“Call me Mango, of Mango Loke. Yes, just like the Mango fruit.” This was how this absolutely lively and energetic travel photographer introduced himself to me, as I sat dumbstruck looking at his almost alive and talking Travel Portraits. Haunting eyes and mysterious smiles, every picture of his has a story to tell. Living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the past ten years, he earns his living with professional photography and travels for the passion of telling new stories and meeting new people. On a journey to know more about the people he clicks, he gave me my chance to know him better, as I joined him to flip through his collection of clicks he treasures till date and scribbled my notes of his experiences to share…
How did it all start?
Well, how did it start? I had a short photography course during my college years. Unfortunately I didn’t continue studying it as it was during the film era of photography. It was expensive and every click was money, so I couldn’t afford to continue doing it. Until, the digital camera era came about to kick start my passion of photography again.
Why Travel Photography?
For me Travel came first, and then came photography. I love to inspire people with what I have seen, where I have been and what I have experienced through the world of photography. It is the one medium that documents life visually to share it with everyone.
Your signature style?
I would like to say that travel photography is my style, but indeed portraits stand out more in my collection.
Do you choose the people you click?
Yes, I pick and choose the people who I should click. I talk to them first and always communicate with them to decide.
Anything specific you find in a person’s face that makes you click?
I always practice putting ‘content’ as the first priority in my picture. To click a person during a trip, I always seek for the visual story of that person. It might be their appearance, their costume, or their occupation, living style and so on…
Portrait Photography is a challenge. Especially because it involves people. What are the difficulties you face?
The challenge is always ‘how to let them say yes to you’. I always respect their willingness to be photographed, and most of times I would not click a person without their permission.
How do you make them pose for a picture? Any specific tricks or tips?
Always start with a manner of respect. Communicate with them nicely, be humble and seek for their permission. Once the green light is on, click it quickly. Get it done before it turns back red. People always feel uncomfortable while facing a camera by a stranger, so you need to be proactive.
The most special thing about your portraits?
Well, this is a question I can write an essay on. During all my trips, if the situation allows, I do deliver a print of a portrait picture as a gift to those who I have photographed. In a civilized and a developed country, a photo is too easy to obtain and therefore its value is not appreciated. But in remote locations and different underdeveloped corners of the world, a picture portrait matters a lot to people. Making love, peace, harmony with each other is what the people I click believe in and I share with them a little bit of happiness with my photography. That is the most special part and also the least I can do to contribute in this world. Peace and Happiness 🙂
Recommend a camera and equipment to click mesmerizing portraits…
I personally use a Canon 1dx. But every camera can capture a good portrait. If you really want to be specific, then technically the lens is more important, especially the focal length is always the most crucial. Anything between a 50mm to 200mm can be a good portrait focal length, along with a large aperture lens which can always give a nice “Bokeh” (photography term) to stand out the person from the background.
Five things you need to click a perfect portrait?
Believe in post editing the pictures?
Yes, I do edit my pictures in terms of the colour contrast and other minor editing. But no “+” or “-” to the original content of the photograph. The minor editing is only to enhance the picture, to be more pleasing to the eyes of the viewers, without changing the originality of the photograph.
That one moment that makes you click…
A picture that can tell a thousand words, almost like a complete picture story. I look for that one precious moment that tells that story.
Among all places you have traveled to, which one was your Favorite?
In the past few years I did travel to few different countries such as Vietnam, Nepal, China, Mongolia, but India is still my favorite destination. And I am still planning to go back and forth until I walk through the whole country.
Tips for fellow Portrait Photographers?
A manner of respect always comes first, if you want to photograph the people that you meet while on a trip. Other than your hardware and camera technique, how a photographer communicates with the person to be photographed is always the key. Break the ice, make them feel comfortable about facing your camera. Your sincerity is one thing that people can feel and will give you a green light. Last but not the least, try not to use money for buying any photo opportunity, but actually practice to create it.
Another person. Another portrait. Another story…
Your favorite picture story?
The Baltistan Family. A precious group picture of the three generations of a Baltistan family. Their story is something we might never experience – They live in the Turtuk village on the border of India and Pakistan. They sleep in Pakistan, and the next morning they wake up in India…
How do portraits inspire you?
The world is big, with almost 70 billion different kinds of people out there. Being humble and respecting the differences within each other is what I learn when I meet and click them. It inspires me to keep learning and keep exploring.
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