Lights. Cam­era. LOVE!

Award­win­ning im­ages come from shar­ing in the ex­cite­ment, joys and thrills of a cou­ple and their fam­i­lies, Malaysian wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher Louis Pang tells Shiva Ku­mar Thekkepat

Friday - - The Big Story -

Cel­e­brated wed­ding and por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher Louis Pang was ready with his cam­era. He loved the light. Flames from the flick­er­ing In­dian torch were cast­ing lovely shad­ows on a face. A hint of an or­ange glow played on the cheek­bones while the faint light ac­cen­tu­ated the jaw­line. The light added an enig­matic lus­tre to the eyes while ap­pear­ing to em­bel­lish the cos­tume and give it an al­most ethe­real al­lure.

At just the right mo­ment when his sub­ject turned, Louis pressed the shut­ter. The im­age he cap­tured was

not of the bride, how­ever, but of a torch-bearer at a wed­ding held at Neem­rana Fort-Palace in Ra­jasthan.

A clas­sic im­age, it went on to earn Louis a run­ner-up award from among 2,600 im­ages from around the world in the non-wed­ding pho­to­jour­nal­ism cat­e­gory at the 2008Wed­ding and Por­trait Pho­tog­ra­pher In­ter­na­tional (WPPI), re­garded as the ‘Academy Awards’ of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy.

“It was a proud and hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence to win an award along­side some of the most re­spected pho­tog­ra­phers in the world,’’ says the 41-year-old. But this is not Louis’s first award – he’s won 10 since July 2007 at the an­nual com­pe­ti­tion. He is also the first Malaysian and se­cond Asian to win a first place award in WPPI. And to think, pho­tog­ra­phy wasn’t even Louis’ first choice as a pro­fes­sion.

Louis was work­ing as a jour­nal­ist at The Bor­neo Post when cost-cut­ting mea­sures forced him to pick up a cam­era. “My edi­tors wanted me to take some pic­tures while I did my sto­ries,” he says.

Al­though some might think it is un­fair to do two jobs for the salary of one, Louis saw it as a chance to learn a new skill. He soon dis­cov­ered that he loved photographing peo­ple

more than writ­ing about them. “As a rookie, I won two dis­trict-level pho­to­jour­nal­ism awards – one for a pic­ture of a lo­cal politi­cian ad­dress­ing peo­ple, and the other for a photo of il­le­gal im­mi­grants who had lost their homes in a fire.’’

The fact he had been com­pet­ing against sev­eral vet­eran pho­tog­ra­phers gave him con­fi­dence. “I knew then I had tal­ent in pho­tog­ra­phy. Most im­por­tantly, I loved tak­ing pho­to­graphs. The job gave me plenty of op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise daily.”

Af­ter a few years, he quit jour­nal­ism in 2006 to try his hand at be­ing a com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher. “I felt it was time for me to move on to greater chal­lenges,” he says.

Louis felt he could chron­i­cle his­tory and record emo­tions of peo­ple and life in gen­eral a lot bet­ter with his cam­era than he could with a pen. “I felt there was so much more you could do with a cam­era,’’ he says. “Also, it was a more chal­leng­ing field to me than jour­nal­ism.

“Some pho­tog­ra­phers love cap­tur­ing wildlife, land­scapes or food. I am in­stinc­tively drawn to photographing peo­ple. I love meet­ing peo­ple and in­ter­act­ing with them and try­ing to get across an en­tire story in a sin­gle shot.’’

He be­gan by tak­ing the pho­tos at some of his friends’ wed­dings and soon fell in love with, and be­gan to fo­cus on, wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy be­cause of the wide range of feel­ings the cer­e­mony can elicit – joy, bond­ing, pain, stress, calm­ness.

There was an­other rea­son he de­cided on his spe­cial­i­sa­tion: “In the press, if I shot a great pic­ture, peo­ple would see it for a day and then for­get about it. As a wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, my work is ap­pre­ci­ated for a life­time by two fam­i­lies. So for me, I feel there is tre­men­dous pride and sat­is­fac­tion from be­ing a wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher.”

And Louis didn’t just take a bor­ing pic­ture of a bride walk­ing down the aisle or the groom kiss­ing her af­ter the cer­e­mony. “I look for more than just the stereo­typ­i­cal shot of a wed­ding. I want to cap­ture the emo­tions of the cou­ple, and their fam­ily mem­bers... just like I did in one of a bride’s fa­ther break­ing down and wip­ing away a tear dur­ing the wed­ding cer­e­mony.

“Then there was one where the bride was fix­ing her footwear just be­fore walk­ing down the aisle, which was hugely praised by the fam­ily as well as those in the busi­ness.”

Today Louis shoots around 40 to 50 wed­dings a year across the world. He’s done as­sign­ments in places as di­verse as the Philip­pines, Hong Kong, Aus­tralia, In­dia, Sin­ga­pore, the Nether­lands and New York. While he charges Dh300 for an hour’s ses­sion for

‘I love in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple and try­ing to get across an en­tire story in a sin­gle shot’

por­traits, the cost of a wed­ding shoot de­pends on where it is and the du­ra­tion.

“I take a gen­uine in­ter­est in the most im­por­tant day of the cou­ple’s lives,” he says, ex­plain­ing how he makes his pic­tures stand out from those of oth­ers. “I em­pathise with them, I care that they are com­fort­able and happy. When the flow­ers

ar­rive late, I get just as fid­gety. I share the bride’s ner­vous­ness be­fore she heads up the aisle.”

“So, my job as a pho­tog­ra­pher is more than merely get­ting peo­ple to pose or get­ting the light­ing cor­rect,” he says. “More im­por­tantly it is help­ing my sub­jects to for­get they are in a shoot and coax­ing them to con­sciously and un­con­sciously cede con­trol so that I can take great care of them and create amaz­ing pic­tures for them.

“The wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher has to share mo­ments in­ti­mately with the cou­ple through­out the day,” he adds. “It’s when we in­volve our­selves to­tally that we get truly unique and beau­ti­ful mo­ments.”

Louis says that as a pho­tog­ra­pher, what he looks for in wed­ding and event pho­tog­ra­phy is “time­less­ness, ro­mance and el­e­gance.

“That’s what I want to achieve – to sim­ply shoot from the heart. I’m not into chas­ing the lat­est trends. The ‘trendy’ stuff tends to get out­dated af­ter some time. I want to create art pieces that look el­e­gant even af­ter 10 and 20 years.

“Also, it’s im­por­tant that I have great fun with my clients. ‘If you feel good, you’ll look good,’ – that’s my mantra. I make sure ev­ery as­pect of the shoot is taken care of so that my clients can re­lax and be them­selves. That’s why I al­ways get hugs from the bride, groom and fam­ily mem­bers at the end of the shoot. My clients and I be­come best of bud­dies very quickly.”

There’s a sim­ple rea­son why he doesn’t do any other kind of pho­tog­ra­phy: “I love work­ing with peo­ple. I get to in­ter­act with them, get ex­cited with them and for them. I wouldn’t know how to in­ter­act with prod­ucts or land­scape, so I stay clear of that. One piece of ad­vice I give bud­ding pho­tog­ra­phers is that when it comes to shoot­ing wed­dings, if the pas­sion isn’t there, don’t do it.”

Louis’ wed­ding shoots, while beau­ti­ful, are far from con­ven­tional

This photo of a torch

bearer won Louis an award at the ‘Os­cars’ of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy;

the WPPI

This bride’s fam­ily loved the im­age of

her check­ing her shoes be­fore walk­ing

up the aisle

Louis be­lieves he can chron­i­cle events and cap­ture emo­tions bet­ter through im­ages than words

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

It’s not all wed­dings; this por­trait photo earned Louis a third place from WWPI

Louis spoke at a pho­tog­ra­phy sem­i­nar in Dubai re­cently

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