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Not easy to empathize

March 14th, 2009

The ability to understand someone else’s feelings as if they were one’s own is not something we do easily and often. It is demanding and thankless. Perhaps that may explain why most of us are mainly concerned with the needs our own self and those of our immediate family. How others feel is hardly our interest. How about considering some empathy?

My exhibition of photos Empathy at KLPac closed on the 8 March. This third collection of images of people with disability doing their own thing in sports and in work, was on display for 7 weeks. During that time there were several write ups about the exhibition and one of the portraits of Siti Aishah made it to the front page of the Sunday People in the NST’s Sunday Times.

This media coverage of the disabled group gave all those people in this small and fragile community a much needed visual profile which they seldom get. The Star newspaper’s writer Tan Karr Wei also wrote about the portraitures with understanding.

Then there was Elaine Lau from the Option of the Edge who also gave a voice to this often voiceless fellow citizens. Ng Suzhen from the Malay Mail was the first to put this story in her CyberSpot page. The Chinese press too especially the writer Chee Nyuk Yan from Nanyang Siang Pau gave this group a center spread in their Sunday edition and this was followed by Sin Chew Daily‘s reporter Ten Yien Hsia’s news of the event. I was also invited to talk about the exhibition on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini morning magazine show.

After all the effort of first going out to get the cooperation of all my disabled friends to allow me to photograph them, and then to mount and promote the visibility of the subject to a larger public, it had dawn on me that this project of promoting a little more empathy for others, has been all a group effort by everyone who has been involved. This is also a note of thanks to all of you. Now I am beginning to understand.

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