photograph them. It would be really hard not to do it by heart.
To become a sitter is one thing, but being a subject is another. In Fakhrul’s case, likeness is not the point. Since camera was invented there is no reason why you should draw somebody exactly how you see it. How you interpret someone to the paper is up to you. What is so significant about him or her? Interpreting someone who wouldn’t go out without a make up on her face by photographing her in front of a mirror, or interpreting someone who spends most of his free time sleeping by placing and photographed him under the duvet is nothing more but just simple personal opinion. The same you want to tell about somebody in a photograph by including a bit of landscape behind it, let it be a river or a kitchen, it is just another information or hints about that person. What they were doing or what they were watching won’t matter, so long the moment is right.
I’m not very good with people and I’m easily misunderstood. Only those who know me well can be comfortable enough to become my sitter. I guess I have to get to know you first. So, maybe we can start with hello.