Ha Giang, North Vietnam’s Final Frontier

Ha Giang, the final frontier in North Vietnam. 291km from Hanoi, it is the northernmost point of the country. Its land is filled with mountains and forests. It shares a border with the southern China’s province Yunnan which stretch 270km long from east to west. With a population estimated about 705,000, Ha Giang belongs to various ethnic minorities, such as Kinh, H’mong, Tay, Dao, Nung and Lo Lo. There are also two very rare ethnic groups, Pupeo and Phula, with population of less than 400 each. According to my guide occasionally girls from Ha Giang were kidnapped by the Chinese across the border and never be found.

Ha Giang’s main economic activity has been revolved around agriculture and forestry, but in recent years infrastructure has been improved in attempts to establish a manufacturing industry.

Despite being one of the poorest provinces of Vietnam, there was not once I was asked for money after I had photographed someone, unlike some other places I have visited. The people of Ha Giang are extremely friendly and welcoming but shy, due to the lack of encounter with the outsider.

Tell-tale Lines | The Success of the First Run

The first run of my solo exhibition “Tell-tale Line” in March has finally ended. The success of the two weeks show at The Substation would not have been made possible without everyone who made it to the show. I would like to thank all the guests, friends, and my family members for the great supports you have given to me. The exhibition will be touring soon in the National Libraries and German Center, the dates are still pending.

More informations will be coming soon. Follow me on Facebook at alanlimstudio for updates.



Sri Lanka, 10 Years After Tsunami

In 2004, the deadliest tsunami in recorded history struck in the Indian Ocean, killing over 225,000 people and displacing another 1.7 million.

Communities along the coastlines Sri Lanka were completely destroyed, while the effects of the tsunami could be felt as far away as Tanzania and Madagascar.

In 2014, a decade has passed, a revisiting to one of the worst hit country to see how the people have recovered from the devastation. This gallery of documentary photography shot during a one week in Sri Lanka showcases this country is still as beautiful as before, the people have moved on and life has resumed as usual, almost.

Singapore ArtScience Museum | Street Photography

Two shows I went for today at the Singapore ArtScience Museum. First was Da Vinci: Shaping The Future, second was Art and Science of Photography. Of course the first show was great, sorry I mean mind blowing. Even though we all know Da Vinci was a genius who was ahead of his time more than 500 years ago, and no matter how many times you have seen his exhibitions it is always amazing. And also his exhibitions have always been very well curated. Whether you are a fan or not, you should definitely go watch it.

For the second show it was just ok, I was quite disappointed actually, especially when I found out one of the featured photographers in the exhibition was misrepresenting himself in his written bio. I know it for fact because the organization he mentioned he had “worked for years” in his bio was the same one which I had worked for years, but I have never heard and seen his name. I strongly do not think anyone should do such things, it might take you to somewhere in the beginning but this internet world is small and connected, once the truth is revealed you might end up in nowhere at all.

Many years ago, a friend of mine wanted to be a professional photographer and there was a some jobs which he wanted to pitch for. He was new, his skill was not ready to produce certain kind of work and he did not have any good work to show to his client yet. So, he called me up and asked if he could borrow my portfolio. Did I be a good friend and lend it to him to help him? If I did, what would happen if he got the job but could not deliver the goods because he was not skilful and experience enough to do so? If I did, what would happen if the clients got so mad that he was a fake and spread the words in this tiny circle then no one would work with him anymore?  So I did, I be a good friend and did not lend him, I told him he should not do that because I did not want to kill his career before he even had one. Instead, I taught him and shared my knowledge with him, so he learned and practised, although it took some time and sweat but eventually he built a portfolio which he was proud to call it his own, and confident to present it every time. Today he is still a working photographer in Singapore. So, be a good friend do the right thing, and advise your friend to do so.

Anyway, like Da Vinci, I love and I see geometric shapes everywhere I go, they are also found in my Street Photography too. Here are some of them today in the ArtScience Museum.

Portrait Inspired From The Past

When I was asked by Alston to produce a body of work on his classic latex fashion design he Whatssapp me some samples of what he wished the photography would turn out to be. The samples were some classic Victorian portrait paintings. I was excited when I saw them because I’m a fan of producing portraiture inspired from the past. In reference to the classic Victorian portrait painting I started brainstorming for ideas to design the shoot, then I went for shopping, yes that’s work too, to source for materials.

In the studio, hours before the shoot we started building a frame to hold the red velvets and turned them into a stage like curtains. A couple of C-stand and some tapes, within 45 minutes the backdrop which I visualised appeared before our eyes. For lighting, I lit the backdrop separately from the models so I had control of the lighting between these two. Of cause there are shadows, my style in lighting ratio is 1:3 or higher, and 1:2 or lower is just too flat for my liking. Another words, I like higher contrast between highlight and shadow because that’s the birth of three dimension.

City of London | Street Photography

While I was in London doing a two-day shoot in the studio for a production I would end my day by walking down the streets of London with a range finder camera and a fixed 35mm lens, it was a good break for me. Balancing the 100% manipulation studio photography and the 100% non manipulation Street Photography has always been essential for me. Having the interest in these two completely different genres of photography also means it requires two completely different skill sets in photography, but most importantly having the capability in performing these two extreme genres spiritually represents the Yin Yang in photography, it’s a balancing act and it maintains the Qi in my photography passion and my sanity.

Looking for shots in a busy city such as London needs tremendous focus, especially in Oxford Street where stream of people constantly flowing up and down sometime it felt like I was sitting in front of a conveyor belt in a Japanese restaurant, you have to decide fast what you want or you would miss it. The amount of people visiting this shopping district can be pretty overwhelming, regardless any day of the week. The nature of Street Photography is challenging and that’s what I love about it in this genre, you have nearly zero control but you can only act fast.

Street Photography is the most complex genre of all photography, it requires getting the right exposure, composition, focusing, timing, and story all together in a fraction of a second. There is no chance for rehearsal, no room for error, and if you miss it then it would be the next shot.

Activities Around The World

Capturing people in their natural state, Candid Photography, or Street Photography involves great depth of observation; especially in human behavior.

Like watching a basketball game,  when you know the court layout you will know where to  pick the best seat. When you understand the rules  of the game you will know the dos and don’ts. When you are familiar with Michael Jordan’s behavior pattern, you will know what to expect when you see he sticks out his tongue; that’s what he did when he was going to score.

I observe speech in action, relationship interactions, facial expressions, body language, and activities. When all the senses are put to good use, photographing people in activities or Street Photography becomes a unique art form and I love it.