People these days have access to cameras easily. Compact cameras & DSLR are priced very cheap. Smartphones are built with amazing cameras. People take pictures for fun, trying it as a hobby for awhile and then stop because they get bored of it and move on to something else. It’s all about getting on the hype train. I started my photography journey because my dad kept bugging me to pick up a camera. At that point in time, I was so against that idea of me carrying a camera everywhere I go. Ever since my father was young, my grandfather loved taking photos of his family and my dad. My grandfather would document my family growing up. I never got to meet my grandfather since he passed away the year I was born. But I managed to inherit his old German Lightmeter which surprisingly is still working. Not as accurate as my Sekonic light meter but that’s not the point! The eye of a photographer was passed down to my dad then to me. And If I have kids, I would encourage them to take up photography.
But how did photography change my life? Why so drama one?
Well as a young kid, I was brought up in a city – sleeping in air conditioned rooms, lavish cuisines on the table, getting whatever I want all the time (Can’t get that habit out until today). I was very spoiled (Still am quite spoiled to be honest). My idea of travelling on holidays were to places like Japan and Australia, which consist of shopping malls and concrete jungles. I never imagined wanting to go to places like Nepal, India, Bangladesh or even living in a Long House for a week. I used to have a Kampung (Hometown) but not anymore because everyone has passed on. Only recently I got to visit it again but it was empty and no one lived there anymore. The road used to be filled with sand but now covered by tar. It’s so different then and I regretted not spending more time there. I’ve always neglected my family and I try my best to find every possible way to not have dinner or spend time with them. But ever since I got into photography, I realised that I enjoy spending more quality time with them. Why so? Because I am always documenting everything they do. One of my favourite subject to document in photography is my family. If I had the chance to go back in time, I would have carried a camera with me every time we traveled because nowadays we don’t anymore. We used to go for road trips every year but now everyone is busy with work so traveling is quite rare nowadays.
Photography has made me appreciate the countryside and the ugly side of Malaysia.
It has really opened my eyes to see things that I never knew existed. For example, the paddy fields in Kuala Selangor. During different seasons, the view is different. I’ve been there when the paddy fields were still in the process of growing and another time where it was ready to be harvested. Petaling Street, filled with abandoned buildings and rats roaming in the alley – sounds disgusting right? But what I see is story and life. As a photographer, it’s my job to document these things and let the world know what’s happening. Seeing all these “disgusting” things are beautiful to me. I never enjoyed walking in Petaling Street when I was young but now it’s different. Whenever I am there, I am always looking at things and scenes which could be a potential photograph.
Being in the sun for hours has no effect on me. Sweating in a pair of jeans and heavy boots – no problem!
There’s a difference between having to eat in a hot weather day and doing a shoot under the blazing sun. While I was in Penang 2 weeks back, I was walking around in t-shirts, jeans and boots. Everyone else was in shorts, slippers, and singlets. My fiancée asked me this, “How can I stand the hot weather in my jeans?”. Whenever I am in my shooting mode, I won’t care how hot it is, or how cold it is or even if it is raining. If I need a particular shot, I’ll do anything to get it.
Socialising! My mom told me to never talk to strangers. But I didn’t listen to her.
Whenever I am on the street, I like to talk to the people that I photograph. For example, I met this old man at the end of the alley around midnight. I wanted a photograph of him so I greeted him and asked him how he was. He instantly replied me asking, “Do you have cigarettes?”. I quickly took my box of cigarettes and gave him a stick, light it up and stood next to him. We then started talking and he was telling me about himself. Photography has taught me to engage people and not judge them straight away. There might be a guy who is covered with tattoos that may look quite intimidating, but he might be the nicest person you’ve ever met in your life. In Malacca, I was on my last frame on my film and from afar I saw this man standing next to his rented bicycle with a tattoo and a beard, and it intrigued me. I wanted to photograph his tattoo on his arm so I set my camera setting first while walking towards him. Whenever I see something or someone I want to photograph, I will always set my settings first before I walk towards the subject. I then asked him, “Hi there, I really love your tattoo. Do you mind if I take a picture of it”, He answered sure and he looked away. While I was framing the shot, he turned to me with his eyes squinted due to the blazing sun and I instantly snap the photo. I said thank you and walked away while listening to the camera’s motor drive rewinding the negative into the canister. It felt so good cause I knew that was going to be my favourite photograph that I took throughout my trip in Malacca.
So, that is how photography has changed my life. It really played an important role. I’ve so many people who I call friends today because of photography. I may be doing a part 2 soon but I am not too sure when. There are many more things I want to share as well as a photographer.
Thanks for your time!