A Classical Documentation

© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low
© Ken Low

During the eWorkshop «Finding Your Photographic Voice» I taught earlier this year, Ken Low made a classical photo documentary about the town Batu Arang in Malaysia. What fascinated him about the town is the fact that what today is a very laidback and sleepy town, used to be a one of the most developed town in the state. Batu Arang flourished from the coal mines that the British established and ran in the early 1900s. All mining activities ceased in the early 1960s, though, which then marked the beginning of the town’s gradual decline in importance. For his personal photo project Ken visited Batu Arang over the course of four or five weeks, during which he tried to capture the life in the town as well as historical remnants of the British ruling (Malaysia got its independence in 1957). Ken’s photo radiates that laidback feeling that is Batu Arang today; they display that intangible sensation of a place and its people caught in a timeframe of yesterday – for better and worse. His visual language is quiet and soft, using a gentle colour palette and a lowkey expression. Ken doesn’t rely on visual gimmicks or an excessive point of view but let the story be told by its own pace and inherent being. For more of Ken’s photo please look up his blog Ken and Agnes Photoworks.


39 thoughts on “A Classical Documentation

  1. Wonderful works by Ken. They convey very good feeling of the vilage or town. Calm morning (seems like), strolling man, kids playing socker and the men getting to gether for talks etc. are indeed the essense of laidback story.

  2. I like the statement that Ken “doesn’t rely on visual gimmicks or an excessive point of view.” I really understand that when looking at these really interesting photos. There is a story in the photos with an interesting background. I feel inspired to take photos of my own city which is rapidly changing, sometimes in ways I don’t really like, but there is a story there. I could be documenting it. I have never thought about that before, so thank you. Ken’s photos are visually very appealing, and together make a very nice collection.

    1. I think it’s always important to document your own environment. Sounds to me like a good idea to captured your changing city, particularly if those changes aren’t to the better for its inhabitants. Good luck! And than you for commenting on Ken’s photos, Debra.

  3. thank you very much, otto, for the write-up and to your readers for their kind words/comments.
    in retrospect, it was a good and helpful workshop for me, i learnt a lot from it and it helped me to understand things bettter. your critiques were especially helpful and i wish you further success with it. thanks again.

  4. I must admit that I’ve recently been on Batu Arang’s wavelength because in our world there seems to be more and more hectic on the streets, towns, in the building sectors or in our life in general! To find a good balance seems to be the most difficult goal. I thank you and Ken Low very much for making me think. Very best regards:)

  5. Whether he meant to do so, or whether he didn’t, I smiled at the placement of the pole in the center of the second photo. It looks for all the world like the trunk of the tree — perhaps a suggestion that even from the changes brought by technology and human invention, there can be new growth.

    I was struck by how very closely the light resembled that of Liberia in the Harmattan season, when sunrises and sunsets were colored by the red dust of the Sahara. It’s a good reminder that quite different cultures still exist within one natural world.

    1. I think the implications by the pole’s positioning is a good observation. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a conscious decision or only happened by coincidence this placement in the centre. In the end it’s how we read the picture that matters. And I see it the same way as you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Linda.

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