lifestyle & documentary photographer

How Not to Think Like a Photographer


Ariff Awaluddin

Soraya Yusof  Talismail

Saturday 9th June : 10 am – 1 pm  Slideshow and Talk
Venue : The Warehouse Gallery, 198 Jalan Tun H S Lee

Yes, we were there.

A bit about Soraya Yusof Talismail, as mentioned in KLPA blog. She is one of Malaysia’s finest artist-photographers. A photography graduate from MARA Institute of Technology, Soraya began to delve in portraiture through her stint as Personal Photographer to HRH, Tuanku Bainun, consort of HRH, Sultan Azlan Shah, the 9th King of Malaysia. During her royal engagements, she had the opportunity to take personal shot of important global leaders like HRH Queen Elizabeth II and the late Yasser Arafat. In 2008, she had a major solo exhibition Imaging Selfs at the Petronas Gallery and in 2009, she was offered to exhibit her works in Manhattan, New York. A personal triumph, Imaging Selfs: New York features 29 portraits of Malaysia’s finest artists, celebrated for their American-Malaysian ties in artistic creativity. Currently, Soraya runs her own company, Talismail Inc., specializing in Fine Portraiture and corporate photography. In 2007, Soraya with her entrepreneur-artist husband, Ariff Awaluddin set upwallspace@kokopelli gallery, an alternative exhibition space for aspiring artists.

Ariff Awaluddin began his career in arts as a theatre and arts tutor, while pursuing his love for dance and theatre. Ariff eventually progressed to choreography, making his mark on many renowned Malaysian stage productions. With a keen eye for detail, it was a matter of time before Ariff picked up yet another skill – Photography. His first exhibited photographic pieces were put on show in ‘Angin’, a group photography exhibition in 2006.

We were attracted to attend the talk to get to know her better and to know what she has to share. And Soraya, being a fine art photographer is where we see we can relate ourselves to. It was a very insightful talk that we have been to. Soraya and Ariff shared a lot of their experience during their early days and even till now. It was more of sharing our thoughts and opinion, not on photography specifically but more on the reality and the purpose of us to take up photography.

Soraya shared some of her previous and recent work where most of them are portraits of VVIP including the past HRH King and Queen. She said photographers also need their time and space. It is not just about a click of a button. What matter most is the connection between the photographer and the subject. They must open themselves and put their trust on the photographer…and equipment is just a tool.

Relating her opinion and experience on the KL Photo Award, she said that there were many entries from Malaysia which are TECHNICALLY superb, but the obvious problem are that the photos fell short on the concept and message it brings. We totally understand and agree with her.

Meanwhile, Ariff said that we have to look back at ourselves. We have to look back at our roots. “Di mana kita, apa bangsa kita dan apa agama kita”. He also advised us to travel. People are different in other places. “Rumput di Malaysia tak sama dengan rumput di Zurich”. What we should be creating are timeless photos. Photos that we can look back at. Photos with message.

At the end of the day what we understand is that:

  • photography is not all about technical;
  • equipment is just a tool;
  • when you have the knowledge, you are more confident;
  • connection between photographer and the subject is very important;
  • photographer need their time and space to CREATE their art. (“Kalau kita order roti canai pun kita kena tunggu”- Ariff);
  • you have to know when to push the shutter;
  • don’t sell mouse, sell elephants;
  • prints, prints and more prints (yes, we totally agree, images aren’t worth that much if kept in CDs);
  • do your own exhibition even if its only for your family and neighbours to see; and
  • what is the message that we want to put across with our photos

and as what Soraya says of her work,”The photos are not perfect, but those imperfection is what makes it perfect”.


[…] It doesn’t have to be perfect. I remember what Soraya Yusuf Talismail said during one of her talks that we attended in 2012, the photos are not perfect, but those imperfection is what makes it […]

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