A positive attitude plays a big role in the quality of one’s work. Sharuna Segaren met up with a budding young photographer, Azalia Suhaimi, who certainly knows how to turn her optimistic views and love for life into enriching and beautiful photography.
1. A Maldivian villager returning from a dip in the waters. Captured at the Gan Island of Laamu Atoll
2. A yellow taxi brightening a wintry day in South Kensington of London. Captured while the photographer was taking a stroll with her baby
3. A beautiful flare of light against a baby’s face. The sunlight was a nice surprise in between all the wind and zero degree breeze at the beautiful little town of Stratford-upon-Avon
5. A beautiful sunny day with just the blue skies and the horses at Cape Clairault, Western Australia
6. A beautiful view at Cape Clairault, this was part of the photographer’s special love-themed travel photography series
11. This shot was captured as part of the photographer’s travel photography series. It was captured in Wollongong, at New South Wales of Australia
About the Photographer
With all the technical elements, expensive equipment, editing software, not to mention our culture of ‘selfie-taking’ and Instagram, the elements of what makes a good photo often gets overlooked and becomes a complicated process. Sometimes, a photo’s beauty lies in its natural simplicity. Azalia Suhaimi, selfstyled ‘photopoet’, is able to look past the smokescreen that often clouds today’s photography and see the naturalistic elements and poetic beauty that lie behind the seemingly simple everyday moments, as seen in her magnificent photography work, creations that she often pairs with her poetic talents.
I met up with her for a casual chat over coffee, and the friendly, sweet young woman told me how she began her journey into photography. Born in Kuala Lumpur but growing up in Ipoh, she knew she had a love for writing ever since an early age, leading her to take classes in English Literature and dabbling in creative writing during her free time. She says, “I grew up initially wanting to be a writer, and had realized how much I loved expressing myself ever since I was quite young. The need to express myself beautifully turned into a passion towards photography.”
During her university days abroad, she acquired her very first camera, which was a Nikon Coolpix 4800 point-and-shoot. Upon traveling around South Australia while on a road trip with her friends, she realized her love for nature and travel photography, which eventually turned into photojournalism, leading her to sign up for a photography course at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New SouthWales, Australia, to learn more about the craft.
However, she maintains a different, less technical approach to photography. In an excerpt from her popular blog, which was ranked in the top 100 Best Poetry Blogs by the Accredited Online Colleges website, she says, “My photography centres upon arty elements, some vintage touches, and a lot of emotions. I would pretty much be dumbstruck if one strikes up a conversation with me that is filled with the technical terms of a camera. What I play with when doing my photography are artsy compositions and mostly,my imagination. Tools involved include a Canon EOS 600D, a white Olympus Pen (E-P1), a Polaroid camera, a Diana F+ lomo camera, a Spinner 360 lomo camera, and the iPhone.”
Upon returning to Malaysia after graduating from her studies in Sydney, her appetite for photography was whetted, and she began actively searching out local photography communities and events in which she could participate.
“The first local photo exhibition I participated in was the Rantai Art Festival in 2008, where I exhibited a series poetic photo essay. Each photography work of mine had its own caption, all of which would combine into a poetic essay about life when read in sequence. After Rantai, I was then introduced to the group KLickr (KL Flickr) which happened to be led by my cousin. Through KLickr, I then got to know many Malaysian photographers from different genres who willingly shared their experiences and knowledge, and got the opportunity to participate in photo exhibitions at the Urbanscapes and also the Kuala Lumpur DesignWeek.”
Love is all She Needs
The driving force behind her work is simply love. She says she is not just a lover of art, she is a lover of love. Her emotions run deep, she tends to feel strongly, and she holds a deep appreciation towards natural creations and environmental surroundings. She loves photography for the ability to portray and capture emotions, touch people’s hearts, and make people ‘feel’. “Among my major aims of this website – other than to share my artworks – are to spread love, promote love towards nature’s beauty, and warm people’s hearts. My artworks may therefore have a lot of emotions and elements of love in them,” Azalia explains with a shy smile.
The warm-hearted mother of a toddler, who is currently embarking on a full-time career in photography, likes spreading love so much that she even once made an entire travel photography series which included a tiny red heart in all of the photos she captured. She also often combines her sentimental-styled photos with poems about love or gratitude with her work.
The Journey of Motherhood
Being a mother has also changed her outlook on life, and inspired her to specialize particularly in baby and child photography. While she had a penchant for capturing the innocence and joy of children in her photos even before becoming a mother herself, she is now a strong advocate and supporter of motherhood. Azalia’s latest project is a compilation of her photopoetry works printed in the booklet form, promoted and sold through social media, where 100% of the proceeds go to helping low-income single mothers.
“I have loved capturing children from way back then too, ever since I was a student who enjoyed travelling. A lot of my travel photography seemed to favour natural shots capturing the joys and emotions of children that I encounter. It was after realizing this that I decided to make a side income, apart from my day job in the finance field, (to provide photography services of babies and children. I specifically provided outdoor photography services for babies and children. Most of my clients were parents who wanted to capture their child’s milestones by having natural shots of them playing around instead of a rigid, posed shot in a studio. And then, once I became a mother myself, I realized just how much more I enjoy providing this service, particularly now that I know myself the wants and needs of little ones, such as their nap routines in a day , which aided me to provide the proper time for their photography sessions. As I grew more sensitive towards the struggles of a mother after embarking on the motherhood journey myself, my photopoetry works now are often challenged towards portraying that.”
Her biggest success to date is this PhotoPoetry book project. It was launched on her 30th birthday, hitting her goal of publishing her own book by the time she reached that milestone. The self-published simple booklet compiled all of her photography works and respective matching poems that she wrote. She only published it in limited qualities, with the aim to touch people’s hearts while raising funds for lowincome single mothers that have not had the same opportunities as her.
“There’s the satisfaction knowing that the funds I raised from my artworks were going to a personal cause I supported. At the same time, ever since I have selling the book, I kept getting feedback from customers on which of my photography works and poetry affected them in different ways.There had been quite a few who said they shed tears upon going through my photography works and reading the poems I wrote that were paired with those photos. It’s a surreal feeling knowing my work of art could affect strangers and touch their hearts.”
Many of her customers who were mothers themselves, started actively sharing their stories and journeys into motherhood with her. This opened up her eyes to all the different kind of journeys mothers face around the world. “I learned of all sorts of journeys of different mothers around the world. The sale of the photobook also reached some international customers. Through the power of social media, particularly Instagram, the promotion of my PhotoPoetry book went viral, and as a lot of women contacted me to know more of the book while sharing their stories, in a way this project had connected all of us mothers from different walks of life.”
A Nature Lover
Another unique aspect of Azalia’s work is that she only uses natural light in her photography instead of fancy lighting and studio equipment. She favours mostly outdoor photography whenever possible, during the daytime, to get the best lighting. She also produces a lot of her work through mobile photography, utilizing her iPhone’s camera and various editing apps. For her professional photography services, she uses a proper SLR camera, but never uses the flash. She talks good-naturedly about the challenge that her method poses. “It can be difficult, especially with the current rainy season. Just the other day, I was supposed to meet a client at her home to take photos of her child outdoors. Unfortunately, it began raining at the client’s place. I quickly thought up a ‘Plan B,’ and since the rain hadn’t come to my area yet, we met nearby at a park and managed to do the shoot while the weather was still good.”
Since she has left her day job in Finance and chosen to focus solely on her photography and her child, life has been hectic. But Azalia is not one to complain, and she approaches her life’s new direction with the same optimistic attitude she has all her life, and is driven by her passion and love for seeing the simple, natural beauty that is seen in everyday life. She is also spurred by the support of her husband, who also has a passion for photography, and looks forward to travelling more in order to capture more of life’s natural beauties.
Source: Senses of Malaysia July/August 2015
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