Thursday, November 26, 2009

Demonstrations from Portraits as Visual Drama




I teach a lighting course for Objectifs called 'Portraits as Visual Drama'. Here are a couple of demonstration shots from my last course. Yes, the fun crazy last course.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Living with..." set up











So we were at Vivocity last night setting up the "Living with..." exhibition. The exhibition looks good if I say so myself.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Living with...



An Arts Against Aids Photographic exhibition
20-29 Nov 2009
Vivocity
South Avenue

This is a project that I have been working on for since the beginning of the year. And finally there will be an exhibition of photographs of people living with HIV. It has been an enriching experience. And I think that there is a nice range of photographs by eleven different photographers.

I have to thank AFA for giving me this opportunity to work on this project. And I also need to thank the photographers that helped out with teaching and mentoring, Hui Fen, Hui May, Maye-e, Terence, Luke and Bryan.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The photographer demonstrates



Caught in my demo mode. I was shooting for a new line of yoga wear named Om Republic. The model is Ginny Gan, a dancer from SDT.

Thanks Irvin for catching me unawares!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Todd Hido



Landscapes, interiors and nudes. A walk through the mind of Todd Hido.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Naked without an iphone and other thoughts



I have not been posting many new entries for about half a year now. This is because I am in transition. I downsized my photography business and became a freelancer. On the career front, I have been working for various arts groups and doing personal portraits and this has turned out well for me, meaning that I am finanacially viable. As for personal work, I have been trying to find a new direction. I want to find a project where I learn more about the lives of other people. To this end I have been working with various organisations to teach photography and also to meet different people whom may be interesting to photograph, but nothing has really come up yet. But I have been reading and learning a lot and the iphone has become a very interesting means of self expression.

After being a professional photographer for so many years, picture quality has always been an issue for me. I never thought that at 2 megapixel camera on the iphone would be a sufficient tool for me and the initially the images coming out of the iphone tended to be washed out. However, the program Camera Bag changed my entire viewpoint of the iphone camera. There are several filters in Camera Bag but the one that I like the best is called Helga, which replicates the effect of a Holga camera. The results from the Helga filter is a square image which vignetted and the contrast increased, the results are simply lovely. The usefulness of such a camera was still in question because I did not know how well the images printed. I printed some test images onto A4 paper and was blown away. I suspect that I can also print my iphone images onto A3 but for the type of work that I am shooting with the iphone, A4 is actually just what I want. Those people who are my friends on Facebook will know that I am obsessed with iphone photography, I have uploaded about 700 images there. On flickr, you can see a small selection of my iphone images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ngiapheng/sets/72157622141813198/.

On a recent trip to Europe, even though I was carrying around the very competent Olympus E-P1 around with me, the raw mood produced by the iphone was what I wanted time and again. There were times where I wanted to take an image full of detail, under low light or needing a longer lens (the iphone is effectively a wide angle lens) where I took out the E-P1, but 95% of the time I was whipping out the iphone. In its basic control, its direct response to a scene, there was an immediacy, a freedom that let me take personal images as I was living life. I was not 'stopping' my journey to take the photograph, making an image with the iphone was part of the exploration, part of the journey.

Now I am back in Singapore and I am in reservists. And as I am not allowed to bring in a telephone with a camera to camp, I feel naked. There is something missing for me. Which brings be to the next point.

I have heard some people comment that photographers are not really 'there' in a situation, that instead of experiencing what is happening they are pre occupied with the photography. And there is truth in that. I mean, what are people doing touring 10 countries in seven days. How does a person interact with a country or a culture in this short space of time? In this situation, what is a photograph? Is it an experience or is it a trophy, a tick on some travel checklist? So there is obviously a case for photography becoming a barrier to a exprience. And the irony is that one can become more and more involved with the technicality of photography, the sharpness, the amount of detail, and in this become more and more detached from the situation, the experience. As Anders Peterson puts it, a photographer hides behind his camera.

I think that my experience with personal photography right now comes from a different place. There still is commercial work where the camera is a tool for creating images to a brief and in that sense is impersonal. But I am a visual person, that is how I primarily interact with the world. I am constantly looking at things, seeing shapes, color and light. The outside visual experience has an intense impact on my emotions and my emotions has a strong impact on how I interpret outside visual experience. I am intensely curious by everyman, the daily concerns, the daily communications, the joy and pain of living. As a human, part of a small group of life who has self-conciousness and cognisance of death, I try in my own way to reconcile life and death. I am interested in how others traverse this journey from cradle to grave, the lows of human depravity, the highs of human potential and the spectrum of experience in between. So for me, what I see is a constant search for evidence of the human experience. Photography is much more than a visual token for me. It is the way I interact and interpret the world. And writers do this with their writing, musicians do that with their music, artists do this with whatever medium they work in. The sum of an artists' work is not and should not be the craft in their art. An artists' work should be the sum of their thoughts, their lives and their expriences. Good craft enables them to express all that in their art work. And good art will not just prompt the audience to appreciate the craft, although there is a portion of that, it should be a life changing experience for the audience in some way. It is the sharing of human experience.

So other than my iphone pictures, I have not been taking many photographs. But this does not mean that it has been an empty time for me. I have been going for French classes, I have been meeting various people and I have been reading. Recently I have read the biography of Diane Arbus, 'Why God won't go away', 'Norwegian' Wood by Harukami, 'Outliers' by Malcom Gladwell and I am in the midst of 'The Stuff of Thought' by Steven Pinker. I have been visiting galleries and not only enjoying the artwork of great artists, but also learning about what motivated them and how they lived their lives. And at this point, living life is what is important. Personal photography is not an end in itself, it simply is part of my life.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Quotes from an exhibition

I went to an exhibition at the Leopold museum and saw these wonderful quotes.

For him, there were no empty hours, no hours that were mere bridges spanning to richer ones ahead, and nothing that lay worthless along his path, nothing he could pass by as a stranger. All things had turned their countenances towards him, were there for his sake, and he was incapable of detaching their fate from his own.
And more than that, he had only sought himself in all things and in all things only found himself.


Richard Beer-Hofman, The Death of George, 1900.


I will never, and certainly never under this administration, participate in an official exhibit... I want to free myself. I want my freedom back from all these unedifying and ridiculous matters which only keep me from my work. I want to stand up against the cavalier way artistic matters are dealt with by the Ministry of Education in the Austrian state. Every opportunity is taken to discourage real art and real artists. Only the weak and the false get sponsored. We need a clearly defined separation. The state has no right to act like a patron of the arts when its hand-outs are paltry, nor does it have the right to dictate what gets exhibited and under what terms. Its only duty is to act as intermediary and commercial factor; otherwise it is to leave all matter concerning artistic initiatives completely to artists. The civil servant has no business in the art schools..."


Gustav Klimt commenting on how his paintings for a university hall were rejected in 1905

Meaning is found solely by him who seeks it.
Into one another flow dream and waking,
Truth and falsehood. Certainty is nowhere.
We know naugh o others, nor of ourselves.
We are forever at play - he who knows that is the wiser!


Arthur Schnitzler, "Paracelsus", 1898

The awareness of visions is not just a state of mind
in which one realizes and perceives things,
but a state of mind where conscience perceives itself.


Oskar Kokoschka, "On the Nature of Visions", lecture 1912

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What is important



I just finished reading the biography of Diane Arbus and her life is so fascinating and tragic. But it highlighted the truth of how difficult it is to have a career in photography, or arts in general. The biography revealed how difficult it is for even established photographers to make living. But what struck me was a statement she made to her students in the last class she taught, "Nobody is going to love your pictures like yourself".

This statement is so close to home for me. My dance photography has always been in an uneasy niche. It is too polished, too technical to be in the realm of art photography. It is too raw, too instinctual to be commercial. The pursuit of dance photography has been a solitary pursuit for me in Singapore, only appreciated by a small group of people who love dance themselves.

And now, as I search for new horizons in my work, I have been working on personal research. I have been trying to search for a greater insight into the life of everyman, to create the work that would demand the attention of other people. But in this pursuit, I have not been successful. It could be early days yet.

However, what appears to be an insignificant toy in photographic terms, the iphone camera, has been an obsession with me. The iphone does not take good photos in general, the exposure and contrast is off. But when images are filtered using the Helga filter in a program called camera bag, the iphone images mimic the effect of a Holga camera. And the images print very nicely onto an A4 piece of paper.

On a certain level, the images that I take on the iphone are eye-candy. With respect to the drama of human existence and its tragedies, the images are insignificant. But for me, the iphone has become a constant companion, a way for me to comprehend, interact and transact with the life I live. My iphone photos are a very personal vision of my life. And in as much as I am a human, an everyman, these iphonographs reveal my honest alchemy with the world in which I live. So I lead a relatively good life, at the present moment with personal strife or danger and relatively sedate, but it is my life. And I am absolutely enjoying the beauty, the humour, the textures of the things that I have been fortunate enough to come across. Like a friend told me recently, I do not need to be a drug addict to take good photographs... or in other words I do not need to lead a dysfunctional life to make art.

I do appreciate more and more the life I have and I live it more intensely. But I am beginning to realise that I cannot, should not and will not court the forbidden or the dangerous, just to take more impactful photographs. It would be well and good if I did live a life full of human drama, but to purposefully, unnaturally, add drama where there is none, would be deceitful and self-serving.

Even with its limited appeal, I am proud of my dance images. And even if some of the images that I now take on my iphone seems too pretty and superficial, I must protest that they are still the results of my relentless, dogged pursuit of life. And as I make no apologies for living my life well, I will also make no apologies for the overt prettiness of my images. For if you look at all of them, you will see that as a whole, I am constantly exploring what it means to be alive, what it means to grow old and die, what does it mean to remember living and what does it mean to forget.

So often photographers are under the illusion that they choose the images that they take, but the truth is that the images choose us. One photographer may love another photographers work, but each photographer will still have his or her own way of taking a photograph.

So to me, Diane Arbus was so right to say that "Nobody is going to love your pictures like yourself."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ballet Under The Stars



I have shot a lot of publicity for Singapore Dance Theatre, but this is one image I am particularly happy with.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Michael Kenna Photography


Michael Kenna Photography

I was at Riceball, the photographic book store, and I was introduced to Michael Kenna's work by Ling Zhong. It is not often nowadays that a photographer's work is strong enough to grab my attention so strongly, but Kenna's work did. And it had no death, no sex, it was just simply beautiful.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The middle of this year


Slimming down my company to just me and part-time staff last year was something that had to be done. Accepting that the type of corporate portraiture that I wanted to pursue as a career in Singapore was not viable was logical, but nonetheless disappointing.

So what has happened this year? I have continued to shoot for the performing arts and personal portraits. I have also been teaching more for Objectifs. And people, photographers and others, have been renting parts of my studio from me. There is much less structure in my life than the last three years, but it has turned out to be more financially viable. I don't think I could support a family on what I am earning, but it is better than being in the red like I was in the last three years. Just as well I don't have a family to support.

That being said, life has become much more interesting. I now have the time to study French. There was a British play and Steve McCurry's workshop in my studio. I have been able to meet up with friends more and watch more movies than I used to be able to. Things that I could not have done if I was running a business like I used to.

But what is moving me now is living life more. I am helping Action for Aids with a project to help people living with HIV to express their viewpoints with photography. I am also going teach photography at the Girl's home this coming Saturday. I have not been taking photographs in these projects, but I am getting to know people who lead different lives from mine. I hope that sharing what I know of photography, will enable some people to express themselves better and in that way I will learn more about the human condition in general. I hope to work with even more diverse people, and maybe somewhere along the line, I will find something and start shooting again. Well, shooting for myself anyway. I still shoot professionally. I just don't do corporate shoots so much.

My life is a lot less stressful than it used to be. My own ambitions are not so big, but I think my quality of life has improved tremendously. It is enriched by the new friends that I have made, and the new insights I have had into the human condition.

I got this off my friend, Sean Tobin's, facebook profile and like it a lot. I believe it is a bible quote.

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing...."

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Online Photographer: The Worst Photograph Ever Made

The Online Photographer: The Worst Photograph Ever Made

Jamie Livingston's Photo Of the Day

Jamie Livingston's Photo Of the Day

The collected work of photographer and filmmaker Jamie Livingston has been posted online as a public exhibit titled "PHOTO OF THE DAY: 1979-1997, 6,697 Polaroids, dated in sequence." The photographer took a Polaroid picture virtually every day for eighteen years-using a Polaroid SX-70! A commemorative exhibit opened in 2007 at the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard College, where the project was initiated, and the collection can be viewed at the online tribute, "Some Photos of That Day" (link below). Note: In his final days, the photographer was married despite his failing health. The final month of images is haunting, yet achingly beautiful.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Art Against Aids 2009 - Living with HIV



I am helping Action For Aids run a photographic workshop for people living with Aids. There are two parts to this workshop, the first part is a basic photographic workshop. This video is a sample of the images submitted by the participants.

We are now embarking on the second phase in which the participants will be working on personal projects to show life from their perspective. We just had a session where the participants put forward their project ideas and it sounds very exciting. I think we are all looking forward to the results of the personal project.

We are looking for an exhibition venue for this project in November.

Clay Enos doing street portraits



I don't like the framing of his portraits, but I love the energy of what he is doing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Olympus E-P1 Hands-on Preview: 1. Introduction: Digital Photography Review


Olympus E-P1 Hands-on Preview: 1. Introduction: Digital Photography Review

I do not usually get turned on by equipment nowadays, but this must be the most sexy piece of equipment I have seen in a long time.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

BBC - Viewfinder: Iconic moments

BBC - Viewfinder: Iconic moments

The picture editor of BBC News web site, Phil Coomes, has a blog on iconic images from the world of photojournalism. In this entry, he talks about the Farm Security Agency which had photographic greats Walker Evans and Dorethea Lange.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Portraits as Visual Drama

I had a really good class of students in the Portraits as Visual Drama course I just finished teaching. I am so in two minds about continuing this course. I think that people enjoy the course, but it is hard to find knowledgeble assistants to help run this course.

Anyway, I liked to share some of the student work.


Brandon D'Cruz


Brandon D'Cruz


Carolyn Hall


Carolyn Hall


Tan Cheng Yee


Jean Loo


Jean Loo


Jean Loo


Kong Sing Teck


Mark Foo


Mark Foo


Rob Spence


Rob Spence


Rob Spence


Vivien Tan


Vivien Tan


Zurina Bryant


Zurina Bryant


Zurina Bryant

Friday, May 15, 2009

The irony of the Gay and Lesbian conspiracy theory

The irony of some Christians claiming that the gays and lesbians have a hidden agenda to promote gay and lesbianism. As if it were that easy. I interact with gays quite often and I am still heterosexual. That being said, I have a lot of Christian friends and some have tried their darnest to convert me, and I am more atheist than ever.

But more to the point, we who are of Chinese, Indian and Malay descent, what are the beliefs of our forefathers? Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other religions like that. Where did Christianity originate from, Israel? How did this 'foreign' religion spread across the world? If the early missionaries simply preached the word of God, they would have probably been ignored or worse, physically abused. So what happened? The missionaries opened schools, to teach English, mathematics and Science. Yes, this transfer of knowledge is good. But they ran the schools and they preached, they cajoled, they evangelised the word of God. They offered us much needed knowledge, but they were not neutral on their beliefs, far from it.

The fundamentalists Christians believe that the earth is only 6000 years old. We had farming civilisations in India and China 10000 years ago. In the old testament, the believers had to make sacrifices to their God for salvation. In the new testament, Jesus formed a new covenant and he was the way, the only way, to heaven. Well, our poor forefathers, who in their belief of Confucius, or Shiva or some other God, are doomed to hell. If there is a Christian hell, and we end up there, we have several civilisations worth of company, including Buddha, Confucius, Mencius and many Hindu saints whom I am afraid I cannot name.

The conversion of Chinese, Indian and Malays and other people like Native American Indians, has caused much personal grief within families. I have seen a lot of friction caused by the younger people converting to Christianity. And in the religious intolerance of the converted, that they are not even willing to respect their own parents' belief that is sad. For a religion professing love, this intolerance to the parents' beliefs and rituals is frankly disrespect for the elders. What some new converts to Christianity fail to see in their fervor, is that parents with their age old belief in Taoism or Buddhism, raised them and gave them life. In many cases they gave them their education. And in these schools, the evangelicals converted them. Is there no graciousness in the new faith for the parents and elders of their society? The very parents who struggled so that they may live. For a time I was Christian. In my house I said grace and Thanked God for my food. My father was more amused than angry, he told me to thank him because he paid for the food on the table.

And how did these conversions happen? It was an un-hidden, blatant agenda, to convert the youth in educational institutions. And no, it was not neutral. There was no let us consider the major religions and you can decide. It has been in my experience, listen to the 'truth', 'you are a sinner and have to be saved, do you want to rot in hell?'

So to accuse the gays and lesbians of having a hidden agenda is truly hypocrisy of the highest level. There are a few neutral lines on gay and lesbian sex in CSE and so there is a conspiracy? Although I have been hit upon by gays before, I have never heard them tell me that I am sinner for remaining heterosexual. I have never had gays tell me that they have the one and only truth and it is gay. I have not heard of gays and lesbians being intolerant of heterosexuals! I have not seen the gay and lesbian community build a mega church or evangelise their beliefs on banners. Yes, there are gay bars and spas, but they do not bar straight people.

To profess to be a religion of love and to promote such hate. The real irony, is as unnatural as it may seem to conservative Christians, it is the gays and lesbians who are making love.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Month Of Photography Asia


Month Of Photography Asia

Month of photography is back. Look up the exhibitions and activities at their web site. And yes, Steve McCurry is conducting a workshop in The Pond.

Friday, May 08, 2009

catherinelim.sg » Fallout of the Aware saga: A letter to concerned parents

catherinelim.sg » Fallout of the Aware saga: A letter to concerned parents

Catherine Lim writes an open letter to concerned parents. She says what I would like to say but she is much more eloquent than I am. The responses to her open letter are also interesting reads. I think that homosexuality is not something that will be easily resolved in Singapore. But at least people are now openly talking about their views. This is one good outcome of the AWARE saga.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

God vs. Science - TIME

God vs. Science - TIME

I must admit that I agree with Richard Dawkins on his views. So what surprises me are scientists who still believe in a religion. I think that Francis Collins, puts a good case for one to be an agnostic, to conclude that there may be a god. But I think Collins still fails to convince me why one religion should be favoured above the others.

This article makes and interesting read. And I also like the engagement in discussion and conversation. I think both men put their view points across forcefully, but do not use underhanded methods. There is not hostile takeover of another's organisation. There is no holy war. I think both men's ideals do not rest on the subjugation of other people like some more fundamentalists religious people.

I hope that both atheists and religious people continue to question with integrity and humanism.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A victory is not the winning of the war

I am glad that AWARE has voted out the fanatical Christians. This was NOT a victory for pro gay and pro lesbian lobbies. This was a time when moderate Christians, Muslims, heterosexuals, homosexuals came together as a civil society and said 'no' to power play by a minority group.

However, you can see that Josie Lau, in her belief that homosexuality is a deviant act, is unrepentant over her actions. I think that in the short run, the victory of removing Josie Lau and the Christian exco from AWARE is necessary. But the real work is yet to be done. For Singapore to truly move forward, people of different faiths and beliefs need to start engaging each other in a civic debate. We do not just need to discuss sex, homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research and other controversies in GP class. We need to discuss at every age and in every strata.

I have to talk about the elephant in the room that no one has the guts to talk about. People tell each other that they respect each other's viewpoints, but everyone's religious book is the infallabe, divine truth. Religions are mutually exclusive! And the truth is that to follow the holy books of one religion completely, is to destroy all non-believers.

The ten commandments from the book of Exodus:

11 Observe what I command you today. See, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

12 Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you.

13 You shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles

14 (for you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).

15 You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice.

16 And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.

17 You shall not make cast idols.

18 You shall keep the festival of unleavened bread. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.

19 All that first opens the womb is mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep.

20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem.

No one shall appear before me empty-handed.

21 For six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest.

22 You shall observe the festival of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year.

23 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.

24 For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.

25 You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, and the sacrifice of the festival of the passover shall not be left until the morning.

26 The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.

You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

27 The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.


The irony is that it is secular law, that keeps the peace here. Otherwise we would have an intractable war like the one in the middle-east.

I do not have the answers. But I hope that more people will weigh the price of their beliefs in this day and age. And then decide how to conduct themselves in a multi-racial, multi-religious society. Do we want to give up our peace and economic success for religious and/or racial conflict? Do we want what is happening in Southern Thailand between Muslims and Buddhists? Do we want the bloody civil war that has so scarred Ireland?

People hold their unshakable faith. I hope that the secular government can hold the peace in our country.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Addiction

Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever substance you are addicted to - alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person - you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relatioships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. The bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addition does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore, and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever.

- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scans see 'gay brain differences'

BBC NEWS | Health | Scans see 'gay brain differences'

This article in the BBC came out in June. It is an article that details research showing that there are differences in the brains of gay people and heterosexuals. I did not blog about this earlier partly because I am heterosexual and I do not want to appear confrontational to my Christian friends. But the recent hostile take-over of AWARE (a secular feminist organisation in Singapore), by a group of homophobic Christians has prompted me to highlight this article.

Dr Qazi Rahman, a lecturer in cognitive biology at Queen Mary, University of London, said that he believed that these brain differences were laid down early in foetal development.

"As far as I'm concerned there is no argument any more - if you are gay, you are born gay," he said.


I feel that if people were born with their sexual orientation, they should not be discriminated against. If gays and lesbians treat their partners well, then they probably make better couples than heterosexual couples in which one or both partners are philanderers. Sexual orientation is NOT an issue. Basic human decency is the main issue.

I am sure that some Christians, in their belief that their bible is completely infallible will contest this somehow. Just like when they contested that the earth revolves around the sun during the time of Galileo. And just like some Christians who believe that the earth is 6000 years old and disagree with evolution.

I have to speak up and speak out, when fundamentalist Christians take public action over beliefs that run counter to scientific thought. For if we are going to throw away science for writings that were done way before advent of scientific research, then we are turning back the clock to the dark ages.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DEPARTURES - the movie

DEPARTURES - the movie

I had no idea what to expect from this movie except that I had heard that it was a good movie. I must say that I was really touched. I fear death and I suspect a lot of other people do. But this movie made me think more about not what happens to us when we die, but what do we leave behind. How we conduct ourselves while still alive will reverberate in the lives of the people we will leave behind. How do parents who abandon their young children make amends? How does a parent accept a son who choses to be a woman? Why is death 'dirty' when we will all die one day?

I cried at different points of the movie, reminding myself that I must not forget to appreciate and thank my parents before it is too late. I also reminded myself to keep my life simple and truthful, so that I will leave as little negative energy as possible. And hopefully I will leave a smile for the people whom I will leave behind.

There is so much for the living to learn from death. It is inevitable. It knows no politics, no religion, no race, no age, no wealth.

This is a movie worth sharing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A theatrical time

It is strange how it never rains but it pours. There is a lot of theater in my life recently.

Shot publicity for Ballet Under the Stars for Singapore Dance Theatre
Took production shots of Invisiblity for Lasalle
Watched Destiny of Flower in the mirror (Very theatrical, but too conceptual for me)
Shot publicity for Rashmon for Theatre Practise
Took production shots of 3 Fat Virgins unassembled for Lasalle
Took prodcution shots of Stand still for Lasalle
Watched The Importance of Being Earnest by Wild Rice (Very funny, but not sold on the all male cast)
Will be watching Romeo by Fuiyama Anette tonight.
Will be watching 3 Fat Virgins unassembled tomorrow afternoon.
Will be taking production shots of If There are Seasons next week
Will be taking Percolation for Lasalle next week
Will be taking 69 Degrees Celcius next week

After next week, things slow down but they don't go away. But it is nice to be around such bursts of creativity.

The Arts Festival will start in May and I will be attending some performances then too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ansel Adams on visualisation


The Key to a Photograph from Ansel Adams from SilberStudios.Tv on Vimeo.

I just watched the PBS documentary on Ansel Adams and then came across this clip as well. I think it is worth sharing. It is the important to realise that image making is as much about the inner landscape of the photographer as it is about the outer landscape being photographed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Genesis Foundation



I recently spent two weeks in India. In the second week I was in Kolkata attending a workshop on working with NGOs. The workshop was jointly organised by Changing Ideas and The Toscana Photographic Workshops.

The workshop was taught by Jonathan Torgovnik (photo journalist), Alice Wynne Wilson (Communications director of Action Aid) and Cheryl Newmann (Photography Director of the Telegraph Magazine).

There were 15 photographers in total attending the course. Some of us were assigned to a small charity like mine, Genesis. For some larger charities, like the Calcutta Samaritans, two photographers were assigned to the organisation. There was only one Indian on the course and to help us around Calcutta, each photographer was accompanied by a boy who had been through Future Hope, a home for street children, run by Tim Grandage.

I was assigned the charity, Genesis, which is a drug rehabilitation centre run by ex-addicts. It was started by Tanmoy Bose six years ago with a male rehabilitation centre. Then two years ago they started a women's facility and now they have started a children's facility. The rehabilitation programme is based on the orignial 12 step alcoholics anonymous programme.

We decided to work on a photographic essay exploring addiction and rehabilitation. I was taken to see drug addicts, street children and the various facilities of The Genesis Foundation. The closest I have come to drugs is space cake in Amsterdam, so this was a truly eye-opening experience for me. I learnt from not only what I saw but also from the ex-addicts I met.

I learnt that addiction knows no class boundaries. Street children living rough to well-educated people from respectable backgrounds can get addicted. But the drugs brings the addicts together eventually. And the addicts, especially those who inject heroin, are supsceptable to diseases like aids. And street children, who start off by sniffing cheaply available glue can graduate to brown sugar (Indian heroin), in a year.

I also found that many of the addicts were not so different from normal people I meet, facing their own problems. We all have addictions, and the line between a substance addict and a normal person is very fine.

Although the experience I had with Genesis was life changing, the organisation of the workshop by Changing Ideas could have been better. The research and the organisation of the workshop was not well done. Various people had their own issues. On my part, I could only start on my project two days late because Genesis was away on a beach holiday. Other photographers started work on Monday and had five shooting days, I had three. I have been to many workshops organised by the Toscana Photographic Workshops, and they were much more organised than this. I think that all the participants agreed that this was a great idea for a workshop, but the actual implementation was not well considered.

On the bright side, I think I did manage to capture some compelling images for Genesis. I would like to thank Tanmoy Bose, his wife Mridula Bose, Simon Beddo and Hubert Routh for making me welcome in their organisation. I would also like to thank my future hope guide, Sonu Kumar. He is going to become a great chef one day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Of to India

Not that I have been blogging that much. But I am off to India for two weeks this morning. I will be in Chennai for a week and the Kolkota for a week. In Kolkota I will be attending a workshop for photographers who want to work with NGOs. It is called the Changing Ideas workshop.

I don't know if I will be blogging. So it may be quiet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

50 photoblogs by smashing magazine

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/02/14/50-wonderful-inspiring-photoblogs/

I don't know where I am going to find the time to look at so much gorgeous photography. Know yourselves out! Or is it knock your eyes out???

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Relative Tones and the Digital Advantage

LW0490 - Relative Tones and the Digital Advantage.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)
I think too many people think that black and white photos are simply removing colour from an image. This is a podcast from Brookes Jensen of Lenswork which describes the importance of tonality in Black and white imagery. Something I think we have to understand if we want to communicate better in monochrome.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Call to Prayer

I did this video montage for T.H.E. dance company's Old Sounds production. But this did not make it into the performance. I guess it is time to show it. video

This surprising year

Even though my personal path in photography has changed and deciding to let go of my staff and become freelance was a result of that, I was disappointed inside. I had believed that if I did something well and with integrity, then people would pay me a decent remuneration for my services. In Singapore, at least, this is not the case. Even though the photography had succeeded, the business had not. And being human, that hurt somewhere. So with this and the bad flu that quite a few people had, it made the end of 2008 a little depressing for me.

I was expecting 2009 to start low key. It would be a time for me to lick my wounds. But January was packed with work. Most of it was just simple family portraits and portraits for different artists and arts groups. But it was fun working with other creative people. And then the surprise dawned on me, without the overheads, I was actually earning money. And I was having fun while earning money. The other thing is that other photographers also started to rent the studio and equipment and my old tenant Wesley is coming back to rent office space. Without the constraints of running a corporate business, my resources are going to be better utilised.

And it did not stop there. I was given the job to shoot some dancers for this year's Arts Festival poster. And I will be shooting for an International dance festival in September this year. I am getting commercial rates for these two jobs. I have been berated by an art buyer at Batey for only being good at shooting dance. But my love for dance and my pursuit of dance photography is getting me properly paid work.

I guess that listening to most people's advice, I have tried to make a successful 'business'. I have tried to grow my studio big so that I can do corporate work. And although this has helped me grow technically as a photographer, it was not a financial success, it has hampered me in growing my own personal vision. The whole irony is that now I am shooting what I want and am pursuing my own personal research in photography, I am indulging myself, and it is making much better financial sense than the wedding or corporate work ever did.

I begin to realise that people who tell me to be practical are simply followers who are at the mercy of the rich captains of industry. I say, follow your dreams, and find a practical way of making them come true. By doing what you truly love, you will expand your boundaries and eventually people will acknowledge your unique abilities. Don't follow the crowd, lead.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Rice Project



Some Singaporean photographers and video makers have gotten together to deliver rice to people affected by the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. There is an exhibition now on at Vivocity,

The Rice Project Photo Exhibition

Venue: Vivo City (South Avenue & South Court)

Date: 13 Feb (Fri) - 22 Feb (sun) 2009

Opening Hours: 10AM to 10PM daily

I think this is a lovely project and it helps make us all human again. Go down and take a look at the photographs and videos and be moved.

You can also find out more at http://thericeproject.com/index.php

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Keith Carter on Equipment

I think the equipment you use has a real, visible influence on the character of your photography. You're going to work differently, and make different kinds of pictures, if you have set up a view camera on a tripod than if you're Lee Friedlander with a handheld 35mm rangefinder. But fundamentally, vision is not about which camera or how many megapixels you have, its about what you find important. It's all about Ideas.


Taken from an interview with Keith Carter n the January 2009 issue of American Photo.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Frozen Angels and the thoughts it provoked

I went to watch a play called Frozen Angels by the Necessary Stage. It was a play exploring people's lives and the impact of medical technology, stem cell research in particular. In one story a couple lives for 200 years with the new technology. And although the wife fondly remembers the first meeting and is still in love, she is tired after living 200 years.

This illusion of control we are taught. If there is a good government, if we have the knowledge, if we work together... if there is a will there is a way. Look at the middle east, after centuries, the Jews and Muslims killing one another. Look at the way cholera is killing people in Zimbabwe. Look at people dying of lung cancer in Singapore.

It is true that centuries of civilization search of knowledge, has improved our lives on this earth. It is less brutal than it used to be, we have more tools to help us tame our surroundings. But we still have global warming. The bees are having a major epidemic. Pelicans are dying on the shores of America. But the power we have gained is not wisely wielded. Whether it is caused by global warming or not, the hurricanes devastating America, the drought in Australia, the depletion of fish stock, are all much bigger than we are.

I used to think that together, we the citizens of the world, can work it out. Surely, we can fight for our own survival, the survival of the very planet that sustains us. But the idiosyncrasies of the imperfect human mind. We cannot even understand what is good for us. We hold onto to our habits, our prejudices, our bad frames of reference, even though it is killing us. Just like people who know that smoking will kill them, but they keep on smoking. If you can comprehend the scale of that intellectual flaw, you can see how flawed the human brain is.

And in all this, the idea that if we have all the knowledge we need, then we can change things for the better. We will never have all the knowledge that we need, or be able to process it in a way that lets us act wisely... act in self preservation.

Human vanity. As Shakespeare wrote,

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


or

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


I begin to realise how futile our struggles are, how forgotten we will all be. People in the future will see photographs of our time, but they will not be able to comprehend what we are. I am at a lost as to what one should do in this insane world we live in. I am not even sure if one should try to be sane in this world, but I think the most important thing right now is for me to make peace with living. We are all but ants on this planet, which is only a spec in the universe. I used to think that if we do good and were reasonable, that things would turn out well. Nope, there is no logic to life. Deal with it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Poolga. iPhone and iPod Touch wallpapers for the rest of us.


Poolga. iPhone and iPod Touch wallpapers for the rest of us.

I just have to share this. This is a web site for iPhone wallpaper. But the talent of the contributors is simply AMAZING!!!!!

Thursday, January 01, 2009