It came a day where I didn’t want to be a person working for a monthly salary, a business and making others rich from my experience. It always felt wrong, not knowing who I was anymore. It was like I pretended all my life, just to make money, stuck in a routine of a system. I would look in the mirror and not recognise myself. One day, I just decided to stop doing anything. I just knew I didn’t want to be this person.
It wasn’t easy letting it all go, but I learn a hard lesson of not controlling everything in life, its just an illusion we grew up with but when you let go, it happens as it should. After quitting my job/business in 2012, a few months of lying low in a deep dark hole, after months coping with depression and not knowing what else to do, I picked up my old friend, my camera.
I went around photographing my travels and random people on the streets in Malaysia. I kept doing it as it felt right, I finally felt happy and free. Freedom that came with no strings attached. Pure. Spiritual. I had no plans but just allowed it to happen.
Then I decided to leave my home, Malaysia, sold everything I owned and to be a full time backpacker, a nomad searching for these stories across Asia, human rights issues, those living in poverty and being in disaster zones. I made my way to India, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nepal and further, one disaster zone to another. I had relief missions in a typhoon, a volcano, a flood and an earthquake, in that order, in all four elements.
I always told myself, everything happens for a reason, that became my purpose of life, finding answers. The answers slowly came. But with many sacrifices. With time on my side. I knew this was a start of something new, a new chapter in my life.
The name iMKIRAN just happened to be as I was doing this alone and finally doing things for myself, I felt I am who I am. I promised myself, I will only do things that I felt in peace with and I was happy doing. My goal changed in finding peace for myself and doing what I desired most, not for anyone else, not for money, status, material items, companies or businesses.
I went on doing photo projects and stories on social issues or just walking the streets meeting strangers. I started doing more work with societies and small NGOs. I wanted to be a photojournalist so I offered my services for free to societies and NGOs as long as they shared my work, made a small difference to those I photographed and I could do more interesting untold stories. I used my art and photography background to showcase reality and my own outlook on every photo with a short story, a reflection of my thoughts, thus the idea, Voices Of Humanity. Being a voice. This had become my personal journey.
After almost a year, with more following my work on my Facebook fan page, I still felt it was not what I wanted to do, I wanted something which made some difference to me and others. I wanted to travel to cover bigger current issues and discover myself as a photographer. With no plans, I went off backpacking to India in October 2013, to find myself and a purpose, I figured. After an amazing time there, having all the new experiences backpacking across India I came back home, into the big city. The following days I was in a daze, lost in my own space, the city felt unreal to me and then I heard about the Philippines Typhoon on the news. I felt I had to leave immediately to Philippines in November 2013.
I had no time to think or plan anything, everything felt strange to me, and the same time it felt right, I can’t explain why. In a week, I left again to Philippines and was lucky I got assigned with an International NGO to be their media partner & volunteer to help with aid relief. I was in Philippines 2 weeks after the major typhoon. There I met many more new friends, volunteers from around the world, worked closely with the team from UNHCR, the Canadian army and I met thousands of families living with no basic needs. Working with NGOs showed me the other side of what relief aid was, the side where not all the funds were going to the people or how they use commercial ways in raising donations. They are still corporations. Soon I realised I could not be part of that, so I decided to do things on my own.
Finally I found my project through this journey, ‘Give Them Light’. That’s where the solar lights and relief aid projects started too. I was assigned to be there for two months and ended up staying for a year. Even after the NGOs left, I stayed on. I experienced things that I never imagined before. The devastation, the poverty and the homeless in millions. It broke me down, tore me apart and put me together again. I can’t remember how many times I had to be alone and just cry.
The Social Photographer
Photography, writing and traveling became part of my life and my universe. It’s who I am today, a documentary photographer and a digital nomad. I love it dearly as I meet many strangers, tribes, backpackers, children and beautiful souls along the way that teach me more about life. I never know where I will end up. It has it’s good days and bad days, at times I feel lost but when I find that one story or one soul to connect with, I am alive again. Every photo I take, every story I hear is always captured in my mind and heart. I see the world, I see life and I see me. When I take time off to be alone and ‘go into my own space’, I look back at my journeys and remember who I am again. I’m happy, grateful and at peace all at the same time.
It all started since end of 2012, and I’ve gain a lot of new experiences and knowledge since then. To be a backpacker and a nomad, you have to forget about the comforts of a city, you have to be wiling to rough it out, to be lost, have no expectations and not control anything.”The plan is not to have a plan”. Then you truly have an adventure. And not being part of the concrete jungle is the best feeling ever. It reminds me of that ‘system’ or ‘matrix’ we revolve in, day in day out, the routine life and seeing it from the outside is the freedom I gained.
Since I started my own journey, I am left out of what my old friends, family or society does. I am not in that social scenes or circles anymore. I miss out on birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, births and deaths. But today I understand I don’t need to be in that scenes to be truly happy, present and at peace. I am happy for them, and for myself. That’s enough to me, as the world is just a tiny blue dot in the universe. Somehow we are always connected.
How about my family? Most of them don’t really understand what I truly do or who I am today. My mom is my rock, my sisters are my best friends and my friends are my light. And they support me as much as they can. I am happy I have a hand full of traveling friends who are my soul family today.
“And just remembering that a soul transcends space and time, and even with no direct communicating, wherever and whenever we are, we are there.” – Alannah
The Storytelling Nomad
Photographing children living in poverty and social issues in Asia became my passion. I use words to express my experiences and impressions about humanity, my storytelling changed more towards creating awareness, thus the start of a documentary photographer.
A child is innocent, real and has a beautiful light in their soul. They are our futures. Knowing that millions of people live in poverty, in hunger, in the dark and with no proper homes, keeps me going today.
I continue to travel around Asia with more photographic projects and documenting lives of those I cross paths with, those who need their stories told and sharing my adventures. I been on busses, trains, boats, motorbikes… exploring mountains, tribes, cultures, typhoons and earthquakes… living as a nomad.
I’m humbled that many around the world are following my work today, see me as a documentary photographer, help me share those stories and the lives of those I’ve photographed. My work has been published in Europe, US and Asia. Being a speaker for TEDx in Malaysia and the face of AXN Asia campaign (Asia’s largest cable TV network), I’ve receive so much support from Nokero USA, social campaign with Digi Malaysia (one of the largest mobile networks in Malaysia), friends from Malaysia/Asia still support my work.
I hope to travel the globe, showcase my work to the world and knowing someday my photographs has changed a persons life will be a dream come through. Even if a single photo has changed or inspired someone, I will feel I’ve achieve something. As a humanitarian I wish to fulfil a promise with my ‘Give Them Light‘ project – 10,000 solar lights to children/mothers living without electricity. I will keep on going as long as I can, listen to my inner self and remembering this quote:
“It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you love doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.” -Alan Watts.
The Name iMKIRAN? – In Sanskrit, Kiran means “ray” and often uses to mean “ray of light”. No I did not plan all this, it’s all just a coincident that my name means light, I shed light with my photos and I donate solar lights to the poor. (and yes I have a tattoo of ‘Ray of light’ too). But then again, “I don’t believe anything happens by coincidence. I am Kiran.”
I would like to share this special quote with you, something from within me:
“To find that connection to yourself and the universe is magical. But it will take you to the edge to see what it’s all about. Life then appears like you are seeing it for the very first time.”
Love & Light,