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Tuesday August 27, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday August 27, 2013 MYT 10:49:40 AM
by s. s. kanesan
Raja Mohd Zainol Ihsan Shah with the coffeetable book he produced containing photographs taken by his grandfather Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah.
NOT many Malaysians now are aware that the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong was an avid photographer who is considered a pioneer in the field.
The late Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah was in fact dubbed the Father of Photography and a new book by his grandson, Raja Mohd Zainol Ihsan Shah, will open more people’s eyes to his legacy.
“He spent most of his time taking amazing photos. It was something the common people found hard to accept — that a member of royalty could be an artist, but my grandfather was a Sultan and an artist,’’ said Raja Ihsan during an interview at his art gallery recently.
Sultan Ismail served as the 14th Sultan of Terengganu before becoming the fourth King from 1965 until 1970.
He was the first Malay photographer to be an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society (United Kingdom) in 1958. In 1965 he was awarded the EFIAP (Excellence, Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique) Switzerland.
He was also the patron of the Photographic Society of Malaysia.
Having spent most of his growing up years with his grandfather, Raja Mohd Zainol was chosen by him to be the custodian of his vintage cameras and valuable photo collection.
He decided to compile the Sultan’s artwork in a coffeetable book, HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah: Pioneering Malaysian Photography 1923-1971, as a tribute to his beloved grandfather.
“I shared many wonderful moments with my grandfather and have personally seen him taking many photographs.
“I still vividly remember how I used to keep him company in his darkroom where he would print his photos.”
The darkroom at the Istana Badariah (the Sultan’s official residence in Terengganu) was his favourite place.
“It was big and well-equipped and could rival most professional laboratories,” added Raja Mohd Zainol, who is a keen art enthusiast. He had previously organised several exhibitions showcasing his grandfather’s work.
“Even though he was a very well-known figure and could not leave his residence without being followed by several bodyguards, my grandfather still went out on his own to take photos. That’s how strong his passion for photography was.”
The only time Sultan Ismail could not take photographs was during the World War II as he had to surrender his cameras to the Japanese forces.
Raja Mohd Zainol said among the most memorable photos taken by his grandfather was of empty streets after the May 13 riots in 1969.
Sultan Ismail was also known for his camera collection. “The first camera he purchased was a Kodak Premo in 1928 and that was when he started his photography journey, experimenting with new techniques, creating new ones and learning how to print the photos on his own. He was self-taught.”
According to Raja Mohd Zainol , his grandfather had a love for nature.
“Sometimes he would wait patiently for hours for the perfect moment and I think that’s what made his photographs so unique.”
Every photo of Sultan Ismail’s has an interesting backstory and they are all revealed in the book.
“I hope by reading the book, people will understand his perspective on life through his lens,” explained Raja Ihsan who worked on the book for almost two years.
> For details on the book, visit http://www.sultanismailphotographs.com
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