Labuan is usually one of Malaysia most isolated states and often ignored by most people other than those who are interested in the business opportunity in Labuan (or cheap chocolate and booze).
Having a photography related event here in Labuan is quite rare as majority of the enthusiast photographer would rather rely on their peer or the internet community to learn something new. When I started photography, I have no one to rely to and most of the time I learn something new through online photography forum and from the local photography magazine. Of course, participating a photography workshop might help but there is none during my time and if there is, it would be to costly and usually somewhere further away from Labuan.
Over the past few years, the photography community around Labuan have become a bit more stronger than before, thanks to the affordable price of an entry-level camera. It is nice to see that finally, Photography is appreciated by people of Labuan and hopefully we could make it even better for everyone to enjoy.
One of Labuan most ‘active’ photography club manage to organize a photography talk where they invite a professional photographer to give a talk on his work experience and tips and trick in photography. I was expecting someone older but instead, I finally met one of the photographer that I have been following for years on wordpress, Rahman Roslan.
He is a 29 years old (I think I got his age right) freelance photographer who work for a range of client but mostly news and documentary related assignment and one of his recent assignment is the Malaysia 13th General Election. The photo talk was interesting as he share some of his latest work from the recent Lahad Datu Standoff. The Lahad Datu incident draw a worldwide attention to that small part of Malaysia and he manage to interact with the military forces and also capturing the aftermath on the local surrounding. It gives us a thoughtful insight on the job risk and he was kind enough to give a few tips on how to avoid a certain misunderstanding when taking a sensitive picture; for an example, a pool of blood, corpse and even military officers.
His entire talk revolves around the idea of how photojournalist should try to put themselves within their given assignment. He keep pushing us, the participant to refer to someone outside their circle and forces us to look at the work of other famous photographer, particularly from Magnum Photos, AgenceVU, and Noorimages. Since he was talking something about Photojournalism, here is some of the tips that I manage to list out from his talk.
1) Photojournalism or Documentary photography is all about story telling, so make sure your photograph could speak for itself.
I consider this as one of the most important consideration for every photojournalist wannabe. A picture work better in a series and it tells a story in a more poetic way. Rahman was kind enough to comment some of my work and although he noted my keen sense of details and aesthetic vision, he thought that most of my picture didn’t actually tells a ‘story’, apart from being visually interesting.
His word have somehow struck the inner soul within me and hopefully I could capture a much vocal picture in a way that it is related with the project that I have been aiming. to complete.
2) Learn from various kind of photographer, and Internet is your best friend.
Learning is a non-stop journey where we learn new stuff almost everyday. Internet has been a huge leap in helping photographer compared to the past few decades and we can get a good access to most photographer portfolios and communication is faster as email can be replied within hours.
I consider myself as a ‘stalker’, not in a perverted kind of way but I usually email the photographer that I admire (I did email Shinya Arimoto, Kosuke Okahara and a few other), especially if I have a certain question that I want to ask. Usually they reply in great manner and make sure you support them by buying one of their photobook. That way, you will appreciate their work more and learn something from their approach in photography.
That is the good thing about internet, so make good use of it.
3) Keep a good attitude and intention when approaching a subject and story.
Rahman was telling his story while he was taking some picture during the Lahad Datu incident for one of his assignment. He wanted to take a picture around the water village that involves the murder of a few Police officer, so the place is potentially dangerous as there was some illegal immigrant living around the area. But still, he believes that a good attitude and sincere intention will help in getting your story.
Body language is important and so does communication skills.
Later that evening, I manage to get a face-to-face photo review, which is awesome although I was not totally prepared. It was good to hear other photographer opinion on your work but I will keep all his word about my work for myself.
Thank you Rahman Roslan, for the great insight in the life of a freelance documentary photographer. (I met him again during IPA Street Photography Workshop at Kuala Lumpur recently.)
Here is a link to some of his featured work and website – http://rahmanroslan.com/home.html | http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2011/02/21/photoessay-nur-rahmanroslan/