Malaysian faces from the past

Photographing strangers have always been something I enjoy.

Part of it has to do with the possibility that I can be told to take a hike, or worse, be punched in the face.

It’s not that I like to antagonize people.

It’s a real challenge even if you have the camera handling down.

Quizzical look of a fruit vendor–This guy was curious to see me use a strange-looking camera I’m sure. The Hasselblad with 80mm lens shot wide open at f2.8 produces nice sharp images but it is a slow camera to work. You have to take first a meter-reading with a handheld meter.The 500CM had no built-in meter. Ridiculous considering how much it cost me. The fruit is called lychee.

In case  you’re wondering why the square picture, I took these with an 80 mm lens on a Hasselblad.

That was a wonderful camera but it was not a camera you could work quickly. Heavy and just plain clunky.

Sadly I had to part with it my senior in college. I was out of funds and it broke my heart to have to sell it.

There are really 2 aspects to this:

  • the actual picture-taking
  • and there’s the part where I have to engage my subjects and disarm them, if you will

The years I spent as a newspaper photographer has instilled a confidence I didn’t always have to go up to anyone on the street.

The key is to actually size up the person, then start a conversation before even holding up the camera.

While being able to converse is crucial, sometimes gesturing is all it takes.

At the back of your mind, you need to respect the possibility that the person might actually don’t want to be photographed.

So be a good sport.

Who knows?

They may be a felon who’s on the lam.

Or they could be out with someone they’re not supposed to be with.

One Noisy vendor–My recollection of this itinerant vendor who sells baked goods is not pleasant. The dome you see on his handlebars must be the noisiest contraption ever deviced. He strikes it with a metal rod whenever he comes our neighborhood with no regard to the time of the morning.

Over the years, I’ve learned not to assume affectionate couples in public are married to each other.

Sometimes they’re not even though both have wedding bands.

In all the pictures, my subjects knew I was taking their picture except for the the Indian gentleman who is pushing his bicycle/cart.

I grabbed that picture in a hurry when I saw him crossing the street.

The one of the trishaw peddler could sure use fill-flash, but what can I say?

I was on vacation and didn’t feel like working too hard.

A cruise on a trishaw– Visitors and tourists who have time on their hands can really see the older neighborhoods in downtown Penang when they try this old means of transportation.

Rickshaws are the ones where the passenger sits behind and they are pulled.

Trishaws found in Malaysia are man-powered too, but the “muscle” or person is riding a bicycle that’s pushing a carriage that has 2 wheels in front.

If you do visit Malaysia or my place of birth, Penang, just be aware trishaws rarely plow the streets anymore because of the traffic congestion.

It’s a tough way to make a living. There is room for 3 skinny locals but when Westerners hire one of these, forget it.