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Byron Hamzah


A selection of Hamzah's body of works.

Q: Where would you start if you portrayed me in an image? Light? Form? Colour? …?

A: Light plays a crucial part in my photography, second to the subject itself. After years of photography, I have realised how the use of light can influence the effectiveness of an image. When I have the subject in front of me, my eyes immediately scan for the source of light and how it falls on the subject and the rest of the image composition – whilst in my mind I simultaneously envision how it would look as an end product. This is particularly important for someone like me who almost completely relies on natural light as I am a bit averse to using artificial sources of light.

Q: As a portrait maker, do you discover and seek out someone to portray, or do you let the person portrayed come to you?

A: It depends on the setting and the context of the photography - I do both street and documentary portrait photography. For street portrait photography, I approach complete strangers in the street to photograph. For documentary photography projects, I seek out subjects to photograph depending on the subject matter. Occasionally, there are people that have seen my work and seek me out to participate in the work.

Q: What is the core difference between a selfie and a self-portrait?

A: A selfie captures a moment. A self-portrait captures a reflection of your whole self.

Q: How would you describe the dynamic relation between the person portrayed and the portrait maker?

A: The relationship is that of a collaboration which is built on having good chemistry between me and the subject. Most of those I photograph are not comfortable to be photographed, and the entire experience is often alien to them. They feel vulnerable and become more aware of their physical flaws. As a photographer, it is important to keep the subjects content in their own skin, even for a very short moment of your encounter with them. They will give the best of themselves when you create an atmosphere where they feel valued. Once you have established an understanding with them, the work becomes more free-flowing and intuitive. However, there are times that vulnerability and insecurity can translate into quite remarkable imagery.

Q: During the portrayal process, are you ever concerned with what the subject will think of it?

A: In all honesty, the subjects’ opinion or perception of my work have very little influence on my process or how I feel about the end-product of my work. In view of the nature of photography that I do, I don’t expect my work to always portray the subject in the most conventionally flattering manner as it is not often that ‘conventional aesthetic beauty’ fits the narrative of the particular work I am doing. Everyone wants to be portrayed beautifully, or at least to see a reflection of themselves that they think is beautiful – but I look beyond that as I focus on the entire moment and message of the portrait and what it represents.

Q: Can you describe your physical working method? Do you work standing, sitting, walking, ...? How does your working method help determine the image?

A: There is one position that I somehow instinctively go to – I place my camera low down compared to the subject and project it slightly upwards, depending on the type of camera I am using. So if it is my Nikon DSLR, I am usually on my knees or partially squatting. The end image looks like you are looking up to the person, which grants a majestic and dignified aura to the subject. This is typical in waist-level viewfinders in medium format cameras that I also use. However, I use any possible positions when I work as I like how different viewpoints can relay a different impact or message for the image.


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