This post was written by Manveen Maan
PASSION AND HARD WORK BROUGHT MOHAMMAD RED TO THE POSITION HE NOW ENJOYS AS AN ESTABLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER, AND HE TAKES A BREAK FROM SNAPPING VIPS TO CHAT WITH MANVEEN MAAN ABOUT HIS JOURNEY TO SUCCESS.
Mohammad Red is definitely a people person. He greets me with a big smile, a firm handshake, and a twinkle in his eye, before cracking jokes about the humid Malaysian weather. “I love meeting new people,” he says. “Being a photographer, I get to meet someone new every day. That’s one of the best things about my job.”
A ship engineer by profession, the 35-year-old Red was more accustomed to repairing navy ships than snapping photographs for a living. “I started taking an interest in photography when I was about 19. It was never my ambition to become a photographer, I just happened to go down that path,” he says. “My friends knew that I loved to take pictures so they started asking me to shoot events that they were hosting or special occasions. Over time I developed a network and it all went from there.”
Once Red decided to turn his hobby into a business, there was no stopping him. “This is my passion. I wasn’t trained in it professionally but I definitely put in a lot of hard work. I had no one to train or mentor me so I learnt everything on my own,” he says. “I watched videos on YouTube, researched techniques on the internet, and then applied them to my work.”
With this work ethic in mind, Red left his engineering role and set up REDphotography in 2008, although it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “You need to make sacrifices when building a company,” he recalls. “The most difficult part is networking. When I first started out, no one knew who I was and I had to build up a portfolio. In two or three months, I would get only one job at most, so I started sponsoring shoots and putting my services out there for clients to see.”
Red and his team worked on spreading the word for over a year before their hard work paid off and the job requests started rolling in. “It taught us to be patient. We had to cut costs, work overtime, and really give it all that we had, but it was worth it. The most important thing for me was to keep smiling and know that the hard work would be rewarded at some point. If success had come easy, it wouldn’t feel so good now, would it?” he asks, with a cheeky smile.
CAPTURING PEOPLE AND PLACES
REDphotography has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Citing former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as well as current Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak as clients, Red remains unfazed by the celebrity status of some of his photography subjects. “To me, they are just regular people with families. I love to capture moments, whether it’s at a wedding or a party. I love to see people smile. Who the person is doesn’t really matter; it’s the emotion that comes through in the picture that does,” he says. “That is why I love photographing people the most – there is always a touching moment when we celebrate with each other.”
Surely not everyone loves to have their picture taken though? “Of course not, that happens all the time,” he admits. “As a photographer, you have to know how to communicate with them. You have to talk to them, build a rapport with them, to make them as comfortable as possible. Sometimes I take a picture and show them what they look like on camera.
People are often too shy to say they like a photo of themselves, so you have to compliment them or tell them they have a great smile.”
A sociable person to say the least, Red reveals he has no problem making his subjects feel at ease. “As photographers, we have to wear many hats – PR, marketing; sometimes I even feel like a lecturer because I’m always talking nonstop!” he exclaims.
Besides meeting new people, Red cites travelling as the other benefit of being a photographer. “I enjoy getting away from the big city. There isn’t a set favourite [place to visit] but I love to visit little towns and kampungs – the people there are always so friendly and I love capturing the scenery on camera.” Through his work, Red has had the chance to be in the midst of celebrations by different cultural groups, an opportunity he feels most people don’t really get. “We are so lucky because we get to learn about other cultures and their way of life on an everyday basis. I’ve had the chance to shoot in temples, churches, and mosques for various ceremonies and I always come back having learnt something new.”
A CHANGING INDUSTRY
Having been on the Malaysian photography scene for over 15 years, Red has seen its development in the country over that timeframe. “Today, you’ll often find people earning a part-time income from taking photos, so it definitely affects the market for full-time photographers. The Malaysian mindset is that of hiring freelance photographers, mainly because they are cheaper. We want to change this mindset – it’s not the cost that’s important, it is the quality, and we aim to deliver that,” he says.
He also admits technology has altered the realms of photography, both professionally and personally. “Digital cameras are faster, easier, and much more efficient than cameras using film,” he says. “On a more personal level, you can even take photos on your mobile phone, edit or add effects to them and instantly upload them to Facebook or Twitter,” he adds. “You don’t need to be carrying expensive camera equipment to take great photos.”
Despite being part of the generation that grew up before the advent of the internet, Red displays a particular affinity towards social media. “It’s a great technological development,” he says. “Social media is so international. If you use social networking for the right reasons, it can really take off.”
With people from all over the world being able to view and share his pictures at the click of a button, Red has visions of taking his photography worldwide. “I want to go international – Europe, America, everywhere. Today we’re in Kuala Lumpur; in ten years’ time who knows where we’ll be?” he says, smiling.
REDphotography can be contacted via:
Web: [email protected]
Source: Senses of Malaysia Sept-Oct 2012
"ExpatGo welcomes and encourages comments, input, and divergent opinions. However, we kindly request that you use suitable language in your comments, and refrain from any sort of personal attack, hate speech, or disparaging rhetoric. Comments not in line with this are subject to removal from the site. "