Life can be harsh and unforgiving sometimes. Perhaps this is why lately I've been so drawn towards capturing a more romantic essence in my photos. Unclear and spontaneous, light and aglow - like a dream sequence from an old film. In fact, shooting this story with Amisha and Tahira was like a dream. Both of them are visual artists - they understand the subtleties of light, perspective and anatomy. It's always so fascinating for me when I collaborate with others to see how they translate their skills across different mediums. It truly leaves me speechless. All I can say is that I'm truly grateful for the opportunity to work with these talented women.
And while in praise of talented women, a huge shoutout to Trishna and Nicole who have just launched an online platform for the Singaporean creatives - SWEE ZINE. The full editorial and my little ramble on spontaneity can be found there as well.
“Let there be no scales to weigh your un-known treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.”
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Last spring, I drove down south with Melody to visit this breathtaking place - the Seven Sisters cliffs. Best two and a half hour drive ever. If you're ever traveling to London, you should definitely think about seeing the chalk cliffs.
Being surrounded by nature as far as the eye can see, with little trace of human presence, is without a doubt one of the most incredible sensations I've ever felt. We were really lucky that it was a quiet day and we got the entire beach to ourselves. It's exciting and makes your heart flutter, but at the same time instills tranquility in your soul. It's a reminder that harmony exists in this universe. It's a reminder that I am a small, ephemeral fixture on this land. And even smaller are my problems.
Looking out into the sea, I realise that it has no beginning, no end. Boundless. Despite the chaos of crashes and sprays of salt, it is inherently serene. Each flowing body of water is somehow connected to one another, and they connect the rest of the world. Like the unfathomable depth of the oceans, the potential each and every one of us hold inside ourselves knows no bounds.
Whatever we seek without, can be unearthed within.
Shot at Seven Sisters Country Park, Sussex.
001 // Fits and Starts by Doug DuBois // page 88
Every so often, I start my graduate seminar with a celebration of false starts, dead ends, and wrong turns. The assignment calls for students to display a failed project. For inspiration, we all read Courtney Eldrige’s wonderful letter to the editors of McSweeney’s, which begins:
No, I’m afraid I don’t have anything to submit to your upcoming issue. So instead of sending a complete work, because I don’t see that happening anytime soon, I thought I might submit a working list of stories which I have recently or not so recently quit, abandoned, or forsaken, complete with short summaries of each failed effort, in order to give you some idea why they’ve been sent down. Besides, I like listing. It cheers me up.”
Maybe the strongest glue that binds artists together is failure. Celebrating this kinship, getting it out in the open, helps to avoid the delusion of self-pity and the scorn of schadenfreude. There is, of course, no critique of the work presented for this assignment, but the inevitable stories and laughter help us maintain the conceit, so critical to art and life, that things will get better.
I've always been one to scoff at the idea of "new year, new me" and other resolutions of that nature... But I have to admit, this year I really do feel like a new me. Not because there's a shiny, new calendar on the wall (metaphorically speaking), but because I actually have been rediscovering myself and my passions over the course of the last few months. I've really been pushing the boundaries of my own comfort zones, exploring, learning and growing through my experiences.
One of the things I've been focusing a lot on lately is my photography and how I can push myself to get better. When I saw that Rhea (an incredible creative, of whom I am a huge fan) had embarked on a personal project of taking on assignments from The Photographer's Playbook, it was something that immediately resonated with me. I believe in signs and this was definitely a huge one. My dear friend Trishna and I have decided that we need to push ourselves creatively and therefore we will also be taking part in these weekly assignments - no guarantee on that time frame though, considering how long it took for this first one to come about.
The first brief (posted above) talks about failed projects - initiatives that we've quit, abandoned or forsaken. This particular set of photos were not exactly a failure per se, however I never expected them to be published. Therefore they were pushed to the back of the shelf and forgotten about. These photos were shot spontaneously with a friend on a sun-drenched weekend almost two years ago. At that time it seemed like something we were just doing for fun - without any intended audience, without any pretence. The light coming through the windows was beautiful and I just knew that I wanted to capture something equally beautiful in it. My creative work two years ago was very different to what it is today, and I wouldn't have imagined that these would fit in my portfolio. Yet it's strange to see that it actually sits perfectly with my current body of work. Something for me to think about.
While I head off to brainstorm for next week's assignment, please feel free to join in on this journey of self-improvement. I'm incredibly curious to see how others interpret these briefs and assignments. Leave a link below and I'll definitely check it out.
As we enter a new year full of hope and revived vigour (and a few extra kilos), here's something to consider - are we getting too comfortable in our lives?
Let me explain. Resting on one's laurels never gets them too far ahead. If we don't ever leave our comfort zones, we remain stagnant. How then can we possibly expect to propel ourselves towards whichever direction we're aiming for? By now I've deduced that I'm a person who, probably out of fear, tends to steer clear of change. I've repeatedly closed myself off to new possibilities and new ideas over the last several years. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who feels this way. We know what we want but never allow ourselves to seek it out. As the cliché goes, you are the only person standing in your way is you. Or rather, your resistance to change.
Only in the last four months or so have I decided it's time to face life's only inevitable constant and proactively push myself to feel uncomfortable. It may sound strange, but discomfort really is a great catalyst for gaining knowledge. You get opportunities to see the world from a different perspective. So take that chance and cross new lines.
By mid-December, it's not very often that we get to see London drenched in beautiful sunlight. In fact, most days I can barely see a few hundred feet ahead of me with all the fog. So when the sun does come out, I rejoice. When it shines, I shine too. There's something about a sunny morning that makes want to jump out of bed and get going. It makes me feel optimistic. It gives me hope. And let me tell you... Optimism is a very hard thing to find right now. I don't know if it's because I've become more proactive in learning about the world or because the world really has gotten so bad in the last twelve months. I'm hoping it's the former and that ignorance has let me live so blissfully thus far.
If you've kept up with current affairs, you'll know that this year has been a devastating one, to say the least. From Brexit, the US presidential election and the onslaught of bigotry it's brought about, to all that is happening to innocent people around the world. Beyond the comforts of our four walls, the world is experiencing its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. I will not get into the details of it, because to adequately tackle such a topic is simply beyond me. What I will tell you is this - be aware and be positive. Learning about the injustices around the world is difficult for me, because it makes me feel so helpless... However, I've learnt that all change begins with the smallest of intentions. As individuals, spreading positivity is the least we can do. Be kind, be understanding, be loving - but neither does that mean you should sit down quietly and take it when you witness something you cannot and should not tolerate. Raise your voice, get angry. You will find other like-minded individuals and you will be heard. In the dark, we ourselves must shine and be the light,
Shot at Notting Hill, London.
Photo assistance - Andrea Cheong
Wearing: Zara - Embroidered jacket // Uniqlo - Turtleneck HeatTech // C/MEO Collective - Jeans // Alexander McQueen - Patent leather skull slippers // Chanel - Wallet on chain