Saturday, November 03, 2007

Beauty in Diversity

It was the book launch of the year, attended by all the glittery people (including my great hero, Datuk Jimmy Choo, whom I still haven't got to meet!) and in my usual blur as sotong way I managed to miss it.

Don't know what trick my fuzzy brain was trying to pull, but I turned up at the right venue a whole day too late, having misread the invitation. Cle-ver.

Fortunately a phone call to Haliza Hashim-Doyle and a grovelling apology put things somewhat right, and it turned out that she and co-author Steven V-L Lee were over at the Convention Centre with a small exhibition of the photos that had been chosen for the book


And we had time to sit and chat about the book and how it came to be.

It truly is a stunner, a small-format coffee-table book comprising portrait photographs by Steven, with accompanying text written by Haliza.

What strikes you is the sheer diversity of faces and ethnicities. When folks talk of race in Malaysia, there's so often this neat pigeonholing - Malay, Chinese Indian dan lain-lain (others).

Yet this broad categorisation doesn't even begin to describe the blend of racial origins you find here: Portuguese, Burmese, Penan, Kelabit, Bajau, mixed Ceylonese and Achenese, mixed Indian and Thai Chinese, Indian-Filipino, mixed Chinese-Indian-Austrian-Slovenian ... improvisation on a theme ... and the list goes on and on.

The girl on the cover Rachel Anne Ward (of English and Iban parentage) is an absolute stunner, and wouldn't be surprised if she were whisked off by someone to become a professional model.

Most of those photographed are ordinary citizens and there's everything from market traders, fishermen and farmers to city-slicker corporate types, and cool fashionistas with interesting hairstyles. Some of my favourite portraits are of the older folk, with their life-stories etched into the lines on their faces.

There are a few famous faces in here too: Chef Wan, Indian classical dancer January Low, her mentor Ramli Ibrahim, Malaysia's "prince of fashion" Bernard Chandran and ... hey there's Rocky (how did a blogger a.k.a. "media strategist" get in there?).

Anyway, do take a look at the sample gallery online to get a taste of the book, and Steven's diary gives a fascinating insight into the work that went into the project. You don't get portraits as stunning as these without putting a lot of love into your work.


Chin Mui Yoon's review of the book in Starmag.


Mohani said...

the portraits are stunning. at first, i went to the gallery in mind to check out only the famous people (such as ramli ibrahim)but then i saw how stunning and gorgeous the 'ordinary' malaysians are ... there's such a wide mix to the ethnic groups that it surprised me a little .. and some of them are not what u expect them are such as the portugese that at first glance look malay. and i didnt know there's a Filipino market in sabah - very ignorant of me

Mohani said...

(pardon my grammar mistakes - and other mistakes - in that one)

svllee said...

Dear Sharon, been so busy and just only got notified by Haliza about your piece. How could have I missed it! Thanks again, I have included an excerp on the website. Cheers