RAZ TALHAR / Malaysia
Raz Talhar is a self-taught photographer from Malaysia. In 2006 he first began his photographic journey documenting Malaysia’s fast disappearing built heritage buildings, many of which had been left hauntingly forlorn in an otherwise rapidly modernising country.
Traveling extensively throughout Malaysia during this period helped him develop an interest in the nation's rapidly expanding and developing built landscape. What concerned him most was seeing how drastically the landscape was changing and its impact on society and most importantly the natural world. Documenting these man-made and nature-based interactions has now become the main focus for his photographic work.
In Malaysia for as long as I can remember, the desire to save and preserve pre-war era built heritage has suffered from a general lack of interest by the greater public. This apathy has left many old buildings to fall into decay, with the most at-risk examples left derelict or are simply demolished. This situation is incredibly sad as Malaysia throughout its history has been a wonderful melting pot of cultures, producing a vibrant mix of architectural styles, ranging from traditional designs all the way through to eclectic East meet West fusions.
On a daily basis, we see these old buildings in their various forms, from private homes, places of business and even official government sites. Many of these old buildings have stood for nearly 100 years or more and have become an integral part of the built urban scene. These buildings are not only just a built physical structure but they also represent a history of the people who built them, lived in them and used them throughout the years.
What has always struck me about old buildings is that imperceptible soul they all seem to retain within them. Just like holding an antique object in your hands with a well-honed patina - so much character can be effortlessly conveyed in an instant. The same can be said for an old abandoned building, if not more so. Old interior walls can be marked with decades of human contact, touchpoints on old wooden hand railings burnished to a smooth shine, or old stone steps ground down in their centres from thousands of footfalls upon them. All these little things accumulate, recording a rich history over time. The original inhabitants of these buildings may have departed long ago, but in a haunting way they are still ever-present, one just had to take the time to look, find and remember them again.