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chen longwen portrait_edited.jpg

Chen Long Wen is a self-taught photographer whose creative journey has taken him from street photography to large-format photography and project-based work.

As a street photographer, he honed his eye to capture the essence of urban life. However, Chen felt limited by the constraints of the genre. Determined to push and expand his artistic boundaries, he made the bold decision to switch to large-format photography. This move allowed him to create more immersive and detailed images.
Through project-based work, Chen explores a range of themes and subjects, from culture to historical issues.

I grew up in a neighbourhood where theatres are just around the corner. Entering the huge, dark spaces of the theatres, facing the big glowing screens, it was an exciting and mysterious experience for me when I was young.


As I grew older, I frequently visit the nearby theatres, just to relive the thrilling experience they had given me. But what I didn't know was that in the 80s and 90s, the old theatres were gradually replaced by small multi-hall cinemas in shopping malls.


Seeing the huge, luxurious theatres built in a different period being demolished, altered or abandoned, I feel like I’ve lost something dear to me.

The prosperity of the Malaysian theatre industry can be traced back to the 1920s when many were built by wealthy businessmen to distribute various films and became the centre of local social life and entertainment.


After World War II, the market was dominated by three major Chinese film companies, namely "Shaw Brothers" of Shaw family, “Cathay Organisation” owned by Singapore millionaire Loke Wan Tho , and "Guang Yi Film Company" of the Ho family. In order to increase profitability and expand the marketplace, the big three applied the strategy of vertical integration into their film business.


So it is not surprising to see more than three theatres built in a small town in Malaysia. In the golden era of the movie business, they even hired foreign architects to design luxury modern theatres. For example, the Art Deco-styled Majestic Theater in Ipoh (demolished in 2012) was designed by Danish architect Berthel Michael Iversen.

My ongoing photography project is to document these forgotten old theatres scattered all around Malaysia. In addition to recreating my youth through images, I also found that the architectural style of each theatre reflects the characteristics and aesthetic trends of an era. From a historical perspective, the theatre is a collective memory of a community.


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