Kuala Lumpur may not be the most photogenic place in the world, but is has easily enough visual interest to keep most amateur snappers happy. This does not mean though that taking a good picture is necessarily straightforward. Much of the problem is the number of places where taking photos is against the rules.
Virtually every shopping centre in KL has either strict limitations on photography, or a blanket ban. The same goes for many restaurants, hotels, commercial and residential buildings, museums and art galleries, and even public open spaces. Given the ubiquity of phones with cameras, you might imagine that these prohibitions would be largely ignored these days. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
The above photo may look staged, but it’s all too real. I was trying to take a snap of the outside of a hotel restaurant, when security intervened and escorted me off the premises. Apparently, even the hotel’s guests are not allowed to take such sensitive material. No doubt the management is concerned that its competitors may find out what food it serves in its camera-shy restaurant. Posh Chinese, in case you were wondering.
Similarly, I could imagine the damage it could do to the above shop’s reputation, if there was hard photographic evidence that its main business was selling books. And of course, the privacy of the books is an important concern too. Which explains why three members of staff told me within the space of five minutes to stop taking photos.
The good news is that it’s normally possible to get off a few pictures before attracting the unwelcome attention of security officers. And to be fair, many staff simply turn a blind eye. But why have such ludicrous restrictions in the first place?
Even when taking a picture is not breaking any regulations, it’s still far from plain sailing for photographers. The biggest difficulty, particularly if you are short on time, is how quickly blue skies can turn to torrential rain. Unless of course, you positively want stormy weather, in which case KL will probably serve up a rare multi-day dry spell.
Another big problem for outdoor photography is provided by motor vehicles, both moving and stationary. Cars, motorbikes and lorries have the potential to sully virtually any shot you might want to take. Even some of KL’s most historic buildings appear to function primarily as car parks. And in the end, any city that values motor vehicles above heritage is failing in a rather more serious way than making life difficult for photographers.
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 17th February, 2012.