Travelling isn’t just a chance to stretch my legs. It’s an opportunity to stretch me creatively. Especially when it offers me a world of new things to photograph, experiences to enjoy (or not!), and gets me out of my comfort zone.
So it’s not surprising my solo trip to Europe (The Netherlands, Monaco, Belgium and a scattering of French destinations) last year changed me in so many positive ways. I had never travelled this far outside Singapore before, to places where I can’t even converse in the local lingo.
To be honest, it scared me a little. But it was also the best decision I made in 2014.
It is always great to have new things to photograph. It’s stimulating and challenging trying to capture something fresh. In my day job as a designer, that’s part of what I do, after all. So I see it as a way of training, to look carefully each time and answer a few questions. What attracted me? What am I trying to capture? What composition do I want? Do I need to come back at a different time to get this right?
Then I have to decide how to frame it up. Should I wait for the cars to move? Pause so the annoying tourists can scamper out of the picture? Or leave them in for a dash of authenticity? It challenges me to work at getting the photographs that I see in my mind. I started out shooting clean: no objects or people in the way, for a very commercial feel. But what I didn’t expect was the effect my shots were having on me. Being exposed to people from different backgrounds, new locations and diverse lifestyles pulled me out of my cultural bubble. I slowly began to increase my sense of connection with people around me.
So I started framing people within my photos. I waited for the right time and captured the perfect moment when strangers interacted with places. That made for an interesting feeling — and not just within the frame. It felt as if I was experiencing the passion of the people I photographed, as they enjoyed these spaces.
Each photo felt like I had captured people and their stories. And they in term became a part of my story to tell. It’s a beautiful feeling and sometimes it could be a special one, like the one below
The Urge to Share
They say a picture paints a thousand words. Clichéd, but true. I captured the man and boy above while waiting for the ferry back to Aix-les-Bains in France, at a monastery called Abbaya d’Hautecombe. Their experience with this serene vista led to me taking the shot. It was a time-stopping moment between the two. And I wanted to share it with them.
I approached the man, who turned out to be a friendly uncle named Sebastien. “I was showing my nephew the landscape, and explaining to him the history of this place,” he grinned.
A little nervously, I told him I really wanted him to have this photo, and we exchanged emails. (In his email he thanked me for the picture and wrote a reply that made me smile: “I wish you will well finish jour [sic] French trip.”) I never knew this side of me existed, until this encounter. It is definitely my favourite story I’ve captured — just a small moment that would have otherwise gone unrecorded — and one worth sharing.
It might not seem like much of a life-changing thing, but this trip opened me up; trained my mind to see things differently. Now I think less and go with my instincts, because a great shot, and a great opportunity to meet someone new, doesn’t happen twice.
I am already looking forward to my next adventure.