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Thomas Phoon (Malaysia)

Thomas got interested in photography equipment before he actually knew what photography was all about, it’s an ironic story: His brother-in-law wanted to upgrade his camera, and since Thomas had friends who owned a camera store, he offered to research the best brands and see if he could get a good deal. The best bargain could arrange was to buy two new DSLR cameras at a discount, and by this fluke came own a new DSLR camera. Thomas first turned his eye towards a variety of subjects: birds, landscape, portraits and travel photography. But his interest sharpened as he started exploring the camera’s ability to make images of things that are not possible to see with the naked eye. He started using more long exposures, experimenting with macro photography, and making long trailing blurs using various panning techniques. In his hunger for more knowledge he would look for documentaries about photography. He discovered one about the documentary photographer James Nachtwey, who said that he tries to reveal the many things happening in our world, which are not necessarily seen by most people. The mission of his life is to go to these people and tell their stories. “I thought this is the kind of photographer I wanted to be,” says Thomas. “I wanted to capture stories that need attention. This became my dream from then on, and I focused all my learning towards documentary photography and photojournalism. My wish is to share the tragedies happening around us with everyone who cares.” Thomas works as a Regional Training Manager in the network marketing industry. He describes his work as ‘plain’ and ‘dry,’ with planning meetings, sales targets and such. “Photography has changed everything for me,” he says. “It changed my way of looking at things: people, places, the buildings around me, and even the weather, since I now pay attention to different lighting conditions. Before discovering photography I didn’t really have much of a life beyond work and fishing, which was a childhood hobby. I’m now very proud that I am able to win some photographic awards and distinctions. It has opened my eyes and mind to the world. It is just amazing.” His excellent works successfully gained the award of distinction as Associate of The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and Associate of Society of Photographers Malaysia in 2014. He gained a higher award of distinction as Fellow of Society of Photographers Malaysia in 2015 with another series of documentary photographs. Thomas is the first photographer in Malaysia who won The Spotlight Award of Black & White Magazine Portfolio Contest with a series documentation of lifestyle and culture of the community at an abandoned depot and along the railway tracks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2014. This priceless recognition motivated him adhere to his dream of becoming a documentary and photojournalism photographer. To strive for the best, He travel to Cambodia several times to photographs workers that forced to find previous recyclable materials which they can sell in a dump site near the tourism city of Siem Reap. This story rewarded Thomas another Black & White Magazine Portfolio Contest Spotlight Award in 2015, he is the only photographer in Asia who won this prestige award twice. International Photography Awards is a strong encouragement and is also affirmation to the concept and values of Thomas`s photography. Thomas traveled a number of countries to search for interesting stories, including Cambodia, Liao, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. In 2017, he won the Black & White Magazine Portfolio Contest Spotlight Award for the third time with a series of photos taken in China. To share his experience in photography, Thomas aggressively contributed to many photography activities in Malaysia including Photography exhibition, Photography competition judges, Seminar facilitator, Workshops and courses trainer.


I was shooting with FF 36MP DSLRs before encounter the Fujifilm X Series camera system. In a friends gathering somewhere 2013, one of my friend shown me his work on a camera LCD display (an X-Pro1), asking me whether the picture quality of that camera is as good as my 36MP DSLR, when I look at those images, it is surprisingly good and comparable with the camera system that I used. (Actually he tried to lure me into Fujifilm camera system) Then I bought a X-Pro1 with XF35mmF1.4 and XF14mmF2.8 The purpose of this purchased is for street shoot or light travel, but eventually I found that with this retro look and small camera, people tends not to avoid from me to shooting them, they act naturally and I am able to captured more precious moments when they are not hiding or running away like those big arsenals that I used. This is the camera that I wanted to have for my kind of photography, shooting human interest that able to get closer to my subject where still having their natural action and expression. I started to build up the system by adding a few more lenses like the XF18mmF2, XF18-55mmF2.8-4, XF10-24mmF4 By further explore to the camera system, I found that the nature of crop sensor and the ISO performance from the X Series give me 2 to 3 stops faster compare to my DSLRs, I always shoot under low light condition, this will be a plus point for me and eventually I decided to shoot with Fujifilm X Series and purchased a X-T1 to pair with the Pro1, adding some more lenses into the collection too, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.6, XF23mmF1.4 and XF56mmF1.2 I just sold all my FF DSLRs and lenses middle of last year because the X Series camera performs even batter and the most important thing is I need not to carry tons of heavy and huge size equipment anymore and still getting the images that I want, or even better…..