Interview with Henry Wong | Singapore
Hello Henry, we are very honored to have you as our Featured Street Photographer on Street View Photography.
Hello, first of all I would like to say thank you for this opportunity!
Where are you originally from?
I am a Singaporean, born and bred in this City Island of Singapore.
Have you always been involved in the arts in some form?
Photography has always been a hobby for me since I was a teenager. I am also inclined towards music, making music… and listening to Jazz, Classical and New Age.
Where does your creative drive come from?
Biologically, I think it came from my Mother. I have always been a curious person so my drive comes from a keen observation about life around us, communication with others and keeping an open mind.
Could you share with us how you first became interested in street photography?
I was having coffee with an old friend who is also a keen photographer, he suggested we try to shoot Street, as we are living in a concrete jungle of a City with much street life.
How long have you been shooting street photography?
It’s been about eight months now, since I started.
Could you tell the story of how you started
Since I have been involved in photography over a long period of time, shooting professionally for almost 38 years and now, semi-retired, I have tried just about most genres. Servicing the AD agencies and other clients in different industries, travelling widely on assignments. I may have shot some street photos for them, but not what I am doing now, where I am totally immersed into the Street genre. To me, it is a new beginning.
What type of gear you used then and what you use now?
I have shot film for almost 35 years, with various formats up to large plates on view cameras, with the usual brands of professional cameras. Now I use DSLR sometimes, and have just bought an EP5 Olympus which is small and handy, not too intimidating. I am still exploring other smaller formats with good sensors.
Why did you switch the equipment.
I think the trend is universal. Street photography is a discreet craft which requires much walking and waiting, always around people, so you want to carry less weight and smaller, better equipment.
Can you tell us about your work flow from the point you first step onto the street.
I like working alone. When I am in the street, I try to be Present and not let the clutter in my mind bother me. I channel this presence into my awareness and sensitivity. I try to stay positive for good things to happen in my surroundings. Slowly, as my walk begins, things start to come together naturally, the Luck, the placement of elements and the right subjects just walk into the picture.This, has helped me greatly in getting great shots., and I trust the elements of Luck and opportunity and how to keep keep the luck flowing…
I usually frame my shots with my eyes first. Over the years, I have developed an invisible yellow frame in front of my eyes, around 50mm wide. This pre-framing of the picture gives me an edge in speed and decisiveness, so at the right moment, I just put the camera to my eye and click., without the need to frame the shot.
What would you say characterizes your work in comparison to other street photographers?
For me, it is still early days yet in my quest for style and speciality. But slowly I am beginning to know what I really like to shoot. I am inclined to Shadows and graphics with some conceptual meaning and a hint of street elements. I am now experimenting with layers. I think this is the essence of Street Photography, but you have to train your eyes to see the subtleties through the layers. It is very challenging.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
Very cool question, Yes.. of course, I now look for shots with a deeper meaning, surreal themes, more layers, and try to stay simple,neat and organized in the frame.
Do you see your personality reflected in your work?
Great! ha..ha.. who would know my personality, unless you are my good friend… but yes, I think some of my work reflect some of me in them., especially the breaking of some traditional rules and the curiosity of doing things differently or stylized in a subtle way according to my own taste buds… But the journey of discovery continues…
What would you tell a newcomer who asks you for advice? What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from shooting street? What would you tell a newcomer who asks for your advice on how to start? e.g. Technique, location, gear (lenses!), workflow
In the streets, Time and Tide waits for no man. A quick eye and alertness of mind are key to getting your winning shots, Firstly, don’t be a gear geek. Start simple, choose the gear that suits the genre. A good mirrorless system with 2 mid range lenses is a good start. Learn and find out about composition, the basics, and study the works of great street photographers. If you are inclined to B/W, then learn about how to read tones. Ansel Adams zone system is a good lesson for tone reading. Learn about the different layers of tones from White to Black and use them in your post processing. Start shooting street with a simple theme. If you can juxtapose then try it out. Try shooting some street portraits or candid. This will give you the confidence to move into other genres later. Try not to use too much telephoto lenses, if at all, they should be short ones, 85mm to 135mm. Move in close to your subjects for a better view and feel. Favorite lenses for this would be 50mm to 24mm. Shoot as often as you can…shoot everyday if it’s possible. One of the great elements seen in several of your street portraits is not only the close proximity in which you shoot your subjects, but also the eye contact they have with you. I have always interpreted by their facial expressions that you are often able to form a positive connection with them.
Do you often speak to and interact with many of your subjects?
Yes I do that sometimes, it depends on the situation and who I am shooting. If it is a candid shot, then I just go ahead and shoot. But if it is someone official or a uniformed person, then I usually ask their permission and shoot them as candidly as possible.
Among your works, which is your favorite and why?
I have many favorites among them, but they only remain as favorites for a short while until the next one comes along.
Thank you Henry.
See more of Henry’s work at HenryWongStreetPhotography