Mindful Platitudes with Street Photography

What is the next step on the journey?

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Where should one go?

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What is your work building up to?

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Is it all in vain?

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Am I willing to own my mess and work with it?

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Perhaps there’s a need to sit down in the midst of things and regroup.

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Illumination can only emerge where there is darkness.

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You’ll find your own way.

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Look for the good stuff.

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And wait until it all becomes meaningful.

Camera: Contax TVS II

Film: Kodak BW400CN

Shamshuipo: Monochrome High Contrast

Again at Sham Shui Po.

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Life follows function.

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The buildings are useful for nostalgia.

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Though they’re still here.

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Bodies crammed between buildings.

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A selection of goods.

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At the butcher’s.

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Chinese foodstuff.

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Frenetic energy.

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Bustle.

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Check out the lap cheong (Chinese dried sausages)!

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Yummy.

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A window reflects.

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Work in progress.

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Still building.

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Renewal and construction.

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A tree trunk is tamed.

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Shroud on building.

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A conference.

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A building pushes.

 

 

Camera: Canon 600D

Legacy Lens: SMC Takumar 35mm f 3.5

Mostly Monochrome Singapore

I’ve lived in Hong Kong long enough such that I could see Singapore with a fresh set of eyes.

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Some of the buildings have become rather futuristic.

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And public housing flats are beginning to look very homely.

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Singapore is home, a comfortable grid.

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We’re all fitted into grids.

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Nice looking public housing.

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Was at Hard Rock Café with my family.

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An amazing acoustic set – it’s nice to listen to local acts with my wife… while trying to get our children to eat their broccoli.

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The HRC I know were Saturday clubbing nights, 2 decades ago.

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As I looked around at the various tables, I saw expat families with kids, tourists and middle-class locals out for dinner.

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Times have changed – or perhaps I have changed.

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Once upon a time, I wanted to be a rock star with my acoustic guitar.

The lyric he’s singing: “I’m all about that bass, about that bass, about that bass…”

Subsequent serious research (Google and Wikipedia) tells me it’s really a very cool song.

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Now, I see HRC as an F&B outlet using rock music as a marketing tool, reaching out to customers like me who’ve come of age with the likes of GnR, Bon Jovi and Skid Row.

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Perhaps I’m getting older and more cynical.

Still – it’s good to be young and idealistic.

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HRC still looks impressive.

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The colour is wonderful.

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Orchard Road is gearing up for Christmas.

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Hilton façade with a dash of nature.

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A Martian landscape in full colour.

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Equally interesting in monochrome.

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It’s nice to be young…

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An empty bus looks somewhat disturbing, like an unfulfilled promise.

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This looks better – all blurry and full of promise.

Thanks for reading!

 

Camera: Canon 600D

Legacy Lens: Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Lydith 30mm f. 3.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tai Tong Valley Organic Ecopark

I’ve been reading David Gibson’s The Street Photographer’s Manual and he really has good advice to give.

Referring to Geoff Dyer’s books The Ongoing Moment (on photography) and But Beautiful (on jazz), Gibson makes the connection between street photography and jazz:

I identify an empathy with the mindset of jazz musicians. They get lost; they have an idea where they are going, they are in control but they are open to chance and what feels right in the moment. That alternative name for street photography could be ‘lost photography’ – street photographers need to get lost. (pg. 8)

That’s my thing with writing poetry as well – you start somewhere … you have an idea of what to do but do not know what will happen or what you’re really going to say until you’ve written it all out.

Writing for me is (improvisatory) thinking that reaches for something that wasn’t there before.

Perhaps the same might be said of jazz and street photography. How else would you reach something fresh/new/innovative if you already know what you’re aiming for right from the beginning?

Have an idea of A; do A; attain A, and you will still get A. That’s not quite satisfactory.

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We’re always in search of that breakthrough, that gap which broadens.

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Following David Gibson’s advice on looking through layers, I’ve been looking through glass, windows, mesh, etc.

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I can’t decide whether the monochrome or colour version is better.

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Both are equally valid, I think.

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Here.

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Here again. There’s a filmic quality to the color.

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The photographs here were taken during a family trip to Tai Tong Valley Organic Ecopark.

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It’s a study in what we’ve made of animals…

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We’ve domesticated many animals.

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They are tame, chained and obedient.

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Perhaps they’re the external manifestations of ourselves as well.

Perhaps we need to learn to look through animals at ourselves.

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We’re all tamed, chained and obedient to one thing/idea or another.

The above is a playground that looks like a roped enclosure … actually, it is a roped enclosure.

You could allegorize and say the human playground is at the same time a roped enclosure of sorts.

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We’re all “(m)echanical beetles never quite warm” (Wallace Stevens, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”).

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That I suppose, is the seed of cultivation…

 

Check out my open-edition prints!

 

 

 

 

Singapore Local Culture

This is culture as lived experience:

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An ordinary life that is the subject of street photography.

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Every year I return to Singapore for a period and some things don’t change.

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The kacang puteh man is still there (there’s another photo of him in a post a year ago).

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I tried another shot and he spotted me.

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A cobbler.

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And another cobbler.

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I stopped to buy my son an ice cream.

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When doing street photography, bring along your child – you’ll look less conspicuous that way.

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See? This guy actually smiled at my son and I.

I look like I’m helping my son with a school project…

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My son dared me to take a picture of him up close – and I did.

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And he pointed to them and said it would make a nice photograph – so I obliged.

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He didn’t think the above would work – I think he’s right.

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And he said the cyclist was looking the wrong way … again he’s right.

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“Why did you take a picture of that building, daddy? Is that considered street photography?”

Good question.

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I thought the tie fluttering in the air might make this interesting.

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He was trying to tack something onto the wood paneling and looked somewhat frustrated – I caught that moment.

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That’s life – always under construction.

Thanks for reading.

Check out my open-edition prints at my Saatchi Art page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little bit of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

So … I’m back from Shanghai, having tasted the power of a 50mm lens (80mm with a 1.6 crop factor).

What would that 40mm pancake lens I’ve been reading about do? Hmm…

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That 600D has been hiding away in my closet for a long time, and now I’m beginning to think that with a small-sized lens, it might be a good street camera.

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A 40mm would be a bit extravagant if you already have a 50mm lens.

Just zoom with your feet, I’d say.

But given the crop factor, it would mean 64 mm, a justifiable difference from 80mm.

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So, yes, I headed off to Tsim Sha Tsui with the intention of not buying that Canon 40mm F2.8 pancake lens.

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According to the Canon HK site, it goes for HK$1480.

I inquired about the price at Suning and the staff whispered HK$1380 conspiratorially.

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I crossed the road and went into a small shop called Echo Audio and it’s HK$1100.

Yes! I made some money! A yummy pancake!

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Roland Lim has a lot to say about buying cameras in Hong Kong.

Beware of those shops with “Tax Free” signs. Consumer goods are tax free everywhere in Hong Kong.

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I’ve always been mindful of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

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Every time something fascinating appears, I remind myself it’ll be old news a year later.

First there’s Sony RX100, followed by RX100 MII, and now it’s RX100 MIII.

Ditto Fuji X100 and X100S. You can’t keep up.

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I’m mindful of planned obsolescence when it comes to digital cameras – that’s partly why I’m into film cameras.

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A Leica M6 would still be majestic 10 years later and hold its value at least on EBay.

You can’t quite say the same with digital cameras.

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So anyway, a 64mm would fit between my Leica 50mm Summicron and that 80mm (50mm Canon nifty fifty).

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I could be indoors and still be unnoticed despite the loud flipping of the slr mirror, given the distance.

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This person spotted me but carried on as before.

The pancake is not as intimidating, compared to if I had my 18-135mm lens.

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The fact is, no one noticed me.

The 600D with the pancake looks really small. (Though it is a bit loud).

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He didn’t even look up.

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Maybe I look like a tourist with a camera, in a tourist area.

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He spotted me, but went on walking past me.

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I’m in the MTR (subway) and no one stopped me.

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I am invisible…

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My camera looks like a toy.

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Do I exist?

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If I take a picture and no one sees me … do I exist?

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People are too immersed in themselves…

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Too immersed in their phones…

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Finally – someone noticed!

Thanks for reading!

And if you like this post, you’ll like my portfolio.

 

 

 

 

 

Shanghai Monochrome: Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus

Why It Does Not Have to be in Focus: Modern Photography Explained is the title of a book by Jackie Higgins.

To me, it’s a study on artlessness in modern art photography.

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Why photographs do not have to be in focus is akin to why it is that modern poetry does not rhyme.

Ditto why it is that modern musical compositions play with dissonance.

The big word “modernism” comes into play here, with its suspicion of “correctness” as espoused by traditional aesthetics.

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I could go on and on (an occupational hazard for a university professor) but I’ll restrain myself and say simply that we’ve learnt not to trust a person who is too poised, too eloquent, too ready with his or her words.

We’ve learnt not to trust that person who is too artful.

That perhaps there’s something reassuring about imperfections, acknowledging that sometimes, not getting it right is also part of the human condition.

So we look to artlessness and we stop policing ourselves about right vs wrong in aesthetics.

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After all, we often don’t have time to stop and look.

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Everything is done in haste.

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To depict the modern condition, art has to be the modern condition.

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The artist has to learn not to take himself/herself (or art) too seriously.

Art can’t be served on a plate.

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Street photography is about stopping time and making the ephemeral make sense.

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It’s about that grimace we’d rather not see in ourselves, that we’d rather suppress and not let others see.

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Though if the day is good, we allow ourselves a little grin – that’s humanity too.

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We could be lighthearted on a lighthearted day.

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Or stand by and watch life pass us by, and smile.

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It doesn’t have to be in focus, and it doesn’t have to be upright as well…

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We look again.

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We don’t always get it right.

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Life goes on in a blur.

If you like this post, you’ll like my portfolio.

Have a good day!