I believe not many fellow Malaysians know that one of the pioneers in Malaysian photography was the then Sultan of Terengganu, His Majesty Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah (1907 – 1979). His Majesty was the 15th Sultan of Terengganu and the fourth Yang Di-Pertuan Agong (the Supreme Ruler) of Malaysia. His Majesty was also the grandfather of the present Sultan of Terengganu who happens to be the current Malaysia’s The Yang Dipertuan Agong, Al-Wathiqu Billah Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah.
His Majesty’s legacy – a large collection of photographs mostly in negative and a couple of prints which were printed by His Majesty himself were collected and selectively chosen for printing by a collector/custodian, Raja Mohd Zainul Ihsan Shah (Raja Ihsan). Raja Ihsan did extensive research on His Majesty’s photographic works. He self-imposed strict controls on each stage of the process from selection of photographs to be printed, choice of paper and right up to the final stage, printing. The printing was done with deliberate care and expertise, with pre-requisite that it truly reflects the printing philosophy of His Majesty himself. Little wonder Raja Ihsan took about 10 years to come up with the exhibition of His Majesty’s works whose online version is available permanently in a website sponsored by MIR Communications Sdn Bhd.
Looking at His Majesty’s photographic works I feel as if I had time-travelled back to Terengganu, my homestate, at the moment the photographs were taken. Each photo stimulates my mind and stirs my curiosity prompting me to know and see more of the scene captured. But I later realize that the scene has been long gone. It was taken more than 50 years ago. That I believe the power of a strong photograph. The one that can leave lasting impression in the viewers’ mind or as William Cheung, the ex-editor of Practical Photography Magazine puts it the type of photographs that jump out and hold you by your neck!
I wish I could see more of Terengganu images as very few photographs have been taken of Terengganu or of even Kuala Terengganu at that period of time. According to the collector/custodian Raja Ihsan in the preface of the website the period that the exhibition covers is between 1948 and 1958 which happens to be the important time in our country’s history culminating in the achievement of independence from the British colonial rule in 1957. This serves to show the power of His Majesty’s photographs which act not only as art pieces that stir your emotion and stimulate imagination but also become highly treasured documentation of the past.
I would like to congratulate YM Raja Mohd Zainul Ihsan Shah for the job well done. He has successfully salvaged and collected the priceless masterpieces and placed them where they should belong for the new as well as future generation to learn and appreciate their heritage.
Please feel free to view His Majesty’s masterpieces HERE and enjoy your time-travel 🙂
Note to YM Raja Ihsan
Dear YM Raja Ihsan,
If you happen to read this blog of mine, I would appreciate it very much if you could contact me by replying to this blog with your latest email address or you can email me directly at mzabdullahATgmailDOTcom. I tried to email you but the message bounced back as the email address provided in mir website doesn’t seem to be valid anymore.