Sunday, September 30, 2007

Our current obsession sung

The weight of an image

The right photo strikes the eye, as the right chord strikes the ear. Mark Riboud.

I learnt about Contacts in Tuscany from Anders Peterson. It is a series of short films in which photographers talk about their contact sheets and the way they take photographs. It is so fascinating being able to get a peak into the minds of great photographers. The above quote by Mark Riboud is from his short film.

As I watch photographers pick their selected images from countless others, I wonder what makes an image the image? All images are abstractions, just little dots forming patterns on paper. And as Ansel Adams said,

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

What makes patterns on a paper a good photograph? The way the patterns create a visual form which resonates with the viewer? That is just a pretty picture no? When the symbols in the image, that is the content of the image, strikes a chord in the viewer? And if the viewer does not have knowledge of the symbols in the image, is it that striking? And there those images that speak of the human condition, probably universal to all human viewers. Do we not all cry when we are sad and laugh when we are happy. Or are emotions in an image enough to make an image good? So many questions.

There are rules and methods that can help us make a dynamic, visually striking image. And sometimes, when an image is so visually strong, it can inspire the viewer to other thoughts. But there are even stronger images, that make us think about the condition of existence, images that make us question our own values, our own lives. How are these images made? I do not think that the images that are great have a formula and you cannot teach people how to take them. Like Imogen Cunningham said,

I don't think there's any such thing as teaching people photography, other than influencing them a little. People have to be their own learners. They have to have a certain talent.

Photography is an alchemy of unconscious emotions and thoughts. The training of photography is not to be found in geometry, philosophy or mechanics. It is an art where the photographer is like a stone under a waterfall, slowly being washed into a shape by the torrent of visual experience. You basically learn photography by taking photographs again and again. And each time you see the results build a intuition for the resonant image, the image that can touch strangers around the world.

So young photographers, ask not about the technique or the method. You can learn that yourself. Look to the process of the photographer you admire. What drives the photographer, how his alchemy loops from photograph to editing to print to the next photograph and the ongoing internal discourse. And that will teach you nothing as a photographer's process is as unique as the photographer. What you will see is the possibilities of seeing. And what you must learn is how to find your own loop of alchemy.

Photographs are not an end game, not even for commercial photography in my view. Photographs are partial answers begging for more questions. Pictures that are complete are easily forgotten. Pictures should haunt the viewer long after they have left the presence of the viewer.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dance Europe Cover

Well, it sure has been a year of first for me. This was an unexpected surprise. An image that I shoot for the Legacy of Goh Choo San made it to the cover of Dance Europe. Apparently the editor bumped a cover from the Bolshoi Ballet for this. Crazy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I have been thinking about how to foster a sense of community in Singapore amongst photographers. This came from reading a post by Geoffrey Pakim on Midnight Tales.

I think something like a forum would be good. But to feed this forum, a roundup of what is being blogged is good. I have used Yahoo pipes to make a feed of some of the blogs of Singaporean photographers. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts.



Ok. I have managed to find a free forum hosting site. So I have started a PhotoblogSG forum. And instead of using pipes I have used bloglines to collect Singaporean Photographer's blog. I have cobbled together a website which I am hosting of The Pond web site. Ok folks, it ain't pretty. But it has a forum and listing of blogs. Can you please try it out. See how the forum and blog readings go for you. Let me know if there are forum groups I should include or blogs I should list.

Check out

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dead and resurrected

The original hard drive in my Mac G5 died last night. The computer seemed to hang. When I rebooted the computer, I had no operating system. The Apple warranty was for a year and this computer is over two year old. But I had backed up the operating system onto a firewire external drive. So I went to Sim Lim and got a replacement drive for $89. Plonked the new drive into the G5, booted from the firewire external drive, and restored the system. The program I used for copying the system drive to the external and then back is called Super Duper. I think that there are free ways of doing this, but the Super Duper interface is simple.

I keep wanting to do this with the windows machines I have. But the main program that does this is Ghost and it does not seem to have a simple clone function. Then you cannot boot a windows machine from an external hard drive either. There are real reasons why the Mac is easier for users.

But for iphone users who have unlocked their phone, beware. With the next software update, you could have the ibrick.

An ode to Leica in the New Yorker

A Critic at Large: Candid Camera: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

This is an ode to Leica. Makes me want to go out and buy one, but I really do not have the cash for it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Does anyone want to learn Digital workflow from me?

I rather talk about living as a photographer, but I have spent quite a bit of time learning about digital workflow. How should we shoot digitally, download files, rename, process stuff etc. I wonder whether anyone out there would be interested in like a one day seminar on digital workflow?

alec soth - blog � Blog Archive � This post is not about sex machines

alec soth - blog � Blog Archive � This post is not about sex machines

Alex Soth invited Tim Archibald to talk about his work. A fascinating insight to how one photographer is digging into “all the rich stuff, the complex emotions.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

BBC NEWS | UK | Fund to fight 'witchcraft' abuse

BBC NEWS | UK | Fund to fight 'witchcraft' abuse

What people are willing to do for their beliefs can really be terrible. Torturing children because they are accused of being possessed. Yucks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just how I feel right now

YoungJedi: The Story of Monkey God Tree in Jurong West Street 42

YoungJedi: The Story of Monkey God Tree in Jurong West Street 42

This is a hilarious story about a local story. :)

Artificial Sweeteners: No Calories ... Sweet!

Artificial Sweeteners: No Calories ... Sweet!

I am almost diabetic. So I take a lot of artificial sweeteners. In reservists, someone told me that Aspartame is neurotoxic. And there are horror stories found on the internet. I guess that it is scary for me.

Fortunately, organisations like the U.S. Food and Drugs administration has informative web sites. For now, I am continuing to take Equal. But it looks like Splendour, made from a sugar that does not get absorbed, may be a better long term sweetener.

'The New York Times' drops online subscription service | Tech news blog - CNET

'The New York Times' drops online subscription service | Tech news blog - CNET

Hmm. This is really significant I think. In the way media gets to people. We are really becoming a digital world.

Also interesting to note that The Straits Times online is still through subscription only. I wonder how long this will last?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bounty set over Prophet cartoon

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bounty set over Prophet cartoon

So remind me again how religions promote love and peace? Except maybe for the Jains, I am not convinced. And before you tell me that it is only the Muslim fundamentalists, explain the crusades and the war in Ireland.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Gods row minister offers to quit

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Gods row minister offers to quit

The power of belief over rational science.

More than 190 arrested at D.C. protest - Yahoo! News

More than 190 arrested at D.C. protest - Yahoo! News

Naked Truth - An interview with Jock Sturgess

Jock Sturgess is an art photographer who has shot nudes of people of all ages. He usually works in naturalists camps where people are very comfortable being nude. However, some right-wing Christian group managed to convince the FBI to investigate him as a child-pornographer. He has not convicted, but the experience has changed his life. In this interview he talks about his work and the experience of being investigated.

I came across this article from Alex Soth's Blog.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Toscana Photographic Workshop - Photographer of the Month

::: TPW ::: Toscana Photographic Workshop

The Toscana Photographic Workshops are featuring me as The Photographer of the month. The nice folks there. I let them have some of my new dance photography. =)

mrbrown: L'infantile terrible of Singapore: the mrbrown show: the pre-guard duty test

mrbrown: L'infantile terrible of Singapore: the mrbrown show: the pre-guard duty test

All we talk about in reservists is the guy going AWOL with a gun. And Mr Brown captures this so well.

Islamic Spain: history's refrain - Yahoo! News

Islamic Spain: history's refrain - Yahoo! News

Amongst all the news of religious fundamentalism arising today, here is a nice piece of history. Showing that a religiously tolerant Islamic Spain, brought many achievements to Europe.

At its peak, it lit the Dark Ages with science and philosophy, poetry, art, and architecture. It was the period remembered as a golden age for European Jews. Breakthroughs in medicine, the introduction of the number zero, the lost philosophy of Aristotle, even the prototype for the guitar all came to Europe through Islamic Spain.

And an intolerant inquisition lead the downfall of Spain.

Ultimately, Christian kingdoms gained the upper hand as the Muslim kingdoms of Islamic Spain fell. Spain's Muslims and Jews were forced to either leave or convert. This led to the rise of the Inquisition, whose purpose was to verify the loyalty of suspect converts. The expulsions and inquisitions racked Spain economically, culturally, and morally. Its power was severely compromised. The fall of pluralism in Spain was the fall of Spain itself.

I have always believed that even if we are inherently selfish, but intelligent enough to realize that no man is an island, the world will be a better place. I want to have a prosperous and peaceful life. And to ensure this, I want to make sure that the people that surround me are well taken care of. I want the people whom I work with to be prosperous so that they will continue to work with me. And I want to be able to interact and support as many people as I can. And thus I would prefer that as many people as possible are tolerant to differences in race, religion, social status and sexual orientation. We have to treat people well to ensure our own well being. And for me, treating the people around me well is more than physical security, it brings me satisfaction to see happy contented people around me. And being surrounded by good vibrations is my heaven on earth. I do not have to wait for the after life for my rewards.

Separation by race, religion or political beliefs, leads to friction, energy spent not on development but enforcement of a precarious peace. We need to integrate not segregate.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith - Yahoo! News

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith - Yahoo! News

There is so much to think about when you read about Mother Teresa's crisis of faith. While reading about this, it is important that one makes up his or her own mind. There must be an innate need for faith in mankind. Still, I hope that people will fully engage and realize that as a world, we have to put our differences aside. Faith can inspire people to do great things, but other people can use faith as a reason for war, genocide and terrorist acts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Facebook 'costs businesses dear'

I have recently received many invitations to join facebook and finally succumbed. I already have an account on Friendster and am a relatively active user of Flickr. Facebook starts of as a social networking tool but then has many applications that do so many esoteric things. It was interesting to come across this article on BBC news about Facebook being a real time drain on work.

I am already so short of time to do things that updating the blog is time consuming. It remains to be seen if Facebook will become a true networking tool or a fad.

In reservists

I was informed that I am the oldest person in my unit. I guess there is a price to be paid for all those years abroad studying. I will still have a couple of years more of service to the country at least.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rude Singaporeans - Couples making out

I came across this article on Rude Singaporeans blog. Interesting blog. I feel like mounting a video camera in my car to capture the dangerous and rude vehicles I constantly see on Singapore roads and posting it on this site.

The Pond web site blocked

A friend from reservists told me that he was once able to access my web site but is not able to anymore. He suspects it is because I have figure work on the site. Just curious to know if anyone here in Singapore has problems accessing The Pond website?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Kaki 5 Farewell

Please sign a petition for curbing global warming

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Art is made by the alone for the alone

I remember in Secondary 4, in Anglo-Chinese School, we had the option to wear long trousers instead of the shorts we wore from primary school to secondary three. Most boys, wanting to grow up quicker, opted for the long trousers. I kept to my shorts because it was cooler. And my shorts were shorts.

And in university, while most Singaporeans were hanging out in Chinese restaurants, I was taking dance classes. I also took classes in Iranian cooking. I had no wish to go all the way to England to live in Singapore. There was also the radicals from Singapore who after years of being controlled, let loose completely. That was not my cup of tea either. All forms of drugs has never been for me, except caffeine in coffee and diet coke.

I have not purposefully opted out of society. My career in photography and my clients are pretty normal. But my personal interests, are not in the mundane. For me, the secure job and income, the comfortable lifestyle, dulls the senses. Life should be lived like a raw wound, stinging in the rain, bleeding in the wind. My choices are not made by how much money I can make and how secure I will be, but by how I can push my boundaries and expand my personal horizons.

The students from my year in Anglo-Chinese School are having a reunion dinner this weekend. They have asked me to join them several times but I have said no. Perhaps my peers from school feel comfortable where they are now and have time to reminisce. I still feel hungry. I have many books to read, videos on photographers to watch. I am driven to go forward, to meet people whose lives are lived out on the bleeding edge. Perhaps I am wrong, but at the moment I am not that interested in a school life that was relatively uneventful for me. I am also not that interested in family life and answering questions on why I am still single and struggling with a career without security. There is a part of me that wonders if I am missing something by not going to this reunion dinner. But previous reunions have not excited me very much. How are you? I am fine, I am working here. I married so and so and I have so many children.

This normality and success that we were trained for does not interest me. It was meant to be in a way. The details of the divorces, the defeats and the blood, sweat and tears to scaling heights interest me. Battles with death, endemic psychosis in society is a call to arms for me. A need to tear away the wrappings of a privileged life, to expose the wounds of existence and taste the air of life on my tongue. There is much to do and little time to do it in.

I will, perhaps in a wheel chair or bed bound, remember strands of the past when my body fails me. I doubt that it will be the polite conversations that remain embedded in my failing memory. The memories will be of being overawed by sensory overload. I will remember my most passionate sessions of making love, the wounds of breaking up, the fear of death that I encountered on several occasions, the shortness of breadth in Tibet, my teachers who have helped pry open my inward looking mind. It will be the joy of dancing, being alive and then having an aching body from the exertion but that ache once again confirming life... it will be that which will rise to my memories at day's end.

For now, it is too early to look back. I feel alone, but I need to keep moving ahead with my work. Obsessively, single-mindedly, even cruelly.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

alec soth - blog » Can/should art be taught?

alec soth - blog » Blog Archive » Can/should art be taught?

This is a really thought provoking article by Alec Soth on the problem of teaching art.

I have always felt that art cannot be taught. We can only share our own experiences and inspire people to find their own path. I love the quote by architect Luis Barragan: “Art is made by the alone for the alone.”

Monday, September 03, 2007

Kaki 5 Farewell concert

I met a busker Idrus at Wheelock Place and arranged to take some photographs of him busking with his friend Amran. Then Idrus told me that he would be singing some songs at a Cafe at Haji Lane. So I took my camera down to Haji Lane yesterday and found out that the cafe Kaki 5, was closing down. This was a farewell concert on the street to say good bye. And there were some bad bands, and there were some great bands. This is a couple of brothers who are excellent, not Idrus. I will update with names and pictures at a later date.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

More quotes from Anais Nin

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.

I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy.


I think I will have to start reading her books.

Singapore Girl, you're a great way to fly!