Youth Category January 2021 Winner, taken in Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia, by Lim Jiahao, captioned “End of Pilgrimage (Thaipusam)”
As ASIAN Geographic’s annual Images of Asia (IOA) 2021 Photo/Videography Competition looms closer, submissions to our IOA Monthly competition – the precursor to our annual event – are pouring in. We have received stunning photos across the categories, and are now featuring our monthly winners in an exclusive interview!
Below is our interview with Lim Jiahao, the IOA Monthly January 2021 Winner in the Youth category.
AG: What is the story of your beginning and journey to creating great images?
The underlying motivation behind my photography journey has to be my love for magazines such as Nat Geo, Discovery and Asian Geographic. Browsing at top-notch photographs by these publications bring me to places I have never been. Such an experience was a magical one for the young me. This was then followed by my cousin who first purchased a DSLR and showed me photos he took. That was my starting point. As can be seen here, my love for photography was from something general there, it could be portraiture, landscape, documentary and artistic photos. Since then, I began exploring the streets of my city, Kuala Lumpur to capture the essence of the city. My family has been supportive of my passion that they went to the length of sponsoring a portion of my very first DSLR. What followed was my trip to Bali, Yogyakarta, Phnom Penh and many more.
AG: How would you define your style and concepts you enjoy exploring?
My style focuses on composition, off-angles, lighting, shadows, highlights and context. All these things have to be connected to me on a personal level for me to be considered as my style. As for my photos, they are mostly black and white as my photos rely heavily on shadows, highlights and composition.
Concepts I enjoy exploring are personal feelings, social commentary, culture, authenticity, and capturing things people often miss. This to me is the power of photography. It makes something ordinary extraordinary.
There are times I do not wish to present a photo as it is. I would utilise the elements in there to form my own context. But, I tend to leave these contexts as vague as possible as I do not wish photos with a personal touch to have a definitive meaning. Rather, I want its meaning to change as time goes by.
AG: What is great photography to you, and are there any photographers you would like to work with?
Great photography to me is something that captures things we often miss.
I’d also consider something great photography when the photographer himself/herself exhibits lots of personal touch, instead of relying on technology to make a photo more attractive. In fact, most of my favourite photos are from an era when camera technology was not as mature. Photographers that I wish to work with have to be Fan Ho (street photography) and Jimmy Nelson (captures photos of tribes).
AG: What is your preferred imaging gear to work with and why?
My preferred imaging gear is very simple. All I want is something versatile and light. As of now, my gears are the Nikon D5100, 18-55mm Nikkor kit lens, and AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. The 50mm lens has been my sole photo-walk companion for a very long time. To compensate for my gear’s shortcomings, I do tend to use the iPhone 7+ (with no designated additional lens) and work my way there. The reason why I have such “weird” gears for my genre (street, photojournalism and artistic is because I love challenging myself to incorporate meaningful elements with “inappropriate” gear. It forces me to think out of the box and hence developing my senses and creativity.
AG: What is the next Asian destination you’d like to explore and why?
The next Asian destination I wish to visit is Siem Reap. Having been there once when I was young, I realize it has a vibrant culture and a unique community. I have always admired Cambodian history, food, and culture. I wish to be in the old street, the ruins of the temple to document the life of Cambodians of various statuses.
AG: Can you share more about your current and upcoming projects?
My current photography project is on hold. The theme has to do with the outbreak of Covid-19. This has to do with “compromised movements” and the widespread necessity of items such as “mask” and “sanitizer”. I imagine this as a way that people’s activity (movement and consumption pattern) is more controlled and centralized than ever before. This will be a long-term project. This project falls under my definition of social documentary and street photography.