Interview #9 - Miemie Loh
Let's start by introducing yourself
My name is Miemie Loh, or getmied. I am a twenty-two years old freelance photographer from Malaysia, taking a major in photography as I furthered my studies in England, UK.
What’s happening lately?
I am a full-time assistant photographer in Imagerom and Metalbees. I have been in my comfort zone for quiet some time, therefore I decided to venture out into the bigger world of photography. However, my full time job has been rather time consuming which means balancing my personal and social life is a struggle.
What draws you into photography?
Passionately, I have been in the photography bandwagon for 9 years. I was 13 years old, travelling about in Hong Kong with my family for a holiday. My mother had a Fuji digital camera that she brought along with her. I was fooling around with the camera like the kid that I am, causing my parents to recognise the talent I possessed. There is something nostalgic about photography. Quickly snapping as a moment presents itself before you, causing that moment to freeze in place - time forever frozen still. A time capsule we reminisce. It is like going down memory lane when recreating such moments again - satisfaction taking its place.
What attracts you into shooting portraits?
It is a personal connection between the talent, lens and myself. The communication is between the talent and the lens. Is it all about the talent; what they posses inside to shine on the outside. It is their story to tell. Are they romantic, wild, fragile etc.? I wish to capture the story they hold and when they look back at the photographs I want them to think, “Damn it, I’m beautiful."
What was your first shoot like?
I would say it is pretty embarrassing but you would have to start somewhere to be where you are now. My younger sister was my first victim. She had a lot of makeup and glitter on her face one day and I decided that I wanted to capture that. Unfortunately, I do not have those photographs anymore. It is now lost in one of my old laptops for about 6 years now.
How does the environment (the place you live at) influence the way you shoot?
To be frank, the environment I live in does not inspire me. I used to live in England. Therefore, I am influenced by the living there instead. I brought that lifestyle home with me. Now that I am working in a studio where I assist a lot of major shoots, editorials and commercials - it introduces me to the Malaysian photography culture such as their styles, lighting and mood. It is rather more dramatic than settling.
What is the photography scene like over there?
Competitive. There are a lot of aspiring photographers. However, it is unlikely for many to actually be one even though you are being mentored. They want you to do good but never better than them.
How did assisting photographers feel like? How is working with Imagerom and Metal bees?
Being an assistant is not easy at all, people assume the industry is all glamorous and glitter but it is not. It is true, I get to be on set with celebrities and amazing people who create art every day and I get to help create the magic. What most people don't know is that our working hours are insane. We spend more than 12 hours on set at work everyday. Restless, as I only get three to four hours of sleep. We are always rushing to freeze the moment. There is no such thing as impossible, we do almost everything and we get to learn from it. I deal with heavyweight equipments, I could say it is a workout. There are days, I get bad bruises or cuts on set. So far, it is a good experience.
How different is photography in England and in Malaysia?
One word - divergent. In Malaysia, jobs are always done in last minute. This is one of the reason why we are always rushing and feel restless. If you flip through any Malaysia's fashion magazines, the style of photography is rather dramatic when it comes to colours and harsh lightings. I worship the work ethics in England - you get more pay for last minute jobs. I adore the style of photography - it is settling and soft. You will always have fun on set, regardless how exhausting. Everyone is so friendly.
How do you prepare before doing a shoot?
It is such a hassle. To begin, I would have to recce (ed - that is term of scouting) for locations; ensuring the suitability of the place and it is what I want. Getting permissions are important. Lightings comes next. I often use daylight lighting, therefore I would have to ensure that the lighting is on my side for the day and to plan ways on controlling it. The talent’s wardrobe is all handpicked by yours truly before moving on to the talent’s makeup and hair. I would have to make sure that it suits the talent; bringing out the good side out of them. Embracing their beauty. Props are handy too. Last, I would have to plan the camera kit I am going to use and how is it going to capture the moment being portrayed before me later on.
Do you have specifics on models or subjects?
I do. Bone structures are very important to me and as I said before, I would prefer talents who are able to communicate through the lens.
Go through the process of doing the actual shoot.
Call times are always early. 2 hours will be needed in order to prepare the makeup, hair and to get the location itself - setting up included. It does not take a long time to shoot as I know exactly what I want. If the talent inspires me, I would push the hours with more locations and shoots. Once the shoot is done, lunch/high tea will always be provided for the team. Finally, I will DI (digital imaging) the photographs as soon as possible.
Any works of other photographers that you follow?
Do gears or camera apps matter to you in creating images?
Back in the days, I shoot more with films. As I ventured further into the industry, it brought a lot of differences when it comes to capturing and embracing a moment as there are a lot of gears out there with different functions. There are times, they do not exactly give you what you want. You do not to have to have the specific camera or lens to get what you want. Improvise, be creative. Anything is possible.
Are you earning enough as a photographer?
It pays for my necessities and it supports my lifestyle.
How much you think people will value your work?
I do not know. I see my work as something that inspires me. If something hit me, I captured it and I could only hope that others would see it too. - the story that it holds between the world and the photograph.
Do you still enjoy shooting like before?
I enjoy it a lot more now. Take away my passion and I am dead.
How do you deal with the attention you get as a photographer?
I do not pay attention to the attention I get. It is about my artwork. I hope to inspire others as they come across it. When that day comes to each and everyone of them - good on them.
What do you want out of photography?
It started out as a hobby but if I have to work with it, so be it that I am and I will enjoy my job. I do not have to work a single day.
Any music you listen to lately? Or books that you recently read and movies for us to check out?
I am very into indie rock such as San Cisco, Best Coast etc. Any books by Stephen Chbosky and Haruki Murakami are good. I really enjoy heavy dramas.
If you’re not shooting, what do you do to wind down or relax?
I do not have the time to relax. I am either building my own portfolio or I am a busy assisting photographers on shoots. To be honest, I do not get enough rest so I sleep whenever I am free.
Do you enjoy the process of shooting or just the end results?
Definitely the process. From the moment I wake up to the moment I shut my eyes. Being an art student, the process is important. That is where you are in control of the details and to ensure a good outcome.