June 22, 2020
Photography by Chen Xiangyi
Interview by Melanie Meggs
As the world continues to rapidly evolve and transform, it's hard to keep up with all the changes happening around us. But one Singaporean street photographer, Chen Xiangyi, has made it his mission to document these changes and immortalize them in his minimalist photographs. Self-taught and inspired by the ever-evolving nature of street photography, Xiangyi has developed a unique style that captures the beauty of his environment and the people within it. His works often feature mysterious scenes where the human subject may not be the main focus, but they still contribute to the composition nonetheless. It's an intriguing style that speaks to the smallness of mankind in comparison to the vast universe around us. In this article we will explore Xiangyi's fascinating photography, as well as his motivations and aspirations as an artist.
“Sometimes taking a step back, we see that the universe is so much bigger and we are only mere specks in it.”
IN CONVERSATION WITH CHEN XIANGYI
THE PICTORIAL LIST: Xiangyi, when did you start getting interested in photography?
CHEN XIANGYI: I started around twelve years of age. I received a point and shoot as a gift. I started taking casual photos of friends and family. During vacations, I also took photos of the scenery and macro shots of food and flowers. I think I got myself hooked, buying books and going online to watch video tutorials about camera settings and shooting techniques. Later on, I joined Instagram and saw many different beautiful pictures. This sparked my interest further as I tried imitating their styles.
TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?
CX: I started getting my inspiration initially from YouTube street photography tutorials. Later, as I created my Instagram page, I followed many Instagram accounts that showcased works of other street photographers. The scenes that are on the street, backgrounds and different lighting inspire me and gives me the inspiration to make the photos.
TPL: Who are your favourite artists/photographers?
CX: I think Evan Ranft and Sean Tucker are the first few YouTube photographers who influenced my style, I have learnt a lot from their tutorials and really got motivated by them. Eric Kim, Eduardo Pavez Goye and King Jvpes's POV videos of them doing street photography has also inspired me to get out there and shoot more. Street photographers and feature pages on Instagram also has influenced my work providing inspiration as well as a different perspective to look at light, subjects and the scene.
TPL: Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
CX: When I started, it was more of a casual shooting anything and everything. I dabbled with studio a bit but after graduating high school, I did not have access to a studio anymore. I guess street photography called out to me, as Singapore is a tiny city that is always bustling with life. The streets are always changing and always have interesting characters. There are always stories unfolding waiting for me to uncover.
TPL: Where is your favourite place to shoot?
CX: I don't really have a favourite place. I enjoy shooting different places. In Singapore, my favourite few places include Chinatown and Central business district. These are places always teeming with live and always full of energy. However, I also enjoy the occasional walk around the neighborhood with my camera. Although quieter, it provides a new environment that keeps things interesting. Recently, on my overseas trips, I found just walking in an unfamiliar place can be inspiring as everything looks intriguing.
The scenes that are on the street, backgrounds and different lighting inspire me and gives me the inspiration to make the photos.
TPL: Do you think equipment is important in achieving your vision in your photography? What would you say to someone just starting out?
CX: I agree strongly with the quote "the best camera is the one on you". Equipment in this day and age shouldn't be what is stopping you from creating images. Even phones are able to make stunning images. I also believe that it’s the vision of the creator of the picture that makes it unique and amazing and not the gear. I guess just go and get your gear out and just go shoot! Don't be afraid even if you don't get many keepers, just keep on shooting!
TPL: What characteristics do you think you need to become a better photographer? What’s your tips or advice for someone in your genre?
CX: I would think someone who is attentive to details or just observant in general. There are always a lot happening on the streets and it is up to us to spot the interesting story that is unfolding. I guess just shoot first chimp later. If you think something is interesting or aesthetically pleasing, just snap a photo of it first!
TPL: Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
CX: I was in the school's orchestra but that's about it. I can’t really draw or paint, so I guess not much involvement.
TPL: Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
CX: I have just started doing photography seriously as a hobby. I would hope to be able to make something out of it some day! I currently have an Instagram page which I try to post regularly. I also put up some of my work on lens2print. Maybe in the future a website or maybe a zine or two!
TPL: “If I wasn't photographing what would I be doing?...
CX: I really don’t know. I got hooked on photography and had been doing it for 10 years already. I really can't imagine anything else getting me hooked for that long!”