Victor Tan (@victkh) is a street photography enthusiast. He found a love for photography thanks to the inspiration of others; over time, he has created his own unique style. After leaving the army, he began experimenting with one of the earliest iPhones and from there his passion grew. Here he shares his insight with others.
How did you begin your journey in photography?
After I left the army, I became fascinated with the iPhone as it had a camera, back when it only had 2G. Photos that I found online sparked further interest in my passion for photography. I found it interesting because it captured the essence of life. I did not have any private or professional training in photography but after experimenting with my first smartphone, I started taking more photos. I found interest in shooting the streets and lifestyle images.
What is it about photography that speaks to you?
When I take photos, I often see them as moments to look back on. You take them in the present, then you store them; and one day, when you look back on them, they take on a greater significance. In a recent photo shoot, I decided to have the theme “Forgotten Spaces” and revisited my childhood area. My mother used to bring me to the park to play when I was a child, but this time bringing my mother here meant something different as she has Alzheimer’s Disease. The roles were swapped: where once my mother led me, I now led her in revisiting our past.
Are there any tips you would like to share with regards to improving one’s photography?
I think the general rule is to get closer, as close as possible. The good photographs that you see require a lot of practice, so you just have to keep shooting. If you fail, don’t get discouraged. Just keep improving, keep moving forward. That’s how I improved: I kept shooting and looking at photos to give me inspiration. Its okay to recreate some photos because everyone has to start somewhere, but as you progress, you have to develop your own style. This is so when you shoot your own photos, it will have your own signature or your own theme. That will make it recognisable to others when they see your photos.
Are there any books on photography that you would recommend?
Yes, I quite like Magnum Contact Sheets because they tell you how they select certain images that are best for presentations. They could have a hundred versions of the same photo taken in the same spot by different people, but they instruct you on how to pick out the one that is the most unique.
Another one is Paradise by my mentor Edwin Koo. As you might know, photojournalism is quite hard to do in Singapore but Edwin generously shares his methods, tips and tricks to capture the things that he sees. The way he captures it tells a story. When I attended his workshop, he told me how to compile certain images to form a narrative. So yes, these are the books I would recommend if you want to get into photography.
Are there any photographers you look up to?
Edwin Koo is definitely one of them. Darren Soh is another because I admire the way he captures architectural buildings. My friend Koh Yee Chao has inspired me because, way before there were social media platforms, he was one of the earlier photographers who captured common scenes like the Chinese Opera and Getai. When I got to know him over Facebook, he inspired me to document life, dying traditions and cultures. Away from these shores, Henri Cartier-Bresson was one of the earliest people to do black and white photos. When I chanced upon his style, I became inspired and tried to model my own works after his.
Finally, do you have any parting words for aspiring photographers?
I would say that the best camera is the one that’s with you. That is a quote by Chase Jarvis. With all that is going on around you, its pointless if you don’t capture it. Don’t worry too much about the quality, if it’s blurry; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you capture the moment and it brings out the feeling and meaning that you want to convey. That’s the most important part.
Every frame has a story, every window is an opportunity.
Victor shot all the images above with the OOWA 15mm and 75mm lenses.
Follow him on Instagram: @victkh