THERE are many photography enthusiasts in Malaysia but most have yet to create a work of substantial importance.
With this in mind, professional photographer Vignes Balasingam started the Monsoon Masterclass and Monsoon Artist-in-Residence programmes as a platform for photographers to learn some skills.
“The Monsoon Masterclass is an important learning and cultural education platform for Malaysia.”
“While the country has a large pool of enthusiasts in the field, the value of photography projects or jobs being created within the nation has not yet reached the level whereby the art-form is of substantial importance from a social and historical aspect,” said Vignesh.
He added that the masterclass was a platform to “harness the talents of local photographers” as they would have the opportunity to learn from fellow photographers from all over the world.
“However I feel masterclass alone will not be able to shift tides, rather it represents a singular effort amongst many other efforts to bring about change.”
In the masterclass, selected participants would be mentored by some of the international industry’s most prominent and celebrated photographers, said Vignes, who is also the director of the Obscura Photography Festival.
It is an international photography festival that features Asian stories through Asian photographers.
The first of the masterclass sessions had award-winning photographer James Whitlow Delano as mentor.
Delano said that he had chosen to be a part of the programme because when he had first begun his career, advice and training by experienced photographers was “almost non-existent”.
“It can literally take years to learn to navigate the world of photography.
“I want to be a bridge to participants, a sort of big brother who can show the way,” he said.
He added that it was important that more experienced photographers share their knowledge.
“It is also good for participants to see people who have the tenacity to keep their love for the medium and how they develop their style, point of view and vision,” he said.
However, he admitted that each individual was different and that participants had to be given space to “be themselves”.
“But there is a sense of kinship and commonality to those of us in the photo community,” he shared.
As a mentor, he said that he hoped to help them “preserve and reinforce their own particular way of seeing things”.
“Sometimes, a person is the last one to see their own strengths. It is also valuable to talk about honest editing of stories to create strong narratives that communicate what the photographer wants to see,” Delano said.
For participant and Melbourne-based photographer Sara O’Brien Callow, the masterclass was a way for her to work through her grief after losing her best friend.
“About six months prior to the workshop I had lost my best friend to suicide.
“I had since been travelling and was not able to adequately process the emotions of my loss.
“So I decided to take the time at the workshop to try and find a way of expressing them creatively,” she said.
“I walked around the streets of Klang, with my camera in hand. Every time I saw something that struck a chord within me, I took a photo of it. Every step of the project was guided by my own intuition.
“It wasn’t until I edited the photos together that they really revealed the story I had wanted to tell — the emotional process that exists within a person’s world of grief.”
Photographer Irvin Tan said that the masterclass experience was “awesome from the start”, mainly because of the people involved.
He said that it led him to look into the theme of heritage more deeply.
For a start, the Singaporean decided to explore Klang.
“It did take me a while to acclimatise and find my way around Klang, a place I had never been to, although I had great help from participants in the workshop,” he said.
Vignes said that he was “extremely satisfied” with the “learner outcomes” of the masterclass.
However, he added that they would require more people to manage the programme, if there were plans to take on bigger projects.
“We are looking for project partners to help fund the programmes. We are certain our plans would manifest in a big way if we had more financial mobility to roll out our programmes,” he said, adding that he would also welcome future collaborations.