Reminiscing The Old Days Of Malaysia

While we are always told to ‘move on’ and ‘take the next step’, while life is a lot about going forward and evolving, sometimes it’s nice to have a glance at the past to see how far we’ve come. Other times, it’s important to look further back into the times at how the older generation had paved way for us and our future. Today, this article will look into the past of Malaysia, how things used to be, and ponder upon the great expense of Malaysia’s rapid growth and progression. Gathered here are several photo books that documented the Malaysia that some of us may used to know, while many of us could only imagine living in.  


Silent Wall began as a collective photo-project by several enthusiasts, examining ways to capture and document the facets of Kuala Lumpur's iconic Pudu in year 2008, when headlines proclaimed the “looming demolition of historic WWII jail”.

The external wall mural was finger and hand-painted with 2000 litres of paint by a group of inmates under the scorching sun and the watchful eyes of prison guards. Completed in the mid-1980s, the wall represented the world’s longest public-painted wall mural.

Demolition began in 2010, the land that was once occupied by a historically significant landmark, now stands a futuristic retail facility. This book serves as an archive for the mural depicting landscapes and nature, preserved for future generations of KL-ites to ponder and reminisce.




“I love taking photos of my community, their lifestyle and livelihood, to tell their story of how things have changed.” – Jefree Salim

Jefree Salim is a self-taught photographer and a fisherman from the Orang Seletar village of Kampung Sungai Temon, Johor Bahru. His photographic work revolves around the lives of the Orang Seletar, capturing the moments of his people as they work, swim, play in the sea and what remains of the mangroves at the coast of Johor. He beautifully depicted the life and different shades of the Seletar community, and the suffering they endure in the sea amid encroaching development.

His photobook features selected photographs from over the past years since year 2000, serving as a brief history of the sea people and his family genealogy, and a look into the lives of the Orang Seletar through his native lens.




This photobook records the precious moments of a chronograph solo-traveller from Keelung, Taiwan of the first meeting with his local friends in Penang, Malaysia. It was photography that brought them together. With backgrounds that varied from one- another, they walked through the streets and alleys of Penang together, capturing every moment of the real-life of Penang in 2015. They turned their photography works into eternity and marked the journey with this memorable collection.

In this book, the settings of photographic parameters and the golden composition rule of thirds doesn’t apply, only the inspiration drive and the passion for authentic preservations. They call it “the blend of intuitive and attitude.” The one and only common criteria that chained the three photographers with cultural diversities and shooting styles is none other than of attitude. It ponders on the meaning and breadth of a “photography style”.




“This monograph is my attempt at defining my grandfather's life as a photographer, about what he had done in his own unique ways and what he had achieved in the process.” - Raja Mohd Zainol Ihsan Shah

Raja Mohd Zainol Ihsan Shah lived with his grandfather, HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, Sultan of Trengganu from the time he was born in 1960 until he was 19. A keen observer of the Arts, he has dedicated himself to the care and study of his grandfather's photography archives - that includes original negatives, vintage prints, cameras and photographic laboratory equipment. Since 1997, he has organised several exhibitions of the photographs and published catalogues of them, namely, HRH Sultan Ismail Postcard Album, Malaya Through His Eyes, and August 1957.

HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah (1907-1979) who was the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, and the fifteenth Sultan of Trengganu, was also known for his exceptional ability as a photographer. Beyond formal functions and royal life, Sultan Ismail, when he had the time to indulge in a hobby, was most often going on walkabout adventures with his camera, experimenting in his photo studio and steadily developing his own style of photography. He is acknowledged as the pioneer of modern Malaysian photography. HRH Sultan Ismail’s collection is a gentle reminder of a gentler, kinder, happier time. An absolutely priceless piece of history.



All books mentioned are available to browse in our newly-launched Photobook Library during normal operation hours and special reading hour on Fridays 6pm-10pm.

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