Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
Indian Food Seller with Malayan Dollar
Indian Food Seller with Malayan Dollar

A food seller is perched on the roadside, his food in covered aluminium containers arranged around him. He is accompanied by his two children, one of whom seems to be missing her two front teeth. The eyes of the food seller stare out at us from his taut face, anchoring the photograph and making us self-conscious of our own gaze. This photograph which was taken in the year Malaysia gained independence, also inadvertently captures some of the challenges pertaining to race and class that will face the new nation.

Gelatin silver print on Kodak Ektalure paper
33 × 47.5 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah
About HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah

HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah (b. 1907–d. 1979; Terengganu) was the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia and the sixteenth Sultan of Terengganu. Outside of his royal duties, he was an accomplished photographer, one of the first few pioneering photographers in Malaysia. In 1958, he was made an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and in 1966 was awarded the distinction of Excellence from the Fédération Internationale de l'Art Photographique. His photographs offer unique glimpses into Malaysia at the dawn of its modern era. Some of his most memorable photographs are those of the depopulated streets of Kuala Lumpur during the 13 May 1969 race riots. In 2017, the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia held a retrospective of his work. His photo archives have been inherited by his grandson, Raja Mohd Zainol Ihsan Shah, who manages their publication and exhibition.

Further Readings
Learning Section
  • Look at the Indian Food Seller in the photograph. What is he doing? How is he dressed? What kind of man is he? What kind of life does he live? Who are the children in the photo? Do they know the man?

  • Do you think the photographer asked permission before he took this photo? What makes you think that? Should photojournalists and photographers always ask permission before taking a photo of someone? Are there exceptions? Who should own this image? Why? Where do you think this man is now? Does he know that his work is in a gallery collection?