Dr. K. Azril Ismail

The Wet Plate Collodion: A Demonstration of a Historical Photographic Process by Dr. K. Azril Ismail

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The talk will discuss the historical photographic process before the era of manufactured photographic celluloid films and gelatin silver prints as practised by early pioneers such as Sachtler & Co, Carter & Co, Kleingrothe, Henry Schuren, G.A. Schleesselmann, the famous G.R. Lambert & Co., and various other Europeans who opened studios in Singapore and Penang where they carried out work in Kedah, Malacca, and Borneo. The extraordinary images of “Old Malaya”, which we often regard with a sense of nostalgia, romanticised (or colonialised, depending on one’s political perspective) various aspects of our people and places through this visual representation.

In this talk, Dr. Azril will look at how these extraordinary images were made – from the clear glass coated with a thin layer of collodion salt solution, then immersed in a silver bath solution rendering it light sensitive, to exposing and developing it in-situ, either as a negative, or a positive (ambrotype).

In addition, Dr. Azril will do a brief demonstration replicating this process using an antique camera and an adapted mobile darkroom, with similar chemicals used in the 19th century process, to develop the plate on the spot.


Dr. K. Azril Ismail is currently the Head of the Postgraduate Research & Development Programme for the Institute of Creative Arts & Design in UCSI, Kuala Lumpur. He holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Plymouth, for his visual studies of the Pudu Jail’s Graffiti (this portfolio is now on display at Badan Warisan Malaysia until 30 March 2019), having also graduated from UiTM (MA, Art & Design), and Columbus College of Art & Design, Ohio (BFA in Media Studies). An accomplished practising photographer and academic, Dr. Azril’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and published widely in art & photography magazines and journals

GWKL: Experiencing Pudu Jail’s Graffiti by Dr. K. Azril Ismail – 1 December 2018 – 28 February 2019

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This exhibition is the part of the Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur 2018 programme hosted by Badan Warisan. It is open to visitors, free of charge, every day except Sundays and public holidays, from 1 December 2018 to 28 February 2019, 10.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

There will be 2 Meet the Artist sessions:

(1) Saturday 15 December 2018, 11.00 a.m.
(2) Saturday 12 January 2019, 11.00 a.m.

Pudu Jail’s graffiti has become a prominent signifier within the Pudu Jail’s settings at the turn of the century. These sets of images were taken in 2002-03 but developing them took over a decade – through a series of monographs, black and white exhibitions, presentations, talks and forums; and with the involvement of NGOs and the Malaysian National Prisons Department.

Mentioning prisoners’ graffiti conjures up many different narratives in people’s minds – was it art, or was it cumulative of cultural languages? Was it influenced by the norms and cultural practices? Was it the caused by the morality decay, or a by-product from it? Get a glimpse of their etched narratives onto the walls and join in the discourse about the process of this art? Craft? Language of graffiti?


K ISMAIL-Portrait (2)

Dr. K. Azril Ismail holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Plymouth, for his visual photographic studies of Pudu Jail’s graffiti.

He has been a practitioner of the early arts of 19th Century Photographic Processes since 2012; particularly on the daguerreotype and the wet plate Collodion process. These past image-making techniques became his current image-making methods, alongside utilising contemporary material studies, in which now became as a new chapter in his visual journey.

Read more about the exhibition and the artist HERE