Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Last Post..

..for 2008. This is my last 'paid for' lunch of 2008. For the connoisseurs amongst you, it's a quarterpounder with cheese and it was yummy.

See you next year!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Hunting Season

I have been out and about in the freezing weather that now envelopes most of Western Europe, and also here in London post Christmas Day. These 'in-between' days coming up to the year's end are often a time of personal reflection, an introspection of sorts, reflecting on the past year and what's to come. The onslaught of dire economic news coming out of the media almost on a daily basis has made me switch off the telly for a few days, turning instead to plying the streets with camera in hand.

I like walking the streets of London, or any city for that matter. I find it therapeutic and the encounters are interesting for eye and camera alike. For the task in hand I carried my Ricoh GRD2 set to 1:1 format.

Mind you, the great London sales have begun earnestly, on Christmas Day actually, to tempt one to make a purchase, any purchase by the ever shrinking value of the pound, which has incidentally, brought an influx of Europeans over to the shops here.

You will hear Italian and Spanish and a smattering of Americanism on the streets. Window sales signs of up to 70% price slash is now a common sight in most High Street store fronts. The bargain hunters are out for a final splash before mulling over the spend receipts in the new year.

I walked along fashionably conscious King's Road yesterday and noticed the crowd was less, no more jostling amongst shoppers in the frenzy. Turned left by Peter Jones into Sloane Street where the designers have their trendy outlets.

The Christmas lights seemed dimmer but no less grand this year. Passing by Gucci, I noticed there was a significantly long queue of smartly dressed customers waiting patiently in line in 2C temperature. Ahh, even Gucci's on sale. The doormen must be limiting entry into the store for fear of a riot of Amex-wielding shoppers perhaps running amok inside the posh store.

Early in the day I went down to Portobello Road, in Notting Hill for a stroll combined with coffee and croissant. It was also less busy than any usual Saturday morning but the overpriced antique stalls are still there. I walked into the Woolworth's there and contrasting with the Gucci on Sloane Street, there was also a queue but it was store clearing rather than bargain hunting. The Woolworth stores nationwide are finally biting the dust. They are closing. After over 100 years of being in the High Streets of practically every town and city in this country, there will be no more pick 'n' mixes, no more music CDs, and bargain stationery, no more Woolies.

This particular store was clearing out the shelves, even these are for sale. By next week, it will be shut. And many other High Street chains will follow Woolworths and the list is growing longer day by day. MFI, Whittard's of Chelsea, Zavvi, Adams.

What will 2009 bring? A lot depends on one's personal outlook. New opportunities will emerge, where old one dies. A new beginning or a closure?

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


Best news I have heard today! Price of crude now is $39.82 a barrel.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

World Photography Travel Workshop Launch

Updated : 18 December 2008

Here are some photos from our launch event last evening at Hoopers Gallery. Its a real pleasure also to have Metro Imaging on-board as one of our workshop supporters. A huge 'thank you' to all that turned up for the launch, we know its the Christmas party season, so a 'double' thank you is in order. The canapes were excellent as usual, thanks to the team (Helen et al..) at Hoopers.

16 December 2008

Andy and myself will be hosting a brief reception tomorrow evening at Hoopers Gallery (thank you Roger!) in Clerkenwell to launch our latest initiative, a Photo Travel workshop series, beginning with a 10-Day jaunt in the Sarawakian interior next Spring. More details here or click the image.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

Yoga + Chocs...hmmm

Box reads .."This collection includes 7 exotic chocolates, a yoga + chocolate guide book, healthy chocolate recipes, a suggested musical playlist and quenching yoga class, all in one box."

..tough choice, I say...

Meeting of GR-reat minds!

Last weekend, several brave souls from way and beyond ventured out into the freezing, damp and overcast weather of London to meet at The Bridge Lounge, a trendy pub restaurant overlooking Tower Bridge on Tooley Street (including me!). This was the 2nd (I missed the first one) meeting of the GR people : photo-enthusiast and users of the Ricoh GR/GX kind, a fringe and fetish-like group of compact camera users increasingly hard to find, these days..

The Culprit users!

Organised by Pavel Kudrys (Slovakian, founder of the Ricoh Forum) and Cristi, an avid Ricoh user and blogger at the Ricoh GR-Diary, this get-together was supposed to provide feedback to the Ricoh people of what actual users of their products think of their products, (albeit, a very small sample size, apparently the GR following is HUGE in Japan). Unfortunately the chaps from Ricoh Germany could not make it, but we had Frazer, the owner of Alpha Digital Services, the main distributor of Ricoh cameras in the UK joining us which was fantastic. For more from the day and forthcoming products, visit Cristi's blog.

The Culprit!

I blogged about the GRD 2 earlier here, here and here about what this little marvel can do. Although a small sensor camera, the handling is first rate and the performance from its fixed 28mm f2.8 (35mm equivalent) lens is superb for enlargements. It also shoots square 1:1 format in RAW, 4:3, and 3:2 aspects which is ideal for me. Best of all, its real slim and pocketable for everyday use. I never leave home without it!

Friday, 28 November 2008

At last! Real anti-static cabin blankets.

I had the good fortune to fly the new Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 back to London last weekend and boy, this is a beaut of an aircraft. The attention to detail of the crew was almost impeccable and the inflight grub was also decent. No more 'cattle' class but 'fat-cattles' more like it. I found the space was also generous in economy and the cabin bright and airy, as can be seen in the shot here. The wings are huge and they dip at the tips at rest state. In the air, you notice the tips, due to the huge lift they generate. One thing's for sure, the aircraft is very quiet on take off and during flight, no more than a low 'hum' sound.

In front of each passenger is a huge (by current standards) personal video screen of about 7 inches, which has a narrow angle of view so your neighbour will not be able to see what you are watching. The interactive movie and music selection is enhanced by USB, RCA jack connections and power chargers on each seat. Bravo to KrisWorld inflight entertainment for a comprehensive 'on demand' selection of Hollywood and local titles.

The console remote control is now not annoyingly attached to your armrest but underneath the screen, and is therefore more accessible. The fold out tray has a 'vehicle' style slide-open vanity mirror, I guess to check your hairstyle before disembarking the craft. And, for me, the best piece of news is that the cabin blankets (designed by Givenchy, like the cabin crew's costumes) are truly anti-static.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Featured Artist Series : Deanna Ng

Bali Pasar 07 series © Deanna Ng

My recent trip short trip to Singapore served as an introduction to me in various ways. I was to visit the Biennale, which I will post later. The other was to meet some photographers and galleries in the City; one, being freelance photographer Deanna Ng. (

I came across Deanna's work through her website whilst researching into the photography scene in the Island City. We met at Bugis MRT one evening, and talked about how she came into photography only some 3 years ago, and she now teaches basic photography classes at Objectifs, which we visited, a short walk away. Deanna shoots with a Rolleicord TLR camera and also a digital Nikon DSLR, and freelances commercially, working on medium term projects as well as fitting in with her love for travel. She told me she had just returned from Vietnam, and will be going to South India at the end of the week on a photo workshop.

She describes herself as a documentary photographer, specialising in people, portraits and offbeat travel images. This is a pretty accurate definition from what I can gather from her series on street markets in Singapore, Bali and Siem Reap. Her observational skills are impeccable whilst the 'off-centre' framing and sloping horizontals adds to her signature.

Padang, Indonesia 2006 © Deanna Ng

She eluded that it may be easier for a camera totting female to get more intimate shots than her male counterparts, especially in street markets where her non-threatening and approachable demeanor with her subjects takes on a friendly rapport. The 'hit and run' approach to street photography that so many of us often practice means little for Deanna, preferring the 'ask first, then shoot' philosophy

Jimmy, Singapore © Deanna Ng

By gaining the subject's confidence and connecting through conversation, this allows the photographer a new avenue of opportunity in obtaining different images, often, much more relaxed and unposed pictures as can be seen in her work and in many of the great documentary photographers that we know.

Pit, No.2. Moberly, Missouri © Deanna Ng

In 2006, Deanna was selected to participate in the prestigious Missouri Photo Workshop as an International Participant. Her photo-essay project 'Pit' covered a typical American pastime...stockcar racing on a Saturday night, photographing families in trailers, racing cars and the local enthusiasts. Undoubtedly, she has gained from that experience, as a documentary photographer. By immersing herself within the life story, her pictures are worth more than those taken by a mere visitor.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

CHANG CHIEN-CHI : Doubleness

Adding on to the gallery shows posting, here is another :

Magnum photographer Chang Chien-Chi from Taiwan is staging a major exhibition at the Singapore National Museum, and I popped along to the magnificent building by Fort Canning Park yesterday. The exhibition is showing 3 of his most reported projects, and the theme of the show is titled 'Doubleness'.

Chang Chien-Chi (or 'CC' as he is known, apparently) is a small unassuming, coy man who is the first Asian to join the prestigious Magnum Photo agency, founded by Cartier-Bresson and a few other renown photojournalists. He photographs human relationships of utmost hardship, torn families of immigrants and mental disabilities. Often, as a photojournalist, he immerses himself completely with his subjects, and gains their confidence through living and sharing their plight.

In 'Double Happiness', a series of black and white photographs depict the varied facial expressions of brokered marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women. Staged weddings of emerge as a conveyor belt of images as couples after couples pose for the 'first kiss' on a raised stage.

The other two series are 'China Town' : a photo-essay following Chinese migrant workers living in cramp and squalid conditions in the Land of Opportunity, New York City..

..and 'The Chain', a disturbing metaphorical portrait study of mental patients of an institute in Taiwan. Inmates are chained together, two by two, often a more able one with a dependent inmate. The bonding and companionship is depicted in a series of life size black and white portraits, arranged around a darkened gallery space adds to the powerful presence of something beyond the true narrative of the images.
Alienation and connection is the metaphorical message here.

The gallery was quiet during my visit, and Mr Chong, a volunteer guide took invaluable time to explain the artist's message to me and another visitor from Sri Lanka. He belongs to a group of volunteers who help national institutions during exhibitions, unpaid, which is highly commendable.

The exhibition was brilliantly staged, with subdued lightning throughout, video projections and well chosen imagery.

As a viewer, each series builds upon the previous, as the Doubleness theme is reinforced despite being of varied subjects, ie : brokered brides and grooms, one searching for love and the other as a way out of poverty, or the migrant father missing his family and wife back in China, or the interdepency of the chained inmates. A thoroughly recommended show.

Doubleness : Photography of Chang Chien-Chi
10 Oct 2008 ~ 4 January 2009
National Museum of Singapore

Slinging it in Singapore (1)

I am spending a few days down south in (not so) sunny Singapore, visiting some local photographers ( more later) and friends, and also trying to catch a couple of exhibitions at the tail end of the SIPF event. So far so good. Singapore always surprises me, in the scale of the City, its efficiency, and the energy of the people.

Things happen here and only for the sake of the greater good. I managed to grab some night shots on my way back to the hotel after dinner and drinks at Bugis with Deanna Ng and John Heng, two local full time practitioners who shared a good conversation about the local photography scene. Earlier I visited Objectifs, a centre for photography and filmaking and met with Emmeline Yong, one of the founders of the outfit and grabbed chee cheong fun with them.

One cannot help but to compare Singapore with Malaysia, the food, transportation, the cost of living etc..One thing is for sure, is that the City runs on a different pulse to KL. KL is frenetic, but feels like its suffering from an arterial blockage, the Lion City, its just as busy and crowded,..but there is a constant rush to get somewhere, not unlike Tokyo. The arteries are clear. The sluggish, 'laid back-ness' (?) is missing. Mind you, I'm pretty laid back, so strolling along the wide pathways seems like a slo-mo clip in real time.

Oh, the rain is the same here, just as torrential and electrifying.(.more to come..)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Soraya Yusof Talismail : Imaging Selfs

Once in a while a notable solo-exhibition comes along, and then there are two. Just like waiting for the Number 14 bus. Except, this exhibition, by SorayaYusof Talismail is 6500 miles from the Leibovitz show, and it so happens to coincide with my trip to KL. Soraya is a traditional portraitist photographer at its best.

In 'Imaging Selfs', a complete and accomplished body of work which started 15 years prior comes to fruition at the Galeri Petronas, KLCC in the form of 72 black and white portraits, sudies and installations of local Malaysian artistes and practitioners, including Yasmin Ahmad, Yee I Lann, and Ahmad Fuad Osman.

There are some memorable portraits which I particularly liked, mostly staged. A few are candid moments, like that of Yasmin Ahmad. The show is generally presented well, but I personally found the photo installations slightly out of place.

This is the first time I step foot at the Galeri Petronas, as my last 3 attempts over the last 2 years was unsuccessful. The gallery was in-between shows and thus closed. My 'Malaysians' and 'Outside Looking In : Kuala Lumpur' books are stocked at the little bookstore there, and that is open daily.

As a top gallery venue in KLCC, I was however a little disappointed that visitors have to check their own bags into little lockers not unlike those in a gym. They could at least have a proper system like in a hotel or function venue. They gallery lighting system is also patchy in some quarters.

All in all, definitely a show worth visiting, as Soraya's approach to her subjects is meticulous and her selection of subtle and some dramatic lighting lends to a variety of styles in her photography showing the breadth and depth in her work.

Imaging Selfs run till the 18th January 2009.
Galeri Petronas, Level 3, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tues - Sun 10am - 8pm
Free Admission

Friday, 24 October 2008

Celebrating Leibovitz at the NPG, London

My Brother Philip and My Father, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1988,, Photograph � Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz, My Brother Philip and My Father, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1988
Photograph © Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz
A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005

16 October 2008 - 1 February 2009
Over 150 photographs by the celebrated photographer, encompassing well-known work made on editorial assignment as well as personal photographs of her family and close friends. Courtesy : The National Portrait Gallery, London

Now and then, a brilliant retrospective exhibition comes through London. The last one to my mind was Diane Arbus at the V&A. The organisers even built a replica of Arbus's darkroom and study with all her notes, jottings and books just as she had left it after her tragic suicide.

Brad Pitt, Photograph © Annie Leibovitz

With Leibovitz, I can imagine seeing some of her most notable pieces ( I haven't managed to get round it yet as it just opened and I will be leaving London for a few weeks, so it will have to be a pre-Christmas date for me) like Demi Moore's pregnant nude shot, the atmospheric QE portraits, Schwarzenegger in his birthday suit, the elegant dance studies of Baryshnikov, the shy Bette Midler submerged in a bath full of red rose petals.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Photograph © Annie Leibovitz

Aside from the glamorous celebrity portraits she shoots during her time at Vogue and Vanity Fair, Leibovitz's more poignant work can however be found in her close 'snaps' of her close friend and companion, critic and writer, Susan Sontag. Especially powerful are her black and white shots taken in documentary style, of Sontag's final days in hospital and at home after battling cancer for several years.

Susan Sontag, Photograph © Annie Leibovitz

A must-see...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Heads Up : KL PHOTO AWARDS 2009

''Call for entries''

Working in association with Time Out KL, the fast growing city listings magazine, and we are proud to announce the launch of the first KL PhotoAwards 2009 for contemporary photographic portraiture. The competition seeks to discover new interpretation of the much photographed genre of 'portraiture' within the practice, and is open to all participants from Malaysia and the surrounding nations.

There will be 2 categories of entry : Professional and Non-Professional and each participant is required to submit up to 6 images either singly or in a series title. The deadline is a long way away, 1 March 2009, so put on your thinking caps, get that dusty camera off your shelf and get cracking! We've made entry as simple as possible, no need to get your images printed and rely on the post, all registration and image entries are done online. So there's no excuse.

More info at or at

Oh, did I mention the prizes...? Top winners in each categories get USD3,000 and USD1,500 respectively with a couple of runners-up prizes thrown in. All winners get a specially commissioned trophy too and of course..fame and glory, for what's it worth.

So, just what is a portrait? It is so many things to so many people.

Is it just a pretty girl in swimwear or a desperate beggar by the roadside? Is it a drug addict's sombre look, or a happy bride in white? Is it a homeless family living in the Manila slums, or handsome Rolls Royce chauffeur in peak cap in Hong Kong. Looking for empathy, emotion, connection and all that stuff you learnt at workshops and schools.

The event will culminate at the Awards Presentation Evening to be held at The Annexe Gallery on the 7 May 2009 along with an exhibition of the top 40 images.

SO pass the word around and challenge your peers, your nation, and your country to a portrait shootout!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Doom or Bloom?

Yesterday's headline makes chilling reading, and this credit crunch situation which started when US banks took on high risk housing debts over cheap loans have been sending shock-waves across the global financial world. Several banks in Europe and UK have been 'saved' by their governments, ie. tax payers monies. Yes, mine and yours.

All is not lost however, some sectors like the food and communication industries are actually in profit, and of course, the petroleum industry. As I post this, we await what tomorrow's headline will bring, and the world's attention will be focused on news from America, where the lawmakers arms are being twisted again to agree with what the President has outlined in his USD700 billion 'saving' strategy.

I wonder how much is Iraq and Afghanistan still costing US tax payers today.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Taking you to the Edge.....

This is one inspiring video I came across...sit back and enjoy...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Road Trip : A Week in The Provence

I am currently on a road trip in Southern France, spending a week driving around the picturesque countryside, visiting the pretty hill towns and hamlets of the Verdons valley, the numerous vineyards of the fertile Provencal land and encountering the occasional rain shower in the late Summer. The mistral was blowing the day we arrived but luckily it didn't last, and the days are now pleasantly warm and sunny.

Today, I visited the historic city of Marseille, France's second largest city after Paris. Its pretty much like a shabby Paris-by-the-sea, and has the grandness of a great city with raw vibe and energy that Paris somehow lacks. Due I think to its Mediterranean heritage, being crossroads for traders from Africa and Asia for over 1,000 years, the city exudes a warm friendliness from its inhabitants which I hadn't expected (unlike Paris).

I always make head way for the street markets whenever I come to a new city or town. Markets are great meeting points where ordinary folk gather, meet and shop, eat and drink, and are great for street photography.

I particularly posted these black and white images I photographed in the less affluent Arabic quarter, in the midst of Ramadhan. The narrow streets of east of the city, a stone's throw from the slick Vieux Port lined with million dollar racing catamarans and luxury yachts is a contradiction.

These streets feel more human to me than the exclusive designer shops just around the corner on Cours Saint.

Litter-strewn, graffitied walls, packed with local Muslims in Arabic garb, the young and old, men and women, shopping in open-air souks, buying all manner of sweet deserts, cakes, bread, fresh Halal butchers and fishmongers, grocery-stores stocking coloured soft drinks from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

I only spent 3 hours or so drifting in and out of Marseille's back streets to realise how the French have accepted and integrated within their own diversity in race and religion much more than some other multi-racial nations. After all, their history goes back hundreds of years.

Yes, poverty exists in pockets amongst the ethnic communities in general, but the French identity within these communities prove strong. I have no doubt that racial discrimination is also subtlety practiced, but class and the hierarchical structure of society does not enter into the equation. 'Liberty, Egality and Fraternity' is endorsed and practiced with a open mind more so, compared to say Britain or Germany.

A few days ago, I met Mr and Mrs Nguyen, who operated a mobile stall selling fried Vietnamese spring rolls and crab claws at a traveling market, up in the pretty hill town of Cotignac. I conversed with him in broken French, and he asked me where I was from? I told him that I was Malaysian, and he exclaimed that Malaysia is a very nice country, we've got the tall towers.