A conversation with Yeow Chin Liang, street photography, project and portrait extraordinaire
How did you get the idea to do the “My Workplace” series?
To be honest, I never planned to do any series or projects on photography. I just want to have fun shooting on the street with my analogue cameras (by the way, I have been shooting film for the past 3 yrs). The idea of creating the “My Workplace” series started when I was searching for a “catchy” title/caption for one of my environmental portrait photos. And I noticed “My Workplace” suits most of my environmental street portraiture very well. So this is how it started.
Where do you take the photos?
I stay in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Therefore the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur are my shooting ground. Most photos are from there.
(Taken with Leica M6 / Voigtlander 35mm F1.4 / Agfa Vista 200 Film)
Met a cheerful female butcher in a wet market. It is quite rare to have a female working as butcher. Taken at Pudu wet market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Did you know the people before you took their picture?
Most of people in the picture that I took are the people that I met for the first time. I have been shooting at the same areas in Kuala Lumpur for the past 6 years, so I am quite familiar with those locations, the scenes and some people there. Therefore occasionally I may shoot those familiar faces on the street in that area.
At China Town, Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
How do you go about taking portraits? On that note, any advice for taking street portraits?
I will look for interesting subject(s) and the working environment surrounding the subject(s) that are pleasing to my eyes. Colour and great lighting also play an important part in my photos. In order to create an environmental street portraiture that I like, normally I will make some small talk (“Hi…how’s business?” “You look nice today,” etc.) with the subject or just smile (acknowledge for permission to take their portrait), and most of the street people will be more than happy to comply.
How long did your project last?
There is no ending for the “My Workplace” series.
What advice would you give to anyone who is trying to start their own photo project?
For those who are trying to start a photo projects, they can always start with something that they are comfortable and familiar with. From there, they will be able to learn and adjust/change to suit the theme of the series/project accordingly. They need not rush for it and must shoot from heart. The photos in the series must be consistent too.
What does this series mean to you? What is it’s message?
This series means a lot to me. I want to make these beautiful street people look “beautiful” in their own working environment (even though most of them don’t believe that LOL). I want them to feel good when they look at the image I took for them. As of today I have given out more than 50 prints with frame to those people in my photos. Most of the elderly people and the environment in the photos that I took are considered “traditional workplaces” and are going to disappear soon. Therefore, this series is also about capturing this kind of scenes before they disappear. By the way, I also feel great when deliver my photos to these street people