Friday, December 30, 2005


Jaipur Old Town

Jaipur Street

Hawa Mahal

Amber Fort

Jaigarh Fort

Getting these images onto the blog has been an adventure in itself. :) I went to several internet cafes and none were able to read the P2000 or the camera as a drive. I went to a photolab and got the images I wanted burned onto a CD. I came to an internet cafe that has just 1 CD-ROM drive in one computer, and it ain't a great computer. I also had to download irfanview to browse the CD and resize the images.

Anyway here are a few images from Jaipur. I wonder how I am going to continue getting images onto the blog, especially in the smaller towns? :!

In the middle of a colorful chaos

It has only been a few days, but I feel opened up already. Jaipur is a chaotic mess of people. And even though there are irritating people trying to sell you everything under the sun, it has been a fascinating journey. The forts and palaces of the Rajput Kings are truly grand. At least they were and you can still see how grand it was in the buildings and the artwork on the walls. And there are many common Indians who are willing to smile into the camera for you. If you show them the image that you have taken, they smile and say thank you. I have tried not to promise photographs to people that I meet. Even if I were to print the images out for them in Singapore, nobody here actually gave me an address that I could use to send the photographs to. What I have ended up doing in a couple of cases where I have agreed to give photographs, is to get the images printed in a local lab and go back to the place where I took the pictures. It is a bit of a bother but it is important to me to back my words up. I still regret agreeing to send photos to a wonderful old Indian lady in a Pueblo in New Mexico. I sent the pictures to her and it was returned because of the wrong address. I did my best, but many of these people do not know their mail addresses. I think about buying a canon portable printer, but I really like traveling light.

I thought that I was being spoilt for hiring a driver for this trip. But I have discovered that it is the perfect way for a photographer to work in a new country. I get to go where I want and when I want. If you took public transport, it would be cheaper to be sure but you do not always get where you want to at a convenient time. I have always hated tours. You usually spend half the time in a bloody souvenir shop and when you get to a beautiful location, the sun is crap or you have very little time before they cart you off to the souvenir shop again! The other thing about hiring a car with driver is that I also like the fact that there is some type of local who is looking after your interests while you are here.

I have been trying my darnest to upload images to the blog but I have yet to find an internet computer that will read my Epson p2000 drive or the canon camera USB port. Most of the computers here are on Win 98 which does not automatically read USB drives. :( I will keep trying but I may only be able to upload images when I return to Singapore. If this is the case I will also be less inclined to update the blog.

Suffice to say that I am really enjoying myself. Tomorrow, New year's day, I will be off to my second town in Rajasthan, Ajmer.

If I do not have another entry, Happy New Year folks. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Indian Experience begins

Well, India moves in much more mysterious ways than Singapore! The Indian Airlines flight left 2 hours late and arrived in Delhi at 2pm. I scramble from the international airport in Delhi to the Domestic airport to find the flight to Jaipur had left at 10am instead of 4pm as I had expected. The Indian Airlines people told me that my travel agent, Mustafa Travel, had made a booking mistake. The winter flight times were 10am and Mustafa had booked me on the wrong time. So on the 20th of December, the kind folks at Indian Airlines had changed my Delhi to Jaipur flight to 6am the next day. Only no one had told me and I have no bloody place to stay in Delhi!! Finally some mama-san looking woman at the counter gave me a night's lodging and dinner at the airline hotel because I looked so alone!!

I had forgotten what rubber time meant and how things are done in India. Welcome back. :) At least I am on a real adventure. These things feel more like a challenge than a bother. In Singapore, things 10mins late seem like a major crisis. Things are just different in India.

P.S. The Briyani in the airline hotel, The Centaur Hotel, was good. :)

Monday, December 26, 2005

I'm leaving, on a jet plane...

I have been waiting for this for a long time and I am finally leaving for Rajasthan tomorrow morning. I have not really read the guide book but I have settled transport and lodging. I will be traveling around Rajasthan for 3 weeks and will only be back in Mid-January. I do not know if I will be able to update the blog but I will try from the road. I will take raw and small jpegs so I can upload the jpegs.

After 2 years, I am alone again, but this time I am at peace with myself. I need space, both literally and figuratively, to see with my eyes, heart and soul. Like most other creatives, I have fear. I fear that even with this freedom, I have lost the ability to see with my heart. I think about what photographs can sell and will be of interest to other people and I feel I should be practical. However, some of my best photographs were taken when I was in Europe by myself. At that time I longed to be with someone, but managed to get mentally into a place where the photographs found me. I feel that I took some of my best, most lyrical photographs in panoramic format on that trip. Those images have more or less not been sold. Only a few friends purchased a handful of images. I will try to be brave on this trip, and once again shoot for myself. The images may not sell to anyone, but they will be shots that I will be proud to call my own. The fruits of my labor.

December Mood

I was shooting for my Chinese New Year greeting on Boxing Day. :)

I had a great location courtesy of my friend Eric. I had already rented a Cheong Sam for Christina and Randy had brought his suit. We decided to just take a few shoots as a tribute to In the Mood for Love. I call this series December Mood. Originally I had wanted to caption the images in a funny way but I am seriously short of time preparing for my trip tomorrow morning!

Thanks to Eric for the space, Randy, Christina and Nic for being my models, Winnie for doing hair and make-up and Betty and Eadwine for assisting. All on Boxing Day holiday!

So any suggestions for captioning the images? Please leave a comment.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Well, it has been one hell of a year. But I have done quite a few things and am looking forward to my holiday and sabbatical.

Here's to the people who read this blog, I hope you get to follow your dreams.


Ngiap Heng

Christmas Present 2004 - Part III

Christma Present 2004 - Part II

In case you are wondering, I upload large selections of images in parts because the whole thing hangs if I try and load everything at one shot.

Christmas Present 2004 - Part I

I cook a Christmas dinner for the people working and associated with The Pond and Memphiswest Pictures every year. Last year I thought it may be the last one as Wes and Jodie are now working in Paris. I decided to take some portraits as a rememberance and produce the series Christmas Present 2004. This is the first of 3 installments.

We just had Christmas dinner for this year. This time I shot on the 4x5! I may show the results early next year, or maybe next Christmas period. ;)

Friday, December 23, 2005

To Be

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live to what light I might Have.
- Abraham Lincoln

As my life changes and I make the transition from generalist to specialist, I cannot regret the path I have taken. I have had the opportunity to take photographs and be paid for it. I have learnt my craft and experienced different aspects of photography. All the experiences have helped me become who I am today. And it is on the foundation of past experience that I build the structure of my future.

To all the people that have given me their trust and faith,
to all those who have contributed to my path,
Thank you.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gabor Marton - Test Shots

Phantom Modelling Agency asked me to take headshots of a male model yesterday. I was not expecting much from the session. Then Gabor Marton turned up at my door, looking more like an adventurer than a model. He walked into the studio and told me that he is a photographer too and he only models part time. He pulls out an absolutely stunning model book and points to some superb photos and tells me that they were taken by his father! I felt like peeing in my pants at that point of time. What did I agree to do?

So I was determined not to be intimidated and put off. I did not approach this like a typical headshot-passport photo session and as Gabor saw the results on my lcd screen he warmed up too. We had a great time, shooting head shots, half-bodies and full-nudes!! We both loved the shots!! What was to be a 2 hour session max came up to 5 hours, with lunch, chatting and editing. Phantom did not get the head shot they wanted though... Hmmm....

9 Lives - Studio shoot for Bus Ads

Studio session for 9 Lives. I hear 4 buses are going to be pasted with images from this session!! Kewl!! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

9 Lives - Outdoor Publicity Shoot

Publicity Photographs for an upcoming TV series on Arts Central, '9 Lives'.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

PDN's PIX Digital Imaging Contest 2005

The PDN PIX Digital Imaging contest winners.

Something unsettles me about this contest and its winners. The images are really good, but they are not images that I want to shoot. Well, maybe not all. There are some images that really inspire me to shoot, but a lot of it does not speak to me. Especially the commercial work.

I guess what I am trying to figure out is what happens if I have no inclination to shoot like the winners in this competition? Does that invalidate my work? And why is it that I cannot understand the soul of some of this work, although I can appreciate the technique.

Hmm... I cannot change my style to mimic some award winning work because I have no clue about why the work came about. I can only improve the work that I feel strongly about and hope that one day it will be good enough for other people to appreciate.

Ask not why people are not looking at your work. Ask why your work is not making people sit up and look at it.

Lunch and Dislocation

I was having lunch with Wilkie Tan. The wedding client who put together his own album.

He is an arts teacher and artist. We talked about art in general and he brought a point that made me really take note. Singapore is a migrant society and we have never taught the students about the dislocation. As a society we have not come to terms with this. We are taught Chinese history and history of the Malaysian straits, but what does this mean to the average Singaporean? What does ancestral worship and the other religious beliefs mean to a society obsessed with earning a living and materialism?

To me it seems that we have disowned our heritage. The culture, religion, ethics are not rooted in the collective consciousness of our society. We have the outer facades of our ancestry, but not the knowledge and insights of our forefathers. For Chinese, the switch to Mandarin and the break from dialects contributed heavily to the dislocation when a younger generation stopped being able to communicate with their elders. The facades now are also being destroyed for newer, culturally arbitrary structures. What this means is that we live on what must be a cultural raft in a sea raging with changing. Without a history, we are unable to build a coherent identity. We can be anything, but with no opinion or viewpoint to start from, we cannot defend or rebel. We take on various shapes and trends but are clueless to why things are done the way they are. We simply see the outer forms and exaggerate them. Like some women applying cheap make-up in thick layers turning them into monstrosities and not beauties.

I am appalled by how government bodies keep encouraging artists to be multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary. It is so hard to understand our own cultural and one art form. An un-educated attempt to put various cultures together results in a large mess of junk. A chaos that says nothing more than how untalented and uninformed we are.

As Singaporeans we have start being more engaged in our own society, and this may or may not value our ancestry. As artists, it is our tasks to understand the society and engage the audience in a dialog. It takes effort and is not simple.

Simon Starling - Turner Prize winner

I got a lovely poem from a lady in St Albans about sheds

Simon Starling won the Turner Prize for a shed that he made into a boat and reconstructed. Is this art? Don't really know but the article in the Gaurdian is a good read and food for thought.

Is what you make art, I ask Simon Starling? "Maybe it isn't," he says disarmingly. "It's art because I trained as an artist." What, then, is the point of being an artist? "Art for me is a free space to explore things. The things I do don't always come out looking like conventional works of art. But then I'm like any artist these days working in relation to a long history of art. I think the press is a long way behind understanding this or responding to art in a sympathetic way. I got a lovely poem from a lady in St Albans about sheds."

Marilyn Lee

At the end of a long portrait session, I asked Marilyn to pose for the 4x5 camera. I took this shot on Polaroid 55 and gave her the instant positive. This is scanned from the negative. As you can see the entire feel is very different from the digital shots. There just seems to be a presence for me. As the process of shooting the 4x5 camera is very obvious for the subject and photographer, a different, more grounded engagement is needed. The resultant image tends to be soft, shooting 4x5 at f5.6 and 1/8s, I guess that I should expect it. Still love the feel.

I took a couple of colour slide film shots on the 4x5 too but I did not like the results.