Love in Analogue: Malaysian Weddings On Film by @armantrio3 13 Share Tweet
Weddings can be among the most significant events in our lives, so naturally there is usually a huge amount of pressure on the people documenting the special day. Photographers and videographers are usually glued to their screens to make sure they don’t miss a single moment. But event photographer @armantrio stays off the digital screens as he tends to shoot each precious moment on film. Despite it being a much bigger risk and challenge, the results tend to be more natural and meaningful for everyone.
Beyond just shooting on film, he dares to be experimental in his wedding photography by shooting with color-shifting film such as LomoChrome Purple and trying out more creative cameras like our latest offering, the LomoApparat. We talked to @armantrio to find out how he got into wedding photography and his process with shooting on film. We even learned a few things about Malaysian weddings.
Hi Arman, can you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started film photography?
Hi everyone! My name is Arman and I’m from the humble town of Jitra in the Kedah state of Malaysia. I’m currently freelancing as an event film photographer and a mural artist. I started film photography back in 2017 when a close friend of mine gifted me the La Sardina as a birthday present. I was thrilled to receive a Lomography film camera as an introduction to the fascinating world of film photography. It’s been a great learning experience using it, bringing this camera almost everywhere I go to capture some of the momentous events during my university days in Cardiff.
I was also blessed with the opportunity to join my university’s analogue photography classes led by the talented Sarah Hayton. Here, I learnt to build my own pinhole camera using a shoebox and capture the bustling, yet serene life of Cardiff Central Station. I learnt how to develop and enlarge my own photos in the studio’s darkroom and even got to borrow the tutor’s Nikon FE2, a dream camera I wish to own someday. After lugging the La Sardina in my rucksack for some time, the extreme condition took its toll on my trusty camera, losing many of its functions gradually until it was no longer operable. Thus began my hiatus from using film cameras as I shifted my interest towards exploring a new medium of analogue photography by using the Diana Instant Square.
What gear do you usually use, and what’s your go-to setup?
If I were to fit two cameras in my bag right now, I’d go with the Canon EOS 888 for those reliable clear close-up shots. The LomoApparat on the other hand can be considered a wild card whenever I feel experimental. If I could fit one more, I would use the Diana Instant Square whenever I’m taking photos with friends and feel like giving out Instants to them.
As for film, it really depends on what kind of scene I would like to capture. Lomography Colour Negative 400 creates this dreamy vibe, turning garden weddings into scenes reminiscent of a classic Disney movie. While Kodak Ultramax 400 is reliable for both indoor and outdoor events like sugar is with tea. But the LomoChrome Purple is the film I look forward to using most in creating that surreal scene straight out of Alice in Wonderland. The colours really shift your sense of perception and make you see things oddly enough, beautiful in their own way.
How would you describe your photography style?
Growing up, my parents would expose me to a lot of local films, especially those curated by the late Yasmin Ahmad, who was a prolific film director in Malaysia during the first decade of the new millennium. She moved a lot of Malaysians through her humorous and touching storytelling. It’s the simple, brutal yet honest scenes that she was able to capture that really inspired me to really be more confident and self-appreciative in my photography journey despite having doubts when looking at the output for the first couple of times. I love it whenever I discover elements in photos that I thought didn’t work at first glance, but somehow bring new emotions and sometimes unnoticeable memories, which encourages me to explore the experimental styles that film photography can offer.
I definitely don’t have a professional style in taking photos. What I prefer is spontaneity where I want to capture the timeless nuances of the occasion rather than expecting things to look picture-perfect. To me, there is beauty in imperfection and we all should try to appreciate it more rather than trying to fit into that mindset that everything needs to go well. Not all things, especially weddings will go 100 percent according to plan and this motivates me in finding that subtle attraction within the hecticness of how weddings can get.
I believe that you don’t really need to be up close and personal to capture the best moments of an occasion. Being within the crowd, or sometimes far from it captures that unique ambience of an event. Sometimes shifting focus from the centre of attraction to other features such as textures and materials of surrounding objects and buildings, the patterns and colours of the flowers, and interactions of people of all types and ages can really capture the story of an event. Following the typical format works but doing something bold and new creates a more unique sense of perception that I hope others are able to get from looking at my photos.
How did you get started with event photography, and especially wedding photography?
It’s a funny story actually. It all started early last year when my roommate from college asked me to capture his wedding proposal to an ex-classmate of ours. At first, I was reluctant because I have taken a break from film photography, and I had no reliable film camera for such an occasion. After countless cajoling from him, I tried to search for the most affordable and reliable film camera I could find in a short amount of time. I got myself the Lomography Simple Use Film Camera and just tried to wing it despite having the fear that I might not provide the best lifetime memories for them. Surprisingly the photos turned out to be truly beautiful, candid and honest despite using a mere point-and-shoot camera.
Eight months later, I attended their wedding as the film photographer all prepped with the gear to capture their big day. It was truly a magical experience and I’m glad I got to capture it on film. Both really liked how the photos turned out and started to showcase them on their social media.
Next thing I know, his wife’s tweet went viral on twitter, showcasing all the film photos of the wedding and more people started requesting me to capture their wedding and engagement days. Thus, that’s how my journey as an event film photographer has truly lifted off.
So, this special dedication goes to Amin - Thank you for ‘rebooting’ my film journey. If it wasn’t for you I would still be hibernating.
What do you think are the pros and cons shooting film on such a big occasion?
Shooting weddings on film can be overwhelming sometimes, but it does come with its own benefits. To me it feels more authentic, creating a more timeless value on each image taken. It allows you to be in the moment rather than being distracted by digital screens. The outcome creates this much softer and somewhat honest feeling compared to the ones taken digitally.
However, the limited number of photos you can take using analogue requires you to be strategic during events like these. You can’t review each image taken on the spot to try another shot. You need to have the confidence and proper judgement if that image turns out well or else, you’ll be missing a really good shot. You also need to consider room for error as not all images are going to turn out the way you expect.
What are weddings like in your culture compared to Western/Christian weddings?
The essence of Malay weddings is that they can be lavish celebrations comprising multiple events, rooted in customs. It kicks off with "merisik" whereby the male's parents or relatives pay a visit to the female side to interact with her family and get to know her family background and gauge her availability. After getting the so-called clearance, the next step is the "meminang" to set a date and time for the engagement and for both parties to agree on the dowry and tray-gifts.
On the engagement day, there is a small feast, and the key event is to put a ring on the bride-to-be's finger – usually done by female representatives of the groom (either the mother or aunt or sister) – and the tray-gifts are exchanged, which makes the engagement official. Finally, at the wedding ceremony, there is the solemnisation of the oaths or "akad nikah", held either at the bride's parent's home or a local mosque and is only witnessed in front of family and close friends.
The highlight is the wedding reception or "bersanding" during which the couple sit side by side ("bersanding") on the wedding dais, and VIP guests are invited to bless the couple on the stage ("merinjis"). It is a bigger celebration with an endless buffet for extended family, friends and acquaintances.
Instead of having both the bride and groom say "I do" in front of a pastor, Malay weddings tend to focus more on the groom’s agreement to take responsibility to care of his wife in front of a group of witnesses that consist of representatives of both families and the ‘tok kadi’ who weds the bride and groom under Islamic Law. Malaysia’s iconic cartoonist Lat depicts scenes of Malay weddings in his best-seller The Kampung Boy.
You shot a wedding with the latest Lomography camera the LomoApparat. Can you tell us about your experience and why you decided to shoot with it?
It’s a really versatile camera that you want to keep using when it comes to events like weddings! The experimental features and the wide-angle lens really does wonders in capturing both fun shots as well as reliable ones that capture the space as a whole. You never really can tell how the photos will come out, but to me, that’s the best part!
One of the clients I really had fun working with, requested for the film photos to have an experimental feature and be shot with LomoChrome Purple. I couldn’t think of any other camera to do the job but the LomoApparat. Its many features such as the Kaleidoscope lens, the Splitzer lens and of course, its multi-exposure function proved to be really fun to use and I’m glad that the client actually appreciated those experimental photos more compared to the usual ones. Definitely a good camera for those who dare to experiment!
What’s been your biggest challenge shooting events such as weddings on film?
It’s the shutter discipline. The urge to capture every moment especially when other (digital) photographers are ripping like 10 images per minute. Film can only allow a number of photos to be captured per roll, which includes room for error as well! So, whenever I feel like I’m hitting that shutter button too fast, I remind myself of an important quote from a video game where ammunition is scarce: “You make every shot count!”
Despite how fast-paced those timeless moments might be, it’s important to understand that film photography requires proper time and awareness towards the surroundings, especially light. It’s really okay to take a brief pause and recalibrate your understanding of your surroundings rather than focusing on the subject matter itself. What appears on the viewfinder may not always turn out to be on the final image itself.
What are some of your favourite pictures from these weddings?
For the first picture, despite how ‘surreal’ this picture might be to others, I really like how this experimental picture turned out. It somewhat shows the true essence of a wedding, where two individuals slowly join to become one. For my other favourite picture, I like how the colours are from this picture, showing the ambience of the serene misty morning of the garden hall. It’s as if your in the theatre’s opening scene, knowing that something truly magical is about to happen.
What are your tips when shooting events using analogue?
Do Research (by getting physical)
It really is useful in getting to know not only the flow but the location of the event by trying to have a site visit of the place, better if you could attend the rehearsal itself. But the most useful thing is getting to know the people who you are working for. Have conversations with them about what they like, and their passions, it really helps your preparation to distil an idea of what story you want to capture that best suit their relationships and personalities.
Be Strategic (by being realistic)
With the information you have in hand, it’s easier to dedicate each film you would use to particular styles you want to achieve in relation to the tools you have and the time frame of each occasion within the event. Each camera and film have its own potential to capture each scene, whether fast or slow, packed or intimate, precise or experimental. Strategies on what you know are best and of course try not to worry too much about being completely perfect. Based on your experience, set a number of frames that you can allow room for error.
Be Aware (by being in the moment)
During the day itself, allow yourself time to observe your surroundings. Look up at the sky and see what’s the weather like (you can never put your trust too much in the weather forecast). Exploit as much light as you can when it comes to indoor events, having natural light is better than artificial ones. As much as you’re trying to focus on the star of the event, allow yourself to get distracted by other things that you find interesting. Capture beyond what you see in the confines of the viewfinder.
Trust the Process (by having fun!)
Allow yourself to be comfortable in such an event. Do what you know feels right rather than worrying about the perfect shot. You don’t always want to end up having the same photos as other photographers, so take a couple of steps back (or even a lot) and find that unique view you feel captures the moment.
When it comes to the personal photoshoot session, let them have fun instead of pressuring them with awkward prompts. Me, I prefer my clients to display genuine emotions to each other, that’s why it’s important to know them personally if you have the chance.
If there are other photographers in the event (usually ones with digital cameras), share the joy and passion you have towards film photography. Most of them are really interested in learning more about film and maybe give them encouragement so that we can see more beautiful events captured on glorious film!
Lastly, is there anything else you want to say to the rest of the Lomography community?
Dare to experiment! Be adventurous and take the risk. Don’t really think too much about how your photos will end up or even the gear you are using. I believe every camera has its potential when it lands in the right hands. Have fun with the process, learn to appreciate whatever comes out of your photos and keep on shooting film!
We thank Arman for his tips and for sharing more about his part of the world with us. Be sure to check out more of his work here. Got any stories about shooting weddings? Comment down below with your wedding photography stories and tips.
written by rocket_fries0036 on 2023-02-14 #gear #culture #people #malaysia #love #valentine-s-day #weddings #la-sardina #lomochrome-purple #event-photography #diana-instant-square #lomo-apparat