Humans of Kuala Lumpur: Creating Social Change One Story at A Time



Organised by Human of Kuala Lumpur (HOKL), the photo stories made its debut in 2012, and since then, has been a platform to showcase photos and stories of Malaysians.

“We created HOKL to help people. We know there are people suffering out there but we do not know their stories,” said HOKL founder and curator Mushamir Mustafa.

“With a team of 12 storytellers here in HOKL, we write their stories and publish them on social media. Upon reading the stories, we hope people can learn and try to make social change,” he added.

HOKL is a social media-based photojournalism project that photographs and tells the stories of normal, everyday people. It has had 20 million views on its stories.

It documents the transformation, changes and diversity of our people with portraits that present a personal, unique, touching, intimate and human glimpse of ordinary life, said Mushamir Mustafa, founder of HOKL.

Since 2012, Muhammad Mushamir Mustafa and his two friends Nazreen Mohamad and Aairenee Zarina Yazli have been going out to take photos of people and ask them to tell their story. These are essentially street portraits on the fly, but what makes the results poignant is the conversational snippet that goes with the photo. In a vast city where people often feel disconnected, a simple photo story brings us closer to the unseen private life and philosophies of the people who surround us.

“Basically it turns out that everyone, no matter who or what you are, has a story,” says Mushamir. “Every single one of us. And it’s amazing that if you approach a person and start a conversation, you will learn and get to know about so many new things. So we take photos of anyone, from the old to the very young and everyone else in between. And while the aspects of the portrait are important, it’s the story that matters most above all.”

As a student at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Humans of Kuala Lumpur allows Mushamir to combine his research skills with his love for photography. He adds that it’s usually easier to get people to agree to be photo subjects if there’s more than one person asking. “It helps to have a woman with you because people are more willing to trust two people taking random photos – so while I focus on taking the shots, she talks to them for their personal stories, and we take turns.”



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