Untitled Journal

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Category: Photography

When in Bali, Again and Again

One of the things I learned from one of my stop during biking tour was the community concept in Bali. All families have family leader (normally a couple of man and woman) who acts as representative in their group of social community. Their full-time job is to contribute man power in gotong-royong for activities like wedding ceremony, funerals, refurbishing temples, road, cleanliness of the area, security protection and do all the activities together in economic, social and ritual field. The other family members are obliged to contribute financially to their family leaders, because these people work for the community – for free!

Those who do not contribute are said to be banished from their villages. No wonder tradition and culture still runs like the old days with them. The community kinda make them!

I am especially amazed at Balinese landscapes. Everything seems to be blooming and more alive there. Like Nizam said, even the palm trees that we see almost everyday here in Malaysia are more beautiful in Bali. I did ask our tour guide, Ketut Bagi, whether they usually plan before they plant something in their gardens. He said they simply plant and maintain. Its part of what they value in life, to be creative and artistic with everything they do.

And OK, I admit. I think I have a thing with paddy fields. Or in case of Bali; terraces – carved hills that form beautiful green steps that makes the amazing landscape. There’s something about being in the middle of the greens and feel at peace. 

Kecak Dance. In Pura Luhur, Uluwatu.

It does make a lot of difference to see the performance at a great setting, on top of cliff, overlooking the sea, during sunset. Not only the setting was breathtaking, the Kecak ritual is almost as good as any other music with instruments! Even now I can still hear it in my head. I still remember the eye-play of the dancers. The comic of it, the suspense when they lit up the fire, the curvy bodies of the girls and the curl of their fingers. Watching that was even better than those theatre shows I saw in London. And I’d pay to see that again, anytime.

And then, there’s the rest of it. The friendly faces, the polite gestures, the white washes at the beach, the beautiful light, the unforgettable sights… that makes up my memory of Bali. That will  make me ache to return again. Because quite truthfully, I don’t think I will ever be done with it.

Or how can anyone, really?

Reviving Memory: Being Malay

12th March 2007

These are excerpts from my first photo project, ‘Being Malay’.
Exposures on Kodak Tri-X and Ilford Deltas.

Ahh.. Wet prints. One of my favourite series. I had just got back from a month holiday in Malaysia and went straight to the darkroom. There’s nothing quite like making your own prints. Almost cutting your finger in the total darkness, shrinking skin dipped in chemicals, the savings for fibre based papers, squinting your eye studying contact sheets.. Beat the scanning, the Photoshop-ing or the machine printings. I hope I still remember how to do it if its destined that I were to set my foot in the darkroom again.

When I first published this, a friend of mine Amran, wrote to me this (and I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing an excerpt of his private email to me):

I think it’d be wonderful to depict Malays as being just like any other races. We love, we hurt, we have our own vices etc. The photos will have Malay subjects of course, but rather than narrowing it down to a specific situations, perhaps a more universal approach would have mass appeal. My idea is like saying, hey, being Malay is just like being any other races, infinitely human with our own uniqueness. We adapt, we evolve, we succeed.

In the end, ‘being Malay’ is being human. And that notion transcends all forms of racial or ethnicity divisions, skin colours and beliefs.

I wrote back to him:

Assalamualaikum Amran

Sorry it took awhile to write back to you. I got back from Morocco and I went on straight on my new job. And now I’m writing to you on my lunch break!

Well, on the photo project, nothing really. It’s just that I try to work every photographs I do now in projects, so that it’ll keep me in focus. I wish I had a longer stay in Malaysia to take more photographs, but hey, maybe I can continue on being Malay here in the UK?

There’s nothing ‘rocket science’ about the message I’m trying to deliver. I want to photograph the essence of being Malay such as what does it means being a Malay? How do we look like in general, the color of our skin, our face feature, our sizes etc – that’s physically speaking. Then I move to the environment, what does our traditional shelters look like, our surroundings etc. Then maybe our clothes, and why it is like that due to our climate? Then finally activities. Obviously we have things that only Malay people do, it’ll then relate to our religion etc. You know, general stuffs..

Your suggestion is really powerful and definitely something I will take note on. Your idea is great, really. Maybe in future I can develop a photo essay about social issues of being Malay, our dilemmas and all. There are just so much questions about defining your own self – I just hope I can find the answers from this ongoing project. It might take years you know… Hehehe.

Years indeed. And still searching..

Reviving Memory: Kat Kedah

21st Nov 2006

Untuk Abang dan Adik

This was one of my favourite Fotopages post, published during one of my holiday back to Malaysia in one of my student years in UK.  “Untuk Abang dan Adik” was meant for Fakhrul and his brother, Nizam who both at that time had not been back to Malaysia in years. We all hadn’t, I was in Malaysia 3 years ago before that. I went to visit their mother in Kedah and took some photos of their home town and dedicated this for them. Funnily enough (and this might be purely coincidence) since I posted this I realized there has been a growing appreciation to our countryside amongst Malaysian photographers, especially there were a lot of brides and grooms posing out in the paddy fields, which I find great! Proves that we don’t really need to go the distance for beautiful landscapes or backdrops.


I found this picture while I was digging for old photography works, tucked somewhere in unnamed folder.

It is a picture of a window of my old room in Oxford. My very, very first room. I got a good stare at this picture. It pretty much sums up my life at that time. There’s this pot of flowers that I put in a larger vase filled with water. You can see how busy I was that I didn’t have time to change it, it got really green and yellow. That vase was something I got for 50p when I was doing part time at M&S’ furniture department. Actually I got a lot of things for 50p whilst working there. It was a blast, although most of the times it was mixed with feeling like a loser who hadn’t finished her study and ended up taking people’s orders on a three-seater.

Then there’s this heater. I had to buy like 3 heaters to finally find that one that actually didn’t make me die frozen in my room. I had the coldest room, because it was the only room with 3 of its walls exposed to the outside. I loved that heater. I remember letting it go to a friend when I came back here. I hope it still serve them good.

There’s some reading books and I can see orange one at the end was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I still haven’t finished that yet if you can believe it. Am a slow reader.

It was so weird to see the TV antenna by the window. I can’t seem to remember where my TV was in the room.

There’s a pile of drawings there too. Some busy struggling architecture student’s life.

And finally, that camera. Something I used a lot. Something that really defined me at that time.


As usual, late update. I looked at my blog and I thought, sheesh, my latest post cannot have a picture of me so glowingly fat with scary story with it. So here’s a new one that hopefully will soothe things up. A very sleepy, somewhat looking very lazy Daisy. Its undeniable, she’s my current obsession. I just hope you  won’t get bored with all the baby talk for few updates to come. Heee..

Will write again soon.

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