New Gen #10: Faiyaz is celebrating the diversity of South Asian beauty through his dreamy portraits
When did you fall in love with photography?
It was in secondary one, when I saw the photographs that one of my seniors, Natalie Kwee, had shot during orientation week. I remember being so awestruck and thinking to myself that I wanted to capture people, places, and things in such a beautiful way too. The following months were spent stalking her blog and hounding her on MSN, asking for tips and advice.
South Asian beauty seems to be a key theme in your work. What idea of South Asian identity would you like to communicate through your photographs?
The narrow and eurocentric standards of South Asian beauty within the community are terrible and damaging. I hope to push the boundaries to explore, celebrate, and represent our many faces. From a broader perspective, I want to communicate that South Asian identity is not just one thing that can be easily defined. People have lots of misconceptions of who South Asian people are and how they're supposed to be. More often than not, they are simply viewed as Indian. This is especially true in a country like Singapore due to the adoption of the CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) racial categorisation system. South Asia is a vast and diverse area, spanning multiple countries and hundreds of diverse groups of people, with a substantial population of immigrants and descendents living outside of the region.
Where do you draw your influences from?
Sometimes from my own hardships and experiences, other times from global issues, literature and mythology, films and even music. With a lot of my portraits, conversations with my subjects are usually where narratives and concepts start to take shape. Capturing a glimpse of who they are at that point in their lives is important to me.
What is your process of finding new and exciting locations, subjects, and concepts to shoot?
Getting to know people better. Almost all of the people I have photographed in the last two years have been friends or close acquaintances. I'm trying to venture out of my comfort zone by saying hello and starting conversations with new people. Most of the time I'm still too shy, so I prefer browsing Instagram and messaging interesting people via DMs.
Do you have any tips for other aspiring photographers?
Shoot, shoot and shoot. Bring your camera with you whenever you're out and really get to know it. You can only break the rules once you know the rules.
What would be your most memorable photograph?
This portrait of my friend Sophiya. I had been wanting to photograph her for months, but she had been too shy. One evening while hanging out at home with a group of friends, I casually brought it up again and she agreed to it. I was caught off guard but in a heartbeat I set up my lights, taped a bedsheet to the wall and scrambled to style her with what I had on hand. The result of that chaos was this photograph.
Name young Asian artists/designers/creatives that you admire.
Yang Er Tan, Salwa Rahman, Karishma Pranjivan, Leslie Zhang, Noor Unnahar Siddique, Areeba Siddique, Melody Tan, Abeera Kamran, Nicole Ngai, Josephine Shetty, Reva Bhatt, Putri Adif and so many more that I could go on for days.
One subject/location/object that you wish to photograph.
One change you wish to see in Singapore.
For people to decolonise their minds and ways of thinking.
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