The Print Room’s pictures make you think

Weighty effect: Quietus by Shareem Amry might have been photographed on the fly but it prompts long, slow thoughts on life and mortality. — Photos provided by The Print Room

Weighty effect: Quietus by Shareem Amry might have been photographed on the fly but it prompts long, slow thoughts on life and mortality. — Photos provided by The Print Room

An exhibition of film photography captures beautiful moments in everyday life around the globe.

The term “street photography” means different things to different people. To Paul Gadd of The Print Room, “It’s candid shots that have been taken artistically – it’s about photographing a moment that reveals a connectivity between random subjects in a public space.

“By capturing that moment, the picture let’s people see it in a new light, which they may never have noticed otherwise,” he explains at a recent interview.

It’s safe to say that Gadd, 45, knows what he’s talking about. After training in Britain and then working internationally as a catwalk photographer for almost 16 years, the man behind photography studio and gallery The Print Room in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, now teaches students how to shoot and develop their own film photographs.

Yes, you read right: film photographs. The Print Room, which Gadd set up in 2011, is well-known for its focus on old school photography. As Gadd said in a previous interview: “I think to learn about photography as a process, it is important to shoot on film. You really learn to appreciate and respect the art, which is very important.” (Silent lucidity, Star2 On Sunday, Oct 27, 2013.)

Photo by Weng Wah. Part of The Print Room's Up Your Alley exhibit.
Luzern, Leong Weng Wah
Photo by Razlan Yusof. Part of The Print Room's Up Your Alley exhibit.
Untitled, Razlan Yusof
Gion 2 by Linda Chin.Part of The Print Room's Up Your Alley exhibit.
Gion 2, Linda Chin

All the photos in The Print Room’s latest exhibit, Up Your Alley, were captured on film. The exhibition, which is on until Oct 19 (call 012-337 2903 or e-mail for information), features the works of 10 photographers; eight are Malaysian and two are British.

Sticking to Gadd’s definition of street photography, the photos on display (and for sale) creatively portray the nuances of everyday life. From geishas in Japan going about their lives and street vendors in KL to trishaw pedlars waiting for their next job in Bangladesh, the exhibition highlights the aesthetic appeal of a single moment in an ordinary life.

Although the bulk of the Up Your Alley photographers are Malaysian, many of the – mostly black and white – shots on display were taken in other countries, like South Korea and Switzerland. While globalisation is making humans become more similar throughout the world, the details in the photos on display show us how unique each city (or alley, even) can be.

And though the photographs were taken on the spur of the moment, many make you stop to think. One ponders the fate of the chicken sitting on the weighing scale in Quietus by Shareem Amry and questions life when looking at Gadd’s photograph of the information board with no information.

Would you buy such images, though?

“In all seriousness, it is a constant struggle for us to find buyers who are willing to engage with photography, much less film photography. Most of them will only buy more conventional art pieces like oil paintings from established artists,” shares Gadd.

“Photography enjoys that kind of recognition overseas and they fetch thousands of dollars at international exhibitions. We have ways to go here in Malaysia, but we keep up the good fight.

“We’re working very hard to get people here to see photography as a viable, credible art form.”

One way The Print Room does this is by being open to exhibiting absolutely anyone’s work in its gallery, as long as the work is up to the gallery’s standards. Gadd makes a point of emphasising that the gallery judges photographers on their work, not on their backgrounds or who they rub shoulders with.

“The Print Room is a platform for anyone who enjoys photography, whether as a hobby or as a profession,” says Gadd. 

“By virtue of being based in Kuala Lumpur, many of the photographers who work at our studio are Malaysian and they are emerging talents who probably would not have a platform anywhere else to showcase their work. I’ve always believed that discrimination has no place in art.”