Photo Event Report from Asia: OBSCURA Festival of Photography 2015

By Makoto Shibata (Photo Journalist/Japan)

Penang, a world heritage site in Malaysia, becomes a town full of photos


“Blach Tsunami” @James Whitlow Delano

OBSCURA Festival is Malaysia’s premier photography festival that celebrates photography from Asia and around the globe. Each year, the festival hosts a series of exhibitions, talks, workshops, professional portfolio reviews and slide shows. The festival also organises fringe events, including youth photography programmes with its festival partners.

OBSCURA Festival’s main area was George Town, the centre of Penang. Local cafes, temples and galleries hosted photo exhibitions, gallery talks and workshops. And OBSCURA Festival is a part of George Town Festival. George Town Festival is an annual, month-long celebration of arts, culture, heritage and community. Inaugurated in 2010 in honour of George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Festival transforms the city into a global stage, showcasing world-class performances, installations and collaborations from international and local artists alike. With over one hundred unique events each year, the Festival seeks to create new and vibrant connections between the traditional and the contemporary, the past and the future. Drawing thousands of visitors each year to Penang, George Town Festival is quickly becoming one of Asia’s must-see events.

OBSCURA Festival‘s Exhibiting photographers, curators, jury members and students fly in to George Town each year in the celebration of a quintessential and unique photography festival. The aim of the festival is rooted in education, understanding and togetherness through premier events that take place throughout the festival. OBSCURA Festival is embedded within The George Town Festival, a major international festival of the arts and culture in South East Asia.

OBSCURA Festival is a high-profile photo event in Asia. It was the third year that the world heritage site hosted it. It was not just local photographers who took part in it; photographers gathered from other countries in Asia and even Australian students attended its workshops. OBSCURA’s main theme is documentary, and participants aspire to be a good story-teller.

The event was not big. But that made it possible to offer workshops with small number of students. In a quiet room I felt passion from photographers and curators: they worked hard with students to develop the culture of photography in Asia.

Hajime Kimura, a Japanese photographer, was an instructor. Although he did not exhibit his work, he gave a slide show. It was the second time that he joined OBSCURA. He was popular not only among photographers but also among students. As a Japanese, I was proud of him.


Makoto Shibata

He is a freelance photo journalist who works worldwide based on Hong Kong. He mainly covers foreign business shows and art fairs.


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