03 2012 by
P08-09 Joy to the World
SMU Voice II
P14-P20 Interview with Dance Photographer, Tan Ngiap Heng
P22-P25 P26-P31 P32-P37 Gratitude
Earth in Pieces Overworked Nation
We are proud to present our third issue of Darkroom, exploring universal emotions – happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and anger.
(From left to right - Honghao, Melvin, Kimberly, Jiaming, Steffie and Olivia)
STEFFIE (Editor-in-Chief )
Keep Shooting, Keep exploring.
Dreams of Glastonbury, a beach house and a pet schnauzer named Poochie.
Sometimes wonders what it’d be like to be a hippie in the 60’s. Not particularly attuned to talking about herself; might get better at it in the next issue of Darkroom.
I’m not that shy once you get to know me.
This issue we feature a dual approach in browsing by our readers. Not only do we give you shots that depict the expression of emotions by others, but also encourage you as readers to introspect as you peruse, what emotions YOU feel. We have contributions by our own SMUSAIC photographers in Lost Time, Earth in Pieces, Overworked Nation and are grateful to our very own readers who have responded enthusiastically to our open call by sharing their moments of joy. You can also look forward to an interview with our featured photographer, Tan Ngiap Heng, who delves into the expression of emotions – through dance. We are after all, a photography magazine and a picture can say a thousand more words than me. I hope you enjoy this issue, with happiness and a tinge of surprise. (;
Love, STEFFIE GAN Editor-in-chief
MELVIN (Graphic Designer)
OLIVIA (Creative Director)
Melvin doesn’t actually do proper photography. His best camera is a 3-year-old Sony Cybershot, and his favourite photos are photos of photographers taking photos. Don’t mix around with him.
Photography has allowed Jiaming to explore new perspectives, capture timeless emotions and make the invisible visible.
Recently went for her first solo trip (to Poland!) and made new friends along the way. Can’t wait to try out couchsurfing!
S S E N I P P A H DNESS SA GER AN R A E F T S U G S I D RISE P R SU
Body language. Small details that say so much. A ubiquitous mantra in Communications classes, we have been primed to discern between what is being said out loud, and what the speaker really means. The things we do every day add new definitions to how we feelâ€”but looking beyond the literal, we find that fundamentally, the rawest emotions are always the most prominent. Modelled by Pearlicia Chan, Hu Jiaming, Steffie Gan & Kimberly Loo.
Joy to the World! PHOTOGRAPHS BY: 4. Andre Loh Jie Wen 5. Yeow Jianhao 6. Nadia Ahmad Samdin
“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls” - Mother Theresa In deciding which emotion to open for submissions, we decided that joy made the most sense: in its rawest forms, an upturned mouth, the twinkling of eyes, laughter, shared happiness. Unadulterated. True to the theme, your submissions did not disappoint. Can you feel the good vibes radiating off this page?
PHOTOGRAPHS BY: 1. Ngo Bang Lin 2. Nadia Ahmad Samdin 3. Charles Teo
LOST TIME He had been waiting for the bus for a long time.
He lit a cigarette and looked down the sidewalk, searching for something to entertain him. There were others waiting for their buses too.
Photography by Pearlicia Chan. Text by Steffie Gan.
Not too far away, he spots a lady kneeling by a trash can, waiting for her next meal. Sheâ€™s only a few shillings away. A young man waits for his noodles to cool so he may devour his meal without burning his tongue.
Another frowns into his cell phone, struggling to understand the complexities of new technology. He feels old. How is it that the wait feels longer than the years that have passed before?
I don't take the images. I let the images take me. Earnest, raw, and genuine, it is hardly difficult to see why Tan Ngiap Heng’s photographs have earned him recognition and respect in the local arts scene. Confessing to be an “accidental photographer”, Tan opens up to us about his inspirations, aspirations, and journey as a photographer— both corporate and personal.
What started you on dance photography? To cut a long story short, I became a photographer by accident because I love to dance. I studied Engineering in the University of London, and all that time, I joined Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary dance classes. At the end of my PhD, I went into London Contemporary Dance School for a year, but by that time, I was 30 years old and my body couldn’t take it. It was very heartbreaking. I came back [to Singapore] and started working at the Singapore Arts Centre (now known as The Esplanade), making friends with the head of the dance department in the Laselle-SIA College of the Arts. I went in and started shooting some of the students and some of their student productions. Phan Ming Yen, the editor of the Arts Magazine then, saw my work and asked me to shoot for him. But it took me 10 years to get to this level of setting up studio, learning to light… I also took a lot of photographs for
Singapore Dance Theatre and other dance companies. I learned from them. What challenges did you face when you first started out? Access. That’s the first challenge. People are busy choreograhing and staging a show—why would they allow you to go in and take pictures of that? I was lucky. Being the Arts Administrator of SAC allowed me to start a career in photography. I met a lot of performing arts groups who came in to discuss the programme, and they’d send me out to take photographs. That’s how I built my first clientele. Lighting. To shoot performances, you can’t use flash, so you need a pretty good camera and lens—they need to be wide open, at low apertures. When I first started out, I was using a terrible f/3.5 kit lens. I could never get sharp images! So when I came back to Singapore, I bought an f/1.4 50mm prime lens. That changed everything.
What about the choreography—do you have to know it before you start shooting? Yes. The stage can be quite big, and you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The real luxury is when the dance company invites the photographer in to see the rehearsals in the studio. As the photographer, you want to see what the choreography goes like first, so you can track the movements and anticipate what they do, and see how the movements develop as a whole piece. You want to capture the spirit of the entire piece. In dance, everything passes in a second. If you have no idea what the piece is like, you’re shooting by instinct. You can get some shots in like that, but to get really nice, suitable composition, it’s best to consciously know what is coming up.
Do you have any secrets with regard to performance photography? Know your camera. It’s important to practice on the camera that you’re using before you shoot, to train your brain to understand the time lag. Even when I’m pre-empting the shot, my body needs to know when to press the shutter. The main thing is to know how—and when—to capture the movement. That is probably the toughest part for a lot of photographers; dancers are very particular. For example, in a jeté, their legs and feet must be completely straight. If they’re not, you’re screwed. Understand dance, what is interesting in the dance, and the dance form. You have to adapt according to what dance is in front of you. Some dances are more dramatic—you’re not looking for the perfect split or jump,
in photography. Things like jumps and turns—they usually happen to the beat of the music. Except when you’re taking more avant garde or contemporary things where the movement is separate from the music, then all you’ve got is the movement. That said, you can’t really bring the music across because there’s just no visual equivalence, but when the music’s really sad, you see the expression on the dancer. It’s also a really good way for you to understand the context of the dance— the softness, loudness, tempo… there’s really a lot to read from the music as well. But how do you manage to capture the ‘perfect’ moment within such a split second?
but you’re looking for the moments with the highest emotion, where they look really wild or crazy, for example. They don’t have to be perfect, but they’re the peaks. Take Bharatanatyam [An Indian folk dance] in contrast to Ballet, for example. In the former, they do amazing things with their eyes, and their hand gestures are so intricate. In the latter, the face is more frozen; the stories lie in their movements. For dancers, they have music to guide them through the movement. It’s impossible to capture music in a photograph—how do you integrate and translate the feeling that you get from the music into your shot?
You can’t actually bring the music across, but music is still very important
When most photographers shoot dance, they wait to see what is good before pressing the shutter. But if you can see what you want to shoot, you’ve already lost it. The moment has gone. I’m also against people who put it on auto and fire off like five frames—that’s just trying your luck. But what happens is if you’re going according to the music, you don’t really need to see the shot you’re going to have, but you’re creating it. A little trick is that before anyone jumps, they actually do a plié [slight outward bend of knees]. So photographers have to practice. Whenever you see a person go down, you should already be taking a shot. Because when they go up, there’s a peak. If you took the picture correctly, you wouldn’t have physically seen the peak until you look at your shot on the camera. If the piece is softer, you also should observe the dancer’s breathing. You kind of get the tempo from that.
So you look at the breathing, listen to the music, and you watch for the plié. You wouldn’t really see the beautiful, fantastic shots before you take them. You sense them. What about the portraits in your book, Dance Me Through the Dark? What inspires your lighting direction, and the way you create the movements? My lighting is very much influenced by stage lighting. The interesting thing about a dancer’s body is their tone and muscles—that’s why I choose to use side lighting to get the depth. To bring out the shape and fine detail of dancers and stuff, flat lighting from the front is very, very bad. As for the movements, different dancers give me different feelings of energy—some are younger and wilder, some are older and more graceful. So I talk to the dancers, telling them I see them in a particular light and style, and they try to give me movements that suit that. It’s a dialogue and a lot of play, really. You play with the angle and the way you take the shots. You just take a lot. Which direction do you see yourself heading towards now, artistically? Creating [my book] was a major milestone in my creative life. I was working towards this kind of photography when I first started out, so this is a summary of all the experimentation I was doing. The completion of it was a turning point for me. Now, I prefer to work on personal projects, although I started volunteering to document the rehearsal processes of various performing arts groups. There’s a lot of
craft in trying to find ways to take my knowledge of photography and bring in that extra layer of personal experience. The work becomes more mature, and I am trying to move towards that. What keeps your passion going for trying to break boundaries and exploring new things and projects? I don’t know whether this answers it or not, but for me, I don’t take the images; I let the images take me. I’m the type of person that takes photographs because I feel like there’s a photograph in me that wants to come out. I watch a lot of other performing arts, I read books, I watch films and anime, read a lot of manga and stuff like that, and I meet friends in the arts and I talk to them and they tell me what they’re doing. In all these interactions, something in me just goes, “Oh my god. It’d be so great if this image could come out.” It’s always a question of how you can show more, especially as a portrait photographer. Right now, I’m more interested in the relationship between emotion and energy, so that’s what I’ve been exploring. So basically it’s not all about the technicalities? I think there are three levels in photography: First, buy the camera, learn its settings, and learn how to operate it. Anyone can do this. Second, how you create an image that conveys and emotion or a simple story. It’s the craft—composition, colour etc.
SMU Voice II Exhibition 2011 Third, when you actually have something to say. It’s kind of like self-enlightenment. I mean, there are so many good photographers out there. How do you stand out? Some photographers will become famous for a new technique that will blow your mind, but it’s so hard to always be 100% creative. But I think what is most important is being honest—being interested in something in life, and exploring it honestly. And that comes across in your work. Anyone can use camera, anyone can use Photoshop. But being honest, and daring to convey that, reaches another level altogether, and that is what I’ve been trying to work towards.
What do you think is the most important for any budding photographer to remember? Be passionate, be honest, be willing to continue exploring your surroundings and yourself, and push boundaries while you’re at it.
Photography by Tan Ngiap Heng. Text by Kimberly Loo.
Between 5th to 17th September 2011, SMU was transformed into a pseudo scavenger-hunt arena, with a path marked by ten contemporary art installations by 12 artists from SMU’s dedicated visual arts and photography clubs, Artdicted and SMUSAIC. Most of you would have seen the works around campus: Conceived around the theme “Listen”, this year’s showcase presented itself in the most ‘everyday spaces’ to appeal to the most – you got it – everyday SMU student. These site-specific installations are a call for viewers to reflect on their experiences to re-discover their true perspectives on their most pressing concerns. Photography and Text by Hu Jiaming Read more about the works and artists at http://smuvoice2011.wordpress.com
1 1. “My Light” by Cynthia Lau Cai Xuan Thank you Adwin, my little baby brother for being the light of my life by always being there by my side. 2. “Unwavering Support” by Jeremy Say Gui Yong OSL officer Mr Kang Guan Hock quietly waiting to cheer the SMURTs on at the SUNIG Aquathlon.
Over the past semester, Darkroom has witnessed various moments of gratitude, encapsulated into individual photographs. We hope that you, like us, experience the photographers’ thankfulness through their images, and are inspired by their appreciation towards kindness.
“Joyous Celebration” by Tang Jie Lian Christopher The Sendai Tanabata festival celebrates the meeting of two star crossed lovers. In the way of the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that devastated coastal regions of Japan, it became a means for the Japanese people to express their gratefulness for having weathered a natural disaster of epic proportions. A girl dressed in yukata (traditional summer wear) cavorts along the festival grounds, which are decorated with giant ornaments and colourful streamers.
3. “My Angel” by Jonathan Tan Ser Ern My grandmother is been someone I really love deeply and has always been there for me since the day I was born. Her life story and how she overcame many hardships in life has been an inspiration to me. Recently she got into an accident with a van, which made me appreciate her presence in my life even more deeply. My present wish is for her to have a miraculous, speedy recovery. 4. “Exchange in Gifts” by Nicholas Tan Jie Wei A kiss in return for a Christmas present.
1. “Rejoice” by See Wei Jie A smile is all I need to keep on going. 2. “Simple Joys” by Yeow Jianhao
When was the last time, when you were free of worries, free of trouble, free of stress, and just be yourself? 3. “Timeless Joy” by Jeremy Say Gui Yong The simple pleasure of traditional ice-cream that transcends intergenerational boundaries, never failing to delight young and old alike.
5 4. “Life” by Ephraim Lin Fei The greatest gift of all. 5. “Selfless Sacrifice” by Shawn Cho Zi En May we always remember the selfless sacrifices of those who gave their lives in fighting for the freedom of the world. American Cemetery, Normandy, France.
Earth in Pieces
The smell of desolation in the air, to rummage through the debris to pick up fragments of your life â€“ anything that was not washed away by the terrible forces of Mother Nature â€“ is almost too much to bear. As if you have not suffered enough loss, the conditions under which you are put under to reconstruct your life all over again do nothing to alleviate the pain of loved ones lost. But to the civic-minded townsfolk of Tohoku, this is not an excuse to forgo the spirit of kindness and humanity but to reinforce love, kindness and support for all who prevailed in the face of death and destruction. Photography by Hu Jiaming. Text by Steffie Gan.
Dozens wheelbarrows, awaiting helping hands.
The town of Rikuzentakata, Iwate, Japan
The temple was unscathed by the tsunami but not the residents on the ground.
Mountains of debris at the village site. Mixture of concrete, plastics, wood, metal and whatever was in the sea.
What started as an exploration into street photography and a satirical representation of the city life turned into a stark reality check for photographer Liu Yuhong. On the surface, it is a depiction of a cycle. Given such a fast-paced lifestyle, resting recharges and completes this cycle. But, is there more to it than taking a quick snooze? Perhaps they have made streets their home. Maybe they could not afford a roof over their heads. Some of them seemed to have been simply â€Ś forgotten. Despite being the ones who need the most help, they have somehow been overlooked. Is our city too busy to notice?
Photography by Liu Yuhong. Text by Steffie Gan. 32
About SMUSAIC & Drycab
Photography captures both the visible and invisible, spans the entirety of realsmu.photography ity and fantasy, and engages emotions and logic all at once. We believe that the pursuit of photographic excellence need not, and should not, occur in a vacuum. We understand that there is much to gain from the collective creative energy and exploration as a team.
SMUSAIC is many things to many people. It is the eyes and brains of a critical but supportive and nurturing entity; it is a source of confidence to take on our dreams; it is the stretch we need for our personal abilities and boundaries. Since our formation in the early days of SMU, we have remained committed to promoting photographic literacy, passion and appreciation. Through a wide variety of events, we seek to provoke and inspire styles, visions and purpose in photography. Our activities stretch over a medley of photography styles, from studio and street to photojournalism and portraiture. All this is possible only with the commitment and contribution of an inspired team.
7 SMUSAIC As SMUSAICâ€™s very own photographic studio, DryCab is the all-important nexus of all our creative efforts. We play photographic mad-scientists to sharpen our understanding of colour and light and the absence of both; we plan experimental field-trips as students and mentors alike; we dream up collaborative projects within and beyond our club. You are warmly welcome to join us in our experiments and events!
OPEN CALL We hope you enjoyed this third issue of Darkroom as much as we enjoyed producing it!
As we step into our fourth issue, we want YOU to be involved too! We are currently looking for talented individuals with a passion for publishing to join us in our next issue! If you have this very passion, contact us NOW at firstname.lastname@example.org