A Kuala Lumpur Photographer Hopes to Capture the Spirit of Borderless People With Old Tech

kanta self portrait.pngJeffrey Lim, a Kuala Lumpur based photographer and cycling advocate, is attempting to capture the people living in Maylasia and Borneo's social fringes with old camera technology. 

kanta box.jpg
(Photo: The Star/Asia News Network)

In an interview with Asia One, Jeffery states, "I want to explore the idea of what makes a citizen. Though there's much talk about racism in Malaysia, there's no such thing as 'pure race' in Malaysia."

KL and Borneo are interesting as there are so many little regions that have their own ethnicity and language. Imagine living in New England and New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts all had their own different ethnicities, cultures and languages. Although, I guess if you're not from around there and you spent ten minutes in Portland Maine, you'd think they already do. 

Now image those lines separating the states weren't there. Where do you belong if you move to a city? Are you know just a person and not a classification of a person? "We're facing an identity crisis, all around the world, people are gravitating away from race identity," says Jeffry.

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(Kanta sample from Jeffrey Lim at Studio 25)

So what does one do, you try to document the people who are in danger, the people who have no real home and have no real borders or languages of their own, and that's what Jeffry is doing. Inspired by a documentary about the Kamra-e-faoree, he built his own camera called the Kanta camera out of junk... literally. "My Kanta camera is made from waste and found materials, so if anything breaks while I'm travelling, I can easily find replacement parts," Jeffery tells Asia One. 

His Kanta project on his website is explained as, "KANTA is a self-contained instant camera, through an analogue photographic process; it is an ingenious, economical way of producing an image. Kanta, which means lens in Malay, will be made from salvaged materials. Apart from the interesting process of building this box camera, this project also hopes to capture a unique portrait of everyday Malaysian society. The printing process & effect of this camera juxtapose with what is recorded creates an interesting and unique insight of ourselves."

Kanta test lens
As his camera is basically a lens attached to a box, he can use the box to store all his supplies in it when he's not shooting. The camera uses instant paper with a silver gelatine, like analogue camera film, which allows Lim to process the photos and create a print in about five minutes.

His photos, however, look like they came from a bygone era. A time when seeing the indigenous people of Borneo and KL might look like the first time these people were ever recorded. 

portrait kanta.jpg
(Portrait by Jeffrey Lim Studio at Studio 25)

Look at that image. It's reminiscent of old Hollywood and a bygone era and yet it's totally appropriate. We sometimes get so focused on the "best camera" that we forget that there can be a "best camera" for each job.