Photographers Arif Kartono and Samsul Said are household names in the Malaysian media industry.
Having won numerous local and international awards, the duo have captured the different faces and characters of the nation over the years – from trekking the jungles of Pahang to documenting rallies in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
But nothing prepared them for the soulless streets when the government imposed the Movement Control Order on March 18.
“I was mind-blown,” said Arif, who works with The Malaysian Reserve.
“The streets were empty. I’m so used to the bright sights and sounds at Bukit Bintang but when I was there recently, it was soulless with just a handful of people on the road.”
“But it’s a new experience for me. I’ve learnt new things about Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas. We have been so distracted with our daily routine that at times we forget certain things that have always been right in front of us.
“This partial lockdown has allowed me to view things differently.”
Arif added he is used to taking pictures at close range but that’s no longer possible due to social distancing. He is also concerned for his own safety, ensuring he wears a face mask at all times.
Samsul, who is a freelance photographer for Bloomberg, described the situation as “Zombieland”.
“You know the visuals you usually see in a zombie movie? Well that’s what Kuala Lumpur and certain parts of Selangor look like … minus the destruction. It’s like Zombieland,” said Samsul.
He added the motivation to take pictures was different this time around.
“I have to find elements that will make my photos stand out. It’s not easy when there are hardly any people around but there’s always a story to tell, there’s always something worth capturing.”
While in some instances the empty images give him goosebumps, he said the experience riding to the various locations to get those shots has been rewarding.
“I’ve visited some areas in Kuala Lumpur and some parts of Selangor. Being on the road with barely any vehicles, it’s been really calm and nice,” he added.
“I too have been mind-blown but what I’ve experienced is something I will never forget.”