A total of 50 host, guests, presenters and delegates participated in the symposium over the weekend of the 19 to 21st May, 2017 held at The KL Journal hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The initial feedback from everyone was an overwhelming success. Despite some shortcomings, namely the time management aspects – over run of presenters allocated time slots, minor technical difficulties causing delays, and hence the incompleted Focus Group feedback sessions – the weekend was well received and the question in many delegates minds is when the next one will be scheduled?
Going forward, we will need to improve the obvious matters, as pointed out above, and also reduce the number of presenters and allocate more time for dialogue sessions. The topic of Education and Opportunities within the Asian context was the main attraction which the feedback from delegates have indicated so far. It is vital that as organisers to a dialogue based event – not a photo festival or exhibition – we have to bear in mind that the main topic of discussion must and should be relevant to photographers and followers, especially the younger artists who may be pursuing careers in this field.
The presenters – Zhuang Wubin, Eiffel Chong, Daniel Boetker-Smith and Jessica Lim all gave excellent accounts within their own specialities about the overall state of photography in the region, the educational opportunities and alternative provisions for self-education and personal development in the South East Asian context.
Our Japanese presenters – Takeki Sugiyama and Naoko Ohta, both shared their personal views on the current state of Japanese photographic practice. Takeki had originally intended to share the summary of his recent survey made in Japan, but decided he needed more time to analyse the data into more meaningful findings. Instead, he presented a simplistic but extremely relevant understanding of the typical ‘young Japanese’ photographer undergoing the ‘rites of passage’ in entering an industry full of pitfalls, brickwalls and closed doors.
Naoko made an impasssioned plea to new photographers to embrace all forms of technology to make projects that are innovative and shared some videos on how the Japanese aesthetic is being appreciated by Western commissioners and how on has to adapt to demanding changes within the industry.
Wawi Navarozza shared her beginnings and trajectory in establishing her artistry in photography, through typical foundation studies in art schools in the Philippines, and undertaking post graduate qualifications in Spain. She incorporates a multidisciplinary approach in making art with an intellectual discourse.
Laura El-Tantawy began her presentation with images from her early career as a photojournalist in the USA, and how the turmoil in Egypt later became her focus to create a documentation of her family, peoples and political change, which led her to a Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize nomination. She expresses an opinion where the relative unimportance of craft and formal education, but champions experimentation and artistry.
It is a regret that the Focus Groups were not able to fully complete their tasks of feedback due to the lack of time, however, the questions posed in Days 1 and 2 to the delegates have been read and discussed within the groups. They will hopefully form the basis of a future working mandate. We hope to continue with the Focus Group format as they allow for deeper and freer discussions amongst delegates, and where inhibitions are lessened. The questions posed to the delegates were personal ambitions, knowledge of photography and education aspirations. They were also asked about future topics they would like to be presented.
The Open Portfolio Viewing – at first, an ‘add on’ item to the symposium, proved to be extremely well received by the 11 participants and the rest of the delegates, guests and presenters. This format of open tabletop viewing of loose prints allow casual and frank exchanges and generates invaluable confidence to young photographers who are able to talk freely about their projects, share new ideas through engagements, new edits and feedbacks from the more experienced viewers. It can sometimes be more rewarding than one-to-one portfolio reviews, especially for fresh artists who may not be sufficiently ready with their portfolios.
The value of open and multi-channel dialogue is quite a new experience for Malaysian photographers, and we intend to expand these sessions in future events. At this symposium, the presenters and guests were always approachable by all delegates, without the usual sequestering of participants and speakers as in some other similar events. They shared tables at coffee breaks and during lunch as well. We feel this is vital to the communication, community and confidence building aspects which young photographers require, a support structure where the hierarchy nature that is often looked upon is removed. There should not be a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality.
Lastly, the venue and it’s location played a vital part to the success of the symposium. The facilities offered to us were second to none and the quality and service of the catering was highly commendable too.
Let’s look forward to a second and more successful instalment in the months ahead. The team value any further feedback from our followers, so please send an email to Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org
[More photos from the Symposium can be seen here. ]