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Interview: Photographer Ken Ang (Singapore)

Can you tell us a little about you?

Despite the above-mentioned title, I do not consider myself as a photographer but a “photographist”.

Photography to me is more than just capturing beautiful images or moments in life. Behind each click is a story, an emotion or expression of an idea. The stories of the subjects as well as the passion to learn more about their culture, diversity and changing traditions are what drives my work.

How and when did you get into photography?

As an ex-Adman, my work in advertising agencies involved conceptualizing, pre-production meetings and directing photoshoots and TV commercials. Inevitably, I soon realised I wanted to be more hands-on in the technical side of photography.

What does photography mean to you?

To me, photography is more than a way to capture moments from our lives and surroundings. Like the artist’s paint brush and the canvas, it should evoke the emotions, thoughts or ideas that he wishes to convey.

Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.

I don’t adhere to any particular style of photography as trends come and go with time. What matters to me is that an image has to be more than just beautiful or aesthetically pleasing. A photograph needs to have a voice. It has to speak to the audience.

Where do you get inspiration from?

My inspirations come from everyday life. What is happening to us, the stories of the people around me, art, poetry and even the feelings experienced when listening to music.

Do you think in advance what you want in the picture?

Research. Research. Research. I try to learn as much as possible about the possible shooting angles, subject, attire, props as well as the location before I arrive. As such, much time is involved in doing recce trips, costumers/props procurement and even test-shoots before the actual shoot.

Studio, on location or both?

In general, it’s the context that matters. If the background is key in telling the story behind the picture then I will choose to shoot on location. If the image is more about emotions and personality of the subject, then studio would be the choice.

Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?

As a “photographist”, my aim is to create art, stories and creative expressions. As such, I don't earn much from photography. My work in commercial photography only serves to fund this passion of mine.

What has been your most memorable session and why?

Every photo session is an experience unto itself. Everyone has their own charm, every location has its own unique ambience and every concept, its own interpretation. For me the most memorable photo sessions are usually the most challenging ones – underwater shoots, messy powder dance shoots and shooting on a boat on the high seas!

Nikon or Canon? Favourite lens?

LOL, neither. I have two cameras and both are Sony. The more compact Sony A7C is the camera that accompanies me when I travel while my new Sony A7rV is my current workhorse. As portrait is my favourite genre, I have several Sigma Art prime lenses but my go-to lens has to be the manual TTArtisans 50mm f0.95 – not the easiest lens to use but it is pure magic!

What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?

My two cents’ worth of advice. Firstly, be inspired by others in the field but don't copy. Be an artist, rather than an artisan of photography. An artist is someone who can innovate. Someone who has the techniques to reproduce Van Gogh’s Sunflowers but doesn't have his/her own ideas is an artisan. Both types of photographers take talent but only the artist pays homage to his/her inspirations through the creation of new work.

Secondly, participate in photo competitions. As an award-winning photographer, it differentiates you from the numerous others out there in the market as well as it lends weight to what you say to your client. In my career, I have been very fortunate to have garnered numerous international awards such as New York Festivals Awards, London International Advertising Awards, Cloud Exhibition Best of Show, PSA, GPU and IAAP medals.

What do you think of our new magazine?

This is certainly an excellent avenue to promote artists from all over the world. I am indeed honoured to be featured here and to give this interview.

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