The past few weeks was a great deal of anxiety and highly anticipation for me as I have a chance to have an image-making session, (a wet plate Collodion that is!), which was none other than with Malaysia’s previous Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his wife, Tun Siti Hasmah.
They are one of the most prominent figures of my country, in which no doubt various images of him and his wife had been posted in various great magazines and covered by many great photographers before.
How do I approach to do an image of such prominent figures? This question had haunted me day and night and various ideas and sketches to do of him and his wife. However, there were just too many variances to deal in regards to styles, and ideas on how the images should turn out.
Later, I was reminded by my close family to approach him and his wife as how I believe in of the images will become a later part of my works. Being said, I knew well what I had wanted; simple and straight forward, and the images of these two lovely couple will be a part of my future compendium of my work.
Though there were several noises prior and after the trouble that ensues being around him, in which it was political in nature.That part I would care not. I wasn’t bothered with such matters as myself and my chosen assistant, Mahen Bala, do not have any sort of political baggage.
The day was supposed to start upon them returning from the recent inauguration of our new ‘Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’ (Malaysia’s highest Constitutional Monarch); however, recent turn of events changed their schedule and the mood of the day.
I had the chance to spend almost the entire day with them, the image-making session was more of family-like gathering, which were made even more of pleasant affair as their son-in-law Tara Sosrowardoyo, joined us to observe what we were up to. Tara himself is a renowned and respected photographer, in which I had the pleasure finding out after knowing him.
‘Likeness’ is a phrase I began to find fascinating in image-making, which I had decided to embrace recently since my return back to Malaysia. It was commonly utilised in the past where daguerreans and ambrotypists had used the phrase, “Portraits of your Likeness”, or “a Perfect Likeness”, in their public advertisements. This was the point where I began to see the creation of images, as valued objects with the aim in reaching the similar “likeness” of the sitter. I will venture into this conversation at some point in narrating it as a topic at some point.
I believe I had achieved just that with this sitting. Tun Dr. Mahathir was previously a strict persona and one of a great world leaders. This session was nothing of a sort of popular image or ‘masks’ had been put up to reflect of Tun’s powerful stature. Nonetheless the images produced were more of veiling and casting a diluted mask onto the likeness of his persona.
The image-objects produced were diffused of his known character and persona, and packaging it to prepare to send it off into the future, hoping the future generations will be curious more of this man and his wife.
The session were made smoothly with very much kind regards and attention of my assistant, Mahen Bala, of whom I am appreciate to swiftly handle the set and the muscle to the shoot.
Some had asked how was Tun, and how was it like spending half a day with him and his wife?
It was extraordinary in the most ordinary way 🙂