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artuk

Street Portraits in Kuala Lumpur

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artuk

In response to a very long discussion on this forum recently about the amount of photos that get shown here, and the lack of comment and criticism about work, here are some photos.

These are a very loose "set" pulled together over a few minutes in response to that discussion, and represent some of the street portraits that I took around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2016.  There is a large itinerant Bangladeshi community who come to Malaysia to work, often in bars, restaurants and hospitality, because the wages and working conditions are better than in Bangladesh.  They seemed to have no issue with photography, often spoke excellent English, are were notably very friendly, welcoming and polite people. Note that not all the people featured in the photographs are from Bangladesh, as on at least one occasion I ended up speak Thai with a Thai national and his Nepalese friend who were working in Malaysia.

These photos were not taken with a Fuji camera - if that offends you then please just close the thread and look at something else.  If you want information about camera, lens, post processing, shooting data etc then please just send a private message to me.

Comment, criticism and feedback welcome.  Here is a link to some albums of "Street" type photography on my Flickr account:

Flickr street photography album (work in progress)

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kiwiana

A great set of photos. Really like the black and white. You must be pleased with these! 35mm?

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artuk
4 hours ago, kiwiana said:

A great set of photos. Really like the black and white. You must be pleased with these! 35mm?

I use a variety of focal lengths from 28mm, 35mm, 55mm and 85/90mm. Without checking individual shots, most will be 55mm - I find 35mm is often too wide and requires getting too close to people to be confortable (for them or me), or very loose framing where the people become too small, whereas 55mm gives a reasonable working distance (1-2.5m) and a more "normal" look that avoids perspective distortion.

I don't always use B&W as sometimes colour can be more emotive and give locations greater mood, or sometimes just look better because the light and colours in a scene are complimentary. I tend to shoot in B&W as it can focus the attention more on composition and lighting, and then post process to taste. These were mostly processed using camera makers proprietary software as it replicates the in-camera look (which I like) but allows adjustment where necessary - often highlight management and tweaking exposure as the pictures are taken quickly and so may not be exposed quite how I want. When shooting, my focus is composition and subject.

Thanks for your nice comment.

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Christopher

I do enjoy street portraiture, it's something I've been curious to try around town, maybe coupled with one of those new wireless Fuji Instax printers so I could give something away. I haven't ever mustered up the courage to approach people yet, any advice in that regard?

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kiwiana

I don't think I would like it myself, but certainly do admire it. Good on the blokes that do it. Saw a set of photos a while ago, (You Tube  I think.) Street photos in a city or town, low light and wet streets with just the odd figure in the distance and done in black and white. Gee they were nice!

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artuk
3 hours ago, Christopher said:

I do enjoy street portraiture, it's something I've been curious to try around town, maybe coupled with one of those new wireless Fuji Instax printers so I could give something away. I haven't ever mustered up the courage to approach people yet, any advice in that regard?

Christopher, I think it really varies by culture. I mostly photograph this type of work in South East Asia, where attitudes are different to the UK where I live. People in SE Asia are generally more receptive to interacting with strangers, possibly aided because I am clearly a foreigner there. As an outsider there can be an much curiosity about me as I might have about them. People are also (in general) less bothered by having their picture taken, but it does vary by race and culture -,Chinese people all over SE Asia often don't like having their picture taken as they feel you are taking something from them.

I almost always ask permission where it will be obvious what I'm doing (I do occasionally shoot candid pictures or more general scenes with people in). I think the way you ask is important. I tend to make myself conspicuous and hang around until I'm noticed, because personally I find that helps negate any view that you're being "sneaky". I want to be noticed as I want to engage with the people and get them looking at the camera, so sometimes I have to hang around whist people do whatever they are doing until they notice me. I then say hello however I can (we don't always speak the same language) and ask them in a polite friendly way with a smile. The impression you give is very important as if you don't share a language, people will still get an impression of the type of person that you are. I've realised over the years that I've developed a persona for this type of work where I act as if very curious about what's going on, perhaps as if I've never see this type of thing before, and sometimes perhaps like a "stupid" curious tourist marveling at what they are seeing. I always act interested in the people, and speak to them politely with a smile. If they don't understand the words, they can understand your behaviour and your motives and intent. Sometimes people decline, so I thank them politely with a smile and a wave and move on. For me, being breezily cheerful seems to help, though I've noticed that people I have got to know also comment on being humble and modest as being positive qualities - if I barged around like some tourists (usually with very large cameras and lenses) just assuming I had the right to do what I wanted or simply sticking a camera in peoples faces, I would get a different response. Politeness and humility are qualities that most SE Asian cultures seem to respect - and probably in most of the world too.

Sometimes I supply copies on social media, or in some places get prints made and return another day, as many people on the streets are at the same place every day in Asia.

 

Edited by artuk
added thoughts on attitude
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farrell

Thanks for the images. 

I also am one the the possibly hyper-conservative shooters who prefers "normal"

lenses, which I don't view e35 as being.

Lack of  "shooting room" is the only condition where I use e35 or shorter FLs.

Here in the US we don't enjoy the camera-friendly demographics you described,

so subjects need "breathing room".

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MarcoDebiasi

Artuk, here you posted a nice series of images and of comments/replies. Picturewise I would have preferred a little more room on the bottom of some images as to capture the people in their entirety, feet included. 

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artuk
3 hours ago, farrell said:

Thanks for the images. 

I also am one the the possibly hyper-conservative shooters who prefers "normal"

lenses, which I don't view e35 as being.

Lack of  "shooting room" is the only condition where I use e35 or shorter FLs.

Here in the US we don't enjoy the camera-friendly demographics you described,

so subjects need "breathing room".

Focal length really depends where I am, and time of day - I prefer 55mm or maybe shorter at night whereas in the day I often use 85/90mm when there is light to keep the shutter speed up. I will post another thread some time. For across narrow streets or wide pavements, longer focal lengths are good. For very small streets or pavements on the same side 50 or 35 are better. For very close up work or whole shop fronts across smaller streets, 35 or 28 is good. I don't like short lenses as it makes the working distances so close for these type of compositions, but 35mm can work for some things but with a wider field of view and smaller people (more environmental portrait)

1 hour ago, MarcoDebiasi said:

Artuk, here you posted a nice series of images and of comments/replies. Picturewise I would have preferred a little more room on the bottom of some images as to capture the people in their entirety, feet included. 

interesting comment I hadn't noticed. Its one of the negatives of 55mm that the focal length can mean moving too far back (e.g. Into a road), and I try to take the pictures as quickly as possible because usually I have disturbed a moment that I liked and want to capture it with permission - the longer I fiddle around with the camera, the more the moment is gone, the subject gets bored, the situation changes etc. As a result composition, exposure etc may not be exactly perfect - I'm generally looking at peoples faces and the environment they are in, and rarely give their feet a second thought! When I prepare for printing and think about how to present them, they may get cropped slightly or shown in a different format - 6x4.5 often works better as 3x2 can be too loose on the long edge.

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Crikey

@artuk Thanks for sharing these. They reminded me of seeing young Southern European migrants hanging out in Australian cities in the 1960s. Of course almost everything is different, but that air of longing and isolation from family and community is so evocative of the migrant experience.

And technically, I also gravitate towards 55mm on the street ...

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artuk
3 hours ago, Crikey said:

@artuk Thanks for sharing these. They reminded me of seeing young Southern European migrants hanging out in Australian cities in the 1960s. Of course almost everything is different, but that air of longing and isolation from family and community is so evocative of the migrant experience.

And technically, I also gravitate towards 55mm on the street ...

I realised when sharing and discussing some of this type of work with a professional photographer who lives and works in Malaysia (he shoots fashion for Asian editions of glossy fashion magazines) that the thing that attracts me are quiet private moments in places often full of people - I tend to think of them as "stolen moments", a little glimpse into someone else's private world. 

People doing things I find much less interesting - it is the stillness, silence and intimacy of some moments that seem to increasingly attract my eye.

Whenever I use my 35mm at night, when I bring the camera to my eye, I just find the FOV seems too wide, and I don't think suits this type of work as you have to get so close to get a similar composition, or have much looser framing with more environment - notwithstanding @MarcoDebiasicomments about feet, I find a wider view often reduces the intimacy and (for me) doesn't add much to the content.  However, it can work well for creating a sense of isolation, such as the picture attached.  I have occasionally used 28mm but find it far too wide unless trying to photograph things right next to you - although that can be useful for candid work as people may not realise that they are in the frame (helps if you look off into the distance too!).

 

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