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November, 2014 Monthly archive

ernestErnest Goh is a visual artist from Singapore. His focus on the natural world was nurtured when he was a young boy, wading and looking for fish in the streams of the kampung where his grandmother lived. In 2011 he presented The Fish Book, a whimsical study of the ornamental fish bred in Singapore. Following that, in 2013 he released COCKS, a book showcasing portraits of supermodels of the chicken world. He is also the creative director of The Animal Book Co., an outfit that works with animal welfare groups through photography.

To purchase a copy of The Gift Book by Ernest Goh, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/the-gift-book-by-ernest-goh

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ernest

What kind of animal are you?

It really depends on where I am and who I’m with. A good one would be a lion — chilling with my pride of mates under a tree on a hot day and occasionally annoying the heckling hyenas in my life.

You have a master’s degree in creative and cultural entrepreneurship. You mean you can actually learn to be creative and entrepreneurial?

Yes, you can. You can learn to be good at anything, for that matter. Being creative is just like any other skill we pick up over time, such as riding a bicycle. The more you practise it, the better you’ll become.

You published your first book even before you were in National Service. How did that happen?

I was in the right place at the right time. The publisher was looking for a designer and a photographer for a book about disability sports. He chanced upon my work through my friend during our course graduation show and hired us immediately. It helped that we were fresh graduates hungry for any kind of work.

You started with a traditional black and white documentary approach in your photography and humans were central to your work, but now you photograph mostly animals. Have you given up on people?

On the contrary, I see it as a deeper study into human beings and our practices. To begin with, it would be a huge mistake to assume that humans and animals are vastly disconnected. As human beings are the alpha species on the planet, our actions affect the ecosystem in more ways than one, sometimes in ways we do not know. So looking at animal species further down the food chain might give us some clues.

What have you learned from looking more closely at animals?

Every time I photograph a particular species of animal, I inevitably come to learn about its state in the ecosystem. More often than not, I find that the rise or fall in the population of that species is always connected to some form of human activity in the area. This could range from the destruction of orang utan habitats by palm oil companies, or the decrease in the snake population because of the increased use of pesticides. Looking closely at animals always tells us how we are impacting the environment and that’s crucial to our own well-being. What affects our environment will ultimately affect us.

The Gift Book consists mostly of images of insects. How did studying and photographing these small species compare with your previous work on fish and chickens?

You could say the main difference with The Gift Book is that this time the animals came to me, instead of me going out to search for them. They include the beetles that flew into my home, caterpillars from my garden and grasshoppers from a vegetable farm in Yishun.

In my previous work, the fishes and chickens were bred to be attractive ornamental animals, whereas with the insects, they do not necessary look appealing. In fact most people avoid creepy-crawlies. So I sought to find the beauty in whatever creatures I came across.

What about plants?

Plants are also another fascinating aspect of our natural environment that I hope to explore through photography. The process of growth and transformation in a plant fascinates me. The image of the Adenium flower bud in this project is one example – we tend to appreciate a flower when it’s in full bloom, but I feel there is more to see in the transformation of beauty than beauty itself.

Describe an ideal assignment.

One that involves wild encounters in far-flung places.

We understand that you are also a very good designer. Is that an advantage or disadvantage, to have more than one creative skill?

I can ride a motorcycle as well as drive a car. So to me, it is not about an advantage or disadvantage, but about the best way to get there.

What is the best and worst professional advice you have received and given?

The best I received: My first photo mentor Tan Lai Hock taught me never to bring cow gum to a shoot, so I won’t get ‘stuck’ in one place, and that I should always explore as much as I can.

The worst: None.

The best I gave: Follow your heart.
The worst I gave: Follow your heart.

What are some of the common financial mistakes you’ve observed among photographers?

I reckon the most common and likely the most costly one is the mistake of giving up and not trying again. If you try again and succeed on the next try, you’ve turned the mistakes into lessons instead.

You have worked with many assistants over the years. What’s one thing most of them will say about you?

That I always make sure the team eats on time. What’s more important than lunch?!

You’re a co-founder of Platform. Where do you see the group heading in the immediate future?

The casual, impromptu nature of Platform is probably one of its strengths, so I would say Platform should just continue to be spontaneous and have great fun doing it.

Are you talented or hardworking?

Neither, I reckon. I always have my head in the clouds.

   

The portrait of Ernest Goh was drawn by Flee Circus; and Leonard Goh, who will anchor all the interviews in this series, is a co-founder of Platform.

To purchase a copy of The Gift Book by Ernest Goh, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/the-gift-book-by-ernest-goh

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ernest

  

The Gift Book

One origin of the practice of gift-wrapping can be traced back to the furoshiki, a reusable wrapping cloth used to transport clothes, gifts and other goods during the Edo period in Japan. The ritual of gift-wrapping we know today has a completely different intention. Perhaps it is the look of surprise we hope to see when the recipient tears open the wrapper, or the air of mystery and desire that is created when we are given an unknown object.

In 1992, Professor Daniel Howard from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, USA published a study on the effects and motivations of gift-wrapping. He wrote, “gift wrapping, through repeated pairing with joyous events in people’s lives, has utility in cueing a happy mood which, in turn, positively biases attitudes”. This confirmed his hypothesis that a gift-wrapped item makes the recipient more favourable towards owning a gift.

Our natural environment is both the giver and the gift. But we, the recipients, have to appreciate and conserve it so that it can continue to give us the crucial resources we need to live. To celebrate this fact, here are 15 gift-wrapping paper designs created with various elements from our natural environment. They include insects, butterfly chrysalises and flowers – specimens that either flew into my home, or that I found in my garden or collected in and around Singapore. They say that to give is to receive, so I hope these gift-wrappers will positively bias you and your intended recipient’s attitudes towards our natural world.

Ernest Goh
Singapore
2014

To purchase a copy of The Gift Book by Ernest Goh, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/the-gift-book-by-ernest-goh

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Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 8.56.45 am

  

As Singapore has developed over the last few decades, it has experienced a tireless ‘renewal’ that never ceases. Indeed, whenever someone purchases a property here, especially a residence, it seems almost unthinkable that it will not go through a state of transformation. The question is not “Will it change? Will it be renovated?” but how much renewal the space will have to go through. At any given time today, in any residential area, there is bound to be at least one house, flat or shop space being skilfully demolished, built or rebuilt by construction workers. It has become a very normal scene – nothing surprising.

Amid the haste of going through this change, there are many occasions when portions of the old buildings are left behind. Some may have been intentionally left to be integrated with the new structure, but in most cases, the remnant appears to just have been forgotten. It is like an old scar that is trying to blend with the new skin, hoping to be healed yet remaining precariously obvious. Many of these remnants look awkward and stick out and dominate where they remain, although some have been hidden after many years of being left alone, either overgrown by plants or shrouded by other impermanent structures.

These are what I call senseless spaces – spaces that are utterly meaningless in terms of their utilitarian purpose or design. Most of these have been left behind or forgotten, perhaps some with the hope that no one would notice that they actually belong to an old part of the building. Most of these ‘senseless spaces’ can be traced to previous structures or dated to a certain moment in the history of that space. Many of these spaces are quite idiosyncratic and leave one wondering whether the original intention was for it to be left behind.

Whatever the reasons may be, the fact is that the ‘senseless space’ has been left in an unsettled manner. Perhaps it is this uncertainty that has drawn me to capture its surreal environment. I think I call these places ‘senseless’ as they probably leave one feeling bewildered and perplexed, trying to figure out “Why was this left here?” Even if one explores the space for an answer, as I have, in most cases there are no answers to be found.

Most of the areas shown here are places that are currently inhabited or operational. Since these venues are in use, the non-functionality or absurdity of the space provokes a feeling of puzzlement. Very dreamlike in nature, they appeared withdrawn and incoherent from the rest of the setting.

To purchase a copy of Senseless Spaces by Chow Chee Yong, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/senseless-spaces-by-chow-chee-yong

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cheeyong

You seem to have a secret desire to be a town planner or architect. Are you looking for a career change soon?

I guess you’ve asked this question because it’s coming through in the photographs that I’m making? When I was younger, one of my ambitions was to be an architect. Town planning would be fun – I like going through blueprints and re-organising things that are not planned properly. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I have done a few projects where I looked at space planning and organised some of those plans. As for a career change, well, I wouldn’t mind that either.

Which version of Photoshop did you use for this series? Or are you still making the montages in the darkroom?

To be honest, I don’t even know which version of Photoshop I’m using. I guess it doesn’t matter as what I did to the images was just to convert them into black and white, and to adjust the levels. Everything else in the image was already there!

I have stopped merging images in the darkroom for a long time now. I miss the smell of chemicals.

Are you trying to change the world through photography?

I won’t say that I am trying to change the world – that is a high calling, you know. I would not dare say that at all for any of my works. I’m at most trying to convey my messages of questioning through the use of this medium that I think suits me. But hopefully in the course of my photography, I’m able to change the way people look at the things around them and help them to think of new ideas for themselves.

I always feel that images that are most impactful are those that leave an aftertaste, hopefully a good one. Those images that continue to linger in the minds of the viewers long after they have left the gallery or put down the magazine. It is very sad when anyone goes away from a show without remembering what they have seen, because the images were just pretty pictures without any impact whatsoever.

Have you considered the possibility that some of the ‘mistakes’ you highlighted in this book were inspired by your previous series, 30th Feb? Maybe you gave the authorities some crazy ideas about what to do with these old structures – art inspiring life, right?

I have always been influenced by Surrealism and I cannot run away from that. I was deeply inspired by what David Copperfield did in his illusions and that sparked my imagination at an early age. Later I looked at the works of Salvador Dali, M. C. Escher, Frank Lloyd Wright, René Magritte and Isamu Noguchi. They all had a great influence on my work in terms of a surrealistic approach.

I always enjoy the world of illusions as I can wander into an imaginary space and discover new spaces and experiences. In practice, all my work has some hints of surrealism in them. I guess it is deeply embedded in my thought process. So, yes, I’m also inspired by the work that I did for 30th Feb. Did I give the authorities the idea to leave some of these buildings as they are? Maybe they re-interpreted my 30th Feb images and this is what resulted. I guess they have turned public spaces into surrealistic spaces for people to experience. How nice!

Are you imaginative or creative? Is there a difference?

I think there is a difference, but imagination and creativity influence and affect each other. I would say I’m more imaginative. To be imaginative is intentional, whereas to be creative is like the sudden lighting up of a bulb in the creative mind. Before a shoot, I usually stare at a scene for a long while and imagine all sorts of things happening within that frame. For example, I would often wonder what if three cars would enter the scene at that particular space? What if I have two guys walking into the frame? etc. If I think that would enhance the image, then I wait. I normally take a long time to shoot and it’s hard work. I’m very intent and deliberate when I’m imagining my images.

On the other hand, to be creative is to be able to come up with a great idea quickly and still leave the audience wondering, “How did he do that?” That’s what we call the “Eureka” moment. I don’t think I belong to that group.

You are an educator, a photographer, a curator and an administrator. If you had to choose only one, which would be your favourite role?

Wow, this is seriously tough. I think I would still be a photography educator. Can? I always see that as my primary function and it will always be. The reason I say that is because I am an educator at heart, but at the same time, I am a photographer. In blending these two, I have quite naturally wound up teaching photography.

Actually, at this point in life, I think it is hard for me to dissect the different roles. Perhaps the closest analogy is to say that I wear different hats at different times depending on what is required of me. But having said that, I think education takes up the biggest chunk in my life. Of course, I teach other stuff as well, for example, leather-making. Few people know that I do that kind of thing.

Many tertiary institutions in Singapore now offer photography courses. Do you think it’s necessary?

The various tertiary institutions are offering courses in different genres, so to me it is alright. However, educators also need to understand the different sectors of the industry and guide students accordingly. That’s critical as well, or else the students will realise only later that there’s no job waiting for them upon graduation and they’ll end up doing something else. That would be rather sad.

Assuming that there is still a need for photography education, how would you teach it?

I see photography being broken down into three portions: camera, craft and concept. That’s how I teach photography. The ‘camera’ portion, the ‘how’, is now easily found on the Internet. One can pick up, rather easily, the technical aspects of operating a camera. I think this portion will become less important in the future as one would be able to get online tutorials about how shutter or the aperture works. It is already moving towards that way.

However, I believe that teaching craft and concept are still as critical and will continue to need a platform such as a school to be carried out. This is because the schools provide a space for the students to discover, try things out, fail, think and analyse, among many other critical thinking aspects, in order for the students to grow in their craft and concept. The ‘how’ sets the foundation, but in education, we cannot just look at the ‘how’. The ‘what’ and the ‘why’ is far more important after one has hopefully mastered the ‘how’.

I’m not suggesting that the ‘how’ is not important. Rather, it is the foundation and one should not be stifled by the basics of shutter speeds, aperture and ISO, for example. But being fluent in the basics, one has to move to the greater heights of learning the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of photography.

We’ve lost count of the number of children you have, but how do you find time to do all this and also be a dad and husband?

Hahaha, I still only have four kids. The oldest is 16 and the youngest will be turning nine soon. First of all, the kids came at different times, so we’ve made adjustments throughout this process.

To make photographs, I try to wake up earlier than the family and come back before they are up. Sometimes I work around their schedule. Of course there are times when I really have to leave them for a while to concentrate on my shoots. For this series, they were even helping me to look out for ‘senseless spaces’ that I could shoot and they would tell me when they found one.

What if one of them wants to be a photographer like you?

I guess I will have to guide them properly and let them know the ups and downs of being a photographer. But so far, none of them are showing any interest.

Please tell us you have a lot of photographic chemicals stocked up somewhere because it would be sad to see someone who does magic in the darkroom retire from wet printing.

I do have various types of chemicals stocked up. I still have packets of D76, D23, Fuji and Ilford Fixers, and other stuff. Currently, the most important is sodium sulphite as that is needed for doing my PN51/55 films. I used these films for my previous series, Project 37. It is a type of instant polaroid film that delivers high resolution images. I am still using them now and then.

Have you had to tell a student that he has no talent in photography and that he is better off doing something else?

Hm, I’m not sure that I have uttered those exact words to anyone, but I guess I might have told some people that there are other avenues in life. I do remember telling students that over the course of my teaching, I have come to terms with the fact that not all students will end up as designers or photographers even though they have gone through this path. Some will realise that they have found a new love for another profession or area of work, that there are others better than them, or simply that they have no talent actually and do not want to carry tripods all their life.

If you have a chance to put together a plan for a photography museum in Singapore, what are the first three things you will tell them?

First, get a team of well-established photographers to put their brains together for this. Second, collect local works first. It’s only after settling the first two items that we should start to put the museum together physically.

Are you happy with the progress in the local photography scene in the past decade?

In my opinion,the past decade has seen great improvements compared to the years that came before. Much has changed, especially with the different schools and private institutions, as well as the rise of digital photography which has made photography even more accessible. I attribute the greatest change to willing people who were caring enough to share their experiences and teach younger photographers.

In the past, the skills of photography were like a closely guarded secret that could not be revealed outside the ‘clan’. I had very different experiences in the 1980s with photographers who basically told me off and said that they would not want to “break their rice bowl” to teach me. But schools (both public and private), clubs, associations and other loosely formed photography gatherings have contributed to the progress of photography in the local scene.

Can you name three young Singapore photographers we should be watching out for?

I find it hard to try and name the rising stars. I would rather look at the perseverance of young photographers – those who are able to stand the test of time, rather than the one-time winner who does nothing after that. So I would prefer not to name the photographers that we should be watching out for, although I have some names in mind.

   

The portrait of Chow Chee Yong was drawn by Flee Circus; and Leonard Goh, who will anchor all the interviews in this series, is a co-founder of Platform.

To purchase a copy of Senseless Spaces by Chow Chee Yong, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/senseless-spaces-by-chow-chee-yong

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cheeyongChow Chee Yong graduated with a BFA (Honours) degree in photography in 1994 from Western Michigan University, USA. In 1998, he received the JCCI Art Scholarship to pursue his graduate studies and in 2001, he received his MA (Distinction) degree in photography from Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Chee Yong has participated in more than 40 solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums in China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States of America.

Chee Yong’s works have been featured in publications such as Asian Geographic, Passages North (USA), Photo Asia, OP Editions (Hong Kong), m2photosynthesis, Light Trails, Things unseen, Places not been, 11+1 (Japan), Nippon Camera (Japan), Asahi Camera (Japan), Photographs by the Next Generation: Young Portfolio (Japan), CANVAS – IMF Photography Book and Resonance – Songs of our Forefathers, among others. His first publication, 30th Feb, a hardcover book of his surrealistic images, was launched in Singapore in conjunction with his sixth solo exhibition in February 2008.

In July 2010, Chee Yong was featured on Channel NewsAsia’s Primetime programme, Asia Exposed, which was aired internationally. In 2011, Chee Yong was the first and only Singaporean among 15 photographers from around the globe to be recognised and incepted in the 2011 Loweprofessionals Professional Photographer Showcase. In that same year, he held his seventh solo show, Project 37, which documented the demolition of the former National Stadium of Singapore.

Chee Yong’s original prints can be found in the Permanent Collection of Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (Japan), Permanent Art Collection of the National Museum of Singapore (Singapore), Permanent Art Collection of the Singapore Sports Museum (Singapore), Permanent Art Collection of The Private Museum (Singapore), Epigram Pte Ltd (Singapore), Kay Ngee Tan Architects Gallery (Singapore), Center of Photography (Japan), Back in Time International (USA), OP Editions (Canada & Hong Kong), Rothmans of Pall Mall (Singapore) and various collections in Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States of America.

Chee Yong can be contacted at +65 9477-0673 or chowcheeyong@live.com.sg

To purchase a copy of Senseless Spaces by Chow Chee Yong, please visit:
http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/photographers-folios/products/senseless-spaces-by-chow-chee-yong

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hornet wings_Vespa affinis
 

Hornet Wings Vespa Affinis
Edition of three, plus one artist’s proof
S$1200 per print*

THREE AVAILABLE

* By purchasing a print, you are making a direct and important contribution to the publications of twentyfifteen books. Without your generous support, the financial burden of self-publishing them will be significantly higher for us.

About the print:
– Paper size: 17″ x 22″
– Image size: 15″ x 15″
– Each print is carefully made with Epson professional printer, using original Epson inks.
– The paper for this edition is Museo Silver Rag, 300gsm.
– You can find out more about the paper specifications for Museo Silver Rag paper here.
– Signed with title, edition number and year, in ink, recto

Singapore shipping:
– Free hand delivery for any Singapore addresses.
– Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent.

Overseas shipping:
- we will work with individual buyer on the best shipping option.
– Additional charges to be borne by buyer.
- Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent, with additional protection for shipping

More info about digital printing in general:
- Wilhelm Imaging Research is the world authority on stability and preservation of traditional and digital photographs.

How to make an order:
Place your order by emailing me at printsale@twentyfifteen.sg

You can also buy directly from our online store at http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/products/hornet-wings-vespa-affinis-by-ernest-goh

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photo

 

Patchwork
Edition of three, plus one artist’s proof
S$1200 per print*

THREE AVAILABLE

* By purchasing a print, you are making a direct and important contribution to the publications of twentyfifteen books. Without your generous support, the financial burden of self-publishing them will be significantly higher for us.

About the print:
– Paper size: 17″ x 22″
– Image size: 13.8″ x 20.8″
– Each print is carefully made with Epson professional printer, using original Epson inks.
– The paper for this edition is Museo Silver Rag, 300gsm.
– You can find out more about the paper specifications for Museo Silver Rag paper here.
– Signed with title, edition number and year, in ink, recto

Singapore shipping:
– Free hand delivery for any Singapore addresses.
– Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent.

Overseas shipping:
- we will work with individual buyer on the best shipping option.
– Additional charges to be borne by buyer.
- Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent, with additional protection for shipping

More info about digital printing in general:
- Wilhelm Imaging Research is the world authority on stability and preservation of traditional and digital photographs.

How to make an order:
Place your order by emailing me at printsale@twentyfifteen.sg

You can also buy directly from our online store at http://twentyfifteen.myshopify.com/collections/prints/products/patchwork-by-chow-chee-yong

Read More