The Wedding Picture, Indian-style!
Malaysian photographer Jay Chuah is passionate about covering Indian weddings.
He trained as an engineer at the National University of Malaysia, but Jay Chuah felt "his creativity was being restrained until he began to explore the dynamic and colorful world of photography."
Self taught, Chuah started shooting weddings five years ago. His wedding assignments take him to Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and India.
As a wedding photographer he says his main aim is to capture the "feel" of the wedding. Chuah runs Colomono Studio in Penang Island, Malaysia, and he and two other partners do wedding photojournalism and wedding cinematography.
Image: At Digi Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, Viral and Swati dance after their sangeet, a pre-wedding ritual
Photographs: Jay Chuah
'Indian weddings are extremely vibrant'
What is it about Indian weddings that attracts you?
They are extremely vibrant. Full of energy. Everyone involved in a wedding is so participative and this creates the mood! For a photographer documenting a wedding, these moods, expressions and happiness are priceless. Besides, Indians are generally warm and friendly people! I never felt a foreigner (in India) at all.
Image: In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a bride enjoys her turmeric and oil ceremony before the wedding
'Opportunities for a photojournalist to take award-winning photos'
Do Indian weddings offer enough opportunity for a photographer?
Definitely, Indian weddings are the most beautiful weddings in the world. They are full of colour and extensive details as well as unique well-planned ceremonies. There are so many happening ceremonies and rituals which offers a lot of opportunities for a photojournalist to take the award-winning photos he has in his mind.
Image: Hyderabad International Convention Centre: Preparation for the baraat of a friend
'The details and scale of a wedding in India are much, much greater!'
What was it like to cover your first Indian wedding?
My first Indian wedding was an eye-opener. I have done quite a number of Indian weddings back in my home country, Malaysia. But the Indian weddings I did in Malaysia were not the same as a wedding in India. The details and scale of a wedding in India are much, much greater!
Image: A bride hugs her mother after the wedding ceremony in Kuala Lumpur
'I was shaking and dancing while documenting the event!'
I still remember that very moment when I stepped into the banquet hall of a wedding in Hyderabad. I was totally shocked and amazed by the lavishness and the large effort put into the wedding. The energy level in there was so high. Everyone, including the bride and groom, were really enjoying their day. During the baraat procession, I was so drawn into that ceremony, that I was shaking and dancing while documenting the event!"
Image: In Bangkok, family and friends dance at a sangeet ceremony
'They're a little intrigued to see a non-Indian photographer'
How do the families and friends of the bride and groom react when they find a Malaysian photographer covering a wedding?
They are very excited and a little intrigued to see a non-Indian photographer in action (along with the local photographers hired for the occasion. Chuah clarifies that he always works along side the local photographer)!
Image: At Raj Palace in Jaipur, a groom waits for his bride
'They treat me more like a friend'
Most of the family members open up more towards us, treating us like a special guest rather than someone who's hired to do a job, which makes me feel really honoured. Family friends (of the bride or groom) will come up to us to understand what I am here for, which country I am from, and how do I like the wedding. As I become closer to the family and friends, they get really comfortable with my presence, treating me more like a friend than a photographer which really helps a lot in making wonderful journalistic photos!
Image: At the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, a groom dresses up for the baraat
'There is a special technique I use'
Any special approach/tactics to photographing an Indian wedding?
There is a special technique I use. Indian weddings involve a lot of music, dancing and processions. Instead of using a tele-lens to shoot from outside, I dive into the crowd, dance along, shooting at the same time using a wide-angle lens and another portable flash on the other hand from an angle above. This technique is my trademark -- family and friends really love it. They have not seen a photographer dancing with them and shooting at the same time!
Image: An engagement at the Taj Mahal in Agra
'I found myself rather relaxed and comfortable'
Have you changed your impression of what Indian weddings are like after photographing them?
I always thought Indian weddings were really lengthy and the whole tone of the wedding is full of seriousness, where the pressure is extremely high. But after I did my first Indian wedding, I soon realised that Indian weddings are full of joy and a party mood rather than just rituals and ceremonies. I found myself rather relaxed and comfortable doing the shoot compared to typical Chinese weddings that I have done back in Malaysia, which are extremely packed and rushed.
Image: A musician during a baraat in Jaipur