Pakistani Doctor Takes a ‘Thinking’ Approach to Photography

Maryam Arif being interviewed

A medical doctor by profession, Pakistani photographer Maryam Arif’s belief-systems are as intrinsic to her photographic projects as her approach to medicine.

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A self-described ‘thinker’, the Lahore-based photographer describes her approach to photography as ‘observational and non-intrusive’.

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Self-taught, Arif originally took photos solely for her personal viewing pleasure. It wasn’t until while studying endocrinology that her passion drove her to make the tough decision to put medicine aside and pursue photography professionally.

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Arif believes her black & white photography has definitely given her the opportunity to put forth her beliefs and ideas in an abstract form. The inspiration for her work is ‘light’ – the way it can change the feel and perspective of something simple and mundane into something extraordinary and magical.

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Purposely taking an abstract or conceptual style approach to photography, Arif’s goal is to allow her images to be open to interpretation and to lead the viewer by subtle clues into the mind behind the photo.

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Vietnamese Photographer’s Nudes Overcome Social Barriers

Thai Phien working with his models

Thai Phien is an award-winning Vietnamese photographer who’s works have been exhibited in over 60 countries. Phien (his full name is Nguyen Thai Phien), was born in 1960 in Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam.

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Among his many works, Phien’s publication of Vietnam’s first nude art photography book, entitled Buoc Thoi Gian (Steps of Time), was met with controversy in his conservative homeland.

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However, overcoming the initial controversy, the work went on to receive the VAPA Cup from the Vietnam Photographic Artists’ Association. This marked the first time the association has bestowed the award on a photographer for a collection of nude photos.

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According to VAPA jury member Duy Anh, “With low key lighting and monochrome techniques, Phien shows women’s physical and spiritual beauty.”

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Phien has been taking nude photos for 22 years. When he won the honor, he said, “I thought of those who worked as my models. They are behind the success of my photos and have bravely defied social stigmas against nude modeling,”

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Versatile Pakistani Photographer Creates Stunning Images

Fayyaz Ahmed

Fayyaz Ahmed is an award-winning photographer based in Karachi, Pakistan. Famous for his fashion and high-end portrait photography, Fayyaz also does occasional documentary work, and has made a name for himself as a director of music videos.

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Without any formal training in photography (he was educated as a computer engineer), Fayyaz used to ‘click his surroundings’ in his mind until he began shooting in 2006 with a newly purchased DSLR.

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Teaching himself photography by reading everything he could on the internet, he began working as a professional photographer in 2007. His creativity and versatile style enabled him to quickly make a name for himself in Pakistan.

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While most of Fayyaz’s work is for editorials and advertisements, he has a great touch in capturing street photos.

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According to Fayyaz, the best advice he received was from a photographer who told him, “When you are shooting a portrait, you have to be quick or the subject becomes bored after a while”.

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Filipina Domestic Helper Makes A Name For Herself In Photography

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Xyza Cruz Bacani is a Filipina street photographer based in Hong Kong, known for her black-and-white photos of Hong Kong street life. Bacani grew up in Bamband, Nueva Vizcaya in the Philippines. Before leaving the Philippines, she studied nursing. It was during this time that her interest in photography first took root, although she couldn’t afford a camera at the time. In order to help earn funds for the education of her siblings, Bacani joined her mother in Hong Kong when she was 18.

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Working as a nanny for the same Chinese-Australian woman who employed her mother, one of Bacani’s tasks was caring for her boss’s seven grandchildren. A few years after she’d moved to Hong Kong, Bacani started taking photos with a Nikon D90 she purchased with money borrowed from her employer.

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With camera her in hand during her spare time, Bacani began prowling the streets of Hong Kong allowing her mood to determine her destination. She honed her photography skills by capturing various aspects of Hong Kong’s Chinese communities as well as the play of light and shadows between the city’s iconic buildings.

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Bacani was encouraged in her photography by her mentor, San Francisco-based photographer Rick Rocamora, who she met on a Filipino photographers’ group on Facebook.

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Bacani has been building a reputation through her striking photographs of ordinary life in Hong Kong. Among her various street images of Hong Kong society, Bacani has also covered the 2014 Hong Kong protests, and documented the lives of other domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Continuing to work as live-in helper, any extra cash she earns from overtime goes toward cameras, lenses and film. Although she loves photography, she says she’ll never leave her day job as “it pays very well.”

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Bacani has been featured in major international publications including the New York Times and Italian Vogue. In 2015, she was announced as a recipient of the 2015 Human Rights Fellowship by the Magnum Foundation, a prestigious scholarship that gave her the opportunity to study in an intensive, six-week-long program at New York University in New York.

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Photo Opportunity: Thaipusam, a Hindu Celebration in Malaysia

Celebrant at Thaipusam with pierced cheeks

Althought the majority of Malaysia is Muslim, the country’s population includes more than two million ethnic Indians, most of whom are Tamil Hindus.

Every year, these Hindu communities celebrate Thaipusam. A public holiday, Thaipusam is a thanksgiving to Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan) for answered prayers, and is also a day of penance. This important Hindu festival is held in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar (usually the end of January).

Sunrise In Batu Caves during Thaipusam festival

In celebration of Thaipusam, over a million Hindus converge on temples nationwide – the most famous being at the Batu Caves (an important religious site for Tamil Hindus on Kuala Lumpur’s outskirts), where hundreds-of-thousands gather.

Participants prepare themselves for the occasion by cleansing their bodies through fasting and abstinence, and usually observe a vegetarian diet for a certain period of time prior to the day of the festival.

Participants at the Thaipusam festival

But the feature of Thaipusam that makes it so fascinating for photographers is the way that the celebrants display their penance.

Skewered devotees at Thaipusam

Many devotees pierce their skin, tongues or cheeks with long skewers in a form of penance, or bear elaborately decorated frames called ‘kavadi’ – typically attached to their body using sharp metal spikes dug into the skin.

Tamil man paying penance at Thaipusam

If you plan on taking photos of Thaipusam, be prepared for a very crowded, hectic and sometimes even claustrophobic experience. However, the shots you get will make it well worth your while.

Hindu devotees at Thaipusam festival, Malaysia

Although Thaipusam is also celebrated in India and Singapore and other countries with large Hindu Tamil communities, in Malaysia it’s marked with a particular zest that makes it special.

Hindu man with skin pierced at Thaipusam

Nepali Female Photojournalist Documents Life

Uma Bista - selfie with her father

Uma Bista is both a photojournalist and documentary photographer in her native Nepal. Born and raised in Kathmandu, Uma’s first encounter with photography was when she took up a short course while she was in the 12th grade. Further to that, she attended many photography workshops to improve her craft.

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Rebelling against her parents’ dream for her to become a nurse, Uma pursued her passion for photography, eventually working full-time with two of Nepal’s leading newspapers – The Himalayan Times and The Annapurna Post.

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When asked about her passion for photography, Uma replies, “I love all kinds of photography. But especially I prefer documentary photography. It covers everything. I want to document people, the joy, the love, the anger, the mystery, the feelings, the humor, the sadness. I feel happy while doing this.”

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Uma’s work has been exhibited at “Kathmandu, Kathmandu”, “The Constant Change”, “Mega Bank Photo Exhibition”, and “Opportunity Knocks” at Chobi Mela VII in Dhaka. Her photos have also been published in the books “The Constant Change” and “Nepal The Land of Contrast”.

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Meeting a female working as a photographer in Nepal is rare. Few locals take up photography professionally, and among them there are very few women. This makes Uma’s accomplishments in photography even more unique.

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Indonesian ‘Hobbyist’ Photographer Creates Breathtaking Black and White Photos

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Hengki Koentjoro is a fine art photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Born in Semarang, Central Java, his love affair with photography began when his parents gave him a Kodak pocket camera as a birthday present when he turned 11 years old.

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After graduating from California’s Brooks Institute of Photography with a major in film/video production and minor in Black & White photography, Hengki returned to Indonesia and settled in Jakarta. There, he works as a videographer and video editor. His video work mostly consists of corporate profiles, TV commercials, and nature documentaries.

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Although Hengki claims photography is just a serious hobby that he indulges in his spare time, his images have won countless awards worldwide. It’s easy to understand why.

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Hengki’s preference for black and white photography is influenced by his admiration for the work of Ansel Adams. In his own words, Hengki says of Adams, “His ability to control the tonality to create moods and atmosphere captivated me and my passion started from there and I never looked back”.

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Practicing Ansel Adam’s Zone System, before shooting, Hengki tries to envision his subjects in black and white. He believes this helps in choosing the proper subject matter, composing the photo, and forecasting how the resulting image will look.

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The ability to play around with tones allows Henki to create atmospheric photos that beautifully balance a combination of composition, texture, shapes and lines.

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“Photography can never be separated from the aspects of making the common things unusual, welcoming the unexpected, indulging and embracing ourselves with the joy of photography”. Hengki Koentjoro

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Prashant Panjiar – Veteran Photojournalist in India

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A self-taught independent photojournalist, Prashant Panjiar is one of India’s best-known photographers.

The students play on the hill adjoining the Gurukul.

Based in New Delhi, Prashant specializes in reportage – editorial and documentary photography. A veteran in his field, he also works as a consulting editor, curator, and educator.

A fisherman with his catch, Veerampattinam, Pondicherry.

Actively involved in guiding young photographers in India, Prashant is one of the three senior photographers who select and mentor young documentary photographers for National Foundation of India’s fellowship program. He is also a co-founder of the Delhi Photo Festival, and the Nazar Foundation.

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Born in 1957, Prashant is a post-graduate in Political Science from Pune University, India. During his university days, he developed his photographic skills working on photographic projects that focused on peasant movements and other social issues.

A farmer plows his field before the start of the sowing season.

From 1984 through 2001, Prashant worked for several major Indian magazines as a photographer and eventually editor. Since 2001, he has devoted himself to being a full-time independent photographer specializing in editorial and documentary photography. Prashant’s work is regularly published in leading magazines both in India and abroad.

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Travel Photography Spots in Shanghai

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Similar to other major Asian cities, Shanghai has some great locations for visitors to photograph. Whether you’re looking for modernity, or tradition, Shanghai has something for you.

Lujiazui Skyline

The Bund (along the waterfront of Huangpu River) is a great spot to take photos of Shanghai’s iconic skyline. The skyline is at its best at night with dazzling neon lights and lit cruise ships reflected in the river.

Around Old Town Shanghai

A fun place to visit is Shanghai Old Town. Very touristy, but the traditional buildings and markets combine to make a fun photo walk. (Just to the northeast of the old town is the splendid Yu Garden, whose landscaping and traditional structures offer some more subjects to photograph).

Shanghai Film Park

A unique photo opportunity is a visit to Shanghai Film Park. This is one of China’s largest active outdoor movie studios, with impressively open access. — you can walk around (and shoot) sets of old Shanghai, and if you’re lucky you’ll also see some actual actors scurrying about.

Qibao Ancient Town / Shanghai

If you have time, eighteen kilometers from Shanghai city center you’ll find Qibao, a typical China water town. Qibao is a wonderful place to take photos of ‘old China’. The old town is composed of two canals crossed by three stone bridges. These are surrounded by old stone-paved streets connected with many side lanes.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Canon and Nikon Collaboration Produced Japan’s First Camera

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The origins of Canon date back to the founding of its predecessor, Seiki Kogaku Kenkyusho (Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory) in 1933. At the time, German Leica and Contax cameras dominated the market – although they were quite expensive. But when Goro Yoshida disassembled one, he was shocked to find it was constructed of relatively simple parts made of inexpensive materials such as brass, aluminum, iron and rubber.

Together with his entrepreneur brother-in-law Saburo Uchida, and Takeo Maeda, Yoshida founded the company to develop an alternative to the Leica – a 35mm rangefinder camera that people actually could afford.

Kwanon prototype

In 1934, Yoshida’s prototype camera was ready – a 35 mm focal-plane-shutter camera. The prototype was named the ‘Kwanon’, the name of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The camera’s lens was called ‘Kasyapa’, named after Mahakasyapa – a disciple of Buddha.

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At this time, the company adopted a logo for the camera. The logo included the word ‘Kwanon’ together with an image depicting the thousand-armed Kwanon and flames.

In 1935, while Precision Optical went about planning how to produce their cameras in quantities to bring them to market, the decision was made to change the Kwanon name to ‘Canon’.

Nippon Kogaku Kogyo logo (1939-1949)

At this early stage in the company’s history, Precision Optical lacked the resources and facilities to produce an entire camera on their own, so they turned to another Japanese company for help. The company they selected was Nippon Kogaku Kogyo (Japan Optical Industries), an established optical manufacturer that had been in business since 1917. (Nippon Kogaku later became today’s Nikon Corporation).

Nippon Kogaku agreed to build and provide Seiki Kogaku with the rangefinder mechanism, focus mount, and the all-important lenses needed for their new camera. The lens was a Nikkor 5cm f/3.5.

Hanza Canon

With this technical support, Precision Optical’s first production model camera – the ‘Hansa Canon’ – went on sale in 1936.

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Nippon Kogaku’s contribution to the Hanza Canon can be seen on the camera itself. Early models are clearly marked “Nippon Kogaku” on the bottom of the focusing helical. And of course, the name ‘Nikkor’ can be seen on the lens. (Nikkor lenses continued to be used in Canon cameras until 1948, when Canon began using their own lenses – which were sold under the ‘Serenar’ brand name).

Canon Serenar 5cm 50mm f2 lens

So, with the help of Nippon Kogaku Kogyo (Nikon), Precision Optical (Canon) had succeeded in launching Japan’s first 35 mm focal-plane-shutter camera.

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Although the Hansa Canon didn’t introduce any revolutionary features, it is credited with putting a Japanese camera in the same league as Leica – quite a coup for the company that would later become Canon.

The Hansa Canon also kick-started Nippon Kogaku on the road to becoming Nikon. Although they had produced camera lenses in small numbers before, the Hanza Canon marked Nippon Kogaku’s entry into the mass production of camera lenses – which eventually led to their entrance into camera manufacturing.

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The collaboration between Seiki Kogaku Kenkyusho and Nippon Kogaku Kogyo marked the beginning of Japan’s camera industry.