Speak In Visuals

16 August 2016

Internationally renowned photographer Ian Teh will be gracing this month’s OBSCURA Festival in Penang with a masterclass that’s not to be missed. We catch up with him before his class.

Photographers unite! The annual OBSCURA Festival returns this month from 19th to 26th August 2016 at George Town, Penang. The photography festival celebrates work from Asia and around the globe with a series of exhibitions, talks, workshops, professional portfolio reviews and slide shows. Amongst these exciting activities is a masterclass conducted by British-Malaysian photographer Ian Teh entitled “Your Journey, Your Voice, Your Point of View”. Ian’s work has been exhibited at prestigious locations such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the Hood Museum in the States.

Describing his style as “documentary with a dash of conceptualism” (inspired by photographers like W. Eugene Smith and Henri Cartier Bresson), Ian first realised that he could do photography full-time after completing his first project entitled The Vanishing which documented the affects of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China. His work appeared on the cover of Independent magazine in the UK and he also became a member of prestigious French photo agency, VU.

A Christian Shrine - Kuala Selangor.

A Painting Outside a Partially Abandoned Building - Port Klang.

Coastline - Straits of Malacca.

On the Malaysian photography scene, Ian comments: “It is young, but since the inception of the OBSCURA Festival of Photography in Penang, the culture of intelligent and creative photography has a real place in the community here and in the South East Asian region. This culture should be developed if it is to thrive. I believe visual literacy is very important, and Malaysians can be proud of this homegrown photo festival that is a valuable international contribution to the South East Asia region. As a society, we are already literate in the visual ways of commercialism, but thoughtful photography, that informs and questions, is rare. This is the stuff that is enriching for the individual and society.”

Locals Search for Cockles on Mudflats - Kapar.

Ramesh, a Mechanic at Gopal Motors - Port Klang.

Ships Passing - Straits of Malacca.

Even with his success, he is not stingy when it comes to sharing his knowledge and experience, so you can expect to gain a lot from his masterclass at the upcoming OBSCURA Festival. It will involve classroom activities and field work that will eventually be projected publicly. “I’m interested in helping students find their own way,” Ian explains. “Students often come in with a pre-set notion of what photography is, and my job as I see it is to make them question their assumptions in order to expand their awareness of the rich visual world available to them if only they are willing to let go and think more deeply about what they want to say.”

The Kuala Selangor Nature Park - Kuala Selangor.

Westport II - Port Klang


Register for Ian Teh’s masterclass here.

By Kevin Yeoh

All photos courtesy of Ian Teh (from the project, Confluence)

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