Most often than not, our inner circle hears first about our new photography gear. In this interview, Singaporean photographer Ian Lim took his friends out for a shoot with the Petzval 85 Art Lens.
Please introduce yourself to the Lomography community and the readers of the Online Magazine.
Hello! My name is Ian Lim, and I'm a freelance self-taught photographer. I was born, raised, and am now based in Singapore. I spend the majority of my free time listening to music, and I like cheeseburgers.
How did you get started with photography?
I was working for the marketing department of a local company and one of my earlier tasks was designing posters and such for promotional purposes. I started getting frustrated looking for free-for-use graphics/photographs online and always thought just how much easier it would be if I could just take my own photographs and use them for the posters and promotions. I progressed to taking photographs and shooting videos for the company on a rented camera and really enjoyed the process because it felt natural to me.
A few months before my first trip to New York City (close to three years ago), I knew that I had to have my own camera to document and remember my times there, and went ahead to finally buy one. I've never looked back and I'm so glad I took that step because some of my best street photographs (even up till this point) were taken on that trip to NYC.
How would you describe your style as a photographer?
I enjoy shooting portraits, streets, and (performing) musicians the most. I always try to look at everything I see as if I was composing for a photograph. I'm fascinated with lights, natural or synthetic.
What/Who do you consider as the greatest influence in your craft?
I'm a huge jazz geek, so naturally, some of my favorite photographs are old album covers. There's the legendary Francis Wolff who shot John Coltrane's 'Blue Train', Dexter Gordon's 'Our Man In Paris', and Art Blakey's 'The Freedom Rider'. Don Hunstein, who shot Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue', and this brilliant picture of Miles smiling and smoking a cigarette in the studio in the midst of the 'Porgy and Bess' sessions.
What might possibly be my favorite photograph ever though, is Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'Stone Flower' album cover, shot by Pete Turner. I find myself spending a lot of time staring at it. It's one of those pictures I wish I took. The warm and soft lighting, shadow-play, closed eyes, relaxed pose, the visible smoke from the cigarette in his right hand and from his exhale. Pete Turner really captured the essence of the entire album really well with that one photograph.
How do you develop your skills?
I spend a lot of time on trial and error, as well as looking at photographs on my Instagram feed and trying to emulate them or figure out how to do what I liked about them. I always try to get as much down in camera as possible. The /r/postprocessing sub-reddit is fantastic as well!
What is the theme/story behind this shoot?
I brought the Petzval to quite a few places, but I had the pleasure to photograph some of my closest friends for most of the photographs. I knew I had to do a shoot with my friend Maddy (@maadzs) for this one, so we went to Little India in the evening when the Sun wasn't harsh, lighting was soft, and the colors vibrant. She's a natural. Literally just touched down from a long-haul flight from NYC a couple of hours on no sleep right before I captured these images, but you wouldn't even be able to tell!
Another location was a trip to an abandoned mansion with my friend Josh. We trekked for 15 minutes to get to the space. The natural light opportunities in there were fantastic and I decided to make him attempt a 'zombie-ish' pose for one of the shots because the place already had a creepy vibe, so we wanted to utilize that. I used the F2.8 aperture plate to give that shot a more disoriented feel with the bokeh. The pictures with the flowers and greenery were with my cousin Ryan, right before we had dinner at a friend's place. I felt that the combination of the setting sun and the garden-ish background would result in some lovely results with the Petzval's character.
There's a picture from my solo visit to the Yayoi Kusama exhibition that's currently going on at the National Gallery here in Singapore. I took a self-portrait in the Infinity Room exhibit and really liked how the swirl + bokeh processed with all the lights. As for the picture with the three gentlemen sitting at the bus stop, I actually spent close to 10 minutes standing behind them and experimenting with the various aperture plates, finally settling with the 2.8 because of how dreamy vibe it gave that particular composition.
Tell us a little more about your Petzval 85 Art Lens experience. Any challenges or interesting stories?
The Petzval 85 Art Lens was the first time I've ever experimented with anything from the series. If I had to summarize my experience with it, I would say that the lens has a life of its own. Its detached from the camera body, but in a good way. So much character and life by itself!
I guess one of the challenges is that because each aperture plate has its own unique focal points, you have to physically switch plates (as opposed to just flicking through a dial) when the composition is set and you realize that the plate you're using is not in the same focal range as what you were hoping to achieve.
Do you have ongoing or upcoming projects that you would like to tell the community about?
About 2 months ago, I started a new personal project on a new Instagram account titled half portraits rather unintentionally. I was experimenting with lighting with my close friend, Andy (ill.kandy) who was my model (and also a great photographer!). One of the lighting positions which resulted in my favorite photograph of the evening was very simple and straightforward — just a single source of light illuminating the right side of his face.
The moment I looked through the viewfinder on my camera to compose the photograph, I immediately thought to myself, "Wow, I really want an entire gallery of these (half-portraits)."