Why Are We All So Enamored With Photography?

Why are we all so enamored with photography?
Day-dreaming Chimpanzee / Stir-fried Tang Hoon

Photography is for children. There. I said it. I’m not arguing with people who have written books about photography as an art, as a means of telling a story, or even as a method of enhancing a commercial message. But there’s something more fundamental that lies beneath all that.

I believe everyone possesses some degree of creativity. As children we’ve all tried to express it – from drawing in the sand with a stick, to making something out of mud, to doing a silly dance. It’s human nature to want to express our creativity.

When photography was invented, it became the one medium that enabled all of us to express our creativity – regardless of whether if we could draw, sing, or dance. Today, digital cameras and smartphones have put that means of expressing creativity in the hands of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The advent of digital cameras, and particularly smartphones – suddenly enabled all of us to become photographers – hence the millions of photos being constantly uploaded to the internet. And regardless of whether we take photos of our lunch with our smartphone, or photos of wildlife with our DSLR, we’re all constantly experimenting with ways of creating a better photo – one that will make all our friends say, “wow, that’s an awesome photo”!

While myriad articles have explained how digital photography has enabled us to capture memories more easily, or enhance our communications – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc – there’s no denying the fact that basically, we’re all taking photos as a means to express our creativity (some of us more successfully than others).

Jellyfish on purple
Jellyfish against purple-tinted water

The interesting thing that isn’t discussed as much is the other side of photography – the viewers of all these photos. Why are people looking at our photos? While most of us would understand why everyone would look at the photo you took of a tiger charging directly at you while on a safari, why do people spend time to view the blurry photos we take at a concert, or the photo we take of our desert?

The answer can again be found in our childhood – curiosity. As children, we were openly curious about everything around us. Refreshingly (I think), as adults we’re still curious about our world. We’re interested in what others are doing, and specifically, in what they are seeing. The combination of digital photography and the internet has tapped into our innate curiosity by feeding us massive amounts of photos to view everyday.

I guess we’re all still children – wanting to express our creativity, and curious about the world around us. I don’t know about you, but I think those two facts are reason enough to continue taking photos – and viewing them. What could possibly be wrong with continuing our desire to express our creativity – and with staying curious about the world?

Sample photos of a tree & skateboarder
Trees lit-up at night, skateboarder with umbrella

Most of all, we enjoy taking a photo, editing it, and seeing people’s reactions to it. We also get pleasure viewing a photo, thinking how we would have taken it a bit differently, and imagining ourselves being there. So maybe I’m wrong about there being two basic reasons why everyone is enamored with photography. Maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe there’s only one reason – because it’s fun. (And all kids like to have fun!)

Chen Man – A Contemporary Chinese Photographer Who is Truly Inspired

Woman on bicycle in China
Fashion shot – woman on bicycle in China (shot by Chinese photographer Chen Man)

One of China’s top fashion photographers, Chen Man was born in 1980 in Beijing. After attending a high school specializing in art, she studied graphic design in Beijing at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where she graduated in 2005. Prior to graduating, the foundation of Chen Man’s photographic career had already begun to be laid with the 2003 launch of a series of covers she produced for Vision, a Shanghai-based fashion magazine.

Chen Man photos
Self-Portrait & Boombox Model photos by Chinese photographer Chen Man

Between 2003 and 2007, the cover photos that Chen Man created for Vision were received in China as ground-breaking, and even avante garde. Her method of highly-stylized, over-the-top, manipulated images had never been seen before in Chinese magazines. But the nuances of glamour, energy, and freedom of imagination portrayed in her cover photos resonated with China’s emerging youth culture.

Photos by Chen Man
Fashion photos by Chinese photographer Chen Man

As the magazines reached the public, viewers were in awe of Chen Man’s skill in combining a strong aesthetic eye, photographic technique, and mastery of post-processing and 3D rendering. The fact that she was young was a pleasant surprise to Chen Man’s Chinese audience, and there was also an element of national pride that she was a Beijing native. This initial success launched Chen Man’s meteoric rise.

Chinese model in traditional costume, photo by Chen Man
Chinese model in traditional costume, photo by Chen Man

Since gaining recognition for her work for Vision, Chen Man has shot covers for every major Chinese magazine, and has also became a regular contributor to the Chinese editions of Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire. She has also shot for ID, The Times, Wallpaper, Muse, Guess, Adidas, Motorola, Gucci, etc. Additionally, her work has been exhibited in many major galleries and museums.

Fashion shot of Chinese model in veil by Chen Man
Fashion shot of Chinese model in veil by Chen Man

Chen Man’s has created her own style of photography based on a combination of her skill with a camera, and her expertise with a computer.

Fashion photo of two Chinese mdels by Chen Man
Fashion photo of two Chinese mdels by Chen Man

According to Chen Man herself, “My work is complex and it matches the faces of our era; it’s Eastern and Western; it’s neither mainstream nor anti-mainstream; it’s the past, the present, and the future; it’s tacky and elegant. This is all achieved through a combination of ‘hardware’ from ancient Chinese culture and ‘software’ from modern Western culture.”

Fashionable Chinese woman in red dress. photo by Chinese photographer Chen Man
Fashionable Chinese woman in red dress. photo by Chinese photographer Chen Man

Photographer Herman Damar Captures the Best of Indonesian Village Life

Indonesian village woman and girl
Indonesian village woman and girl

Self-taught photographer Herman Damar lives in Indonesia. He came to the attention of the photographic community with the images he captured of idealistic moments of the everyday life of villagers residing outside of Jakarta.

Indonesian village man washing water buffalo
Indonesian village man throwing bucket of water on water buffalo

An ex-advertising director, Damar’s beautiful photos focus on the warmth of traditional village life. The settings, composition, and warm light all combine to give an idyllic quality to Damar’s photos. He says his favorite time to shoot is between 7am-9am.

Indonesian boys having water fight
Indonesian boys playing, having water fight

Particularly alluring are Damar’s images of village children playing in their natural element – in rivers, in muddy fields, with hand-made toys, and with their farm animals. His images beautifully emphasize the connection the villagers have with the natural world around them.

Village boy playing with chicken
Indonesian village boy blowing water at chicken

According to Damar, the villagers are very friendly and happy to have him take their photo. This is perhaps due to the fact that he spends time among the villagers learning about them and their lives.

Indonesian children at play
IThree ndonesian village children playing

I definitely hope Herman Damar continues to create his wonderful images, and look forward to seeing the results of his next projects.

Indonesian boy in the rain
Black & white photo of Indonesian boy under a leaf in the rain

Japanese Photographer Fits Huge Imagination In Tiny Worlds

'Flower Bed'
‘Flower Bed’

Japanese artist, Tatsuya Tanaka, believes everyone has sometimes imagined that leaves floating on water looked like little boats, or that broccoli or parsley resembled a tiny forest. A desire to express such imaginings through photos inspired him to put together his ‘Miniature Calendar’ project – where he posts a new photo every day.

'Make-Believe Play'
‘Make-Believe Play’

The photographs in Tanaka’s project primarily depict surreal worlds by using miniature human figures surrounded by everyday object such as plastic straws, food, circuit boards and more.

'Footprints'
‘Footprints’

Despite the tiny proportions of the worlds he creates, they’re definitely big on imagination. The fact that Tanaka has been continuing this project for 5 years is a testament to his ongoing imagination and creativity.

'Prison Break'
‘Prison Break’

Tanaka is a great example of how a photographer can create outstanding photography that is fun, and that engages its audience on all levels.

'Shipment'
‘Shipment’

With a large number of faithful followers, Tanaka continues to post new photos on his website on a daily basis (http://miniature-calendar.com).

 

Talented Malaysian Fashion Photographer Is On The Rise

Bibo Aswan - freelance fashion photographer
Bibo Aswan – freelance fashion photographer

A self-confessed introvert, Malaysian photographer Bibo Aswan is modest about his successes as a fashion photographer. However, his photographs – edgy, loud, and bold – are in complete contrast with his quiet personality.

P_KanaKukui_Bibo Aswan_2

Bibo’s says his preferred subjects are models as he finds something compelling and interesting about human movement, as well as the dynamic shapes and strong features of the models.

P_KanaKukui_Bibo Aswan_3

While pursuing a diploma in photography at Limkokwing University, Bibo created his initial portfolio by using the other students as his models. He then used social media to post his photos and expose his work to the masses. This successfully led to people contacting him asking for quotes and requesting him to shoot their collection – launching his career.

P_KanaKukui_Bibo Aswan_4

Having his work featured in a number of renowned local publications quickly gained him industry-wide attention and built his reputation as a hard-working photographer with a creative flair.

P_KanaKukui_Bibo Aswan_5

Bibo has become one of Malaysia’s preferred photographers to shoot fashion editorial spreads.

P_KanaKukui_Bibo Aswan_6

Thai Photographer Exposes The Truth Behind Instagram Photos

Yoga in the Park - from the series 'Slowlife'
Yoga in the Park – from the series ‘Slowlife’

Instagram has taken the world by storm, with millions trying to get ‘likes’ for the creativity, aesthetic, and – dare I say it – ‘perfectness’ of their uploaded photos.

Bike - from the series 'Slowlife'
Bike – from the series ‘Slowlife’

Many others use the photos they upload to Instagram to create an impression how amazing their life is.

Idyllic Beach - from the series 'Slowlife'
Idyllic Beach – from the series ‘Slowlife’

With all the attention garnered by the photos on Instagram, much has been made about the myriad filters available for people to use in creating their Instagram masterpieces. Thai photographer Chompoo Baritone took a different approach in a series of humorous images exposing how many of those ‘perfect’ Instagram photos could have been created with simple cropping.

Laptop on bed - from the series 'Slowlife'
Laptop on bed – from the series ‘Slowlife’

The Bangkok-based photographer’s series ‘Slowlife’, pokes fun at these types of ‘impeccable’ lifestyle images on Instagram by highlighting just how easy it is to fake a beautiful lifestyle with some creative cropping.

Portrait - from the series 'Slowlife'
Portrait – from the series ‘Slowlife’

Having studied photography at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Thailand, Baritone has a good eye for how things can be staged. Her ‘Slowiife’ series is a strong argument for how cropping and the use of filters can turn mundane situations into photos of seemingly extraordinary lifestyles!

Foodporn from the series 'Slowlife'
Foodporn from the series ‘Slowlife’

While created with a humorous intent, Baritone’s work is actually a great case study for amateur photographers. “Slowlife” clearly highlights the effects cropping can have when creating a a photo.

Keep an Eye on Contemporary Japanese Photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Rinko Kawaguchi is a contemporary Japanese photographer whose work is characterized by a serene, poetic style, depicting the ordinary moments in life. Born in Shiga, Japan in 1972, Kawaguchi became interested in photography while studying at Seian University of Art and Design, where she graduated in 1993.

After graduation, Kawaguchi worked in advertising for several years. Then, in 2001 she launched her career as a fine art photographer by simultaneously releasing a series of three photographic books – Utatane, Hanabi, and Hanako. Overnight, her works created a sensation in Japan’s photography world, and established her reputation.

Kawaguchi’s initial domestic success was quickly followed by major exhibitions overseas. Illuminance, Kawauchi’s first work published outside Japan, quickly gained the photographer international recognition for her nuanced images that portray fragments of everyday life. Kawaguchi’s photographic style has been described as ‘exposing the secrets of the banal’.

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Shooting primarily with a six-by-six format camera, Kawaguchi concentrates on capturing natural phenomena in her images, becoming a master of finding stillness and purity in everyday life. Kawaguchi explains that her photos are supposed to give you the feeling of ‘looking in on a moment about to happen’. Her photographs have been described as a visual form of haiku (a style of Japanese poetry) – portraying simple beauty in an uncluttered manner. Emphasizing this, many of her photos are accompanied by haikus she has composed herself.

Rarely include people, Kawaguchi’s photos range in subject from city streets, flowers and oceans, to sandwiches and even a dead animal lying on the side of a road.

Following her initial success, Kawaguchi won many prestigious photography prizes, and published multiple photo books.

Photos by Rinko Kawaguchi
Photos by Japanese photographer Rinko Kawaguchi

Commenting on her style, Kawaguchi says, “It’s not enough that the photograph is beautiful. If it doesn’t move my heart, it won’t move anyone else’s heart.”

Although photography remains her main focus, since 2012 Kawaguchi has also forayed into video production, producing several works that compliment her photography. Yet, photography remains her main passion, and she has continued publishing compilations of her still work in book form – the latest being her recent release of “The River Embraced Me” in early 2016.

Kawaguchi is currently actively participating both solo and group exhibitions around the world, while living and working in Tokyo.