Going through Aiman Abdul Haris' (@chendoljenner) LomoHome, we were initially taken by the photos of his home country of Malaysia (and his witty moniker), but it immediately became apparent that the 24-year-old is a well-travelled shutterbug. He has travelled to 29 countries, around half of them as a solo backpacker! We asked him about his travels, film photography, gear and more in this interview.
First, can you tell us about yourself?
Hi! I’m Aiman, 24 years old. Chendol Jenner’s my moniker, taken from a very delicious Southeast Asian dessert, chendol. I’m from Johor Bahru, a city in Malaysia bordering Singapore. I used to study law in Leicester, United Kingdom but ever since the pandemic happened, I’m back in Johor.
What got you into film photography and why are you still interested in it in the age of digital photography?
I started with digital photography back in 2011, but I grew to hate it somehow. Taking several part time photography jobs was hectic and mostly dissatisfying. Once you turn a hobby into a job, it sometimes becomes unenjoyable. I barely snapped pics I was satisfied with, and I barely had enough money to purchase expensive lenses and gear to step up my game. I quit snapping pics for over a year.
In 2019, I rekindled my interest in photography, particularly film, after seeing a girl I know posting her film work on Instagram. Her name's Iffa, and she had a very keen eye on composing photographs and capturing moments. She probably made me rethink about why I snapped photos in the first place – to enjoy myself. When we met, I started to ask her stuff related to film, and the rest is history. To Iffa, if you’re reading this: I owe you a lot.
Everything after this sounds cliché but film makes me think before I shoot, a very important but maybe obsolete trait in the era of digital photography. It’s about finding the right time and place to immortalize it in a roll of film. It teaches me not to waste, maybe ask myself ‘would I snap this with my phone?’ before pressing the shutter. It’s a very handy advice I got from a YouTube video.
Also, film’s much more enjoyable if you get a partner to tag along - that’s Hariez. He solidified my interest and brought me to greater heights in shooting analogue. He’d share his lenses and cameras, even his spare films with me. Lockdown became less and less boring with him around since we try to make the most out of our very limited travel area. It was constantly the same shooting area with the similar snaps. Tons of film were wasted but it did improve me as a photographer personally, and our bond as a whole.
It seems like you’ve travelled to quite a few places and taken a lot of street photos too. Which subjects do you prefer? And what makes you press the shutter button?
Exactly! I’ve been to a total of 29 countries, with half of them as a solo backpacker. If you’re in a foreign country, everything’s a subject! It’s the best time to practice your street photography. I try to snap the livelihood of the area, some panoramas and maybe some touristy buildings for memories. I don’t understand minimalism in photography, so I prefer getting the most out of my exposures. Also, I must consider some faux pas in photographing subjects in the country, like in Saudi Arabia where you’re not allowed to snap photos inside the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque, or in Egypt where street photography is banned. You may have to do it discreetly or risk your camera getting confiscated.
What’s your current gear composed of? And what are your favorite film stocks or cameras to bring when you shoot outside?
I have a bad habit of being a hoarder, so I did have around 50 film cameras at one point. They were either bought off eBay, found in a junkyard sale or given by relatives and friends. Somehow, I did manage to downsize my collection to less than 15 now. My friends and community back in Johor had this one rule of shooting outdoors – you need to bring three cameras: one point and shoot camera, one SLR/rangefinder and one medium format camera. A 7-8kg sling bag is pretty common at this point.
The two best point and shoot cameras I’ve tried are the Olympus XA2 and Lomo LC-A. They’re handy, fit your pocket whenever the situation requires you to be stealthy, and deliver awesome photos.
As for SLRs, my favourite goes to the combination of the Minolta X-300 and MD 50 mm f/1.4. Nothing could go wrong with Minolta lenses, they’re sharp and produce amazing colours. Sadly, it got lost during my trip to Cologne, Germany. I did consider buying another.
My favourite go-to medium format camera is the Agiflex III - a 1954 British knockoff of the Reflex Korelle - which is the grand uncle of the Pentacon Six. It came with an 80 mm f/2.8 lens, which makes it a bokeh monster and excellent for portraits.
Favourite films are a bit tough to choose – I’m really in love with the Kodak Pro Image 100, which gives amazingly warm colours in bright sunlight and is suitable for outdoor portraits. My versatile go-to film is the Fuji Superia X-Tra 400, which is usable in all situations. Need contrast? Shoot 400. Need bright colours? Shoot 200. Like something in the middle? Shoot 320. Also in terms of colour reproduction, Fujifilm fits the Malaysian weather better.
What are some of your most memorable photos from your travels and can you tell us a bit about what makes them special for you?
I would say it to be my backpacking trip to Morocco. That was the real first time I fully documented my travels in film. I was with four point-and-shoot cameras since I disliked the attention I get from bringing chunky cameras. I used only Color Pluses, Ektar 100s and Pro Image 100s throughout the whole journey without any disappointment. I’m actually not into Color Plus 200 films, but they do reproduce the warm tones of the bright and harsh sunlight of the desert really well.
Thank you very much to Aiman for sharing his thoughts and experiences with us! We're excited to see where he goes next! Check out his LomoHome to see more of his photos.
What are your personal philosophies when it comes to travelling? And what's your go-to gear? Share them with us below!