You can almost feel the wind in your hair when you stand in one of the three rooms at the White Box space, Publika in Kuala Lumpur. Landscape photographs blown up to 3m across, accompanied by sound effects, mean that this might just be the next best thing to being physically at the locations featured.

There is a storm brewing over Lake Kenyir in Terengganu, and artist-photographer Soraya Yusof Talismail has captured it in an intense monochromatic palette. Clouds scurry across the darkening sky, over windswept vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.

And this is only one part of the show Kopi Susu: A Journey Through 80 Photographs, which runs at the White Box between Aug 4 and Aug 9. It focuses on landscapes, structures and still life, capturing scenes of Malaysia from multiple perspectives.

This exhibition, held in collaboration with Kokopelli Books, is a survey of Petaling Jaya-based Soraya’s three decades behind the camera. The exhibition is curated by Ariff Awaluddin, Soraya’s husband, who helps her run a “private dining hideaway” in Petaling Jaya.

“It was not difficult to select the images for this show. Not because there were not many, but each and every click was made carefully and from the heart,” says Soraya, who turns 50 in September.

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The Hut, Cameron Highlands (silver gelatin print, on fiber-based paper).

These photographs are compiled in a limited edition book of the same title, which will be available at the exhibition. The earliest image in Kopi Susu: A Journey Through 80 Photographs can be traced back to 1990. The book also features text by S.P. Lee.

Soraya has been photographing actively since the late 1980s, focusing on portraiture and commission work.

The 1990s saw her trying out various things, including commercial photography and forays into experimental photography. She also forged a close working relationship with the Matahati art collective back then.

In 2008, she had a major solo exhibition titled Imaging Selfs at Galeri Petronas and in 2009, she exhibited her Imaging Selfs: New York in the Big Apple. It featured 29 portraits of Malaysian artists, celebrated for their American-Malaysian ties in artistic creativity.

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Pulau Indah Wetlands At Sunset (silver gelatin print, on fiber-based paper).

In the context of Kopi Susu, it is interesting to note that there are five images in the book that are from the Petronas calendar in 2000, a year that marked a turning point of sorts in her career. The year before, veteran photographer Eric Peris approached her about being part of this calendar project, and this sparked her interest in black and white landscape photography, which she has pursued on the side ever since.

“Since this exhibition is a ‘journey’, the curator wants the audience to walk through the space and feel as though they are there. It is all about feelings and emotions, but I am not good with words most of the time. You have to be here at the exhibition to experience it,” she explains.

In conjunction with the Kopi Susu show, there will be a series of talks on Aug 5. At 11am, the Kopi Susu session will feature with former Matahati members Ahmad Fuad Osman, Hamir Soib, Masnoor Ramli and Soraya. For the 2pm session, Soraya joins photographers Eric Peris and Alan Ng.


The Kopi Susu: A Journey Through 80 Photographs exhibition, presenting framed silver gelatin prints, large wall prints and free hanging images on acrylic panels, will run at the White Box, Publika in KL till Aug 9. An audio-visual room showcasing all 80 photographs is one of the highlights. For more info, email: kokopelli.bistro@gmail.com or call 019-267 7666.