Tag Archives: Petaling Street



O my faith, my untamed knowledge, how shall I fly to your height and see with man’s larger self pencilled upon the sky? – Out of My Deeper Heart (Kahlil Gibran)

I remembered once, while peering into the viewfinder of my newly acquired camera some years ago, a seasoned photographer gently reminded me that “the difference between painting and photography is the canvas that you begin with. With painting, you start with a blank canvas and you gradually add in your subject. Whereas with photography, you begin with a full canvas, and it is the eye of the photographer which is required to skilfully edit out the subject that is not needed to make the picture meaningful and beautiful”

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

This was during one of those random phases in my mid-20s in which I wanted to try every aspect of art, like throwing pieces of bait into a lake and seeing which one gets hooked first. I was in Petaling Street, and it was a short walking photography course. It was also when I learned that critical difference between a beautiful painting and a beautiful photograph.

Like photography, our understanding is framed within our own experience, coloured by an understanding that is unique across individuals, and almost always never the same between two people. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, the way we view the world is edited. Certain subject are given extra focus, while the rest, and sometimes equally as important subjects are given less emphasis, blurred into the background. We truly see what we really only want to see.

Yet, I believe we stand to miss out on the beauty of life if all we do is to remain perpetually stuck in this ‘editing’ mode. If we are constantly busy removing subjects out of our frame because it is less then what we view as ideal. If we are always kept busy at focusing on one subject, and allowing light to expose the best feature of a single item amongst a sea of equally beautiful subjects. Part of what makes photography exciting I believe, is also the waiting. Time spent in a momentary stillness, watching and observing within the viewfinder until the ‘right’ subject walks in and captured at the perfect time. But what if there is no such thing as a right subject nor a perfect time? That every moment, every frame and every picture stands in its own right, perfect as it is. Because what may be beautiful for you, may be something that I may not be able to appreciate at all. Art is subjective, and elusive. And that is why it can be called beautiful even if it is the most random lashing of spilled paint on a blank canvas.

An artist (who paints!) once said on an interview “art is not meant to be understood, because by trying to understand you confine its meaning within your own experience, interpretations and biasses. Art is to be felt by the heart, and not to be interpreted by the mind”

And so it is, rather than spending so much time editing, creating and moving our life about towards that one perfect, ideal picture, perhaps it is better to go beyond and above this concept, “to fly to the height of your untamed knowledge” and feel the vastness and perfection of life from this perspective instead.

You know this has to be
We always were so free


Slow down, and the world will slow down with you


I was late for work earlier this week and was driving down the same route as I had been taking since January to go to the client site. In my hurry, I remembered thinking WHY is everyone driving slower than usual today? And whilst trying to prevent myself from zig-zagging through the lanes so I would make it to work on time, it occurred to me that when you are rushing, and wishing things/people would move faster, everything and everyone around you will always seem to move slower.

I had this conversation with a friend and she agreed that this could be true. Colors, situations, and conversations turn out to be much richer when people slow down and take the time to enjoy each of this activity on its own. Besides it’s been scientifically proven that multitasking reduces ones productivity.

Now that’s one thought to sit with. But what does it mean by “slowing down”?

Our conversation went on around the concept of returning to yourself. When the world around you gets chaotic, when things disappoint and refuse to go the way you want it to, when everything that is happening around you becomes draining rather than sustain you, that is when you look inwards and return to yourself.

Chill. Breathe deeper. And do the activities that enriches you.

Last weekend I took the plunge and participated in a photography workshop. At some point I figured I needed to learn how to work the nifty gadget I bought earlier this year for my Italy trip. Off I went into the heart of Kuala Lumpur on a Sunday morning, armed with Google Map and walking instructions which was useless because I ended up lost. Trying my best not to look like a tourist so I won’t get mugged in broad daylight, I stopped at a nearby bakery to ask for directions.

And he nearly got me lost too.

Anyway, I eventually found it. In some instances, I had to love the Malaysian Timing concept, because at that time, I wasn’t even late considering there were so many others that got there later than myself. When practical time came, we were set loose on Petaling Street to walk freely for an hour and take photos.

Subject out of focus, but I still like it anyway!

During this time I took to follow one of the expert photographers from behind, short of stalking him, I wanted to pick his brains on what gives a photograph the WOW factor.

“It’s all about the timing. Sometimes you have to sit there for a while, and wait for your subject to come into the frame, or for them to move in the way you want them to. The difference between drawing on canvas and photography is that you start on a blank canvas. You add things in by drawing them. With photography, it’s the opposite. You have to learn to take away things from your frame until there is one meaningful subject to focus on”

Then it occurred to me, why most of the photographers I see possess some sort of zen-ness about them. Photography slows people down. It forces you to stand there and wait for the right moment to capture that awesome photo. I think I have a new hobby.