Maia Assan ‘Malaysia’s Best Female Street Photographer’

Street photography in Malaysia by photographer Maia Assan

Maia Assan ‘Malaysia’s Best Female Street Photographer’

Welcome Maia Assan, we’re happy to have you with us for an interview and to share your work and experiences. Could you first tell us about yourself?

street photography by Malaysia based photographer Maia Assan

“I’ll introduce myself as Maia Assan (‘Sumandak’ On The Street) Sumandak means Lady in Sabah, Malaysia. I was born in Kuala Penyu, Sabah, Malaysia. Graduated as a Dental Technologist and now working with dental health government services as dental technologist in Kota Kinabalu. I’ve loved art since my teenage years and always had the dream to be an artist. I love drawing, painting and making crafts, but my passion stopped after I completed my studies. After I got this job, I bought my first DSLR camera with my salary. My first DSLR camera was a Nikon D3200 and I started going out taking my camera for photography making it one of my hobbies. I met some friends on social media platforms like Facebook, who helped me so much to understand photography and I had opportunities to go on outings with them to shoot landscapes. After a few months, I realized that I have to learn more about photography and joined some workshops to improve my skills and knowledge. About two years after, I was encouraged from a friend (I call him ‘Dato’) to try street photography. I continue to post my street photos in social media and makes friends around the world while I try to learn more about street through them and their photographs. After my street photography journey started I feel very exited with my new life.”

street photography with Malaysia photographer Maia Assan

What difficulties do you face when doing your photography? And how do you overcome those challenges?

“Most of the time, I’m going out and traveling alone, I’m usually worried about my safety during shooting in sensitive locations, perhaps people might mistake me as a reporter instead of a photographer. I get to understand the environment and people’s living, especially on the first visit before shooting. But, every time before I shoot, I will explain my purpose being there and normally they  understand but sometimes they certainly don’t. If I travel to other place like Kuala Lumpur, or even in other countries I’ll contact my friends, usually other  street photographers, I call them mas-mas ganteng, and they will bring me to the site. I’m very lucky to have them as my friends, and my 2nd family. I’m very thankful to them and love them all.”

Street photography in Malaysia by photographer Maia Assan

Are there any specific project that you have worked on in the past, and are there some projects that you’re working on now?

“I don’t have any specific project but I got my collection album ‘Sumandak On The Street’ it’s still continues, I’ve also joined several photography exhibitions in Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. My latest exhibition with a friend is about ‘Street Photography In Petaling Street’ at E.T.C Cafe, Jalan Tun H.S Lee, Kuala Lumpur, organized by the Funky Street Group based in Kuala Lumpur. Now, I continue with compiling my personal collections to make a photobook about street photography in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and limited edition photobook of my Black and white photography.”

Maia Assan Street Photographer photographs from the streets in Malaysia

Can you tell us what typical day of shooting is like? Take us with you and explain the ins outs.

“I normally go shooting during weekend, called “Tamu” in Sabah language. In the morning we’ll see  beautiful lighting,  and moments from traders and buyers. I also go to the beach at sunset time, there we see  many locals and tourists coming to the beach with their family and friends. Of course I’ll also go out  on holidays or festival seasons, to capture many lovely moments.”

Maia Assan Malay Street Photographer

Can you share with us a few of your favourite photograph and tell us about the story behind them?

Face In The Train

street portrait by Malaysia street photographer Maia Assan

“I shot this photo with my Sony a6000 with f/5, 1/1600sec, ISO-100. I only used my kit lens 16-50mm. I love this photo very much. I was traveling with the train from Kota Kinabalu to Beaufort, one of the districts in Sabah, Malaysia and I realized the reflection from windows are very attractive and I saw a boy in front of me. I had to stand while the train moving and I felt not so stable. I waited and shot when the child looked at me. I love the emotion from the innocence face.”

Life In Gaya Street

Malaysia Street Photography by Malaysian Street Photographer Maia Assan

“While I walking and taking photographs on Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu, I was attracted to this moment. I saw an old man just reading a newspaper in front of a shop while people walked around him. I shot this photo with my Sony a6000,  at f/7.1, 1/80sec, ISO-125. I used my kit lens 16-50mm.”


Malaysia street photography by photographer Maia Assan

“This photo I captured in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur with my Leica D-Lux6, f/5.6, ISO-800. I had to wait for a time to get a beautiful shot. I love very much with the background and the mood at that time. I was looking for the perfect subject to pass by and I got it. This photo looked very classic for me.”


Refelection, color street photography image by Malaysia based photographer Maia Assan

“While the sun sets I love to walk on the beach, and this photo I got after a rainy day in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I shot this photo with my Leica D-Lux6, f/8, 1/400sec, ISO-200. I had to get low and shoot this from a low angle and  I waited for a long time to get this shot at the perfect time.”

This interview appeared in the November 2017 Issue of Talk Photography Magazine. More of Maia Assan’s photography can be viewed on her Instagram account

Leave a Reply