Sam Chalekian | Malaysia
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My lens must have been dirty. It hunted for focus, squinting at hazy skies, capturing listless exposures through dirty glass. Over the course of a week, I took a paltry 267 photos. Pitiful. I think I wanted each one to count, to challenge myself to take only extraordinary photos. Any photographer would tell you that in the digital age, to spray and pray is no sin, but it isn’t a virtue either.


I raised the viewfinder to my eye many times, constructing a frame, weighing lines, inspecting angles, before switching off the camera and leaving the fern or patio or whatever and shaking my head. I was striving for perfection, and didn’t have the gall to hold down the shutter and take as many vignettes as possible. Each one telling a story, all of them slightly too symmetrical, carefully constructed.


Kuala Lumpur is an outpost. It was carved out of virgin jungle by Chinese settlers looking for tin deposits. They must have found some, because today the city is huge and sprawling, thoughtless urban planning eating into the jungle. Political power in Malaysia has passed through several hands, from the Chinese, to the British, the Japanese, and finally the local Malays. Everyone has left behind a legacy in the city, though some more lasting than others. Naturally, I’m told that Malaysia is circling the drain.


Everybody here is trying to make it. Everyone has Masters degrees, speaks four different languages, and all sweat in the same sweltering heat. In conquest of the plastic ringgit, the irreconcilable nature of culture and clan are laid aside, and the world descends into a matter of fact coexistence. Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, and Christianity all exist within a five minute walk from one another. Everyone sticks to their own kind and everyone works together. It’s too hot to start a war.


Also published on Medium.

1 Comment
  • chilican

    February 23, 2017 at 4:31 am Reply

    Sooo many great candids. Really like the compositions and the color.

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