Engaging Street Portraits – Workshop

In conjunction with the 10th Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards 2018 exhibition in KL (8 – 17 September 2018) I will be hosting a ‘walkabout’ practice session in photographing strangers we meet on the street.

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Many people find taking pictures of strangers difficult, and so they end up photographing from a distance or the backs of them. We will practice how to engage strangers and capture their portraits, with their consent mostly.

This is a totally ‘free to join’ session for 2 – 3 hours, where you will practice approaching strangers and making engaging portraits, and having fun at the same time.


Who is this for?

Anyone who appreciates the challenges and reward of street photography and making portraits that communicate with the audience.

Skill level

You must be well versed in using your camera and its exposure settings. This will not be a tutorial on camera settings and functions, just taking great portraits. Do not let the camera controls hinder your picture taking. Carry a camera and one lens, preferably 50mm or 85mm. Avoid long zooms. It should be an enjoyable experience.

Group size & Registration

10 maximum. Free to join. Advance registration required.

Email : steven@klphotoawards.com

Date and Time

11.00 am to 2:00 pm  |  Saturday 15 September, 2018

Meeting Point

KL city centre – to be confirmed


Steven Lee is the founder director of Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards.

He began his photographic career as a documentary, travel and fashion photographer in the late 90’s when began writing travel related articles for magazines and journals. In 2000, he published his first coffee-table book titled Outside Looking In : Kuala Lumpur, which received the Asian Prize at PhotoCity Sagamihara Festival of the Image, Japan in 2007.

In 2007 he published his second coffee-table book MALAYSIANS, with 500 faces of diverse Malaysians.  In 2008, he released MUSEO, comprising a collection of black & white abstract studies of antiquities, statuary, and architecture photographed in Europe from 2001 – 2005 is now available as a print-on-demand publication. Steven released LUMINA in 2011 his fourth book.

In 2009, Steven initiated the KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL PHOTOAWARDS, an annual international portrait photography competition centred in Malaysia, focussing on the best in contemporary portrait photography and has attracted the participation of some top international photographers. Steven continues to run photography educational workshops through EXPOSURE+ Photo Mentoring platform in Kuala Lumpur with other Malaysian photographers, and has been a portfolio reviewer and judge at international photo festivals and contests.

Steven ran classes on Documentary and Lifestyle / Street photography at City Academy, London from 2014-2016 and his latest initiative was organising the first PhotoSymposium Asia in 2017 and 2018.


Just Portraits

I’m currently in Kuala Lumpur, having attended the Mt Rokko Photo Festival last weekend as a reviewer (I will write an in-depth post about that amazing festival shortly), and I just had fantastic KLPA awards and exhibition, celebrating 10 years of the awards. The last weeks had been incredible,  making new connections with creative people and seeing many interesting photo projects, especially from young photographers, or even non-creative people attempting their first photo projects.

Meanwhile, I shot a few portraits below in preparation for a Street Portrait workshop this coming Saturday with my ‘new’ Nikon 1 V1 camera I got from Facebook Marketplace last month for a mere £100!


Nadirah Zakariya


Prakash Daniel

DSC_0936 copy

Elena Herrero

Thirty Pieces of Silver – K. Azril Ismail



Popped by the stunning Wei-Ling Gallery, a Colonial-era shophouse in Brickfields which is currently showing Dr. K Azril Ismail’s collection of 30 hand-crafted plates, all framed and set in dark wood and black backgrounds. This collection includes plates produced during the years Azril spent in the UK researching, studying and photographing, often producing daguerrotypes, tintypes and salt prints, and some, of more recent productions in Malaysia. This is is second solo exhibition.

Bearing in mind the long processes needed, and the single edition plates, there are some stunning still life imagery to behold, but up close, since the plates are merely about 4 x5 inches of smaller and some are gorgeously presented in a folding leather display case.

There is a planned talk on 4 October, details forthcoming.

Highly recommended if not for the curiosity factor.

What : Leather bounded salt prints, ambrotypes, tintypes and daguerreotypes, special interest, vintage processes

Where : WEI-LING GALLERY  8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“These pieces are hand-crafted, one of a kind, image-objects, with the lending hands of the great giants of photographic pioneers: Louis Daguerre, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Frederick Scott Archer, alongside with Herschel, Wedgwood, Scheele, Davy, Niépce, and Bayard. The tactile qualities and the idea of presenting an ephemeral experience to his works, all ties in with the artist’s belief that objects created by craftsmen are essential keepsakes.

Thirty Pieces of Silver is Dr. K. Azril Ismail’s second exhibition with the gallery following his seminal ‘Live Animals Inside‘ (2009) which documented the now demolished Pudu Jail. “


12 September  ~ 31 October, 2017

More info

Heavenly bodies

Depictions of Kuan Yin, Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, Kuala Lumpur

Time to depart Kuala Lumpur after a short visit to oversee the judging of KLPA2016. What an intense week focussing on portrait photography, discussions about ethics and integrity – the unfolding McCurry saga, and great plans in the near future for photography in KL.

I can’t wait to announce the shortlisted finalists, and once all the backroom validations etc have been done, I will do so. Meanwhile, there are exhibitions and events to plan, and the groundwork for a new KL project has started following my announcement on 6 May. This new and exciting project will involve KL photographers and will begin a new chapter in visual mapping and documentation, illuminated by the myriad lights of the city.

LookBack : The Forgotten Sufferers – The Lepers of Sungei Buloh, 1999

A recent posting on a friend’s personal blog about her visit to the leprosarium in Sungei Buloh just outside Kuala Lumpur urged me to dig out this series of images I had put together way back in 2000 for a grant submission, photographed at the same colony. Built by the British in the 1930s, this is a vast area in the foothills surrounded by lush tropical forests and plantations. There is a clinic building, blocks of houses where the inmates lived in basic conditions, a small chapel, mosque and Hindu temple, shops and schools back then. It appears that there are still many inmates living there in semi-isolation, and the public are free to make visits. Many have used their spare time to grow vegetables and make handicrafts, whilst others just hang out in the coffee shops.


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These are just scans, as I have lost the original negatives or perhaps, misplaced them. They will eventually surface in the future, no doubt. These were shot in film, using a Konica Hexar 35, one of the best film cameras then and still is. It has a ‘stealth’ mode, when set, produces an absolutely silent shutter. Self-printed also, with full frame edge borders. (How I miss making prints in my bathroom!)


I only got my first digital camera in 2003.

Muzium Negara : Sticks, stones and mannequins

It’s been a good 20 years at least, that I paid a visit to KL’s National Museum, Muzium Negara. When I was growing up as a teen, we used to drive along Jalan Bangsar to KL and the imposing and still amazing iconic design of the Muzium always impressed me. All I recall was this great big red tiled roof structure that is practically half the height of this building, very distinctive. Just like the major iconic KL structures designed and built in the 40′ to 60’s, like our National Mosque, RTM studio and Parliament House; the Muzium Negara still remains a strong contender for the top public building in my books. (see here ) I was always amazed by the large murals which flanked both sides of the frontage.


This must still be the cheapest public museum to visit in SE Asia, (apart from the free ones) at RM2.00 a pop for nationals. I was actually surprised by the quality of the displays, the presentation booths, AV quality and interactive highlights. I had been expecting a dusty, broken down rickety old museum with unconvincing displays, but everywhere I looked, I saw professionally captioned artifacts, clear and concise explanations and although rather dimly lit, the display cabinets housing amazing pre-history stone instruments and items are well presented. Only some of the mannequins used to highlight our European-dominated past was a bit suspect. The hair. No, Portuguese sailors did not wear their hair like Johnny Depp.

Overall, although the galleries were small, the historical content was educational, and illuminating of Malaysia’s varied past, both in it’s early history and also more modern Colonial times. What is most striking for me is the cultural impact of Hindu and Buddhist influence on this region for centuries before as can be witnessed by the numerous artifacts from these early cultures found in the peninsula.


“This statue of Avalokitesvara was found in a tin mine belonging to Anglo Oriental, at Bidor in Perak in 1936. It is made of bronze and has eight arms of which, however, one is broken. It is dated sometime between the 7th and the 12th centuries AD, when the culture of the region was Hindu-Buddhist. The statue weighs 63 kilograms and stands 93cm high. This artefact is declared as Tangible Heritage Object under the National Heritage List 2009.” ~ Muzium Negara


An early hand scripted Holy Quran on display

Overall, I was suitably impressed with the current state of the museum, although I was looking out for a more comprehensive display of insects and beasts, as well, and I do encourage visitors and citizens alike to make a visit, even if to experience the architecture of this iconic 60s building.  I did chuckle a bit to see a Proton Saga in the external displays though.

EXPOSURE+ Mentoring Program is launched!

Following from our recent successful 1-Day workshops in collaboration with Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur, explorenation is proud to announce a pilot photography mentoring program in Kuala Lumpur, aimed at newcomers and experience photographers wishing to initiate their own personal projects. This is a time-based, 3 month long program where our mentors will assist and guide you in identifying stories, ideas or concepts that you can execute into a photography project, through to editing, sequencing and ultimately, creating a visually flowing and personally satisfying photo-book. You will also be invited to present your project in a brief talk at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, in June 2013.  More below :


What is the Mentoring Program?

This is a 3-month ‘one-to-one’ photography mentoring program which begins from February – April 2013 in Kuala Lumpur. The program aims to assist photographers on

  • How to develop a strong and visually challenging photography project from concept to presentation
  • How to develop, identify and execute a cohesive body of work based on a concept
  • How to self-edit, sequence and present your own project images
  • How to put together a portfolio for effective presentation

How will this be accomplished?

Through several regular one-to-one constructive critique review sessions with our facilitators –
Eiffel Chong – contemporary photographer/lecturer
Erna Dyanty –  photography researcher/curator
Steven V-L Lee – freelance photographer (* online interaction only)


This program is open to novice, serious hobbyists and professional photographers who are seeking to develop their skills in producing personal photography projects, and may benefit from guided mentoring through greater focus in developing concepts from ideas, seeing it to fruition in a personal photobook. You will be required to be dedicated and fully resigned to completing this program in the time allocated.

How do I apply?

Interested photographers will have to send in a project proposal with a short statement why you wish to participate in this program.  The projects proposed can be based on documentary or fine art, but may only be general ideas at this stage. Describe briefly your intent on realising this project, ie. why you think it is a worthwhile project.  There will be a limited number of participants.

Photographers will need to have basic photography skills and camera techniques as this is not a technical workshop. Facilitators will not specifically teach image editing or other technical photography skills.

Application opens December 31, 2012 and closes January 9, 2013 and will be on ‘first come’ basis. There will be limited entries. 

Participants will be notified of their mentor based on the relevancy of their project, and of the first session by February 1, 2013.

Send in your details as follow, to erna@klphotoawards.com or +60 12 231 0961

Email contact
Telephone contact
Website (if any)
Project statement (please state overall ideas and concept, interests )

Is this a paid workshop and what is included?

Program Fee –  RM650, which includes

  • Regular one-to-one mentoring over three month through direct contact with facilitators. There will be a meet-up session every fortnight to assess progress and discuss your project.
  • A brief tutorial on how to put together a portfolio photobook.
  • An A4 photobook, of your project put together by you for your personal keeping.
  • 5 x A4 photo prints that will be exhibited by EXPOSURE + in conjunction with KL International Photoawards Finalists Exhibition in June 2013 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
  • An invitation to present your completed project to an audience during the public exhibition at the KLPA Talk Series in June 2013
  • You will also join the Alumni of explorenation.net and participate in their future events.

About our Mentors 


Eiffel Chong

Eiffel Chong graduated with an MA in International Contemporary Art and Design Practice from the University of East London. He is currently a photography lecturer at an art institution in Malaysia. Chong has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Malaysia and around the world. Among the exhibitions are: Silent Auction at London College of Communication, London, 2008; A New Wave of Responsive Images at Nikon Ginza Gallery, Tokyo, 2009; and CUT2010: Parallel Universe, which toured Southeast Asia, showing at Valentine Willie Fine Art Kuala Lumpur & Singapore, Sangkring Art Space, Jogjakarta and Manila Contemporary, Philippines. Chong has participated in the Singapore International Photography Festival 2008, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore.

Erna Dyanty

Erna Dyanty graduated with an MA in Arts Management from UKM. She is a self taught photographer and is a practicing contemporary art photography.  She was nominated to participate in the Asian Europe Foundation Emerging Photographers Forum in 2009. Her works have been featured in CUT 2008: A Survey of New Photography in South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur,  A New Wave of Responsive Images at Nikon Ginza Gallery, Tokyo, 2009; Theerta International Women Photography Exhibition, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2011 and DATUM KL in 2011.

Erna has also worked creatively to produce photographic works for Frangipani Bar & Restaurant, Alexis Bistro, Concorde Hotel and Dwell Asia Magazine. She has also curated a number of photography exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur, Vision & Sound: a survey of underground music photographers, MAP KL, 2010, ROCK KAKA, at Project Room VWFA 2009, Neither East nor West: Collections from the Lafayette Studio of Photography London, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2007 and The Formation of A Nation: A Photographic Flashback, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2012.

Steven V-L Lee

Steven Lee began his photographic career as a documentary and travel photographer in the late 90’s when began writing travel related articles for magazines and journals. In 2000, he published his first coffee-table book titled Outside Looking In : Kuala Lumpur, which received the Asian Prize at Photo City Sagamihara Festival of the Image, Japan in 2007. Part of the collection is held with the City of Sagamihara National Photographic Archives.
His commercial portraiture and fashion work has graced the covers of License! Europe, Country Club UK and Masterpiece and Asiana magazines. In 2008, Steven was involved in portfolio reviews at Cultivate, a Rhubarb-Rhubarb initiative for graduates in Photography, to prepare and guide them in portfolio preparation and exhibitions.

In 2009, Steven initiated the KL PHOTOAWARDS, an annual international portrait photography competition centred in Malaysia, focussing on the best in contemporary portrait photography and has attracted the participation of some top international photographers. Steven also blogs at explorenation.net and has run workshops at Lim Kok Wing University London, in Kuala Lumpur as well as travel tours.

is explorenation’s new photography program which is formulated to encourage members to get involve and participate in regular meet ups, exhibitions, present new work, network with other photographers and enthusiasts, and have fun! Our first event was a SlideShare evening on Tuesday 24th July at the French Art Gallery in London. Since then we have had a total of three SlideShare evenings in 2012.

EXPOSURE+ now has a Malaysian chapter! Starting in February 2013, we will be running a 3-month pilot Photography Project Mentoring Program.

‘Photography for All’
explorenation.net runs travel photography, publishing, exhibition, photography education and workshops. Started by Steven V-L Lee, an award winning UK based freelance photographer and Andy Craggs in 2008, explorenation.net is dedicated to the personal advancement of photographic objectives for all enthusiasts. We believe in the universal language of the ‘photograph’ and that photography should be accessible to everyone, and continue to break the elitism that plagues so many aspects of contemporary practice. explorenation.net also project manages the annual KL International Photoawards for contemporary portraiture.

Please email us if you are interested in joining our workshops and become Alumni.

Contact info
Erna Dyanty    erna@klphotoawards.com  +60 12 231 0961