Thursday, November 14, 2013


My recent reading, alerted me to the needs of under standing the photographs we take. Seriously each one of us as photographers have owned cameras of all types and the seniors among us would know that there would be a large collections of photographs stocked somewhere at home. Not surprising the old cameras may still be around. 

This subject addresses the photographs at hand and seriously how do we value them. It may be interesting to ask in the first place why do we take the photographs. What do we focus upon in the photos taken? Do we take photos of individuals? Do we go for landscape, scenery, buildings, developments, news-worthy or candid photographs? If we had the time to analyzed our photographs we may come up with several classifications: " I took pictures of friends and families". 'My photos relate to scenes of the countryside"." I record new developments as I see them". I am sure if we go through our collections we could separate them into many classifications.

Our journey through live, especially all the stages of development: schooling, higher education, service and career, family etc all in themselves must have a record of sorts and we cannot fail to trace them from photographs that  surely must be around in drawers , boxes, albums etc.

What do you do with the pictures taken? Print and keep them or sent to friends etc. Not likely you would sell them, unless you are a professional photographer. With face book, you may post them for others to see. Now with 'WhatsApp' it opens a new direction. With 'photobooks' you may start a collection.

Old photographs are especially valuable especially to historians and 'photo- archeologists'. I am inclined to history from training and education and therefore my collections of photos plus my directions at focusing the lens would naturally go towards that direction. Inspired by this discovery of the great values of photographs, especially in our ability, skill and training to decipher their intrinsic values and contents our directions  should focus on discovering our old collections especially those of the early 40's and 50's. Our chanced training and posting overseas for those who had that opportunity would help to document from our collections of photographs life and style then. You may never know what the photographs have hidden in the background less you look and become a Sherlock Home yourself.

I know for sure my earlier collections of photographs of Europe in 1950's of Singapore and Brunei of 1960's and others taken during visits would surely be a new discovery of wealth and information . 

This photograph is one example of much that can be discovered but more often than not we only give a glimpse and failed to notice its intrinsic values.  By the way it happened to be a picture of my late mother and her parents. Sadly I never took the opportunity to ask her about the picture when she was alive. One thing I know it must be dated as way back as 1915/16 based on her age. My earlier consideration was the great opportunity I had for possessing the photograph not realizing it can speaks volume of the decade then. 

It does not take a sleuth to realize the the nature of the dresses worn, nor the headgear and 'kris' on the grandfather's body besides the chairs as exhibited. The background itself has a story of its own, if only you wish to decipher. The wooden grills on the window and take for example the hat left to dry on the pole, all left questions to be answered.  It obviously has a story of its own i.e period before the first world war.

Lately I have been scouting for the 'beca' or trishaws. Typical was the one seen in Penang, Kelantan or Malacca. Hoping to purchase one at least. 

The likes of one seen above have never been seen in Kedah but this picture definitely shows that such vehicle was available in Alor Setar before the second world war. 

Only on a recent visit to Bangkok we found the likes of it there. With the tourist guide I posed for the picture.Obviously the vehicle is not on the road, since congestion would not allow such as one to move around. Yet there is continuity, the old vehicle is taken care with love and now positioned for others to admire and a collector's piece .

Old photographs, going back sixty, seventy or even a hundred years go would certainly be of great value. Nevertheless how many among us realize that? If you are one of the senior members of this blog you would agree with me that it is time we look back, fall back and re-evaluate the content and treasures in them. Yes the old and newer photographs seriously have within them wealth of information. Further we must be sure the reasons for our habits of snapping away .... surely with reasons and intentions whether we use the camera,the telephone or other media that record things for posterity.

This black and white photograph was taken since I saw the students competing in cutting the logs. They were Australian National University Canberra students of the Forestry School (1972) Looking at it one may get a story of its own.


Al-Manar said...

I should have seen this posting two weeks ago. Last night the sight of your beautiful book of photographs lying in my sitting room caught my eyes. Lioke an old camere there was a click in my head. So sitting here now I discover your last posting on a subject of my interest. So I regret for the delay in popping up here,my friend.

I have very few of oldd photos. I cannot help thinking that photography arrived in the East Coast later than your part of the worrls. I do not recal seeing anyone in my family with a camera, even the pinhole Kodak.

Cameera becamy a hobby to me durig my late teens. Whatever few I have mean a great deal to me.
Very much like you each frame tells a story; the dress,the bare feet, a house and an old mango tree long gone or a sibling with an arm aound you and so on.

Or is it because I am old with sentiment playing a major role?

Salaam to you and family

kotastar said...

Sdr Al Manar, Thanks for yr insight and I am certain the photos in yr collection themselves will continue to tell their stories.

Photos of the children and grand children will be a source of enjoyment likewise seeing their growth through the years. We were in Manila recently and will report on the visit. Great since the tour was led by the Ambassador of Philippines in Malaysia himself. Photos galore of course.