The Force is strong with photographer Zahir Batin, who takes vivid photos with Star Wars action figures.
SOME Star Wars fans just collect action figures, keeping them inside their packaging in “mint condition”, and never giving them the opportunity to see the light of day.
Not Zahir Batin. The Malaysian hobbyist photographer (whose real name is Zahirudin Ali) likes to let his Star Wars action figures out into the sunshine, and at the same time, take some really cool pictures of them.
From the silent and beautiful (a group of Clone Troopers mourning solemnly at a Clone Trooper cemetery), to the action-packed (General Grievous taking on a squadron of soldiers), and the darkly funny (a Stormtrooper tries to hang himself after failing his shooting test), Zahir breathes life to otherwise static pieces of plastic through his remarkable compositions and vivid macro photography.
The results of his love for Star Wars and photography are on daily display till July 14 at the Zahir Batin: Episode 1 exhibition at the Artcube gallery in Kuala Lumpur. According to him, the inspiration for the Star Wars photos came from an Indonesian photographer named Yohanes Sanjaya.
“I was inspired by his photos, and wanted to do something like that, but with my own style,” says the 28-year-old, who works as an administrator at University Selangor.
“I only started taking the Star Wars shots last year, and I only do this as a weekend hobby.”
Zahir needed a scenic landscape to create these diorama settings. The perfect place? Well, he chose to head home to Tanjung Karang.
Located 15km away from the district of Kuala Selangor, Tanjung Karang is the fishing and paddy-growing heart of Selangor.
“It’s a peaceful place with beautiful scenery but please don’t come, let it remain that way,” a candid Zahir was quoted in the exhibition’s catalogue.
He visualised the “landing” of Star Wars in his own backyard of Tanjung Karang, which offers an unobstructed view of green fields, rivers and fishing boats.
For this project, his weapon of choice was a second-hand Canon EOS 1000D camera. Although the photos look relatively simple, a lot of thought and planning into each photograph, he revealed.
“It takes a while to plan each scene. It’s quite tedious to pose the toys, and sometimes I have to use wires to make them ‘float’,” said the photographer.
His Speeder bikes photos – emphasising the fast and furious – from his portfolio are a blast, while a Shuttle Tydirium hovering over a paddy field looks imperious.
Zahir also found safe ways to handle live poultry during the shoot, using chicks (his own version of “chicken walkers”?) and ducklings from a hatchery nearby to swing with his Star Wars figures in the photos. Most of his works feature Clone Troopers and Battle Droids from the Star Wars prequels, while familiar faces like R2D2 and Yoda are also prominent props.
A total of 40 from his over 200 Star Wars photographs will be shown at this exhibition, which promises to take Zahir’s work to a broader audience after the initial burst of attention he received through social media when these photos were uploaded last year.
The 40 framed works were handpicked by the photographer and each photo comes in limited editions of 10.
“ArtCube invited me (to do the exhibition) through a Facebook private message,” he recalled. “I was quite surprised, because I had never done something like that before!”
The Zahir Batin: Episode 1 photography exhibition is on from now till July 14 at Artcube, 3-10 & 3-13, Level 3, Intermark Mall, The Intermark, 348 Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur. Opening hours: 11am-8pm (Monday-Friday) and noon-6pm (Saturday-Sunday). Call: 019-330 9984. For more info, visit www.artcube.com.my. View Zahir Batin’s work at 500px.com/zahirbatin.