The Malaysia Chapter of the Royal Photographic Society announces its arrival with its first major exhibition.
THAT'S my picture!” exclaimed Nick Ng as we strode into the room that housed the People, Places & Life Through The Lenses showcase at YTL Land and Development Bhd’s Sentul East Design Centre (SEED) in the city centre that is now the refurbished Sentul in the capital.
The said image – seen at Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Malaysia Chapter’s first major exhibition – was photographed in the north of India in that part of a restaurant that most patrons will never set foot – the definite business end of the kitchen. The cooks and their assistants, it seems, welcomed Ng’s intrusion and he, in turn, had maximised their hospitality.
The shot was pulled back on a wide angle to take in their whole habitat and effectively placed the gritty in an imposing facade. As Ng explained, the exhibition shied away from any thematic pretensions though anyone visiting it from now till July 28 will be persuaded to accept a common thread that intertwines the works of 15 of RPS’s members: realism.
On July 18, two days before the opening night of the RPS Malaysia Chapter’s first major exhibition, the passion of Ng and his collaborators at the RPS sliced through the sizzling evening. The impression, it would not be incorrect to say, was akin to the imminent staging of a long awaited coming-out celebration.
“We are very lucky to be able to use the place for no fees while J&A Imaging (www.jaissb.com) is sponsoring the prints. To have an event of this scale once a year is manageable, but we can’t have it too often because of sponsorship … we may overstretch ourselves,” said Ng as he mentioned the struggles to raise funds for RPS’s plans.
The RPS was officially listed with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) in February this year. It has quietly worked the ground in the Peninsular and Sarawak by introducing the organisation to various photographic societies and conducting workshops. Ng recalled the materialisation of a Chapter of the RPS here, and he did not attempt to rein in his sense of disbelief and elation.
“All this happened at the end of October in 2011, before I went to India, when the President of the RPS of Britain e-mailed to ask if I would like to start a chapter in Malaysia. I was doing a salon for a photography society and I e-mailed her for a message for the salon.
“When I got back from India, I received an email and it said ‘You’ve been officially appointed by the Council as the Malaysia Chapter Organiser.’ We never actually discussed the proposal … I think they needed somebody to start it here. I then appointed Steven Leong as the West Malaysia Chair while Chan Hua Chiang (Fellow of RPS) is the East Malaysia Chair,” he said.
Chan ran RPS’s activities in Sibu last year, and Miri in May, and is in touch with the local photographic societies in Sabah and Sarawak to co-organise events. RPS draws its membership from the photographic societies in Malaysia and their efforts are part of People, Places & Life Through The Lenses exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.
Ng was keen to stress that RPS is not a society, and has no ambition to ursurp these clubs into a single body.
“We can’t group them into one … some of the societies have been established for more than 50 or 60 years. We are trying to build relationships and a community feel amongst them because it is easier to do things in future. If we manage to build that in every state (in Malaysia), we can bring this exhibition to Penang and Malacca, and promote the name of RPS.
“We are a platform for sharing. If you want to know about photography, you can come over and we will share what we know with you. If we don’t have that particular information, there are other people (within RPS) who do know since we have a variety of photographers in every category. That’s how we grow together.”
The exhibition is a step in this direction. Ben Toh, Ng’s co-curator, proposed to the RPS that they hold a showcase at SEED when the former organised the Women Behind The Lens exhibition in conjunction with International Woman’s Day in March. The SEED management wanted to breathe life into the property – home to mainly landscape designers, interior designers and architects – and convert it into a throbbing hub for the arts, design and photography fields.
According to Toh, the first photography exhibition was in February and helmed by MK Salma or Sally, as she is also known, and the soft launch of the RPS at the same d7 venue was the follow-up in April. In line with the aims of SEED, the People, Places & Life Through The Lenses exhibition traverses the subject matter.
“This event is in itself is not only about photography, but also about bringing the values of the arts to the people … the exhibition is not confined to our members. We are opening it to the public. Besides the exhibition, we have talks and workshops,” said Ng.
“This Sunday (July 21), we have a Photo Hunt Competition around Sentul. The theme is Sentul Yesterday & Sentul Today. On July 27, we managed to get three commercial photographers, Kid Chan, Adam Seow, Jen Siow and (Long) Thien-Shih, who is the resident artist at University Malaya (plus) activist and musician AiLin (Yong) for a talk.”
Another well-known photographer Patrick Low will moderate this informal “meet & chat” session on July 27, which will discuss Contemporary Views On Art & Photography. Members of the public are invited to participate, especially the click-and-upload generation. Ng is expecting interest to come from these youngsters.
He noted that photography in the digital era – made more convenient with each application and model upgrade – has allowed many to explore this discipline, with the new generation picking it up as a hobby while the rest venture into it professionally as freelancers. While Ng welcomed the development, he broached the issue of art in photography.
Opining that this is a subjective topic, he held the view that the proliferation of software and applications has afforded freedom for photographers or virtual artists to create compositions out of computer-generated images. This, he said, is acceptable in the same way an artist respects another’s ability to create.
Ng elaborated that the question always is if one image is better than the other in the manner in which it invokes a feel for it. But there are exceptions.
“In travel documentary and photojournalism … what you capture is what you should show. Apart from this category, I believe that every image taken digitally should be enhanced – using software – because it brings out the beauty of the image.
“If I was to shoot raw and I don’t do anything – level or contrast it – the image that is produced is unattractive.
“This brings us to the chat sessions on July 27 when we deal with the subject of whether technology has diminished the inner creativity of the authors or has it helped the authors to be more creative,” he concluded.
Join the activities and discussions during the People, Places & Life Through The Lenses exhibition that daily runs till July 28 at
G-19, d7 @ Sentul East in Kuala Lumpur. Opening times: Monday to Saturday (11am to 5pm, by appointment) and Sunday
(11am to 4pm). Call: 012-205 0716. For details, go to www.facebook.com/rps.msia. For info on The Royal Photographic Society (Malaysia Chapter), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Call: 012-377 2331.