Photography is one of the most recent visual art forms in human history. It is the bridge between traditional visual arts – consisting of paintings, sculptures and anything of its ilk – to the vast world of film-making. All of them are often used to tell human stories – people who’ve achieved greatness, recapturing momentous events and the zeitgeists of history. Farhan Akmal and his friend Shahrul created Documenting Kuala to carry on this tradition of stories – focusing on those without a voice of their own, marginalised by the greater society.
When Documenting Kuala was first established, Farhan Akmal was juggling his studies with his passion. Now that he’s graduated, he still engages in this balancing act – but now with a day job at a consultancy firm. “My family members initially did not approve at first. They wanted me to find something stable, but I kept doing it anyway. They eventually softened up after I got interviewed on TV once”, Farhan quipped. Like many artists, Farhan uses his day job to fuel the fire of his artistic needs.
“The first time I decided to use photography to tell stories was after working in a soup kitchen. More of us need to know about the lives these people live”. In his photography, Farhan always includes informative captions to his pictures in line with his philosophy of shedding light upon untold narratives – such as raising awareness towards urban poverty, and homelessness among children in the city.
Founded in 2016, the photo collective recently gained popularity after their GE 14 photos circulated around social media – including that of Marina Mahathir crying during the swearing-in of her father, Tun Dr Mahathir, as the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Farhan has also brought Documenting Kuala beyond borders, with photo projects in Varanasi, India, uncovering stories of the Dalits who work as cremation guards for their whole lives.
Find out more about how Farhan Akmal got the trust of the cremation guards in Varanasi and how he found himself in the midst of all the dramatic moments during the elections:
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Featured image credit: Farhan Akmal