New Gen #7: KL-based photographer Catherhea Teoh captures the diverse ethnic faces and bodies of multi-cultural Malaysia
When did you fall in love with photography?
Honestly, I couldn't pinpoint when. When my mother gave me my first camera, it started out as a coping mechanism for my inability to socialise with others. Nowadays, it leads me to cross paths with other creatives and connect with them, which makes me want to create even more. I guess I'm still falling in love with the process.
Diversity, beauty and youth seem to be key themes and concerns of yours. What idea of identity would you like to communicate through your photographs?
Rather than diversity, I think 'the underrepresented' is a bigger key theme. I love the idea of challenging conventions — especially with ideas of beauty standards of certain ethnicities — by drawing attention to people you wouldn't normally see in a photograph. With the current Malaysian social landscape, there's a lot to explore and there's still a long way to go.
Who, what or where do you draw your influences from?
Anything, really. Fashion magazines, other creatives, past work experiences, paintings, the very people I photograph or an emotion that I'm feeling — I just see what I like and try to emulate, or translate that visually. It's never been that deep for me.
What is your process of finding new and exciting locations, people, subjects and concepts to shoot?
Not gonna lie, social media and the internet has made that especially easy for a homebody like myself, but I believe it also ultimately boils down to intention. Why do I want to do this concept? Will this vision help the people I'm working with? Where and how would this work out best for everyone? Is it meaningful, or am I being full of myself? What do I want? When I know my own intentions, the process becomes easier.
Do you have any close collaborators who you work with?
I'm down to collab with anyone that's got good ideas and intentions, especially if our vibes match. If it's meant to happen, it'll happen.
What do you hope to show or achieve through your photography?
I just want people to be able to see themselves and feel damned good about it.
Do you have any tips for other aspiring photographers?
Just keep photographing, no matter how shitty the results look. Take a break if you need to, but don't give in to the notion of needing to be "great" at something, at least not anytime soon. Learn to enjoy the process, and check in on your intentions as to why you do what you do.
Name the young Malaysian artists and designers who you admire.
@amania_, @aliaonphotographs, @thavinyajazlin, @tashaiman, @donaplantbase, @limauuuu, @anaabu, @jasmn.a, @noteudora, @therealvrp, @thebeardedcameragod, @danieladamsphotography, @cvpturesjohn, @ttfga, @alephisham, @aidan.at, @ajimboi, @birdycantfly, @zhonglin_, @_amstudio, @pitt.ab.rhm, @moderntraditional, @maineshots, @kalvinhariz, @rayyiuradzi
Honestly, the list goes on and on. Malaysia has a wealth of treasure when it comes to the arts. It's a damn shame that this isn't being acknowledged on a larger scale.
One subject, location or object that you wish to photograph.
I couldn't possibly confine it to one thing. I want to eventually explore all the beautiful parts of the world and meet all kinds of beautiful people to photograph. I'm really cliche like that.
What is one change that you wish to see in Malaysia?
I wish to see compassion, more of it. Unless they're bringing real-life harm to themselves or the people around them, we don't need to understand how someone is built. Just respect them.
How do you see your photographic work developing in the future?
I can't say for sure. It would really depend on my mental state and my surroundings at that time, so I guess, we'll see. Hopefully, it'll be for the better.
Catherhea Teoh is a photographer based in Kuala Lumpur. For bookings and inquiries, please reach out to her via her bookings form.
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