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Ear to the streets: The art of photographing the everyday

An apartment block in Phnom Penh
An apartment block in Phnom Penh. PHAN PHEARITH

Ear to the streets: The art of photographing the everyday

Ahead of next month’s PhotoMarathon competition, Post Weekend has partnered with Canon iQlick to profile some of Cambodia’s best snappers. This week, we meet two street photography specialists

For Phan Phearith, street photography is all about telling stories.

“I like to capture daily life and culture on the streets,” the 32-year-old said.

PhotoMarathon will take place next month
PhotoMarathon will take place next month

“Street photography doesn’t just mean taking photos in the street. It’s a way of understanding about people’s lives. And we take photos to record these moments – these stories – that will never happen again.”

Phearith, who goes by the name Miller, bought his first camera four years ago – a 450D Canon – and has hardly put it down since.

“When I first bought it, I loved to keep it and bring it everywhere,” he said. “I even I slept with it.”

After entering – and failing to win – his first photography competition in 2010, he worked hard to learn as much as he could, attending skills workshops and doing his best to wear out his shutter.

The effort paid off when he won the inaugural Canon PhotoMarathon competition the following year.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Since then, he’s had photo exhibitions at Meta House, the French Institute and iQlick, and has started teaching basic and intermediate photography at the Canon Imaging Academy.

“I don’t describe myself as a professional photographer, but the experts at Canon Company say I am, so I’m grateful and try my best to work harder.”

Phearith said his favourite places to shoot street photography in Phnom Penh were O’Russey Market, Central Market, the train station and around old buildings.

“Those places make for good stories,” he said. “I love to visit there often.
“I focus on the mixture of new and old features and daily lives, like cooking on the street.”

Photographer Monirul Islam uses a Canon EOS 5 Mark III
Photographer Monirul Islam uses a Canon EOS 5 Mark III. MONIRUL ISLAM

Monirul Islam, better known as Moni, first began taking photographs when he was about 12 years old after his brother bought him a Canon SLR camera.

“I loved capturing the beautiful objects in my village,” the 30-year-old said. “After that, I slowly started discovering beauty in everything, and photography became more and more interesting to me.”

Now a freelance photographer, he photographs weddings and sports events, does commissions for architectural and marketing firms and teaches basic photography skills to English-speaking students part-time at Phnom Penh’s Canon Imaging Academy.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

“Photography is one of the most important aspects of my life,” he said. “I think I look at things from a different perspective, which other people might not see usually. Photography allows me to present the world to people in creative way.”

Moni – who uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens - said he particularly loved street photography. “The thrill of finding the perfect moment, the challenge of getting good composition and socializing with the people who loved to be in your photo.”

He said any public places like local markets, restaurants and even public transport were good for street photography.

“Smile often and be respectful,” he advised. “Do not change your location rapidly; find a location for good composition and let the subject come to you.”


Get up close and personal
Ditch the zoom and get close to your subject. Street photography is about experiencing life, up close and personal. Instead of using a zoom lens, use a wide-angle lens – this will let the viewer of your picture feel that they are part of the scene.

Look for humor and irony
Try to compose your picture to capture the humor and irony of everyday life – this will make your picture interesting and capture viewer’s attention. For a start, lookout for signs with interesting messages that seem to be contradictory to the situation or people around them.

Wait for things to unfold
Slow down; don’t go on a shooting frenzy. Explore your surroundings, find a good spot and let things unfold around you. Imagine an “encounter” that could happen at that spot and make your picture perfect, then wait for that moment
to happen.

Search for the ‘little things’
Look for details – an expression, a piece of furniture, small objects – they are all part of street activities that we all seem to overlook. Simplify your pictures by focusing on these “little things”, and they can convey powerful messages and emotions.

It lightens the atmosphere and relaxes your subject. Especially after you have taken a candid shot, a sincere “thank you” smile will usually let you get away with the shot without your subject getting upset.

Canon Imaging Academy offers a Basic Photography Course for $99, which consists of six half-day sessions, held on weekends, and includes technical training on DSLR camera functions, as well as practical training on different genres of photography, including street photography. The next course starts on October 26. Details:


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