Interview #3 - Jacqueline Liew Kah Ling

Foreword:  I've known Jacqueline through Instagram this year. It's a funny thing what Instagram does to photographers. We follow each other and say how much we admire the work. Then, we get to each other and later become friends - online for now. We hope to meet each other in the future and same goes to other photographers I have befriended over the times. 

Jacqueline loves to shoot as you can read along the interview. Photography is embedded in her blood! She has ambitions and I guess, nothing can stop her from doing what she loves. Her passion and enthusiasm are apparent in her work. I think, we as photographers, we just need to keep moving to reach our goals and - believe what you do!

You can find her work here and on Instagram

Ok let’s start with a bit of introduction about yourself

Okay, people call me Jackie for short. I’m 20 this year, 19 and a half to be exact! I’m currently in my second year degree in Communication, majoring in advertising major and minoring in journalism. I'm a self-taught photographer, part-time barista and a full-time gym junkie.

What draws you into photography?

Photography started in 2009, back when I was 14. I was just a small kid with a digital camera, running around shooting random stuff around me and editing the photos online on that “family-friendly” software. As time went by, I realised that I felt deeply passionate about photography, so I convinced my dad that I was serious about photography and so he bought me my first DSLR. And this was how it all began. Although it was just an entry-level DSLR, the first few months of using the DSLR was a struggle because I forced myself to use the manual mode. I didn't have a clue what was aperture and shutter speed back then. So after few months of trial and error, I got the hang of it and I started to get better and better at it. Soon after that, I was introduced in using Adobe Lightroom, where I can edit photos professionally. In 2014, a random thought kept me thinking, telling me that it is time to grow bigger, so I did. I bought myself a full-framed camera, a second-hand 5D Mark II. When I got my full-frame camera, I started doing collaborations with various undiscovered models, make-up artists and other photographers as well. I’ve met a lot of amazing photographers along the way that kept me inspired daily, such as Razlan Yusof, Jeremy Choy, BryzoidNeave Bozorgi and Matthew Priestley.

Ever remember you first shoot?

Yeah. It was just a casual collaboration with 3 models and another photographer. We were all inspired by an abandoned mansion in KL, so we all went there for an editorial shoot. I was nervous at that time because it was actually my first time working with other people on a shoot. I usually work on my own, but that was a fresh start though. Luckily the photos turned out pretty well, I even got one of my "winning shot" from that day.

Do you have that photo?

Honestly, if it wasn’t for that photo shoot, I wouldn't have so many collaborations with other photographers and I wouldn’t have exposed myself in this field this much.

So, do you prefer collaborations or doing it on your own?

 I love collaborations! I can exchange ideas and knowledge with other photographers as well. As long as the photographer and models are in the same direction, I think we can make a great team. But even if the directions are different, it makes me think in his/her shoes so it's not that bad after all. I was so used to be in my comfort zone last time and that is why I felt reserved to collaborate with anyone back then

I guess my next question is what attracts you so much in doing portraits?

The thing that attracts me to shoot portraits is because my photos represent my reflections and thoughts. With the help of the models, they can express feelings and emotions through the photographs - they are telling stories through the scope of glass. Other than that, shooting portraits allow me to combine it with fashion because I personally love fashion as well. Fashion always drives me to try different things because it always changes, and that is why fashion has a big impact on my visions and photographs.

Ok, how do you prepare yourself before any shoot?

Before any shoot, I would do some research on the make up if there's anything specific on how the colours and texture of the make up should be. And of course, don’t forget the outfit. Those are the 2 important elements for me to consider before doing any shoot. Lastly, I also decide on the location, but I don’t always get the chance to check out the location of shooting every single time, but if I have the privilege, I'd check out the shooting location beforehand to get myself used to the surroundings and get myself comfortable. It allows me to visualize how my photographs should be.

So you create the makeup?

I do it most of the time, because sometimes makeup artists are pretty hard to approach. I do ask the models first if they can do their own make up before the shoot but if they can't do it, I will be the photographer plus the makeup artist for that day! If the shoot needs some drastic make up, I would invite or hire professional artist to do it.

Fair enough. Next, on the day of the shoot, what is your usual process when you do it? How do you go through during the shoot?

Before the shoot, I sometimes make an inspiration clipboard and send it to them so that the models have a rough idea of what vibes I want to explore. During the shoot, I will just explain what I visualize and just direct them. I would, most of the time, show the pictures I took of the model and then discuss with them about the angles and the body languages. I usually play some music that relates to the theme of the shoot - to get the models and myself into the mood and. I call it - " the zone"

 I’ve seen your portfolio. I like how you put them into series

My photos are sometimes inspired by my thoughts. I write sometimes, so when I’m writing, I visualize images in my head. It makes me easier to write this way. After I'm done with my copy, I would sometimes use the ideas that my copy gave me and translate it into pictures. The series that are on my website are complimented with my copy. And this is how I started all my "series" I guess.

Are there any specific subjects/models that you like to work with?

I love models with extraordinary features and vibes. They don’t have to be pretty or good looking - I just want their "vibes" in my photos .  I think that everyone is a model because as long as they translate the feelings on the photos, they are great models to me.'

Let’s get back to your Favourite 5. Any reasons for your choice? Is it easy or difficult to choose?"

The first picture of a kid was shot with pure luck. I was just shooting randomly at a charity event and - boom! - that is one of my favourite shots of all time!

The second picture with all the bokeh around - it was just an experiment I did with a random tool I found on the ground in previous photo shoot. So I thought it would be cool, so I just put it around the my lens. The effect from the tool was magnificent. 

The picture of the ballerina speaks a lot, as you can see the surrounding and colour tone of that picture is bright and colourful, but her expression gave another perspective - she looked sad and worried. I like the picture because of the contrast between the tone of the picture and her expressions.

 Lastly, the picture with a girl lying on the staircase was a difficult shot to get 'cause I was shooting from the 'cliff' of the mansion. The picture totally captures the whole mansion in one picture, with the marble floor as the background and its classy architecture. People who went or shot there before can definitely recognize the place because it represents the significance of the mansion.

Are you earning enough as a photographer?

I am not earning anything yet as a photographer because I am still building up my portfolio. Plus, I think I am a little bit picky of what job I'm taking because I feel like I have the responsibility to make sure that I have 101% confidence of what I am shooting. I'm not just representing myself as a brand, I am representing the person that hires me as their photographer. But, I am open and reserved for any opportunity that is coming my way.

How much people will value your work?

They usually approach me and ask me how much my work will cost, but I couldn't quote them cause I'm bad in dealing with money (laughs). I won't charge too high, but I will not charge too low as it will spoil the market.

How do you feel about the attention you get?

I would say my pictures are getting some attention. But I still feel like I'm pretty undiscovered because I don't expose my work too much in other platforms. I feel like some photos deserve more recognition than it is actually getting now. But, so far I am pretty satisfied with the attention I'm getting but one says, "men are always greedy"!

Of course, I would like my photography to be big one day in Malaysia and hopefully, internationally as well. But who knows? I don't have a Facebook page for my photography because I am still struggling with creating a name for it!

Anything that excites you in the future?

For now, not really. But I am excited to get a soft box soon, so that I can make my room into a mini studio. I am trying to venture as a food photographer, once my mini studio is set up. I can bake or do more collaborations with chefs or bakers to create "delicious" photographs!

Do you like food?

I love food! What if I say that I workout so that I am granted to eat? Got to get the #gains going!

Haha, you deserve it. I eat a lot as well. How about coffee? How crazy are you into coffee?

Coffee! I have it almost everyday! I feel that my day is complete after I had coffee. My favorite coffee is piccolo - the milk and espresso proportions are at my liking. It's strong enough but not too sweet. And I’m planning to take a course on coffee so that I can be a legit barista. But I have to say, local kopi-o isn’t as bad as it seems even the smell of coffee beans cheers me up!

Off topic. Do you listen to any good music? Good movies to watch?

I am really picky with what music I'm listening to. My favorite genre is rock, but I like alternative, nu-metal, post-hardcore and metal as well. My favourite bands are Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon, Royal Blood, Deftones and Limp Bizkit. I love Linkin Park too, but I miss their old music like Meteora and Hybrid Theory. I find that indie music are pretty good as well, such as The 1975, Lewis Watson, Banks and Mac Demarco.

As for movies, The Grand Budapest is one of my favourite - the movie is just brilliant! Fight Club is my favourite classic movie and I love all Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton's movies. They are both my favorite directors.

How does living in Kuala Lumpur influence in the way you shoot?

KL has influenced my photos to be pretty colorful. Because they are so many mixtures in our Malaysian community, and every culture and all seems so beautiful that you just want to add it all in into a picture.

Do you still enjoy shooting?

I still enjoy shooting.  I don't think I will stop exploring KL just to look for new locations to shoot or to get inspired.