Monday, October 31, 2005

MTV rip offs

Ok. Ok. I do a serious blog, but I have also done Ella and Zul. If you have broad band, you should check these videos out. They are a real laugh.

Curry and Rice Girl (Thanks to Tiffinbox)
Back Dorm Boys (Thanks to Sharon Tsui)

Tête-à-tête at CitiLink Mall

Well,Tête-à-tête has not disappeared yet. I have managed to get my usual space at the CitiLink Mall to put up the Tête-à-tête exhibition. It will be there until mid-January. Then I will be putting up pictures from my Europe series till end of February. And in March and April I hope to put up images that I am going to take on my trip to Rajasthan at the end of this year.

My usual space at Citilink Mall is the Theatre Link leading to The Esplanade. It is by the side of the Adidas shop.

Europe 2005 - Farewell

This series on the remembrance of Pope John Paul II came about because of Christine. Thanks Chris, for the adventures we had together.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Europe 2005 - A polish remembrance

It took about an hour to walk from Trafalgar Square to Westminster Cathedral. Along the way, the Polish people were singing Polish songs and waving their flags.

We got to Westminster Cathedral and it was closed. The event was unplanned. People put their candles in front of images of Pope John Paul II. There was a sense of pride, reverence and sadness. I think that the pride of the Polish in having such an illustrious son, made the atmosphere very different from the other Catholics who also grieved for the loss of their Pope.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Europe 2005 - Remembering Pope John Paul II

Christine and I were in Rome the day Pope John Paul II died. As Christine was brought up Roman Catholic, I thought the least I could do was to bring her to the Vatican since we were in Italy anyway. I have never liked congested Rome and we were on the train to Paris when the John Paul II passed away. In her heart, Christine wanted to go back to Rome but we both knew that it was logistically not possible.

A week later in London, the Polish community in London held an impromptu march for their hero, Pope John Paul II. For he was also instrumental in liberating Poland from communist rule. The Polish community arranged this march via SMS and web sites. Chris happened to find out about the march while looking for a remembrance service for the Pope on the net. At about 6.30 in the evening we were in Trafalgar Square looking at a handful of Polish people shivering in the rain, wondering if the march was for real. As Chris wanted to have a candle for the march, we popped into the nearby St. Martin's Cathedral and bought a candle from the gift shop. When we returned in half an hour, the entire Trafalgar Square was full of people. It was like magic.

After shooting so many Easter processions in Sicily, Chris and I were participating in a once in a life time procession for a very popular Pope. It was a cold evening and the candles kept blowing out. The people though were very warm and people kept sharing their candle flames.

Tin Toys

Click on image to see larger version

I will be hitting 40 next year. Not so far away. Somehow I still cannot help feeling 'un grown up'. I think that people who know me know that I do my best to keep my word. Inside me, I still wish to be a kid and run away from all that responsibility. I know to do the best that I can but sometimes things are beyond me but I still have to bare the responsibility. Guess like a parent taking responsibility for their children's actions. In my case, my child is my business.

Well kiddo, Daddy is taking a holiday the first half of next year. Can't wait for the break.

I love the tin toys. They remind me of childhood.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Nuts & Bolts by Bill Pierce- The Digital Journalist

This one is for any photographer who wants to preserve his/her images. The sad fact is that there is no fool proof solution to archiving one's precious images. I guess that 'precious images'is arguable because we are drowning in a sea of images and no one gives a damn about our images. Hmm... Yeah, thoughts about saving your images. This article by Bill Pierce is food for thought. Article

My two cents worth:

1. You have to start editing early and just dump the worthless shots. In general, I would say that half of anything I shoot can go immediately into the trash can although I suspect that I can go up to 90%. And be honest, is that portrait of the lady collecting cardboard shot on a wide angle lens from across a football field really any good??

2. I suspect that out of the decent shots that we archive, the shots that we are truly proud to call our own is as rare as hen's teeth. So make a folder of selects and put your best shots, in highest resolution, in that file. This will save you hours of seach time when you finally want to put together a portfolio or exhibition. In my case I am using a portable drive of 100mb. Not that I have so many great images, but because I am giasu and shoot large files.

3. The most common response to archiving is at least one copy on DVD. Uggh. You will have to be very, very disciplined to manage so many DVD's and catalog all of them. I am going to have my images on 2 hard drives. These two hard drives will be placed in different physical locations in case my office burns down or something to that effect. The hard drives will be checked regularly and if one drive fails, I will make a copy from the other drive to replace the spoilt drive.

4. I have not done this yet, but I am going to buy iview media pro to catalog my work. It is getting to the stage that trying to keyword all my images is a nightmare. Thumbnails of what I have and where they are will be invaluable. This is one of the reasons I am taking a sabbatical in the first half of next year. Loads and loads of cataloging.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Speech by Bill Watterson at Kenyon College

A friend sent me a link to this speech by Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes. How many of you there love Calvin and Hobbes, say "Yea!!"

This is another fantastic guy, like Steve Jobs, who managed to beat to the tune of his own drum. He also reveals that he had to fight the corporate greed that wanted to turn his art and what he wanted to say into commodities. Sigh....

One more time. Someone tells you to stop chasing your dreams, tell that person to piss off.

The Nine Emperor Gods

These are some shots from the tentage outside Eunos MRT dedicated to celebrating the birthday of the Nine Emperor Gods. My family was not into this type of worship. It is not Buddhist. It seems to be a mixture of Taoism and ancestral worship. In a country where so much of the educated have become Christian, these type of ceremonies help remind me that the Christians are actually in the minority in Singapore. Whatever it is, the Chinese faiths do not appear to disappearing.

I look at my own photographic work and realise that I am not really cut out to be a photojournalist. :) I never have a good establishing shot. Guess that I got to work on that one.

Photographers Anonymous

I think that I have said before that you can not teach the art of photography. It is a process that each person has to find for him or herself. The reason a person shoots in a certain way with a certain light or angle has to come from an inner motivation. Without an inner reason for releasing the camera shutter, our images can only be technically perfect.

I am writing this blog not so much to teach photography. I was never a good technical photographer. All the technique that I have learnt has been because I need to get a certain idea out so that I can capture the image. There are so many good web sites like luminous landscape and photoworkshop where you can get the low down on technical know how. I could not do a better job. As I said, the art side is unteachable. So what am I doing? I am sharing my own photographic journey, like how it happens in Alcoholics Anonymous or some other self help group. The idea that knowing some tips will make you a great photographer is a load of bullshit. It is a long internal journey. All I can do is spread a bit of comfort in the fact that all people on artistic journeys stumble along the way. If you pick yourself up enough times and brush off the dust, you may just make something that makes you happy to call your own.

For all the other people out there sharing their journeys with me, I take comfort in your bravery. And I am inspired by the visions and viewpoints that I was too blind to see.

Love and Peace...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Waiting for Grace

We dream of creating that wonderful image, the one that everyone else will look at and go wow! In my experience, my best photographs are gifts from the powers that be. Sometimes we have something so perfect in our minds but due to the location or the light or the model or our own blindness, we are unable to produce the shot. Then on a day you think you are doing a routine job with no prospect of anything self -fulfilling happening, a shot gets handed to you on a platter, all you have to do is press the stupid button.

The great images are an act of Grace from beyond us. What we have to do is to keep working daily and keep the faith. We have to keep shooting and improve our craft. We have to infuse ourselves with the experience of great images and open our minds to what may appear before us. When a moment of Grace happens, you don't want your exposure to be wrong or your focus to be off or not be able to get to that stupid button.

You cannot get that great image without work. And you cannot let your photography become just work. Although it seems too much like a chore, we have to put our best effort into every mundane shot. Then one day, when you may not be expecting it, Grace...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Signs of Life

My wedding work has quietened down naturally and my time has freed up. It is a nice surprise that interesting things have happened to me lately, reminding me that my life is a wonderful journey and that I should not stop because of fear. :)

On Thursday, on a whim, I took on a copy job. It was to photograph the work of award winning copyrighter Paul Tan. He brought in advertisements from early on, advertisements full of wit. Copy work is boring but this assignment was an eye opener. Paul was the first of a group of people to pass through my studio in 3 days, reminding that one must life live to the full. Here is a piece of work that Paul worked on.

Then my good friend Greg Burns came down to be the first victim of a series of portraits called The textured series. Being out of personal work for a while I had my fears about what I can do, but having Greg as my first subject was great. I was able to play around with the angles and shots and I now have a better idea on how to develop the series. We also had a lot of fun talking about art.

Then I decided to shoot some really cute toys made of tin that I bought from Hong Kong.

The real surprise today was that after shooting Greg and my toys, a singer called Bobz called me up. I had approached him at Foster's and asked if he would sit for me. He gave me his name card but due to all the work that I was doing I never called him. He is returning to Perth with his wife Candice, and just found my name card amongst his stuff. He decided to call me to see if I wanted to shoot him still. I wanted to relax but something told me that I wanted to shoot him and so Candice and Bobz ended up in my studio for an impromptu shoot. I think that nerves got to all of us but it was great meeting a journeyman of life. His wife Candice, is a Singapore Idol finalists. And now they are going to be a band together in Australia. It is great finding a partner that can accompany you on your journey, someone who is willing to try things and learn with you. I think we could have done better but we still got some decent shots.

Agfa almost dead

Sigh. Another one bites the dust. Agfa is folding by the end of the year. Contax gone. Kodak lost a Billion dollars this year.

A lot of photographers are still in love with film. Film has a richness that digital still cannot deliver fully. However, becasue of the mass movement of the consumer to digital, giants of the film era are passing away, into memory.

I hope that there will always be a place for film. I hope to be always to shoot film.

How good can it get?

The following articlce says that they are publishing the complete Cavin and Hobbes!!


The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wayang at Eunos - Details

In the last post, I put up images from the Wayang that was more general because they were chosen for the Wayang people. I made prints for them as a token of appreciation.

In this post I am sharing the details that always catch my eye. The small and bigger things that intrigue me.

How is the 5D? The image quality is astounding for digital. The focussing is not as fast as the 1D MkII but I have never been a sports type photographer. The focussing is fast enough for me and I have never needed anything more than 1 continous frame per second. The full frame lets me optimise my 24mm lens. The viewfinder is great for an aging photographer like me. :)

The downside? The body is slightly bulky for my asian hands. I prefer the 350D in terms of size. I will use the 5D for professional work and trips. I know that I need the resolution. I am not selling the 350 because I can carry it around daily.

So far there are many plus sides to digital capture for work. Still, there is a certain thiness in the saturation. I cannot get shots like that from Velvia or 100VS. The other thing is that no matter how I do the conversion, there is something missing in black and whites. Even if I am making digital b/w prints, the textural feel of scanned b/w film beats digital conversion. I am working on this though.

My 2 cents worth.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chinese Wayang at Eunos

There was a huge tentage set up next to Eunos MRT station to celebrate the birthday of the nine Empror gods. Next to the tentage was a wayang stage. My assistant Betty and I went into the backstage of the wayang to take some candid photographs. The Wayang people were very friendly. I took these images on my new Canon 5D with a 24-70mm f2.8 lens. I was shooting at iso 800 and I think that the results are really nice.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Work and Rejection

I just bought the Nov/Dec 2005 issue of American Photographer. I think that this is a very important issue in that it highlights five very important photo essays that have not been published in the U.S. It also highlights stories of rejection by some of the great photographers like Mary Ellen Mark. In a world consumed with success and celebrity stories, this issue of American Photographer reminds us that there are stories that are worth out time and attention even though they are not pleasant.

The photo essays that have not been published are as follows
1. A story on the Ku Klux Klan by James Edwards Bates
2. A story on the Beslan School siege by Dmitri Beliakov
3. A story on women in the Arab world by Alexadra Boulat
4. A story of a soldier who went to Iraq and returned wounded by Lucian Read
5. A story on the plight of the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Marcus Bleasdale.

There are many reasons why good stories are not being published. One reason is that publications are commercial and the editors, concerned with the bottom line, want to publish more stories on celebrities. Sometimes stories are also rejected because of the current political powers do not like the negative impact of some of the stories.

Is too much emphasis being placed on appearing happy and perfect? Should the public be spared stories of death in some far off state in Africa? I have also heard an aversion to some of my own photographs of perfectly happy seniors. Nothing wrong but some Singaporeans find images of 'old' people hard to take.

Sometimes it seems that the industrialized world is only geared for the successful, virile, yuppie consumer. The young, the old and those unfortunate enough to live in a country with an unpronounceable name be damned.

We have to start looking at how we live our lives and how our existence impacts on the rest of the world. We cannot just buy our designer goods and just trust that the powers that be will do the right thing. The world can only start to get better when all of us get involved and make our decisions count.

Europe 2005 - Paris, Parting shots

This was the 3rd time I was in Paris but the 1st time I went up the Eiffel Tower. :)I always thought that it would be too expensive and the queues ridiculous, but Christine wanted to go up the tower. It turned out to be quite reasonable and not too crowded.

The top of the tower.

At the Louvre museum. Very engaging.