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A candid shot of a vegetable seller at Chow Kit market in KL.
A candid shot of a vegetable seller at Chow Kit market in KL.
Sea life in Semporna, Sabah.
Sea life in Semporna, Sabah.
A girl joining in the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves.
A girl joining in the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves.

A photographer captures images of Malaysians from all walks of life, writes Izwan Ismail

HE calls the streets of Chow Kit Market, Pudu Market, Petaling Street and other parts of the city his second home.

Ever since he ventured into photography, Joseph Cheung has been making his habitual presence in these spots to “mine” the diverse faces of our society.

The pictures he posts on social media show the beautiful and unique faces of Malaysia. Sometimes, he even visits local festivals outside the city to capture that special smile or expression.


Cheung indulges in his photography hobby on weekends. It is his way of releasing himself from the corporate madness so he can start the week ahead with a clear mind.

“Capturing the smiles and facial expressions of the people on the streets gives me satisfaction,” says the 47-year-old senior project engineer of a petroleum company.

He says there are stories behind the facial expressions and smiles, and street photography gives a sense of engagement between the photographer and the subject.

“A picture that tells a thousand stories is the one that goes without description but will leave an everlasting impression. That’s what I like about taking pictures of people and community. There’s always a story behind every picture,” he says, adding that it is up to the photographer to intepret what he or she sees.

Cheung normally goes on shoots with his friends. “I have friends with different interests in photography - landscape, street, portraiture, etc. I will join them on their outings. Sometimes, I will join a photography club or a group of friends,” he says.

Although he had been taking pictures since young with the school photography club, Cheung stopped doing so for a long time. His interest was only reignited in 2010 when he bought his first dSLR.


The shy Cheung normally shoots from a distance. Armed with his big camera, a Sony Alpha DSLT-A99, and a 70-200mm zoom lens, he will identify his subject as he walks down an alley or street.

Besides the telephoto lens, Cheung also uses the 16-35mm and 28-75mm lenses for closer shots.

“I want my subjects to be as natural as possible but sometimes if I want them to ‘pose’ for the camera, I’ll politely ask for their permission or start a conversation with them,” he says.

Most of the time, his subjects will oblige and welcome him with a smile. With his repeated presense at some places, his subjects are used to him and this makes it easier for him to snap their photos.

“But occasionally, you’ll get objections. This is when you have to take a step back, smile and move on to your next subject,” says the father of one.

Cheung, from Kota Kinabalu, also takes landscape pictures, especially sunrise and sunset, but street photography gives him a unique challenge.

“When doing landscape photography, you’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Street photography offers a different kind of challenge,” he says.

“For instance, one needs to do pre-visualisation on what will happen next (it might happen, it might not), and the waiting time can be just seconds long or it can take forever to get the shot you want.”

Cheung has managed to get many worthy shots and some have made it to the pages of various photography magazines like Digital Photography, Digital SLR and Advance Images.

He also took part in the Garuda Photo Competition and managed to get into the top 200 in the nature category. He recently did a photo sharing talk on his Bromo Kasodo Festival Photography Trip during a Sony Alpha Super Workshop in Malacca. His advice to beginners is to get a camera first, learn the basics and attend photography classes or workshops.

“Ask for opinions on your photos, accept criticism, print your photos, mix with people who have the same passion and, most importantly, stay humble and keep learning,” he advises.

Cheung’s work can be viewed on Facebook under Joseph Cheung.

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