Singaporean Bess Chan explores the intimate hours of Singapore, when the daily grind is through and time is kept personal. For this intriguing shoot, Bess uses the Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens.
Please introduce yourself to the Lomography community and the readers of the Online Magazine.
I am a final year student at Central Saint Martins in London, majoring in Fine Art. I work mostly with oil painting, charcoal drawings, and film photography.
How did you get started with photography?
When I got into secondary school, my parents got me a DSLR as a present and I mucked around with it a lot. Few years ago, I misplaced the camera at school. I felt way too guilty to buy a new one so I just went and got myself a cheap old second-hand film camera. After developing my first roll, I guess I just got hooked. I would say that was really when I started taking photography seriously and actually engaging in the process.
How would you describe your style as a photographer?
I work mostly with 35mm black and white. Over time I’ve realized my photographs have often turned out to be of fleeting moments and accidental encounters - many grotty, subtle and quiet things that are usually overlooked. I like to frame and capture these things on the go. Because of that, the photographs sometimes turn out foggy and at times abstract, if not for a face or words to remind the viewer of the physical reality. My fixation with creating an image with film lies in the uncertain nature of the process, and the fragility of the material, which feeds into the end result in the form of delightful blurs, leaks, dust, grains. Many of my works reflect the temporality and fragility of contemporary life.
What/Who do you consider as the greatest influence in your craft?
What: Movies and their cinematography, constant changes in our physical environment, everyday life, and family
Who: Daido Moriyama, Liu Xiaodong, Chantal Joffe, Christopher Doyle, Hou Hsiao Hsien
How do you develop your skills?
Trial and error, experimenting, messing up, learning from that and moving forward; it’s all part of the process.
What is the theme/story behind this shoot?
I wanted to capture what goes on after hours around HDB blocks, such as what people are up to after dinner, or what they do after a long day at work. Because HDBs are communal and private spaces, I had to be careful not to be too intrusive while shooting, especially with the huge lens. I had to maintain a bit of a distance. Between the subjects and me, there were also these walls and pillars in the void decks, lamp posts and trees around the blocks that naturally framed my subjects, creating these images of loneliness.
Tell us a little more about your Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens experience. Any interesting challenges or interesting stories?
The lens didn’t fit onto my film camera so I went and borrowed a DSLR to shoot with, which added to the challenge because I had been so used to shooting film. It took me a while to get familiar with how the lens worked with the aperture plates. There were unexpected results. As I mentioned earlier, the striking gold lens made me more self-conscious and I had to be more careful not to be intrusive with the huge lens. This naturally resulted in photographs taken from odd perspectives and voyeuristic long distances.
Do you have ongoing or upcoming projects that you would like to tell the community about?
I have an upcoming exhibition at Halfway Coffee in Hong Kong, something that I’m really excited about. My exhibition centers around everyday things, places, and people in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is special to me because it’s where I grew up and where my father is from. Rather than portraying the city’s skyscrapers and bustling shopping areas that it’s famous for, my photographs throw light on the everyday lives and struggles of ordinary people, with their lives affected by the constant shifts in their physical environment.
Halfway Coffee, 12 Tung Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
11th August to 16th September
Monday - Sunday 10 am-6 pm (closed on Wednesdays)
Halfway Coffee is a rustic cafe nestled in between the quiet alleys of Sheung Wan, serving coffee and tea in traditional Chinese ceramic cups handpicked by the owner himself. Even some of the cafe’s furniture is vintage. It blends in seamlessly with the rows of antique, vintage stalls that surround it along the famous Cat Street (aka Lascar Row), in an eclectic mix of old and new. One of the reasons why I want to show with Halfway Coffee is because its interiors reflect the owner’s attempts to preserve tradition and culture, something that resonates greatly with my work.