a place for sharing all things photographic and some things not


Sarah Kay in Singapore

I don’t usually do event photography, it’s one of the things that I shy away from, but this is an extraordinary exception. Sarah Kay was in town tonight and we absolutely had to go down to see her. It was in this tiny locale perfect for an indie gig, the third floor of the Blue Jazz Cafe, and it was packed to the rafters. Sarah was absolutely amazing, it is even more magical standing in the same room, listening to her work her magic with words and send them galloping off to fill every corner of the space.

If you’re not aware of her, this is the beautiful piece of Spoken Word that catapulted her to internet stardom.



She is so young and shows so much promise, it was simply an amazing night!


Alex and Rebecca Webb’s talk

2 nights ago, I attended a talk by Alex and Rebecca Webb. It was held at the National Museum of Singapore and the small room was packed with avid photographers (and as usual their entourage of cameras slung proudly across their chests). To quote someone I heard “I’ve never seen so many Leica’s in one room.”

The first half of the talk was sharing of work that they had done as well as both of them speaking about a joint book that is being published in Singapore. Alex is, of course, the Magnum photographer, he’s got 6 books out and a very large spectrum of works. Needless to say, he’s been shooting for a long time.   Rebecca has a remarkable collection of work too. I particularly like her series The Glass Between Us, images about the interaction between museums and zoos in cities with the people who live there. The couple’s work can be found at their shared website – http://www.webbnorriswebb.com/

Enough about their work, the bulk of the talk was a Q & A dialogue between the audience members and the Webbs (and also to their publisher, David Chickey). I’ll be posting up some of the things that I found were interesting from the session, paraphrased or summarised because I wasn’t very concerned about accuracy.

When talking about books, photography books in particular, they raised a number of good points. That books allowed both text and images to coexist in the same medium and it really gives the reader and photographer an opportunity to hold the moments in their hands. Books give you intimacy that cannot be matched online simply because one exists on a screen and the other exists in your hand. I find this to be very true with the few photography books that I have. The only drawback is that sometime’s they can be really expensive. 😦

Something interesting that Alex said about the book form was that if every image was a greatest hits, the book would lose it’s appeal … it’s continuity. He then went on to say that in his books there are some images that are there purely for the narrative to continue. Food for thought for all those out there who are compiling your own books.

Rebecca mentioned that the way the images flow in a book is much like the way the story flows in a narrative. There is a beginning, a middle and an end, both in images and in words. She said that if one were to include text into a photography book, the words have to illuminate the image, and vice versa.

Style of photography was also another thing that was brought up. To this Alex responded. Images are how you see the world. He enjoys the mystery of photography, the vague rules (or lack of them) that decide what make s a good photograph and what doesn’t. He converted from film to colour and he believes that there is an emotional resonance to colours in photographs, compared to those simply in black and white. I liked his thought that images are a collaboration between the photographer and the world. Photography is the process of getting all the odds in your favour and having a sense of faith that something is going to happen.

And there was talk too, of doubt. Doubt as the industry shrinks, doubt as one wonders whether his/her work is good enough or is simply just a waste of time. Doubt that a photographer’s accomplishments were just self-deception and in truth no one cared about the world. Alex said that this was natural, it happened to both him and Rebecca, but he didn’t mention any specific ways of curing it though.

Finally, in photography, which comes first, the emotion or the image?

The Webbs asserted that it wasn’t necessarily the emotion that formed the image, but the photographer must indeed feel something first before he/she makes the image, otherwise they would never have done it in the first place. The bulk of the emotion, however, still comes during the post-processing, when there is time and space to think and reflect. But that doesn’t mean that the two of them are not mutually exclusive. And this issue will no doubt be different for every single photographer out there.

I’ll end with a quote from Alex, that photography is indeed “a deceptively simple art form

Singapore Airshow

You guys got lucky, there’s a second post for today!

The annual Airshow has come to town and apparently it’s the 3rd largest exhibition of flying hulks of steel in the world. Some Straits Times photojournalists went down and did some shooting with the D3s to get a collection of videos that they put together. (Lots of videos today, I have no idea why)

The video is good, and some of the perspectives are downright hilarious. The videos also demonstrate the great variety of ways photojournalists can look at the same situation and frame it in a different way while still ensuring that it’s the same story. They just don’t shoot it head on. You can watch the video and see for yourself, it’s highly interesting and to some extent very creative!

The video can be found at this link

World Press Photo Awards 2012

The world press photo awards for this year are out! (Wow POYI and WPPA are all in the same time frame) There are a grand total of 350 images that received some accolade at the awards. If you time to browse through all 350 you can pretty much get a summary of all that’s happened in the past 365 days (and more). Heres a link to the complete gallery.

If you don’t have time, the image that has been making waves throughout the blogospheres is by Samuel Aranda, and it’s an image of a woman holding an injured relative in her arms during the Arab Spring uprising. This particularly photo originated in Yemen.

World Press Photo

photo by Samuel Aranda

I think the photo is a great one, given all the contextual information that is added in the explanation of it’s selection. It holds much emotion though there are no expressions involved, it portrays the role of women in the uprising, it represent the uprisings all over the Middle East and not just in Yemen, so on and so forth. With all the added knowledge, it is a great image.

But I don’t really get WPPA selections. The one from 2009 left me just as confused and I suppose I don’t really feel that these images are visceral enough to be considered the best photojournalism from across the world. They will be run on the front page of newspapers and publicised as the best work from photojournalists in 2011 and the layman is likely to go ‘huh, that’s such a regular image’. The selection isn’t only to recognise great images, it plays a more important role in highlighting key issues to the public as these images are bound to reach public eye in one way or another.

Immediacy and visual engagement is key to this. If the public is engaged, they see the value of photojournalism and they will go on to make an impact to whatever issue has been highlighted. Perhaps then photo departments would not have to trim back on staff and manpower. There is recognition for the work that photojournalists do.

In my minds eye, one image that is visceral and also tells of a great social problem would be Kevin Carter’s infamous shot.

image by Kevin Carter

this brought the world to it’s feet. and perhaps as an outlet to which people will go to for the ‘best photojournalism’ we should also be thinking about the social capabilities of the choices of the jury.

Despite this, the image selected is still a fantastic one (I have no doubt) and it captures the story of the revolution so succinctly without any violence explicitly portrayed.

And my reservations aside, I doubt I shall ever make as great an image as was selected, so take my words with a pinch of salt! (you are of course, very welcome to form your own opinion, photographers always disagree anyway!)

Pictures of the Year(‘s gone by)

The annual Pictures of the Year International (POYI) awards convenes again at the University of Missouri, where it has been held since 1944. It’s one of the major events in the photojournalistic world and is also one of the reasons why I would absolutely love to go to Mizzou to study. (I’ve read the entire debate on photo school vs On the Job training but we’re not here to debate that.)

POYI has recognized some really remarkable images of our history and almost all the iconic images of the late 20th century were featured at POYI. Currently the 69th batch of images are being judged and if I’m not mistaken you can view the judging process as they pick out some of the best images from the past year from an already amazing pool of talent. The main website is here

If you don’t have a ton of time and really want to get down to some highlights there’s a trailer video that’s been released featuring some of the best images that have come from previous POYIs. The photos are absolutely stunning and although some of them are not as recognizable, they are amazing in their own right!

“(Journalists) are putting themselves in harms way a lot of time so you can see what’s really going on”

somewhat related to what I was saying the other day:

“without photojournalism, many of the social issues that are critical to our planet would never see the light of day; the real power of photojournalism is the ability to capture a moment in time and reflect that to an audience so that people will be made aware and bring about change”

Nat Geo Young Photographer Award

If you’re currently living in Singapore and Malaysia and you’re between the ages of 13 and 25, you’re eligible for this competition! The theme is Culture and Heritage so if you’ve got any photos that fit under that theme don’t forget to submit yours before the 25th of March here: http://natgeotv.com/asia/awards

They’ve also got some photography seminar which you can sign up for if you wish. The prizes seem to be pretty good – a Canon 600D and a guided trip to Bali, so mark down the dates on your calendar and don’t forget to submit!

A workshop, a competition, a festival and some inmates.

Just a short post for today, to share some of the things that are coming up.

Firstly, Shooting Home!

Shooting Home was started in 2003 by Objectifs and it was intended to be a photography mentorship for professionals and semi-pros, I personally graduated from it’s student oriented spinoff, Junior Shooting Home and I can personally vouch that it’s a great programme to attend, it’ll change the way you take photos and look at photography and hey, who doesn’t love to meet other great photographers out there? All of my mentors were graduates from Shooting Home and they’re really great photographers (and also really nice people), so do check out this workshop! If you’re facing financial constraints, I do believe that they give out scholarships. So give it a look see and send in your work if you’re interested!

(Lot’s of photographers have graduated from the programme and have gone on to become greats in Singapore, there just might be the slightest correlation, maybe…)

Next up, SYPA!

The Singapore Young Photographers Award is a competition targeted at well, young people. You’ve gotta be between 13 and 25 years of age to qualify but if you do and if you win, the prizes are pretty sweet. Head on over to have a look. If you’ve got a large body of work, you might as well just submit it to take a chance, Lady Luck works in the most mysterious of ways.

Finally, Singapore International Photography Festival

This is a biennial celebration of photography from all over the world and they don’t have a thematic focus this round (which is great, you can submit pretty much any body of work). Submission ends 30th of April so you do have some time to think it over before sending in your stuff. I didn’t go down for the last one so I can’t comment on the quality of the selection but it’d be something that would be fun to submit for and even more amazing to actually get selected!

That’s it for today cos I don’t have a ton of time on my hands, but I will add in one final link.

Check out this neat collection of mugshots of inmates from the 1920s! complete with scribblings of their crimes and various other details. I really love the writing as it adds so much character to the images and the style of the shots is just so atypical of photographing inmates. At first glance I thought it was professional studio work. And criminals being criminals, some of them do have a rather interesting look about them.

They look so out of place in the prison here.


and this is such an engaging shot!

Follow the link above to go check out the entire collection!