Different But Same
These recent works deal with the actual act (straight) of photographing, some are experimental while others engage a disparate approach in using the medium. The techniques used are meticulous to photography and they embrace each subject matter or object with respect. The range of photographic processes, techniques and approaches used include camera less techniques, archival retrieval, manipulated processes, long ended films and straight photography apparently objective approaches with regard to space, in which the subject matter or object is regarded supreme. Such course of action pushes the subjects and approaches the untapped possibilities achievable.
This freedom and range of possibilities have produced these recent self-motivated works of Malaysians in this era of photography in the country. In addition, in a simple way these works may address or open up more discourse on the question of what photography is and how we can understand it.
Azril K Ismail often looks at the un-photographable side of things, his works often capturing the ‘truth’ and nakedness of his subjects, revelling in the medium’s transparency.
The works of Eiffel and Pang provides us a look at today’s contemporary photographers in recent years, such as a trend to include objects and spaces that we may commonly ignore or pass by. Their photographs maintain the ‘thing-ness’ of what they describe, such as playgrounds, street lights in parks, abandoned rooms and buildings, which are all conceptually altered as a result of the visual impact gained by the act of being photographed and presented as ‘art’.
Tan Chee Hon takes fascinating and vague photographs that demand to be understood but resist easy explanation in his isolated series of closely related human subjects exposed using long terminated films. Even as he depicts similar subject matters, each photograph is singular and unique. Just as his imaginative labour starts anew with every picture taken, he demands the same engagement from us towards his work. We are often compelled to figure out each image, yet given very few conventional clues for assistance.
The skilfully digitalized works by Erna Dyanty and Yee I-Lann in this age of constant change are examples of forces that coerce us to operate in new and untested ways, and have ‘raised the bar’ of photography in the country in terms of observing, appreciating and dealing with the further ‘possibilities’ of the medium.
The subject in Erna Dyanty’s photographs is urban space-more specifically in her native city, Kuala Lumpur. A bustling city of over two million people, Kuala Lumpur has suffered the effect of accelerated and chaotic growth within the last two decades.
Yee I-Lann’s images possess an indisputable ability to frame realities, construct identities and inform perceptions. Her computer-generated photographs signify both the rich content and critical technological components of her practice. With her intense focus on new media and computer imaging, her works actively emphasize their own technological production, allowing her to examine the multiple possibilities of visualizing both the internal relationships between people, places and things within her pictures while also exploring how technology influences peoples’ daily lives. She directs our attention towards the computerized images’ construction and make-believe as a method of engaging ideas of power, boundaries, truth, reality and social differences.
Alex Wong positions his practice within this territory, as it has provided him with a rich vein of subjects that have been worked through in photographic form. His works displace the emphasis on situations and objects to often- indistinct statements on emotions, communication, alienation, human relationships and contemporary life. He also highlights banal events as they happen day to day, suggesting that any single moment of our lives could be arresting. Maybe, there is more to that as he claims that ordinary objects can bring some sense of completion, meaning, imagination, peace and happiness.
Hock Seng takes large-scale black–and-white photographs with a 8 X 10 or 4 X 5 camera to achieve extraordinarily detailed images that capture the way the world is “drawn”. In addition, in black-and-white it undermines a sense of the photographs’ historical moment. Seeing the world in black-and-white allows one to feel a step removed from reality, so it fits either to invoke memory or to blur fact and fiction. His works are printed meticulously and marked by strict self-discipline, overabundant details, amplified contrast between black and white and a cool keen astuteness.
A photograph has no value unless it looks like exactly like a photograph and nothing else. He holds a purist position in which he holds that photography has a vocabulary of its own, related to the fact that it was a direct transcription of reality. Alex Moh defines that what a photographer can do best is to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock, in other words a significant representation and not an interpretation. His black-and-white photographs often conceptualise his belief that by being in control of the technique consequently, pure photographic technique is the sole basis of significant photography. He photographs in a large scale or a medium camera, processes and prints his works scrupulously on his own.