KUALA LUMPUR: Their first contact was fleeting, to say the least. Photographer Hari Ho (pic below), on a mission to document the final days of Central Market ahead of its impending closure in 1985, took a photo of a little boy who caught his eye.
The child, clad in shorts and a white sailor boy shirt, perched atop a wooden barrel surrounded by gunny sacks, obliged.
Immediately after Ho took the picture, someone called out loudly to the child, who smiled shyly at Ho and ran off, disappearing into the crowd.
Although this took place more than 30 years ago, shortly before the wet market was closed in September that year, the Australia-based Ho remembers it as vividly as if it had happened yesterday.
“He was called away for work right after I photographed him. Even though I returned to the market every day after that, I didn’t see him again,” said Ho, 69.
“I asked around and was told that he was a lolly chai in Cantonese – an assistant with a lorry team helping to load and unload supplies at the market,” Ho said at an interview at Wei-Ling Gallery in Brickfields.
Lorry Boy is one of the portrait shots featured in Ho’s solo show, simply titled Central Market, at the gallery. The exhibition, which runs until Sept 10, showcases 28 portraits of people, mostly vendors at the market.
“I just knew I had to take his portrait when I saw the boy sitting there that day,” he said.
“There were two shafts of light coming down from the central skylight and he looked like a little prince sitting on his throne.”
Ho, who lives in Newcastle, Australia, remembers the boy as “a shy kid with a sweet, yet strong, face” and commented that there is something just so enigmatic about this photograph.
“I still often wonder what has become of him and what he looks like now.
“Among all the people I did portraits of, this boy is the only one whose name I do not have. He intrigues me.
“It is a mystery that has me very curious and I think to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to meet him again,” said Ho.
Wei-Ling Gallery can be reached at 03-2260 1106 if you have any information on this boy.