Maggie Steber

The OBSCURA Festival of Photography returns to George Town for its sixth year this August. It is one of the leading photography festivals in South East Asia, and keeps getting bigger every year, incorporating more exhibitions, talks and workshops. Although the overall aim is to develop photography in the region by having international and local experts sharing experiences, this festival is great for the casual observer as well as professional and aspiring photographers. The latter can visit the exhibitions, projection nights and talks (large sections of the programming are free as well!) and the former can get involved with the more targeted elements such as the masterclasses, workshops and portfolio reviews (25th August 11am – 3pm at Black Kettle on Beach Street). The Festival’s website states their overall aim as developing a ‘mature, thoughtful and photographic community’ and this can definitely be seen in the programming.

The Festival will run across multiple venues including Black Kettle, Awesome Canteen and Poh Hock Seah Temple. The opening night will be at Hin Bus Depot (Jalan Gurdwara) on the 25th of August at 8pm, and projection nights will run there every night from 8pm with the exception of the 28th which will be a musical performance by singer NJWA instead. The exhibitions will be opening to the public on the 19th of August, and are all either at Hin Bus Depot, Awesome Canteen on Victoria Street or Black Kettle. The latter will also have a photo book library available to browse. Anyone with a deeper interest will surely want to have a look at the workshops which are running 19th and 24th. There will be a five day photography symposium at Black Kettle between the 26th and 31st of the month. For the full run down visit the OBSCURA website here

Paying Man 2011, Leonard Pongo

Some of the masterclasses are already fully booked and so, if you are interested in attending any, it is well worth looking at the programme soon to see what interests you. Throughout the masterclass there will be a mixture of lectures, discussions, theoretical discussions and reviews. At the end attendees will certainly have a broader understanding of photography and hopefully, as a result of producing a series of their own throughout the duration of the masterclass, will have a better sense of their own interests as a photographer.

Our top picks would be Maggie Steber’s portraiture masterclass ( and Léonard Pongo’s workshop on embracing bias in photography ( Steber has worked for the National Geographic and in 67 different countries with her work focusing particularly on humanitarian and cultural stories. Her work has won many notable awards including the Medal of Honour for Distinguished Service to Journalism, and Pongo recently won the Viscura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project with ‘The Uncanny’ shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both photographers are creating unique work and have a distinct voice shown through their images and so this is an unprecedented opportunity. All the workshops require some form of portfolio to participate, so it is important to look at each of the courses’ specific requirements.

No matter if you are only casually interested in photography or an aspiring photographer yourself, there is definitely something in the Festival’s line up that will suit you. If nothing else, its a great opportunity to see some work from a few of the most exciting photographers in the international scene right now! All exhibitions will be open at the respective venues opening times throughout the duration of the festival. More information can be found here

By Ella Benson Easton