A Street-Level View of Kuala Lumpur
August 17, 2013
Che’ Ahmad Azhar sits so quietly in the corner of a room, you might not notice him. But take him to the lively streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and he becomes a maestro, conducting a symphony of noise, action, light and shadow in the best tradition of street photography.
On just three streets, no less.
Che’ Ahmad Azhar
Every Saturday for almost eight years, this former advertising director and landscape photographer prowls Petaling Street in Chinatown, Leboh Ampang in Little India and Pudu, a Chinese enclave. In courting the people who live there, Mr. Azhar, 49, has grown into a seasoned street photographer who can make sense of crazy cityscapes and vivid lives. Faceless street vendors, cooks and barbers, fortunetellers, security guards — all were once strangers, but became a new branch of his family.
I met him in June at the Obscura Festival in Georgetown, on Malaysia’s Penang Island. We both had exhibitions at Obscura, a friendly photography festival in its first year, and were teaching master classes. Che’ — also known as Chemad — has been a photography teacher at Multimedia University in Malaysia for 16 years, and his excellence has been recognized with numerous awards.
During the festival, he took his eager students into the bustling streets of Georgetown, stopping along the way to photograph scenes and point out interesting moments to the class.
But his series, which he calls “Walk of Life,” had already moved me with its intimacy and familiarity with the people and the cityscapes. I asked him: Why the same three streets?
“After walking the streets so often, they began to smile at me, invite me for coffee, to eat with them and tell me about their lives, some fortunate, some unfortunate,” he said. “They are genuine, nothing fake about them. When I mingle with them, I feel a sense of belonging.”
If anything, the streets remind him of where he was raised, in a small town near Penang. It was the kind of place where no neighbor was a stranger.
“People like this, middle class and lower, are honest about who they are,” he said. “They are cheerful. Their lives are lived out on the street more than the wealthy.”
In fact, he doesn’t photograph the upper middle class or the wealthy.
“They are not nearly as interesting,” he said.
When he left advertising and graphic design, Mr. Azhar began to paint, using a camera only to record things like landscapes.
“It was very meditative, but at the mercy of Mother Nature,” he said. “I started to think, ‘What can I do besides this?’ So I went into Kuala Lumpur and started shooting in a very random manner. I saw this was very interesting.”
He discovered work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus and Bill Brandt.
“I didn’t even know there was this genre called street photography,” he admitted. “I wanted to know the history of these people and how they worked, and I realized I had to keep going back and back and back and that I would get more.”
He later delved into documentary photography, especially the work of celebrated Farm Security Administration photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. More recently, he has pored over the work of Alex Webb, William Albert Allard and David Alan Harvey.
He now says he has been reborn into an entirely new world.
“I was overwhelmed, and it gave me a new way of seeing,” he said. “I discovered the geometry in photography, layered, variety of subjects, the idea of moments. David Alan Harvey once said it’s never too late to be the man you could have been. I have done that.”
每個周六，攝影師謝·艾哈邁德·阿扎爾穿行於馬來西亞吉隆坡的街頭，拍攝那裡普通人的普通故事。Every Saturday for nearly eight years, Che’ Ahmad Azhar has ambled the streets of his Kuala Lumpur neighborhood, photographing and identifying with its inhabitants.
謝·艾哈邁德·阿扎爾(Che’ Ahmad Azhar)安靜地坐在房間角落裡，你可能都注意不到他。但是只要把他帶到馬來西亞吉隆坡的熙攘街道上，他就變成了一個大師，秉承着優良的街頭攝影傳統，指揮起一場噪音、動作、光和影所組成的交響樂。
在將近八年時間裡，這位原廣告總監和風景攝影師每個星期六 都會流連在唐人街地區的茨廠街，小印度地區的安邦路口和華人聚居地富都。經過和當地居民多年的接觸，49歲的阿扎爾已經成為了一個經驗豐富的街頭攝影師， 讓瘋狂的城市景觀和鮮活的生命顯得渾然有序。籍籍無名的街頭小販、廚師和理髮師、算命先生、保安——他們原本都是陌路人，但卻成了他的大家庭中又一道支 系。
我和他是6月份在馬來西亞檳榔嶼喬治市的暗箱攝影藝術節(Obscura Festival)上認識的。那是個氣氛友好的攝影節，今年是第一屆，我和他都有展覽，另外還在開班授課。謝——又叫謝馬德(Chemad)——在馬來西亞多媒體大學(Multimedia University)已經教了16年攝影，他的卓越才能還得到了許多獎項的肯定。
然而他那個叫作「三教九流」(Walk of Life)的系列作品早已打動我，這個系列中的人和都市風景充滿柔情蜜意。我問他：為什麼就這三條街？
他發現了亨利·卡蒂埃-布列(Henri Cartier-Bresson)、羅伯特·弗蘭克(Robert Frank)、蓋瑞·溫格蘭(Garry Winogrand)、迪安·阿勃絲(Diane Arbus)、比爾·布蘭特(Bill Brandt)。
後來他開始探索記錄攝影，尤其是農業安全管理局(Farm Security Administration)的那些著名攝影師的作品，比如多蘿西婭·蘭恩(Dorothea Lange)和沃克·埃文斯(Walker Evans)。近些年，他仔細研究了艾利克斯·韋伯(Alex Webb)、威廉·阿爾伯特·阿拉德(William Albert Allard)和戴維·阿蘭·哈維(David Alan Harvey)的作品。