Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Old China Cafe


I've spent just over a week in Kuala Lumpur to participate in Travel Photographer Asia 2016 during which I gave a no-spin phototalk on travel photography, and a class-workshop on The Travel Documentary.

The class workshop's objective was for its participants to learn and complete a short travel documentary consisting of 15-20 still photographs. During our forays in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown and its neighboring area, we spent some time at The Old China Cafe hiding from the sun or from the rain.

I returned to the cafe to meet two of my Malaysian friends a few days later, and had the chance of taking a few photographs of the very atmospheric interior. No one seemed to mind, even the patrons who were enjoying their lunch and drinks. 

The cafe was formerly the guild hall of the Selangor & Federal Territory Laundry Association, which was set up at the turn of the century and moved to this part of Chinatown in the 1920s. The owner of the cafe kept many of the architectural details of the building, and even the doors to the kitchen still have wooden latches. This type of pre-war shophouses may not exist much longer.


The concept of the woman in a red cheongsam hoped for by a stranger in the cafe (possibly an alter ego) was born during a conversation with my class. They were quite supportive of the idea, and even suggested enhancements....some of those inventive but impractical to include in this short piece.

I think this very simple audio-slideshow exemplifies the very spirit of my class....The Travel Documentary. Weaving 15-20 images to tell a story...whether factual, or like this one, a figment of the storyteller's imagination is what makes travel photography such a wonderful genre of image making.