Portraiture | In The Eyes of a Stranger

Eyes of Curiosity

© 2010 Wazari Wazir | Gabai

Gabai is well known among Kuala Lumpur people because of its waterfall, Sungai Gabai Waterfall to be exact, usually this place will be pack with people each and every weekend, just less than an hour from the heart of Kuala Lumpur to get here. Just a short drive from hustling and bustling of a city centre to get some peace, to get close to nature.

But here I take a detour, actually it is the same way to get to the waterfall but I choose a different path, I choose to go to Gabai Orang Asli village there, instead of going straight, we take left turn to head for the Orang Asli Village. The first thing to do here is to look for the gatekeeper, in this case we try to look for Tok Batin but unfortunately he is not available so we look for another gatekeeper or someone older or respected in this village and we meet Eroi and spent almost an hour with him to let him know our purpose here.

This photo outing is not possible without the help of my friend Azlan Nayan from Malaysia Islamic Outreach, Azlan has been here quite few times to deliver some goods and sometimes they came  with a doctor to give free medical service. Among the mission of the Islamic Outreach is To provide the Islamic Community and Malaysian Society generally with services for the advantaged and disadvantaged, the Muslim and Non-Muslim, through social services and reaching out within and without the Ummah, and to present Islam to all those seeking knowledge of the true faith.

This is not official visit from Islamic Outreach, so I will not go into the details about  the agency, you can google for more information about the Islamic Outreach and how you can participate.

There were only two of us here and frankly speaking, this kind of photo outing is not suitable for a large group of a people or photographers. I think five person is the maximum number here for a group of a photographer. We must be sensitive with the people, they are normal people after all just like you and me and they are not a subject and  need to be respected in order for us to get their respect and that is why we need to communicate with them, spent some time with them, to hear their story, show them that we are interested about their life, about their story, about their village.

After we get comfortable with the people then only I ask  the gatekeeper permission to take take few pictures in the village. I will not take a picture here if I was not given a green light from the gatekeeper and in this case from Eroi. Before we photograph this child, we did ask her mother permission to photograph her daughter and we did spent quite a times just to pursued her mother to get her permission, I did not want to rush and and I don’t have to.

When it comes to this kind of photography, I like what Steve McCurry said in an interview with Outdoor Photographer Magazine, “One critical elementof all this”  is you have to engage your surroundings. As you move through the situation, you have to engage the people, a dog, a cat, or a cow or a child. I think you have to interact with these things and stop and talk with somebody or play with somebody. That’s really important because then you are inside the situation. You are not an observer, you’re not on the outside looking in. You’re in it. When you are inside of it, you’re not separate. You are one with thing, with that place, and a lot of it has to do with interacting with the situation,”. ( Steve McCurry )

That’s one of the reason why I don’t like o go out with large group of a people when doing this kind of photography, I think you know why, if I come with large group of a photographers, I do believe that not all of them will interact with the peoples, there will always be somebody who are too busy clicking a shutter without even say hello to the peoples. I want to get to know the people, to get to know the surroundings and the truth is we spent more time talking to the people there than taking pictures of them because on this visit I just want to get to know them, to get to know the surroundings maybe if I come back here next time I will spent more time taking pictures here and hopefully they still can remember me.

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