Driven by mundane scenes and inanimate objects, Malaysian-based commercial photographer Fareez Siva's photography evokes a special feel to it, effortlessly reflecting the mood of where he is with an impeccable eye for the finer details. Shooting on both film and digital, Siva's photography has gone on to gather an impressive amount of admirers and followers in a short span of time. We spoke to him about what aspects of photography stands out to him and his favourite places to shoot in Malaysia.
"I'm based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but born and bred in a suburban town called Johor Bahru. I graduated in BA (Hons) in Communications but I’m currently working as a commercial photographer and freelance graphic designer. However, I express myself best and more personally through fine art photography. Most of my knowledge in photography and graphic design are self-taught. I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else in life right now. Photography keeps finding its way back to me. It started when my late dad bought me a point-and-shoot film camera when I was 11. I’d usually be the only one among my friends who always had a camera with me to capture moments and I remember in high school I could spend hours fiddling with Photoshop. I was very keen to study photography for university but was discouraged by my family as they worried it might not be a stable choice for a career. Photography found its way back to me again through Instagram five years ago and it stuck through. I realised how much I found joy in expressing myself through pictures, my love for it rekindled and made the decision to learn as much as I can on my own to pursue photography more seriously as an artist and a professional."
“I’ve been shooting more digital the past two years since I’ve been doing a lot more commercial work and just invested in my first DSLR but I keep my film for my personal work. Film got me started and film is how I would like to end. Canon AE-1 was the first SLR I purchased to really start my journey as a photographer and it was a great companion I learnt a lot from as an amateur. Nowadays, my point and shoot Contax T2 is my go-to buddy - simple, no frills, compact enough, and never disappoints with quality. I don’t need to think of the technical with the T2. Just frame and shoot." Siva’s photography doesn’t necessarily pin itself to a specific category in photography but it’s his beautiful vision that he manifests so well in every photo he captures - whether it’s of a mirror on a wall or a ray of light passing through an alleyway. With an eye tailor made for photography, we asked the photographer about the elements that stand out to him; “It’s the play of composition mostly. The harmony of colours, lines, light, shadow, and subject matter or lack of it like negative space. If these factors hit an emotion, especially without the need of a narrative or even a caption, I’m sold."
"I think it’s important to have another outlet to express yourself when you’re stuck so when you go back to it, your mind or soul’s refreshed."
"My favourite series is something I’m working on currently about traffic cones from a recent trip to Tokyo. I have an obsession for shooting mundane scenes or inanimate objects. I love shooting still life. I find these scenes or objects have personality and character but they’re often drowned out by our busy and chaotic human lives. Someone just needs to shed some light on them so people notice their beauty and I feel compelled to share that beauty or their significance in our daily scenes or lives through pictures. My photographs are mostly mostly spontaneous. I feel my best work comes out of spontaneity. The approach feels more organic and present in the moment. I think inspiration comes spontaneously too. You can’t plan, summon it or force it, you gotta be open, let it grow and flow from your intention to create. No matter how much you plan, if you’re not inspired, your work will reflect. When I’m short on creative juices for photography, I experiment with paper collage art or hand drawn illustrations to keep the juices flowing. I still get to practice my composition through these mediums. I think it’s important to have another outlet to express yourself when you’re stuck so when you go back to it, your mind or soul’s refreshed."
"My top two photographers are Saul Leiter and William Eggleston. I look up to Eggleston’s eye for composition and colour for still life but I feel like I resonate more to Saul Leiter. Leiter’s not just a master of colour and composition like Eggelston but I guess I can relate to his personality and style of shooting that puts him on top of my list. It’s not just his still life that speaks to me but also his style in shooting people, almost a voyeuristic or non-intrusive approach. I also admire that he actively experiments with painting as other means to express himself and his weird obsession for umbrellas. Petaling Street in KL, Georgetown in Penang, and Jonker Street in Melaka. I think those places I feel best represents Malaysian diversity in culture for me. As cliché as it sounds, Malaysia literally is a melting pot of culture. Of the places I’ve travelled in the world, it’s difficult to find a mosque, hindu temple, buddhist temple, and church within the same area or street. It’s so colourful here in all aspects of the word. People, architecture, food, lifestyle, and the list goes on. I’ve never had a mentor or advisor in photography or creativity. I haven’t been lucky yet I guess but I seek my advice from materials I watch, read, and observe about photographers or artists I look up to. My friends who support my work give me pretty good advice though, which is to just keep doing and don’t stop."
"If you enjoy it (photography), keep shooting, don’t stop, try not to take yourself too seriously, experiment and have fun. Amateurs are free of pressures or expectations; enjoy that freedom while it lasts. That is of course if you’re considering photography more seriously. However, if you ever feel like you’re a failure in your journey, I always remind myself of this quote by Samuel Beckett; 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better', cause who knows, you might find yourself answering an interview about your craft."