KLANG: Can he take good pictures? Can he see it properly?
Such remarks are so familiar to disabled professional photographer Muhamad Hakimi Mokhtar that he has learned to ignore them though they still hurt.
Most people would find it strange that a person afflicted with crossed eyes and poor vision would choose photography as a profession.
Hakimi has had the condition since he was a baby, but Providence chose to plant in him the love for the craft. He’s had the passion for it since he can’t remember when.
He began to think of setting up his own business after he finished school some years ago.
He told FMT: “I remember the dirty looks I got whenever I started to talk about photography and my dream of setting up a business. They didn’t think someone with crossed eyes like me could do it.
“It was demoralising, as if I was not meant to work like anyone else.”
He admitted to having had a mental breakdown because the despise he got from people around him was too overwhelming. But he soon got over it and decided he would let no one stand in the way of his dream.
The turning point came when he met photographer Muhd Helmi Mujamak at a wedding reception.
“I asked him if he wanted to be my partner. I made it sound casual and random. I knew I had to at least try.
“He was quite unsure at first, but then he decided to give me a chance.”
It was from Helmi that he learned the finer points of the art.
They set up a company called Kidung Entertainment, which specialises on wedding photos and informal occasions.
The first few months were particularly tough, but they persevered and marketed their service through word of mouth and a little bit of formal advertising.
“There were times when people wanted to cancel the deal after meeting us. They expected us to be normal, but I’m not.”
They persevered and soon began to gain recognition.
A year later, another disabled man, wheelchair-bound Sazali Hassan, joined the two as a video editor. The 52-year-old was diagnosed with arthritis when he was 25, but he brought with him his experience of working for a media company.
Now, after two-and-a-half years of hard work, their customer base has started to grow.
“Of course, they will question us at first, but in the end they are satisfied with our work,” Hakimi said.
“I’ve always wanted to show people that the disabled can work like normal people too and we should be given the chance to prove it.”
He says the hardest part of running a business is finding a way to sustain it. Maintaining the cameras, for instance, takes up a large part of the company’s earnings.
Despite the growing clientele, “it’s still a real challenge to find enough jobs”, he adds. “Sometimes, we don’t have customers at all.”
However, Hakimi does not want to give up the business because he has put his whole heart and soul into it for nearly three years.
“I want to show the world that we can do this,” he said.