A cash prize of RM3,000 for an Instagram photo depicting Malaysian unity can be considered a worthy win.

THE cash, along with a Sunway Resort hotel stay for two, books, and exclusive merchandise, is what top winner of the above-18 category, Lee Shing Yaw, received at the prizegiving ceremony of the Perdana Leadership Foundation Merdeka Photo Contest 2019 themed “Malaysia United”, supported by Sunway Group.

He was among the top twenty winners feted at the event, and received his prize from none other than Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Lee is an accountant by profession and took up photography “as a hobby”, he said, more than ten years ago.

His photo is of three Malaysian women walking under an umbrella of a Malaysian flag, which Lee says highlights the importance of sharing and caring in multi-racial Malaysia.

For category 1 (13-17 years old), the top winner, Kok Keng Leong, walked home with RM1,500 cash, Sunway Lagoon tickets, books and exclusive PLF merchandise. Kok is 18 years old, and has just entered the sixth form. He took up photography when he was 16 and is considering a freelance career before entering university.

His winning entry is the silhouettes of three Malaysian children on a bridge, each waving a Malaysian flag. All are walking in the same direction and according to Kok, this emphasizes young Malaysians’ shared hope and vision for a better Malaysia.

PLF’s Executive Director, Tan Sri Nik Mohamed Nik Yaacob, said in his opening remarks, “This is the third time we have held this competition, and we are extremely pleased with the increasing level of interest generated over the years.

“When we had the first competition in 2017, we received a mere 100 entries. This time around there were 1,245 entries, a 12-fold increase…As to the quality of photos submitted by the more accomplished enthusiasts, I have been told by the judges that the top winning entries can hold their own against the best professionals.”

Themed “Malaysia United”, the contest asked for creative depictions of national unity and love for the country.

PLF Merdeka 2019 1st Prize Cat2

Each photo entry was evaluated for visual story-telling, photo composition, and caption creativity, by three professional photographers, Che’ Ahmad Azhar Che’ Fadzil, one of Malaysia’s most influential street photographers who teaches at Multimedia University, Cyberjaya, Mat Zain Abdullah, a self-taught photographer who focuses on heritage buildings, and Shamshahrin Shamsudin.

The judges were impressed by the quality of the entries, which they said surpassed last year’s already high standards.

In 2020, Perdana Leadership Foundation will be organising a Photo and Writing Contest with the theme, “Climate Action”. In addition to a Photo category, the contest will also have Essays and Fiction categories.