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Man of the Streets, Visual Documentarian

“A maestro, conducting a symphony of noise, action, light and shadow in the best tradition of street photography.” Maggie Steber, National Geographic Photographer

Photographer Che Ahmad Azhar, affectionately called Che Mat, is a familiar figure on the KL streets during the weekends. Residents of rapidly vanishing communities in the old parts of the city greet him with friendly smiles and stop to chat. That’s just the way he likes it.

Soft spoken with a ready smile, Che Mat believes that having an innate familiarity of a place and the locals is an essential part of good street photography.

"You need to immerse yourself in the day-to-day rhythm of street life to capture its essence. Become one with the city. The bustle, the changing dynamic from day to night, the ebb and flow. I try to soak it all in. It gives you greater insight, and sharpens your eye to details and nuances.

"Patience combined with intuition is also key." laughs Che Mat. "This way people let their guard down and just get on with their daily lives. That's when you to catch real moments." This is why he prefers to use a simple compact rangefinder, usually with a 35mm lens because he finds large obtrusive gear a distraction and simply gets in the way of capturing good shots.

Some insights into Che Mat's philosophy on street photography as exemplified in this current exhibition.


"Geometry or composition is one of the important key elements in all my photographs. Usually I will make sure the scene I photograph has a good placement of subjects against the background. The contrast of light against dark and vice versa. I also try to achieve a good balance of all visual elements in my photographs. This helps the audience to see clearly what's going on in the photograph and understand the story easily".


"I always like to have more than one story happening in my photographs. For me, it provides a lot more in the scene for the audience to see and enjoy. A complex scene but at the same time clarified as each subject has its own drama and space".


"I love to capture the 'rustic' side of Kuala Lumpur. It reminds me of my childhood. It evokes nostalgic feelings of me growing up in my hometown Alor Setar, Kedah in the 70s. I have fond memories of being greeted and served with smile by friendly shopkeepers every time my parents took my siblings and me to the local sundry shops".

For more on Che Mat and his portfolio of work