You’ve probably seen the image of Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s first few days in office making its rounds on social media last November. The photographer behind that image is Sadiq Asyraf. The renowned photojournalist’s work has graced the pages of TIME, National Geographic, The New York Times and more. As the new ambassador for Leica Malaysia, Sadiq will be sharing his expertise in alignment with Leica’s goal to nurture talent in the local photography industry. We asked Sadiq to highlight the top shots from his portfolio.
The first time I held a camera was probably when I was in primary school. When I was young, my mother loved taking family photos. She used disposable film cameras back then to capture our memories. My father also had a camcorder and was always recording family videos. I have fond memories of looking through the photo albums with my family and reminiscing about the special moments we shared.
I have always been interested in photography, starting as a hobby at a young age. As I grew older, I wanted to learn more about the craft and joined a photography club at university. There, I met like-minded individuals and made many new friends who shared my passion for photography. Through this experience, I discovered that photography was not just a hobby for me, but a true passion. I found myself constantly looking for new ways to improve my skills and explore the medium.
My primary focus is to tell the truth about what is happening in Malaysia and to document current events. However, as I am based in Malaysia, I also have the opportunity to promote my country to a global audience. Through my images, I aim to showcase the cultures and hidden gems of Malaysia, highlighting the diversity and the unique beauty of our country. By doing so, I hope I can inspire them to understand more about our identity and history. I believe that my images can help to promote a positive image of Malaysia to the world and indirectly show the multi-racial and beautiful places that Malaysia has to offer.
Being a photographer has taught me to be alert to my surroundings and to pay attention to the little details. Photography has trained me to observe and to look not only for the beauty around us but to also appreciate the life journey that everyone has gone through. I have also learned to be more open to new people and to listen to their stories, which has helped me to change my opinions and to learn more about life.
It’s hard for me to pick a single favourite image as every photo I take holds a special memory and story. I always strive to improve my skills and to create better photos, so my favourite image often changes. However, a recent image that stands out to me is one that I took of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament. The angle that I captured was very unique to me as it is not a view that is commonly seen. At the same time, I was able to capture the beauty and grandeur of the house of representatives from an unusual angle which was not possible to be seen by many due to the access restriction.
In my early days of photojournalism, I was mentored by Shamshahrin Shamsudin, a Malaysian photojournalist who has worked for international newswire agencies. He guides me and opens my eyes to photojournalism more deeply. I also like the works of local photojournalists such as Najjua Zulkefli and Nazir Sufari.
Since becoming the photographer to the prime minister, my main reference would be Pete Souza, the photographer to the former US President, Barack Obama, and Adam Scotti, the photographer to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Their work covers everything that happens surrounding their leader, from everyday work to personal life.
One of the most important tips I can share is to understand your subject. Before you begin shooting, it’s crucial to know what you’re going to shoot and to have a clear idea of the story you want to tell. In politics, understanding the behaviour of the politician, their facial expressions, hand movements, body language, and principles will also help you pre-visualize and know about the direction of the story you want to tell. The more you learn about your subject, the easier it will be to anticipate the shots and tell the story. Be prepared, alert, and focused.
I started using the Leica M240 and the Leica Q in 2019. In 2022, I transitioned to the Leica SL2- S which has become my main gear during assignments. I feel that the Leica camera really suits my photography style. The colours captured by the Leica camera are true to life and bring a sense of vibrancy and vitality to my photographs. The subjects appear as they would if seen in person, creating emotive and engaging images. I love how the Leica camera’s colour reproduction is so accurate, it makes my photographs appear more alive and dynamic. The camera’s build and design are also top-notch, it’s a pleasure to use and handle.
My advice for someone who hopes to become a professional photographer is to have passion and persistence in what you do. Forget about the talent, if you love photography, you work hard for it. If you love something, you will always find a way to achieve it. It’s also important to explore different genres of photography, as there are many different specialisations. Try to find one or two areas that you are particularly interested in and focus on developing your skills in those areas.
The most important thing is to keep shooting. The more you shoot, the more you’ll understand yourself and the behaviour of the subjects you want to photograph. With practice and dedication, you’ll develop your own unique style and you’ll be on your way to becoming a professional photographer.
Catch Sadiq Asyraf’s photography exhibition ‘Never Forget: 2020-2022’ from 7th January to 5th February 2023 at Leica Store Kuala Lumpur, Avenue K.
Pictures courtesy of Sadiq Asyraf.
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