Glimpses of Butterworth

In the early days of the British administration, this quiet town was developed as a transit point in the transport of tin ore. It eventually grew into a jumping-off point for those heading towards the island. Bagan, as most who live there call it, has gone through numerous shifts since the mid-nineteenth century. It prospered during the Western industrial boom, witnessed the Second World War, was redeveloped as Penang’s first industrial estate following the nation’s independence and, more recently, lived through the downturn brought about by administrative decentralisation. Today, things are beginning to look up again as plans to re-establish it as a transportation hub for the peninsula’s northern region appear to be in full swing.

This photo essay attempts to capture the enduring relevance of the township to its people and outsiders.

Born and bred in Penang, Jonathan Lim’s work revolves around stories of people and places. His latest documentary project sees him working with a group of engineers as they bring electricity to an off-grid Bidayuh village in Ulu Padawan, Sarawak. Glimpses of his work can be found at

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