Beyond the outlook of the young adult born and raised in Malaysia, Daniel Adams who shares a house with his friends that doubles as his at-home studio is a photographer who’s engaged with his subjects. The wise young man about to enter his mid-twenties is worldly, mature, speaks passionately about photography, and even fonder of his heritage and family. Granted the young millennial had to grow up fast as most young Malaysians do when travelling abroad to pursue their tertiary studies. Even though Daniel Adams is of British descent from his father’s side, living on your own for the first time is no easy feat especially during his final year, after the passing of his mother. Like the artist he is, Daniel Adams translated the stages of his grief and emotions into a heartfelt series of images dedicated to his late mother in ‘A Love Once Lost’ in 2019.
Early-onset in his burgeoning career, Daniel caught the eye and recognition from his university days in 2017 as his final year project ‘Why is your English so good’ garnered local media coverage in the United Kingdom. He continues to capture and highlight local stories and real-people and communities like the LGBTQ+ with his Love and Other Drags series, Boys series and Colourless series. He also highlights unrecognised beauties within the community in his Pink series, Dark Skin Is… series and Batik series.
After a full day of observing Daniel Adams’ work for our August Man collaborative shoot in his personal studio space, we sat down and asked him to share and breakdown his modus operandi (mode of operating) from conceptualisation to execution.
How did you immerse yourself into the world of photography?
I started getting into the concept of photography when my parents bought me a compact camera when I was in Year 6, at the age of 10. I took it to school and it was something fun for me, just to be taking random pictures. When I got my first DSLR, the Canon 550D, I did the same thing taking random images of things around the house such as taking my toys out to the garden and photographing them. It would usually be inanimate objects. Basically, it would be similar to what I do now with people. I would take photos of inanimate objects and I would create a world within them.
I started progressing into taking pictures of my friends and I even did a 365 Project in Year 10 which involved taking a picture every day for a year. This really started to unlock a lot of my creativity and this was the time when Flickr really started to thrive. I started to take a lot of inspiration from Flickr and its artists, the majority of them were American conceptual artists.
This is also when the conceptual stuff started to mould together. I started doing more individual photos with specific concepts. My time in university was what helped shape my foundation of photography and allowed me to strengthen my practice. In terms of teaching me how to create projects, understand its messages and my thoughts so I could mould them into a body of work.
Could you walk us through the Daniel Adams’ creative process?
My creative process goes from Idea, Plan, Research, Edit, Organise, Purchase, Shoot, and finally Post-Production. I try to understand the idea behind what I would like to produce. After that, I plan who I am going to shoot, what I am going to do, why, and how I am going to do it. Then I go on to research, and once I have a brief idea of the rundown of the elements of the idea or the project, I will then further research those elements.
I usually have everything down by the time I reach the edit and organise stage. It usually does turn out how I imagined it unless something goes wrong, if there’s a logistics error or lighting error. A lot of the time, if I am not happy with how it turns out in post I will tweak it according to my knowledge of Photoshop to create something that I do enjoy which maintains the core of the main idea.
Angles only come into play for specific reasons. If I am shooting a plus-sized model, I like to shoot from below to create a sense of empowerment and enhance their beauty. Otherwise, I shoot from angles which I find aesthetically-pleasing. Creative direction and conceptualisation are key for me.
Did you get significant work requests after your first major project gained news traction?
To be honest, no. However, to this day, I still have people telling me that they have seen my work. It allowed me to gain exposure when I submitted the project to The Guardian. I had initially sent the project to 60 different outlets to get back on track after some personal problems. The only outlet who got back to me was The Guardian. This was really cool because once they published it, it was shared 20,000 times overnight.
It got me a lot of exposure and maybe did create an opportunity to get more work later on, but at the time maybe not. There was no immediate effect, but it was pretty cool. I always aim to create an educational platform, which would create work that was catered towards educating people and myself about certain topics like disability, racism and about people’s real-life experiences in general. I strive to talk about social and political issues and highlight people who are doing these good things.
Why do you think it’s important to capture and showcase these under represented and unconventional real people and communities?
I think these discussions are important because if we don’t have them, nobody will learn about other people’s perspectives and understand how things work. Representation is so important.
I feel that all these communities can offer so much to the advertising industry and that diversity should be celebrated. That’s why it is so important for them to be represented. Once representation happens, it becomes easier to educate people about various minority communities and it becomes normalised. Just because people are different, it doesn’t mean they’re abnormal.
Could you share with us a little bit about your last project?
It’s called ‘An Illuminated Road,’ it’s a series of portraits of 20 creative individuals who inspire me because they’re paving the way by creating art and speaking about political and social issues. To me, they’re pushing and breaking boundaries with the work that they do. I will unveil the images one by one and it was exhibited at the Rex KL last month. They were creating something new which is interesting.
As your personal work is more conceptual, how do you think the #iAMuniq campaign (being your first editorial) differs from the usual August Man style?
I think that shoot is different as it was a bit more conceptualised and artsy, and I personally think that many magazines don’t have that art signature. It is usually very editorial and sleek, which is fine because the target audience likes that and they have to please the readers. However, the way I am going to edit this stuff will be something that is more “out there” and I like the artistic direction that this shoot today is taking.
Here’s a look at some of his other amazing shots: