Farhan Akmal


After spending three years in Dublin, Farhan was more than ready for a good lepak at his local mamak. Instead he found that artisanal flat-whites and lattes have mushroomed across the city he thought he knew. Years before, his uncle has invited him to man the ladles at a soup kitchen. He ended up spending several years as a volunteer, so you might say he’s got a good perspective on what Kuala Lumpur is like, from front to back. Feeling as if the newer, shinier, Kuala Lumpur is not the only narrative in town, he took up a camera and began shooting some of the most poignant city-scape photographs we’ve seen in a long time.


How did you begin this project?

I think with all the new glitz, people forget what KL is really about. I feel like it’s a story I have to tell. I used to start with breakfast in Brickfields, then walk all the way to Kampung Baru, shooting people and places that caught my eye. I’ve done this once a month since 2017 but over time, I realised that I have been getting more involved with people’s stories. From over 100 photos day, I dropped to just two. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even take any photos, but just talk to these aunties and uncles who’ve spent their entire lives in KL.


What central story did you want to tell?

Big development is good for KL, but those who can’t keep up with the newness of things are left behind. This happens all over the country and the world, not just in KL. I was once on a work assignment in Kuala Terengganu, writing about the dying art of tembaga. Nobody wants an apprenticeship under these incredible craftsmen anymore. Everyone wants to come to the big city.


How do people react to your work?

I’m just hoping to start a conversation. I want my photos to compel people to question our collective and individual cultures, the influence of our religions and the places that we come from. Above all, I want all Malaysians to come to understand each other.


Shirt and pants by Gucci; TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 1969–1979 Limited Edition automatic chronograph in stainless steel with green Côtes de Genève dial and brown calf skin strap