Thousands of people around the world have been touched and inspired by a photo blog called Humans of New York. Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York, had a simple objective: to photograph ordinary people in the city and ask them about their lives. Now a phenomenal success, this photo blog has become a book and others have started their own chapters: including in KL.
Since 2012, Muhammad Mushamir Mustafa and his two friends Nazreen Mohamad and Aairenee Zarina Yazli have been going out to take photos of people and ask them to tell their story. These are essentially street portraits on the fly, but what makes the results poignant is the conversational snippet that goes with the photo. In a vast city where people often feel disconnected, a simple photo story brings us closer to the unseen private life and philosophies of the people who surround us.
“Basically it turns out that everyone, no matter who or what you are, has a story,” says Mushamir. “Every single one of us. And it’s amazing that if you approach a person and start a conversation, you will learn and get to know about so many new things. So we take photos of anyone, from the old to the very young and everyone else in between. And while the aspects of the portrait are important, it’s the story that matters most above all.”
As a student at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Humans of Kuala Lumpur allows Mushamir to combine his research skills with his love for photography. He adds that it’s usually easier to get people to agree to be photo subjects if there’s more than one person asking. “It helps to have a woman with you because people are more willing to trust two people taking random photos – so while I focus on taking the shots, she talks to them for their personal stories, and we take turns.”
Mushamir’s two favourite photos to date are the one of the man with a moustache (“The moustache is a source of pride, history and honour for him”) and the kid dressed in an R2D2 costume (“the cutest thing ever”). The team are now looking to expand Humans of Kuala Lumpur by accepting photo submissions from other photographers.
Want to be part of Humans of Kuala Lumpur? Find them on Facebook here.
Asked if she was excited about the new Star Wars movie and, struggling to take the hat off, she turned to dad and stuffily asked:
“Daddyyyy, take this hat off!”
“Its a tradition that goes back to the 16th century, where all my male ancestors would keep a similar moustache. It is a symbol of strength. I’ve kept it for 15 years already, and I cut it sometimes when its really long – because if I hadn’t it would be much, much longer than it is now. And out of all the officers I’m the only with this so people usually say I’m the unique one”.
“This moustache is my source of pride, history and honour”.
In any case if you had been wondering, they are in the process of building an underground pedestrian tunnel between Fahrenheit88 and Pavilion.
“Oh, I got it from Penang. Did you know that its also foldable?”
“Yeah! And I rode it all the way from Bangsar to here*!”
*Somewhere near Merdeka Stadium.
Abang (brotherly term for a guy) Hafiz washes and arranges the fish and vegetables at one of the agricultural grocery stores in KL. It is late at night and people are still coming in. Before taking this photograph, he tells how he’s never been much photographed before, and was very very shy.
“Well, here’s one for you, Hafiz”.
Photos and captions courtesy of Humans of Kuala Lumpur.