Capturing moments
By:Gabriel Lihan

Looking into the eyes of Nadim Bokhari, there is a wealth of wisdom that carried him through the years of nearly three decades of photojournalism as he tells his stories of how he became interested in photography.

A penchant for shooting … through the lens

He has been a shutterbug for close to 30 years of his life, a time frame where most would have already become jaded. But not Nadim Bokhari.

He is today as enthusiastic as he was when he started out in the world of photojournalism.

An indefatigable spirit, perseverance and a willingness to learn the craft have over the years won him awards, both locally and nationally.

Every picture he has shot has a story behind it, thus, as he leafs through every page of his impressive portfolio, it quickly becomes evident he is no Ordinary Joe.

New Sarawak Tribune sat down with Nadim to delve deeper into his life as a photojournalist.

The ultimate childhood dream

Born in Kampung Tanjung, Petra Jaya, Nadim was a Josephian, having studied at St Joseph’s primary school all the way through secondary school.

“On my way home from school, passing by the Old Sarawak Museum, I kept seeing photographers taking pictures in the area and I was quite keen to find out what it was all about.

“It sparked a genuine interest in me, and I told my mother, one day, I would like to be a photographer,” he recalled.

“She sternly told me to study really hard if I wanted to achieve my dreams of becoming a photographer.”

He eventually ventured into photography around 1998, working for a magazine called the New Reality Magazine but only launched his professional photojournalism career in 2003 with New Straits Times Press, the biggest media production house in Malaysia then.

In the early 2000s, Nadim said the transition between a film camera and a digital camera was indeed difficult.

“When I first bought a digital camera, I bought a cheap one. I learned the settings, its angles and everything I needed to know about cameras from there.

“I learned its functions, its ability and its usage,” he said.

Hurdle and obstacles to overcome

As the interview went on, Nadim was asked about what were his most challenging moments as a photographer.

Immediately, he got excited. His facial expression changed as he recalled his most challenging time as a journalist being during the Nirmala Bonat’s case in 2004.

As much as the maid abuse case was the most talked about story in the nation, it was also Nadim’s most challenging one.

“I was in Bangsar at the time, and my boss called me to go to the Indonesian Embassy.

“It was peak jam hours, and if you know KL, the jam was crazy. I had no transport at the time, I took a taxi and when I arrived, I saw all the photographers were leaving the embassy,” he said.

He remembers panicking at the sight of photographers from the Star, Bernama, Reuters, AFP and Utusan Malaysia all making their way out of the embassy.

But the young Nadim learned to face his fears, rushed into the embassy, and met the person in charge.

“I begged Bapak (Sir/Mister) as he was commonly known, and knelt to the ground, I was desperate for a photo,” Nadim said, recalling that his gesture took the Bapak aback.

Nadim laughed, remembering that moment when he was asked not to kneel.

As things turned out, he was able to take shots of Nirmala, and it was different from that taken by the other photographers.

“When I left the embassy, I submitted my photos to my superiors, much to my relief.

“The next day, I found out that the NST and Metro had both used my photo on their front page,” he added.

Nadim said other challenges included having to endure sleepless nights, especially during big assignments, all the time figuring out where he should stand and where the best lighting would be to capture the moment.

“Patience is key because you can miss out on the real-time moments.

“Certainly, earning money is one thing, but if the photos are not secured I wouldn’t be either. In photography, you must love your work,” he said.

In this context he conceded work life pressures can be difficult, in that you must be prepared to get screamed at in the office and pressured by your bosses.

But your quality of work must never be compromised, he said.

He added that editing is also another challenging aspect of photojournalism, with everything online now and time becomes your biggest enemy.

Sincere work produces a work of art

Nadim has won an array of awards, locally and nationally such as the Kenyalang Press Award and the Commonwealth Journalists Association award.

But despite such recognition, his bearing is one of grace and humility, readily admitting that it all boils down to sincere hard work and dedication to the craft.

Nadim said his most memorable photo was taken during the SARS outbreak.

“I was with NSTP at the time, it was a picture of doctors donning their Hazmat suits, on their way to bring patients to the hospital at Mile 7.

“I had to go behind the hospital, there was a jungle there and I had to find my way to get a shot, and managed to grab some shots,” he recalled.

“My boss decided to use that photo for the newspaper’s front page.

“The photo was also used on Berita Harian’s front page, and the emotion felt then was really good. That photo to this day is very meaningful to me,” he added.

Nadim’s work is currently on display at the State Library and the exhibition will go on until Dec 15.

“I hope through the exhibition, people can be more aware of my work as a photojournalist,” he said.

All said, Nadim pointed out that photography is about moments.

“Moments and the eye to capture them, it takes patience,” he said.


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New Sarawak Tribune is a Sarawakian news portal that highlights Sarawak-centric news and other stories of relevance to Sarawak.

Today, New Sarawak Tribune focuses on happenings in Sarawak’s cities, towns and small places no matter how remote these are and events of relevance in other states of Malaysia and other countries.