Street Photography with Kevin Lim
An interview with the Malaysian based photographer
As you may already know, we’re big lovers of street photography throughout the world, Kevin Lim from Malaysia creates beautiful street photography for our enjoyment. We decided to ask him to join us for an interview as part of our Talk Photography project.
Thank you for joining us today Kevin, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in photography?
“I was born the 6th of May in 1964, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. lived and worked in London , England for close to 20 years and I currently live in Malaysia.
I have been in Healthcare all my working life and over the last 15 years been in the lead executive positions. I specialize in system dynamics to help people work better locally and internationally, or regionally.
My personal interests lie with riding motorcycles, poetry, photography, art, fly-fishing, reading, movies and music… I enjoy the company of friends. Safe to say, that I have an insatiable interest in almost everything.
I am 52 , and I have, as far back as I can remember, felt that there was something very magical about a photograph.
To me it was amazing how something I see; an object or a scene can be fixed onto a piece paper. At the age of 6, my dad, an accomplished amateur photographer gave me a second-hand plastic Diana, a 120 roll film camera to determine my seriousness of pursuing photography. I remember very clearly spending the entire roll on a hibiscus plant. My dad had the roll developed and printed, and I kept the prints in a secret place.
I have always enjoyed drawing and painting as a schoolboy. Making and creating images has always given me a lot of pleasure. I suppose this is why making images with a camera always felt and still feels so natural… so right… I also find imagery in poetry gives me a similar buzz.”
What do you typically look for when you shoot, what kind of scenery, what kind of subject, etc,?
“My interest is wide ranging from flowers to animals, but I do enjoy Street for a bit of excitement. I am infinitely curious about people. Therefore I usually prefer an urban environment. I’m generally not concerned if its indoors or outdoors, street photography to me is a method rather than a place or subject. I do like to compose in a way that my primary subjects are lit fairly hard with the bokeh in the background or shadow. Looking for good light is a must for me. Other than that if I can see it, I can shoot it.”
What equipment do you usually bring with you to use?
“I have my Fujifilm X100 and XE2 as my primary cameras. I use the kit lens for the Xe2, the Xc18-55mm and a multitude of legacy Nikon and Minolta glasses from the 70’s. They’re fully manual of course, but you can find even F/1.4 fairly cheap. I just use an adapter for them on my camera. I will also use anything that comes to hand including the camera on my phone. I am not fussy. For focal length I like to shoot fairly close up, and do not use telephoto lenses as a preference. But rather 18mm or 23mm on a crop censor camera.”
How is the view of street photography in Malaysia? How do people usually respond to it?
“It’s an exciting time for street photography in Malaysia.
Both the public and those wanting to participate in Street respond to it very positively and it would be good if there is a stronger desire to educate younger or new photographers to the genre on the fundamentals underlying street methodology and philosophy in the making of a street style image.”
What difficulties do you often face when doing your photography?
“I rarely set out on a planned shoot, therefore I have little expectation. I don’t get upset over any missed potential shots or anything like that. It is how it is. So I don’t struggle with a specific challenge to shooting.
But nowadays photography could be a matter of pressing a button on a mobile device. The real challenge for any serious photographer is for their work to be better than a snapshot. This requires study! Time given to the understanding of the amazing nuances associated with the camera. Time allocated to the understanding of light and how it gives form, or not as the case may be to objects as a reflection. The final challenge comes from having a prevision to frame. Capture and make an aesthetic image. To produce that once is luck. But to do it consistently requires all that we are as photographers.
Challenges in the photography community may occur when peers or peer groups subcategorize genres too strictly. Such boundaries are often times unnecessary. I feel there are many imposed rules and elitism in the community on what makes a street photo.
For me ‘street photography’ is not about where a photo is taken, neither is it about who is in the frame. But we hear of many thoughts of photography being more about negative space, about geometry, some people only like juxtaposition, some like dark shadows and silhouettes, some visual puns. Others symbolism, forced perspectives, some want pictorial images others gritty. Some also go on about lenses, and focal lengths, ‘you need to get in close’, ‘use a wide angle’, or ‘telephotos’ are not kosher’. Colour vs Black and White. Eye contact – no eye contact? To me all styles are valid. Street photography is a state of mind, a feeling. A street photographer is someone who goes out and documents their environment in the best way given their skill level, with what ever they have at hand, camera wise.”
Are there any specific projects that you have worked on in the past, and are there some projects that you’re working on now?
“I’m currently not working on any specific photo projects.
I am working on a project that sees me running a Gallery and representing other photographers. The gallery will address the very human need for a physical manifestation of a photographer’s work. A physical print conveys a very different message than one seen on an electronic screen. My gallery will afford a place from which learning to see will come from unlearning, unlearning to de-clutter and realize that vision of images come from within. The gallery will welcome persons of all walks of life to contribute. Poet’s, writers, musicians, artists craftsmen and photographers will all have a place to share how they see. It’s my hope to open this gallery in Ireland, the land of my wife’s birth.”
Can you share with us a few of your favourite photographs and explain the story behind them? What was the setting? The challenge of capturing the moment? (And so on)
“The real reason why I would choose an scene, or an image would be because the way the light falls on the objects of people in the photograph.”
“I stepped into a shop to capture this image at a local market with the backlit sub framing scene. The position and timing of the photographer in the image worked out perfectly. I got really lucky with the light in this scene.”
“I wanted to feature the image title KLCC because it was an example of how B&W can be envisioned prior to taking the shot. I even took this photo on an old phone, the Samsung Note 2.”
“I came into Mr. Lai’s shop as a customer, and with the light falling on him I just had to get the photo. I never ask for permission to take photographs, and Mr Lai usually hates photographers. Needless to say he told me to piss off right after the shot.”
What advice would you give to fellow photographers, and others starting out in street photography?
“Read more, live more and we may do well to be gentler and more merciful to ourselves.
Be patient and realize that a really good photo comes after 100s if not thousands of shots , once or twice a month if we are lucky.”
Thank you so much Kevin for agreeing to join us for this interview. Your viewpoint and remarks were very insightful, and we feel there is much our fellow photographers can take to mind from this interview. As well as be inspired by your work.
To our Readers: We’re constantly searching for interesting photography stories, projects and so on that will prove inspiring to the community. Thus we sincerely hope you will share your work with me. Please write me and share a link to your work, projects, stories, and I will get back to you ASAP! You may also direct us to other photographers work and projects that you’d recommend to be heard.
Do so on through here.
About Kevin Lim
Kevin is a Malaysian born photographer, passionate about many things, however he has a special spot for photography and street photography. Working with a very wide angel lens don’t be surprised seeing him get up close for the perfect shot. You can discover more of Kevin Lim’s work though his Facebook.
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