Studio Based Portrait to Street Portrait Photography

From Studio based portrait to street portrait photography. This was a natural progression considering I no longer have a photography studio base to work from. This is due to leaving my homeland of New Zealand in March 2011 to live in Phuket – Thailand. In 2015 I relocated to Malaysia spending one year exploring Penang, and I’m now a resident of Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur has a very active community of enthusiastic street photographers devoted to their craft. They get together for photo walks, organize regular gallery exhibitions, and manage several popular online forums for sharing their photography. Which is ideal for inspiration and is a valuable support structure for the members.

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Pasar Karat Flea Market Photo Walk

I stumbled upon “Pasar Karat” – a direct translation from Bahasa Malayu is “Rusty Market” while on my photo walk around Chinatown – Kuala Lumpur. In the 80’s the market was also referred to as the “Market of Thieves” apparently due to the questionable source of the goods for sale.

Pasar Karat is on the fringe of Petaling Street and starts at 5 am and stall owners are around to 10 am and I understand that Sunday is the busiest day with all the vendors turning out with their wares. Some of the old timers have been hawking for 20 – 30 years.

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Signage for Pasar Karat

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Street Photography Ethics

Street Portrait Photography is my passion.

I love stepping out with my camera, wondering who I might meet on my travels, and what photos I’ll make along the way.

My vocation is portrait photography, and the street provides so many interesting subjects.

The opportunity to learn about people, a snippet of their lives is what motivates me to keep stepping out.

When the portraits are downloaded, it’s another opportunity for me to gaze upon the subject, recall our conversation and imagine more …

This is a short list of what is important to me in my craft of Street Portrait Photography.

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Christmas in Luang Prabang – Laos

I spent Christmas in Luang Prabang Laos, a peaceful holiday away from the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia.

Luang Prabang’s climate is different from Kuala Lumpur’s, it is much cooler in the mornings and evenings.

From my research for the holiday I was aware of this, but unfortunately my packing lent on the side of summer ensembles. Due to low cloud hanging in the valley the sun often didn’t appear until about 11 am and its enveloping warmth feels like a visit from a dear friend. My packing choices meant I wore the same jeans, puffer jacket and long sleeve shirt twice daily for ten days. Once home, I swore never to wear these items of clothing again, and stored them deep in the recesses of my wardrobe.

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Evening Portraits – Kuala Lumpur City Park

I decided to visit the Kuala Lumpur City Park (KLCC) late afternoon to take some portraits.

The park was crowded which was a lovely surprise, usually I visit early morning when it is more quiet, and today it was almost shoulder to shoulder in some parts, the children’s play areas in particular.

People were attempting selfies with the Petronas Towers as a backdrop and some looking like pretzels in their attempt to capture the twins in their photograph.

Tourists thumbing through guide books, families having their evening meal together, and couples sitting and enjoying each other’s company.

Children laughing, birds chirping, construction building sounds filtering through as background noise — the hammering, pounding and drilling seems never to rest in this city. Adding to the cacophony, security staff blowing their whistles at adults trying to sneak in a swing or two at the playground.

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Portraits’ – Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park

This morning was beautiful, and  I headed out at 8:30 am to the nearby Kuala Lumpur City Park (KLCC), armed with my camera and 85mm lens to take some portraits.

My aim was ten portraits, and to photograph people using natural light only. My desire was to approach strangers and ask for their portrait, and then ask them for a few minutes to ask a couple of questions.

In reality ten portraits was too ambitious. I was at the park for ninety minutes and spent time with people enjoying conversations, listening to their stories and sharing some details from my own story. Having this exchange is far better, and more interesting than speed shooting and collecting random portraits of strangers.

The questions I posed were influenced by a recent ‘Chase Jarvis 30 Days of Genius’ interview I watched with Michael Meade – storyteller and author of The Genius Myth.

QUESTIONS:

What makes you happy?

What is your gift to the world?

Everyone I approached was open to having their portrait taken and answering my questions.

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