Interview #2 - Khairi Zawawi


Khairi is an emerging portrait photographer from Malaysia and I've recently took notice of his work few months ago. Throughout doing this interview, he is an honest assessor of his work and has concise thoughts on how he wants his work to be. I'm glad to have him for this interview.

He also features on our Favourite Five. See here for his picks.


Ok, let’s start by introducing yourself.

My name is Khairi Zawawi. I've been doing photography for 5 years, and started shooting with models a year after. I'm pretty bad at shooting landscapes 'cos I don't have an eye for it yet

But your work is great!


So what's happening lately?

Nothing much but I'm looking forward to shoot every weekend, at least 4 photo shoots on Saturday and Sunday.

That's productive

I want to concentrate doing fine art. Plan a shoot and do something big. Once a month, perhaps

I'm looking forward to seeing it

Don't put your hopes high. I might screw it.

I know you can - that’s the motivation you need. Ok, so what draws you to photography?

Good photos. I like to see good, beautiful photos. I always download the photos that I like from the Internet.

Still remember your first shoot?

It was at KLPAC with my good college friend. She is an experienced model - very beautiful and sexy

Do you still have the photo?


What attracts you into shooting portraits?

Beautiful girls. Yeah, beautiful girls

That's it?

I love the features of a human face - the wrinkles, the eyes and the lips.

Let’s talk about photo shoot? How do you prepare yourself?

When you do 4 shoots in 2 days, you don't have much time to prepare really. Other than that, I will look at the works of other photographers that influence the style that I want to do for a shoot. I just look at the photos and blend them to my shoot. I guess that's how you improve yourselves.

Cool, so tell me about your process when doing your photoshoot?

I will go to the location and see the place first and just go with the flow. I always do my photo shoot very fast, about 1-2 hours. I use mostly my 50mm lens and sometimes, a reflector. I always imagine how I want the shoot will be like and then, convey it to the model. I try to work within the model's comfort level and if you get to work with a great model, you don't have to do much at all. I will experiment different styling poses and tell them to be expressive as well.

Do you have preferences with the models/subjects that you shoot?

Not really.

So what do you want out of photography?

I want to be a professional fashion photographer in the future. Ideally, models look for me not the other way round.

Do camera gears or photo apps matter in doing your work?

I'm happy with what I have.

Let’s talk about your Favourite 5. My question is why those 5? Was it easy or difficult to choose?

I got a lot of photos that I like

The above photo was actually the first time I did a joint shoot with other photographers and it was also my first time shooting a proper professional model from Brazil. I could say that was a jump start doing photo shoot with overseas models.

It was a great photo, so it was a starting point for you?

I could say that. I've learnt how to approach a mode for a proper shoot. 

I like the fourth one

Thanks. It's the sort of photography that I want to do. It's something different from my other work

Do you feel you are earning enough as a photographer?


How much you think people will value your work?

Few, not a lot. I can see from the number of 'likes' that I'm getting

Do you feel ‘likes’ are true measure of our work?

Not really but it's an indication of people appreciating your work. You can't help it. Even when you say 'likes' don't affect you, it really does actually. For me, photography is very subjective - you shoot what your eyes think is beautiful. That's why I don't comment much about other people's work. I just 'like' the photos to show my support and admiration of their work.

Do you enjoy shooting still?

Yes, of course

You said you like to fine art one day?


What is it that you want to do fine art?

Mind you, I'm not talking about beauty shots. Something like this:

 Credit to Natalia Drepina

Credit to Natalia Drepina

This is nice

There aren't a lot of models who are open to this type of concept.

That’s a shame. Because they prefer beauty type of shoots?


Is it frustrating for you?

A bit. But as long as I'm shooting models then it's fine.

Do you enjoy the process of shooting or the end result of it?

Both. I like to enjoy the shoot still.

Do you feel a sense of competition in photography or doing this for yourself?

I don't feel any competition from others. Everybody has their own style of photography. If a model doesn't want to collaborate with me, I will take it that my works are not good enough but I will try to improve on myself further. 

Are you ok with the attention you get from others on your work?

If only I got the attention

Off-topic - any music that you enjoy or movies that you have watched recently?

I do enjoy slow rock, alternative, anti-folk, jazz and blues. I just watched Mad Max - it is a really good movie.

Anything else you want to say?

Damn the man, long live the empire!

Lastly, Why you describe yourself as the unknown and mysterious ninja?

I prefer to be known with my photography, that's why.