The Pursuit of Personal Photography

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This post was written by Pamela Nowicka

Photography involves elements of skill, but when it comes to capturing people, particularly in those special, personal moments, it becomes an art form. Pamela Nowicka talks to a pair of talented Penangites whose paths crossed unexpectedly and led them to a unique creative partnership.

You know you’re good when other people say you’re good.The applause of a crowd, or the approving words of a parent, even scoring lots of “likes” on Facebook tells you something. So when Lucas Low, a young engineer, started putting photos of company events and his travels on the company intranet, he was surprised at the response. “People appreciated them, even colleagues who I’d never talked to before said they were very nice photos.”

Now a successful photographer, and, with his partner, Joyce See Kai Xin, part of Lucas + Joyce Photoworks, Lucas looks back and considers this the start of his journey to become a professional.

Requests to take family photos in exchange for a free dinner followed. “I felt really good, making people happy,” recalls Lucas of the start-up days. “I thought, maybe I can go professional and do this for the rest of my life.”

Lucas’s partner, Joyce See Kai Xin, came to photography from a different perspective. “I used to do a lot of art and craft, calligraphy, handmade products, zakka stuff, and I started to appreciate photography. I got a proper camera while I was working for a multinational and started snapping.”

As with Lucas, positive feedback played a key role in her aspirations. “I like doing macro shots, shooting tiny things. My cousin said it wasn’t about technical knowledge, but about composition. He said I had an eye for good composition. I just snapped what was in front of me.”

And it was their mutual love of photography that brought the two young Penangites together. Recalls Lucas, “We met through [photo-hosting site] Flikr.We’d both taken a photograph of a butterfl y – same species, same angle, same point of view, though hers was portrait and mine was landscape. It amazed me how someone could shoot from the same point of view. I thought she’d stolen it,” he smiles.


Contact on Flikr led to meetings in Penang when Lucas returned from stints working in Italy and Dubai, and a professional and personal partnership developed. Comments Joyce, “My corporate life made me think whether I wanted to live like that forever, but in the Asian community it’s not normal to think that a career in the arts can work. It’s like, if you’re not a doctor, an engineer, or a lawyer, you’re doomed!”

The young couple started by photographing relatives’ kids in Ipoh, then came a request from an ex-colleague in the Philippines to take wedding photos. Undeterred by a 36-hour journey, involving missed fl ights, buses, and taxis, the young couple embarked on a marathon 15-hour photography session. “It was amazing, really fun,” says Joyce. “You could feel the love. People were really celebrating. I cried when I photographed them exchanging rings.They cried, too.”

And the couple’s trademark naturalistic, people-oriented approach was evident from the outset.

“We danced together with them while taking photos. People were very natural with us. It was so fun.The next day I was like a dead lump,” recalls Joyce.

“We don’t do heavy editing,” says Lucas, “we keep it as natural as possible. I always look at the emotions, facial expression, the way they interact.”

Joyce concurs: “A photo should bring out a story, reflect the personality.”

“It’s a test of interpersonal skills,” comments Lucas. “You don’t want people to have a sour face, so you crack a silly joke and snap at the right moment.”

Lucas and Joyce are making a name for themselves both in Penang and further afi eld due as much to their creativity and eye for the unusual as to their technical abilities. And their eyes are firmly set on the future. “Our biggest dream is to work for Nat Geo [National Geographic magazine],” says Joyce. “It’s the pinnacle of photography,” agrees Lucas. “The closest we’ve got was attending a seminar organised by Nat Geo at Queensbay Mall.We got shortlisted.”

The young couple are committed to their ideal of photojournalism. “We don’t mind getting dirty or going to dangerous places.We enjoy taking photos of old men, not models,” says Lucas. “We like to understand the story behind the photos.We try to talk to people before photographing them. Once we were yelled at by a man in the fish market.We learned you cannot be selfish taking photos of people.You have to understand their situation.”


“You can sense it from the body language,” says Joyce. “Living in George Town is a bonus for us.We have a strong interest in its culture and the people living here.We thought of following a roti seller pedalling round George Town for a day. At some point, the old heritage will go. Some things in George Town are not permanent and we feel a responsibility to document them. A few years ago I was involved in a photographic survey here. It made me realise how much of a jewel of heritage is here. I want to share that with people.”

“It’s not just about making it beautiful, it’s about telling a story,” asserts Lucas. “We’re really glad that photography has brought us to meet all kinds of people, from people on the streets to big bosses.” Joyce agrees. “We’ve met some amazing people and learned a lot from them.They’ve trained us to become better people with open hearts.”

Looking at the photographs covering the walls of Tofu, the boutique traveller guest house the couple runs, gives a clear sense of the artistry and commitment shown by the couple.

Any tips on how to capture those stunning images? “Either you shoot and smile, or smile and shoot,” says Lucas. “Don’t use them as a guinea pig,” warns Joyce. “You can only take one or two shots.”

Look, smile, shoot.The mantra of photography, Lucas and Joyce style.


To learn more, or to contact these talented photographers, find them on Facebook:, or call +6016 415 0757/+6016 433 2306.


Source: Penang International April 2013 – May 2013

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