Thursday, October 30, 2008

Camera Obscura and the Canon G10

I just got my hands on a Canon G10 yesterday. I took it to the Camera Obscura concert tonight and lots of people took photographs. So I decided to try out the G10. I shot these photos using the G10 @ iso 400 in raw. I processed the fles in DPP, (photoshop is not able to process the G10 raw files yet.) The 100% crops shot that the images are not as good as DSLR, but for a compact, it rocks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The thing about life, Death

As I write this, and as you read it, we are on a one-way journey between birth and death. When we are young, we have plenty of energy, but not enough knowledge or influence to do very much with it. When we are close to the end of our lives, we may not have the energy or will to do much more than enjoy the winter of our lives, if we are lucky to be healthy then.

At this juncture of my life, I having been pursuing photography seriously for over a decade. I can take photographs and run a photography business. But I am also aware that my energy levels are ebbing, and although I do not have any major illnesses, there are parts of my body that are deteriorating. And so I am aware of my mortality. I have not been convinced of any religious description of the after life. What I think is the most important is the here and now, the time that is left on this earth.

I am lucky that I have no regrets for the life that I have lived so far. It has been a full one. And because it has been a full one, I want to continue to learn more about life, to find ways to interact with other people. Taking photographs for people and artists, I have had some wonderful experiences. And yet, I think there is much more of life to explore. And as much as I love photography and photographs of beauty, photography is not life. I still love the idea that 'Life is a journey, not a destination.' I am not a 'dance' or 'portrait' photographer. I am a human being.

I have had concerned friends telling me that I can do this or that to make my photography business better. But the thing is, I am not interested in a better business, I am interested in a better life. And there are photographers who also are pointing out ways to use more interesting photographic techniques. But I feel that I have pursued technique for long enough now. Now I need to say something, or do something more with my photography.

In 2009, in the new year, I start a new journey. A more personal pursuit, a more relevant understanding of the pain, beauty, hope and despair of living. And before I die, I want to say that I have truly lived.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Alisa Resnik

I met Alisa Resnik in Tuscany this year. It amazes me that she has been shooting for less than a year. And yet there is so much maturity in her work.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Portfolio review in the Singapore International Photography Festival

The inaugural Singapore International Photography Festival is on. It is a huge photography festival with lots of engaging photography on display. Most of the work falls into the category of art and/or conceptual photography. I think the scale and the type of work on display really challenges the relatively 'commercial' photography favoured in Singapore.

I took the opportunity to get my portfolio reviewed by curators and gallery owners from all over the world. And I think it has confirmed what I feel about my work right now. I presented two portfolios. One of my dance photographs and the other of my Tuscan portraits.

I think that the general consensus is that I can take a photograph. My work, even my Tuscan portraits are too commercial. There is not enough of my personality in my work. I also explained my idea of stopping my corporate photography at the end of the year and focusing on finding a more personal subject and most of the reviewers thought that it was a good idea. One thing though, a couple of the reviewers found nothing wrong with the 'beauty' of my dance photographs. They told me not to abandon beauty simply because other people do not like it.

I think that it is clear for me that my way forward is to leave the past behind, at least for now. I need to rediscover myself and my rationale for making images. And with the world economy in recession for the forseeable future, I know that putting my time and effort into personal development will bring me much more than trying to develop business.

Once again, I find myself at the beginning of a large and uncertain adventure. And like all big adventures, the risk are great and so are the rewards. But as I think that life is a journey, not a destination, simply taking the journey is reward in itself.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dance Stages - An exhibition of Dance photographs

I never expected that I would be having three exhibitions this year. Actually three solo exhibitions in Singapore this year and images in two American exhibitions. But there is an exhibition of photographs from dance performances that I have shot. It is called Dance Stages and it will be at

DATE 9 Oct - 19 Oct 08
VENUE MRT link from Esplanade to Cityhall

There is no official opening, but if you are in the area, please drop by and check it out. There are 83 images. I seem to be doing relatively big exhibitions recently. Most of the work is what I get paid to shoot by various arts organisations and is not commonly seen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

James Nachtwey on XDR-TB

I think this couple of decades of unbridled greed has caused us to forget more and more about the people who are not so privileged. I look up to James Nachtwey for continuing to bring important stories to light. Watch the video, sign the petition at

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Douglas Rushkoff » Financial Melt Up

Douglas Rushkoff » Financial Melt Up

I never understood how people made money from money. I like this article by Douglas Rushkoff that explains how this huge financial bubble has come about. And it is a way for making the rich richer by foisting debt onto the poor. And to me this is reflected in the way businesses are run as well. In our parents generation, they made decent money if they were a professional. But nowadays, the wages of people like doctors, lawyers and engineers are not that good. It is the owners of hospitals, law firms and industries that make money. Basically, people are not just trying to make a decent margin from their work anymore, they are trying to wring whatever assets they have dry. And what this does is it makes a handful of people rich while the rest of normal people are slogging to pay of debt which they cannot actually pay off.

I think it is time to scale down. Focus on local economy and one another. I hope that all those people who are losing their jobs in those large financial institutions find a way to run smaller businesses that give a good service to their community, instead of going back to jobs that will help the stupendously rich richer. And it will be more environmentally friendly.

But I guess that I am an idealist. It is in our human nature to have greed and to be in a state of denial over things that are wrong. And this nature will continue to cause chaos in our lives.

A fork in the road, the path ahead

Since my year in London Contemporary Dance School, I have been trying to live my life to the full. And photography has been my area of interest even though dance has been my first love. Since accidentally becoming a photographer in 1999, I have been pursuing the craft of photography. I have spent many hours shooting, experimenting and learning about photography in the studio and with lights. I was very inspired by the work of Paul Elledge when I saw his slide show at The Santa Fe workshops. I have since then taken his workshop in Tuscany and interned for him for 3 months in Chicago.

Up until last year, my photographic practise has been driven by my dance photographs. Images in which I try to capture the essence and beauty of dancers and their physique. To that end, I have experimented with lighting, materials and long exposures. And to do such work, I needed a team of people to support me. And to pay for that team of people, I set The Pond up as a corporate portrait studio. In the current Singaporean situation, having a team of people means my overheads are high, and there is not that much work at the level I want to work at. At least in corporate portraiture. There is more money in commercial photography, but I have no interest in that at all. So I have just managed to balance my photographic business with my dance photographs. And if I promote myself and chase work, I am able to keep The Pond afloat. The thing is, running the business takes a lot of time and my personal work has stagnated after the Dance Me Through The Dark project.

And then I had my epiphany in Tuscany last year, in a workshop lead by Anders Peterson. His form of photography is called personal research and to him, living his life and engaging with different communities of people was his priority. Photography became secondary, a part of the process and not the end goal. In that week, I had three extraordinary encounters with people I photographed. They shared things with me that makes the photography unimportant. The photography was simply the icing on the cake of living life. And it was there and then I realised that the next frontier of my photography was no longer technical or craft, it was to engage in living more. On another level, my studio has become superfluous.

So I have an idea of what I need to do with my life and all I need is a camera. All the lighting equipment is not necessary. But the studio has been my baby for eight years, it is difficult just to abandon it. So I tried to make the business work better, and to get my assistants to be associate photographers so that more work came into the studio and free up more days of the week for me to pursue my personal work. And then I came back from Tuscany this year, and with the avalanche of work and things to do, I realised that as long as I ran The Pond, it would consume all my time. So I came to the fork in the road, do I run a business or do I pursue a new frontier in my photography?

I have decided to keep exploring. I am sad to say that I will be letting my staff go at the end of the year and become a freelance photographer. Although the photographic team that I put together does not make the best business sense in Singapore, photographically, the work has been good. With the 'team', I have managed to get work into the Photo District News annual and the Communication Arts annual. The 'team' enabled me to work on an international level. Thank you Abby, Shin and Anvin. And Darren the intern as well. I may have had better profits with fewer staff, but I doubt that I could have had the same quality of work.

And so in the new year, a new path awaits me. I will not be able to handle higher end work, but I will still do studio portraits and simple outdoor shoots. I will also teach but I may not be able to continue teaching studio lighting without my assistants. But for the main part, I will be pursuing my personal work. I have already made some plans but I won't say anything until I have actually done some work.

I must say that the death of Paul Newman reminds me of my mortality and how precious time is. And the present financial crisis indicates to me that unfettered capitalism is not the only path and is not necessarily good for the world. I don't want to bend over back to be a service to the corporate business machinery. I don't need to make loads of money and so I rather work for arts groups, charities and individuals. It is more important now for me to be part of the community that I live in, than to be a rat in the rat race.

The path ahead is to live more, live better.