26th February 2015, 08:24 AM
Land from the Mongol Empire - Interview with Kim Lau
Kim Lau has profound interest in Asia and has been travelling and documenting his journeys through Asia since 2005. His first photographic exposure was in 2004 when he embarked on an extended journey in Asia encompassing China, Tibet, India, Pakistan and Xinjiang. He subsequently held an exhibition “One Round In Asia”.
Trained as an audio engineer, he currently lectures on audio and photography at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore. Journeys are the focus of Kim’s works, where he aspires to produce them with photography, video and music.
He is currently travelling through the countries that made up the four khanates of the Mongol empire. By incorporating existing journeys, a body of works titled “Lands from the Mongol Empire” expects completion in 2015.
Kim started with the Olympus E-1, and his portfolio has grown with the E-system. He currently uses the Olympus OM-D range of cameras with many Zuiko Digital lens for his journeys through the Lands from the Mongol Empire.
Q: Why the fascination with the Mongol empire?
I started with a general interest in Asia, and subsequently refocused to photograph along the Silk Road from China to West Asia through Central Asia. Along the way, I learnt about the histories of the steppes and beyond, and the Mongols were persistently mentioned; literally speaking, they were everywhere.
Q: How long did it take for you to plan such a journey?
The journey for Sept 2013 to Oct 2014 took more than a year to conceptualize. I needed support from my resident institution to grant me sabbatical leave and I need to garner financial support the best I could. I establish my communication channels, firmed up my equipment list based on needs versus weight constraints, researched on history and geopolitics, projected my journey route and establish as many contacts as I could. The journey itself had many unknowns, and I had little expectations. I suppose this is the gist of an adventure.
Q: Can you list the places that you’ve visited to document?
For 2013/14 Journey: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Georgia, Hungary, Iran, Mongolia, Nargono-Karabakh, Russia, Tuva (Russia), Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine.
In addition from 2005-2012 for the project: Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, India, Tibet (China), Xinjiang (China), Syria, Jordan, Burma, and Cambodia.
Future projections: Java, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Poland, Romania, Crimea (Russia/Ukraine).
Q: Amongst all the places that you’ve been to, which place do you think the Mongol empire left the deepest imprint?
Traversing the lands of what used to be the 13th century Mongol empire needs plenty of imaginations. Photographing the Hazara people in Bamyan, Hazarajat, Afghanistan in search of Mongolian faces is as vivid it gets. Chinggis Khan left a Tumen (10000) soldiers in Hazarajat after their conquest in the 13th century, and it is believed that the Hazara people had Mongolian ancestry.
Q: Which areas do you find the most fascinating?
Perhaps I will list impressions from the regions that fascinates me:
China – my ancestry, long history and the relentless focus on food.
Mongolia – where nomadic lifestyle persists, harmonizing beautifully with nature.
Central Asia – core of the Silk Road with fascinating transition of facial features.
Russia – you will never know about the Russian world until you get in, and basic Russian language is essential.
Caucasus – landlocked mountain people, with many similarities but deeply divided by religion and politics.
West Asia – or middle East, to include Iran, are the sweeping changes through history these regions went through.
Egypt – long and intertwined histories, 3 millennia of Pharaoh rule, 1 millennia of Greek/Roman rule, and 1 millennia of Islamic rule.
26th February 2015, 08:37 AM
Re: Land from the Mongol Empire - Interview with Kim Lau
Q: What gear did you use?
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1, E-M5
Zuiko Lens: m.ZD 12-40, ZD 50-200, m.ZD 9-18, m.ZD 12, m.ZD 45, m.ZD 17, m.ZD 75
3rd party lens: Panasonic 7-14mm, Samyang 8mm fisheye
Filter: 62mm CPL for 12-40, 67mm CPL for 50-200, Lee Seven system ND, VND for video
Microphone: Rode Video Mic Pro stereo, Audio Technica micro shotgun
Camera Bag: Deuter ACT Trail 28l with F-stop camera inserts
Q: So what are the plans for the images that you’ve captured?
They will be used for my publication plan “Lands from the Mongol Empire”, but that will take some more time.
Q: Please share with us some interesting encounters that you’ve faced while on your trip.
There are too many to mention, I will share a couple:
Looking for Mongol hunting villa in Iran – Takht-e-Soleiman, Dec 2013.
It was cold in Iran during December, snowing almost everyday. The route to Takht-e-Soleiman from the city of Zanjan was not passable, it had to be approached from the town of Takab, a 3 hours bus ride, and from there, a taxi. Arriving on site, the sky was overcastted, its all white. The guards let me in, and I subsequently climbed a nearby hill in search of a vantage point. Its cold, and my feet were soaking wet. It was 5 p.m., and I needed a place to stay desperately. Came 2 Azeri from the nearby village of Nostarabad, and with my limited Farsi, we communicated and they took me into their house for the night, with utmost hospitality. Next morning, the weather was great and I had everything I needed to photograph in 5 hours. My feet were wet again, and in Takab, a fatherly man at the transport hub insisted that I dry my stinking socks and shows over the shop’s heater. This is Iran, where hospitality is everywhere for the travellers.
Photographing Cairo Jan 2014
Cairo was the site of massive protest in 2013. While having initial reservations, arriving in Cairo seemed normal, and I was relaxed after a month long of great hospitality in Upper Egypt. Things took a turn when I was interrogated for an hour at a metro station. Police officers were called in, and they suspect me to be a journalist. It was difficult explaining that I am just a traveller and photographer, until I flash my facebook post on my mobile, convincing them that I aim to capture the beauty of Egypt. They sure liked what they saw, judging by the total change of tone and attitude. I was released with a warning not to attempt photography on any governmental properties, which include Metro stations. I was subsequently held at knifepoint by a street vendor who misunderstood that I was photographing him. Locals came to help, and I escaped. I left Cairo the next day.
Q: What form of support did you receive from Olympus during your trip?
Over a period of 13 months, It was inevitable that I get camera and lens issues on the road; the system was used intensively under varying circumstances and weather conditions, and sometimes, user negligence. Triggered from Olympus Singapore, I got support from Olympus Europe, Olympus Turkey, Olympus Russia and Olympus China. Mr. Masahiro Nitano from Olympus Europe sent me a ZD 50-200 from Germany to Georgia. Mr. Sinan Gurkan from Olympus Turkey received a mZD12-40 on my behalf and serviced my camera and lens. Mr. Alexsey Karlin from Olympus Russia coordinated my flash servicing, and Mr. Eji Watanabe delivered an E-M1 to Moscow Airport during my transit from the Volga to Siberia. Mr. Liu Li Po from Olympus China serviced my camera and lens. Coordinating from Singapore were Mr. Amos Kang, Mr. Shinobu Ikuta and Mr. Mitsuhiro Tanaka. There must be more people behind the scenes that were supporting me, and I am deeply honored and grateful for all the support given to me for my journey.
26th February 2015, 08:41 AM
26th February 2015, 08:43 AM
Re: Land from the Mongol Empire - Interview with Kim Lau