Pursue Your Passion!

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Syaza Shakh is a graduate in International Trade and Marketing. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old chose to pursue her dream to be a professional photographer. Her love for photography led her to further her studies in the art after her first degree. Since then, Syaza has been travelling around the world, capturing special moments with her professional Canon camera.
Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers. Syaza Shakh is also a member of our editorial team for Holistic Living Annex.

Today’s interview focuses on how important it is to realise our dreams.

When you believe in it, you will definitely achieve it. Why and how were you drawn to photography?
I was drawn to photography because it enables me to capture moments that I would like to preserve and share it with everyone else. It all started when I was in Tanzania. At that time, I had only a video camera, and I really wished that I had a professional still camera with me so that I could capture all the colours and culture of the place.

When did you start photography?
I started back in 2003. My very first camera was a small Kodak camera. However, I only started taking photography seriously at the end of 2008 after graduating from my first degree, and after my trip to Tanzania.

What photography really is for you?
Photography is my passion. In fact, it is actually ‘natural painkiller’. I suffer from a condition called arthritis, and the pain can get unbearable sometimes. However, whenever I am engrossed in catching photos, I forget about the pain. At first, I thought it was all in my head but according to my doctor, doing what you love can induce endorphins that can help in relieving pain.

Is the art of photography hard to master?Nothing in life is easy. Same goes for photography. Some people say that it’s either you have “the eye” for it or you simply don’t. But in my opinion, if you work hard for something you love and learn all the necessary techniques, there is really no reason to fail.

We know that you have a different first degree. Will you choose to build a career with that, or to continue pursuing your career in photography?
I have a degree in Business majoring in International Trade and Marketing. That is an advantage because I am planning to combine both my knowledge in Business as well as photography for my career path. Currently, I am freelancing. Who knows, in a few years time I might be opening my own studio?

How did photography help you as a person?
Photography has helped me to be more alert to my surroundings, be more intuitive and definitely more patient.

Where do you expect to go or what do you expect to achieve in this field?I hope to reach a level where I can contribute back to society with my photographs. I know the day will come when I will have my own solo exhibition for people to enjoy my works. I love capturing natural scenes that narrate actual stories of life. This will help others who see my work to connect with the people in the photographs I have taken.

Although it has only been a short time since you started taking photography seriously, what have you achieved so far in this field?In this short span of 3 years, I personally feel very lucky to have achieved what I have achieved. I have entered many photography competitions including the International Photography Awards and Sony World Photography Awards. Although I did not actually win for some of them, I was delighted to know that I was shortlisted. It was quite an achievement for me because when I first started, I would not even dream that I would one day have the guts to enter these competitions to compete with some of the world’s best photographers. When I was shortlisted, I felt honoured that my works were appreciated by those who have the ‘eye’ for photography. At least, it is a confirmation for me that I really do have a talent in this, and that I should continue pursuing it.

My biggest achievement so far is me winning a place for the off-screen expedition to Saudi Arabia in December 2011.

Please tell us more about this off-screen expedition to Saudi Arabia.I represented my country, Malaysia, for this expedition. Arabia off-screen is an international creative competition searching for talented young artists, designers, film-makers and photographers aged between 18 and 25 years of age in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Malaysia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to travel around Saudi Arabia to create an artistic portrait of the kingdom to be shared with youths around the globe.

During that trip, we travelled from mountains to the deserts and met many of the kingdom’s talented artists, who were willing to share their experiences with us.

The main aim of the expedition was for us to see a different side of Saudi Arabia. This trip really broke down the stereotypes shown on the media about the Kingdom. After the 17 days, we realised that none of the stereotypes were true. I have learnt so much from the people I met along the way, especially from other fellow participants. We came from totally different backgrounds, but the one thing in common that we shared was the passion for the arts.

Do you think it is important for someone to pursue their passion?I think it is very important to pursue your passion. You live this life only once and life is too short! Regardless of your age, it is never too late, even if you are already in your 50s!

The field of photography is not a mainstream career. Many parents believe that one should not deviate from their main degree to chase after one’s passion. Did you face the same problem with your parents when you wanted to study photography?
After my first degree, my parents wanted me to pursue Masters in Islamic Finance. I gave it a try, but deep down in my heart, I knew that it was not what I really wanted to do. I told my parents about my decision to take photography instead, but they were quite reluctant in letting my do so. Parents want the best for their children, and they saw photography as something impractical. For them, the arts may not be a wise choice to ensure future monetary security.

Nevertheless, a few months later, I showed them my artwork and I was shortlisted for the competitions I entered. That helped a lot. Now, they are very supportive of my efforts in photography.

What is your advice to other youths who would like to pursue their passion, but are too afraid to take that first step due to the fear of failure?
If you do not take the risk, you will never know. Failure is a stepping stone to push you to do better!

More of Syaza Shakh’s work may also be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/syazamst/ .

Interviewed by Genevieve Tan Shu Thung

Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources

Holistic Living Annex (Volume 1, Issue 2 - MAR 2012 Edn)

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