It has been six years since Penang-born photographer Choi Ching Loong arrived in Kuala Lumpur. He can proudly vouch that it has been the loudest of times.
In that time frame, Choi has been a constant – and busy – fixture at underground concerts in the capital and beyond.
The 30-year-old Choi, always with a camera in hand, has been actively documenting non-mainstream gigs held at hotbed venues like Rumah Api in KL, right up to Soundmaker Studio in Penang.
His Bahang (heat in Bahasa Malaysia) photography exhibition provides the public a sample of his work. It features 76 photographs taken by Choi between 2011 and 2017.
Choi is everywhere during a gig, from the frenzied frontlines to the mosh pit madness, right to the backstage area and venue back alleys.
The Bahang photos, in B&W and colour, were selected by artist Yee I-Lann, with help from Joe Kidd, who operates The Ricecooker Archives space.
“This is my photographic journey, a short trip, capturing and chronicling the underbelly of the Malaysian punk, hardcore and metal scenes. These photos rarely make it outside the scene. I’m grateful to see them getting a wider audience. They are also arranged in a particular fashion, which gives all the chaos some context,” says Choi, who also works at KL’s Tandang record store.
Thematically, the Bahang exhibition is laid out as “a day at a punk rock show” experience. The visual impact, to say the least, is strong.
“If you go in the room and start with the wall text, it’s the beginning of a show, it’s a bit quiet, then it moves to the show itself, and then goes post-show, where things are winding down,” explains Joe Kidd.
Through Choi’s photographs, extreme music bands like Crime Scene, Daighila, Wormrot, Snaggletooth and Krass Kepala, are captured in explosive action on stage, while there are also quieter angles to this Bahang exhibition. Choi, even without any formal training, has developed a natural eye for images and composition, exposing a certain sobering calm in the seemingly volatile world of punk rock.
“It’s not only about aggression, loud volume and raw energy. You would be surprised at the contemplative moments you can capture at gigs,” he says.
Bahang is on at The Ricecookers Archives at the Zhongshan Building in KL till Aug 23. Free admission. For more information, go to The Ricecooker Archives.