Documentary Photography By Azli Jamil

Documentary Photography By Azli Jamil

Documentary photography is something I have always wanted to get into. I do not go on enough trips to really get great shots that really bring emotion to the viewer. Azli Jamil does an amazing job of this exact thing. Just by looking at these shots, you almost feel what the subjects in the image are feeling.

A little bit about Azli:
" Azli Jamil graduated from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa with a degree in Business Administration, majoring in Information Systems with a minor in Marketing. After 20 years of working in the corporate sector, including with some of the best organizations in Malaysia, in 2008, he resigned from his mid-level management with a multinational company job to travel and pursue his dream of becoming a professional photographer. He hopes to touch lives and make a difference while making a living at the same time.

Azli’s motto reflects his distinct photographic style, finding "beauty in simplicity" in his two favorite subjects, people and different aspects of human lives. He has finished writing a yet-to-be published 200 page photo book titles PHOTOGRAPHY PHILOSOPHY, where the seven photography tips and the photos complement each other in a way that would feast your eyes and feed your minds, make you take better photos, make you think, make you ask questions, to finally realize that "no man is an island"."

Feel free to check out his Flickr page.





















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Some of these are really great but the whole series seems a bit incoherent to me?


Some nice shots, but some seem to lack the sharpness that would take them to the next level.
with the shots that have eye contact I like the eyes to be sharp.

 The photos are sharp else I wouldn't upload them.  I upload screen resolution version smaller than the size uploaded above hence the lack of sharpness.

 ps: I do know that one of the shots is soft.  Hazard of 85mm f1.8.

I really don't care that much about some technical flaws in these pictures. The timing of some shots is surreal. Everything in them tells the story. Excellent work.

 Thank you.

Come on guys - captions? Documentary photography only exists to inform its readership. Without captions, or at least some degree of narrative framework to base our readings on, what are these images telling us? Right now this is a relatively incoherent set of visuals that only serves to perpetuate third world stereotypes. Give us context, give us information, give us a narrative, and ultimately give these good photographs the environment they need to function. Unless of course it's all sensationalised romance. Then leave it as it is and call it a day. 

Very well spoken... and while I agree in some ways, I also wonder how that approach would fit in with Steve McCurry's work. He simply savors and shoots what he finds intriguing. While the images are certainly not devoid of meaning, neither are they burdened with the responsibility of having to tell an entire story. There's enough visual context to engage the viewer and hint at something more.

Steve McCurry is a good counter example, but if you take a look at McCurry's books you'll find at the very least a narrative framework in the form of text; something to introduce the set of images, to place it in some degree of context. Most of McCurry's work was also shot from a journalistic standpoint, designed for placement in an editorial context. My issue is with this guy is that these minimalistic, purely aesthetically driven 'documentary' images aren't informing anybody of anything. The captions are almost comically limited; 'Hungry In India' and 'Colours of India' being two prime examples. You've got a photograph of a famished Indian man urinating (which he surely had no idea of) with the caption 'Nature's call...' Come on! Want to 'touch lives'? Start with your subject. Develop a relationship. Ask questions. Explore the facts. Catch 'moments' that work towards informing an audience of something instead of blindly relying on 'pretty' pictures to make a point. They just won't. These are street photographs at best. They're great from a stand-alone perspective, but as soon as you put them in the documentary basket they fall flat on their face, tripped by their complete lack of context and blatant insensitivity. If this was in America the title of the article would have been 'Street Photography'. Just because its third world doesn't make it documentary. 

Lets wisen up. 

Articulately thorough and balanced. Thank you.

It's a shame nobody from the FStoppers writing community can be arsed to answer for this, or at least contribute to discussion. Ah well.

Thanks for engaging Sean! 

I look forward to bumping into more of your thoughtful posts/commentary.

Famished?  How do you know that to make such judgement?  Just because someone is not bloated doesn't mean he's famished.
Nonetheless, I think you're a brick wall so no point in me arguing.

There is every point in you arguing here. You're clearly a talented photographer and I'm sure you have a lot of valid points. By all means defend your position, I love to have discussions about work. It'd be great if you had some points to contribute. Discussions and critique are how we move forward and learn.

 Couldn't you just look at each photo individually.  This is not a set but photos plucked from my flickr account.
If you want to talk about stereotypes, then photos of western worlds should be of people alone in wide open space, holding a large mirror so he/she could look at himself ALL the time.

I met Azli in a hostel in Kuala Lumpur half a year ago on my all around the world trip and he showed me his book. He has some excellent work. Thumbs up! :)

 Kind man. :-)

I shot what I see.  Anyone could do it if they open their eyes not not just look in front all the time.
I shoot clean shots and don't have the luxury to orchestrate my shots.
Beauty in simplicity is what I do. And photos posted on flickr are just photos posted on flickr.
It is not a book and how I titled my photos is
CaptainBirdseye, you're too much of a holier than thou person who spend too much energy . Talk is cheap.  Go and shoot!
Or is it, "those who cannot shoot, bullshit!!!"

To all who find what I wrote offensive, my apology but I'm not going to keep quiet to CaptainBirdseye's character assasination!

Azli, this isn't character assassination. Your photographs are great, but in my opinion they just do not fall into the 'documentary' category they've been branded with. That is my sole issue. Documentary is an amazing genre of photography, and one that is thoroughly rife with discussion, disagreement and debate. That's important. That's how the genre progresses. Nobody's work is impervious to discussions, or even negative critique. 

Lets not start with the ad hominem, and lets keep the focus where it should be; on the work. 
You know your work better than anybody, and you know your approach better than anybody, so by all means hit back at me with some discussion!

Sorry for over reacting.
Sean would attest to how big a drama queen I used to be.  Had a relapse.
Stressful day today.  I write business news at a business daily for a living and today I had crisis of confidence.
The newspaper is

The video you linked contains some really great photography. You clearly know you're a very talented person. What I'm not getting, however, which I find myself absolutely craving from your pictures, is a narrative construct. What are the pictures working towards? What are you trying to tell your audience? I see the beautiful way you capture your subjects and I want to know more! But I can't know any more because there's no more information. It's individual after individual, moment after moment but for me it just doesn't move anywhere. 

There is so much potential here for great stories and really engaging work. If you want to keep a viewers attention for more than a few seconds you have to engage them on a level that transcends aesthetic appeal. You've got to engage their intellect and ask questions of them; challenge them. 
I'd love to see how you operated in respect to following a brief or a narrative. I genuinely think you'd do extremely well in telling a coherent and compelling narrative through your visual language. Why not give it a go? Life is all about trying new things after all, right? Thanks for your reply. Keep on keeping on. You definitely shouldn't suffer a crisis of confidence because of what one guy thinks, but if you want to take my advice, I think your work would progress dramatically as a result. Ask around! 

What might be a help for all of is a simple, pithy example of what successful narrative construct actually looks like.

If you're working with single images, for example, that single image would serve as a representation of a larger event or story. Narrative is documentary 101. You know what a story book is, right? You know what a news article looks like, and you know what you'd expect to see from looking at a documentary. It all comes down to information and fact holding precedence over assumption. The same is true when you're working with visual language. A viewer shouldn't be left to assume the events in the picture. It should be made very apparent to them either by a brief textual information, or by the support of a body of cohesive images that work toward portraying the same story. 

Narrative without adjective is presenting facts.  Add the adjectives then it would become opinions that is so subjective.

I can see where you're coming from here. How does that apply to your work, though? 

 I could send you draft copy of my book.  It is about 5MB pdf file. Email me at Should make things clearer.

I would take advice from CaptainBirdseye

Wow this images are riveting!!!!