Revisiting an Old Shoot – Secrets of White Room

A few people recently asked me about my old shoot: “Secrets of White Room” and were drawn by the compelling story.  What does this series mean?  I believe that photographs should be a representation of ideas that are relevant to the individual viewers, so I will not offer any definitive answers.  On the other hand, I am happy to discuss how this conceptual art shoot came to be.  An small excerpt is also available in the series featured on Art About Magazine Italy.

The origins of Secrets of White Room came one day back in 2008, when I had the day off to myself.  On that day, I recall watching the continuous stream of people running to and from the subway train and thought – “Today, I am not like everyone else.”  It was obvious why everyone was rushing to work.  However, being one step removed from the system, I finally see the endless rat race in front of me, where people struggle to build their lives, with no end in sight.  Likewise, the mental struggle mirrors the physical struggle all the same, as the never-ending journey entraps us in our minds.  Money, opportunity, and the ultimate dream of one day escaping from the vicious system looms large over everyone’s minds.

Over the years, similar ideas presented themselves to me in various facets of life, and the ideas of “truth and fiction” began to emerge.  Do we really know who someone is?  On a fundamental level, we do not question our familiarity with our closest friends, their likes, dislikes, and stories and moments we shared with them.  Yet, on a deeper level, it is no mystery that everyone has deep inner secrets that remain unspoken, kept locked away, or even completely manipulated or forgotten as a natural reaction to cope with the past.

Secrets of White Room is a story of contrasts, symbolism, and a visual journey that follows the girl in the photos, laden with inherent contradictions within the series.  The story is available in its entirety here:

 

 

“White Fox” published on Sticks and Stones Agency

I am excited to announce that my recent shoot “White Fox” has been published on Sticks and Stones Agency this week!

With this shoot, we had the gorgeous Shannon from B&M models and a wonderful new creative team to help make this beautiful shoot possible.  When I look back upon these photos, it was a heartfelt reminder of what I enjoy most about photography – telling wonderful stories that are timeless. I love creating photos that are like a lingering dream, with a surreal cinematic vibe that also evokes a sense of nostalgia and inexplicable familiarity, and “White Fox” reaffirms that as we continue on the visual poetry journey:

“This is a visual poem about a girl who finds herself venturing through the wild alone, as if she is the last of the white foxes. It is also an ethereal story that straddles the divide between truth & fiction at the same time.

The forest is such a beautiful place, sheltering us from the elements, & yet infinitely mysterious. On this late July afternoon, the sunlit flowers & leaves amidst the cloudy skies were endlessly inspiring, just like a painting unfolding before us. I wish you could hear the trees rustling in the wind, like nature composing its own song to our little adventure, while the blooming flowers & the decaying trees leaves us to wonder – do we dare disturb the universe?”

See the full series here!

 

 

Scarlet Girl – Featured on Best of Photo Vogue Italia!

The winter months have always been difficult for outdoor photo shoots.  Although studio photography is always a possibility, I always find something special with on-location shoots as there is an element of authenticity from the environment that resonates through the photos.

Earlier last month, I was fortunate to find fantastic indoor locations to shoot in to realize my new creative ideas.

“No Homework on Saturday” is a dreamy, grungy editorial shoot in a school.  The absence of people in this normally public space suddenly became a quiet theatre of discovery and adventure, and fit the mood perfectly.  I am extremely happy that Scarlet Girl, one of the top picks from this series, was selected as Best of Vogue on March 1st, 2016 on the Photo Vogue Italia page!

I am looking forward to sharing the other photos from this series with everyone soon!

Scarlet Girl - Full Screen - March 1 2016

Best of Vogue Scarlet Girl Screenshot(3)

 

 

The Photographic Voice and “Style”

The photographic voice. Where does it comes from?  As photography becomes increasingly more accessible for everyone, finding a unique style has become more important to differentiate one photographer’s work from others.  No doubt, there is a lot of talent out there today.  Even many new photographers often have something fresh and interesting to captivate our attention. Common among the best photographers is the talent in translating their visions from mere ideas into a photographic reality.  This is often accompanied by a strong style or theme that is coherent throughout all the images.  For instance, some photographers enjoy integrating fantasy elements, reminiscent of fairy tales, while others may take a completely different approach and prefer photos more rooted in reality with more of a documentary style.   A key dilemma for artists is to find that unique style that appeal to them and that they would love to explore more.  This is true for painters and musicians as much as it is for photographers.  Personally, I enjoy many genres of photography, with an appreciation for different styles that engages me to explore different techniques to represent my visions.  In many ways, this may not project as much of a coherent voice in my work, as the work could be vastly different from one series to another, especially when placed next to one another.

When I reflect on this, I believe that our style is a combination of our interests, our interpretation of the world, and the message we want to deliver.  In simple terms, I grew up with Lego, a fascination for technology and things that moved, and inventions in general.  As time had gone by, I started to appreciate creative writing, poetry, and philosophical ideas.  There is no perfect science to this, but all these things influenced my photography into what it is today.

I recently had a chat with one of my models on this topic, and she had some great insights about the photographic voice and finding our style.  She believes that our style is innate and something we have found and held onto long ago.  She sees this in both my work, and the work of some other photographers.  We agree that some photographers have an attraction to one style of photography only, and produce excellent work in that aesthetic exclusively.  On the other hand, just like other areas of life, exploring different styles and being willing to experiment artistically is more risky (and perhaps more difficult) but provides excellent rewards.  What I personally enjoy about exploring different styles is that it constantly challenges my technical and creative abilities to create something unique and beautiful while keeping me engaged and interested in coming up with the “impossible”.  To take a page out of existentialism philosophy, our goals in life should not be static, as the world and our relationship with it changes every day.  When we established our goals and visions, they may be the best possible decision at the time.  But, change is constant, and if our goals and visions remain static, then we are denying ourselves of the opportunity to improve and to reinvent ourselves.

Just a Few Drinks - Photo Vogue Italia

“Just a Few Drinks”, recently published on Photo Vogue Italia

This photo was taken long before I had any education in photography, but it stands alongside my recent work in my portfolio with an unmistakable signature that is still recognizable today.  Is this the photographic voice?  I would love to explore this topic in greater depth later.

That First Camera

I had an interest in photography for as long as I could remember.  Despite not having any formal education in photography at the start, I always intuitively saw snapshots that I wanted to capture in the world, and the people, places, and moments that were important and beautiful to me.  While I have taken casual photos before with my parents’ cameras, I never had a decent camera of my own to use.  In 2008, my first serious exploration into photography began when I decided to purchase my first camera, a Canon 40D.  It was the older model, but I knew it would be good enough, especially because it was already far over my budget as a co-op student.  In fact, I still remember fondly the $100 memory card that I had to purchase for it, which put the price over the edge, and made it the single most expensive purchase for me ever at that point in life.  Coincidentally, I was publishing the monthly co-op committee newsletters at the time, which gave me a good excuse to really get out there and capture the world.

I roamed the streets of downtown Toronto with my camera and started to blend in with the tourists.  The camera was left mostly in aperture and auto mode since I knew little about all its technical features.  I did not rationally understand what subjects interested me, but I felt that I had a good sense of proportions, space, and colours, and I was happy with the photos!  My fellow co-op friends were happy with them as well.

At around this time, I met Tony from work, who grew up taking a lot of photography.  He praised me on my composition skills, and encouraged me to explore photography further.   I continued to roam the streets of downtown Toronto and began to create more and more photos.  Towards the end of that summer, I woke up to find that one of my photos was featured on BlogTo, a popular website documenting events and news in the city. It was the first time my work was in the spotlight.  It was a great summer.