Last weekend was a bit of fun. I had an opportunity to photograph something passionate creative people are designing and pushing towards production. A friend took me in on this rare photo shoot opportunity, and he even gave me space that allowed me to focus on one image I had in mind. Well, that was really the only image I had in mind, since I did not know what the location was going to be, and I had no idea what kind of lighting, backdrop or anything, that I could photograph. I used to be more responsive or reactive in my photography. I come across something, point my camera, and click. Hope for the best. But since the point in time when I started trying to build my own creative process at photography school, I think it has changed. These days, I spend a lot more time visualising my image, working on the concept, the message, and like boiling the stock in a pot, really condense it down to the essence of what it is that I really want, void the unnecessary extra weak stuff. So the same is needed when I shoot at a party, an event, a portraiture or a product like I did last weekend. I would go location scouting, or search internet for reference images, flip through magazines or walk around art gallery, to build up some direction and ideas. That is not final, of course, as I should be flexible enough to react to let that “surprised eye” do the work (words of Henri Cartier-Bresson). What I wanted to say is that it was a little frustrating and more scary going into a location without knowing what to expect, not with some blur vision or clippings of reference images in my sketch book, when I walk into face what I was about to photograph. Given that limitation I am happy with the few photograph I came out with after a few hours’ shooting, and now I have a much better idea of what images can add to that. I am also very interested in seeing what my friend had shot, as he was also walking around the place taking lots of photographs covering different aspects of the project. I hope one day I’ll get the permission to share some of those images with you, mine and his, as these passionate people’s project is looking really promising.
On the next day, I caught up with another friend for a brunch. He suggested the Convent. We sat down in the windy and slightly chilly outdoor table of a cafe. The service was somehow shockingly badly organised, but surely there was some reason like the regular floor chief was off sick or something. My friend’s order was being delivered, passed our table #24, around the corner and disappeared inside. He had to grab a waitress later and ask for it, which came back 10 minutes later. My soup with toast, which came much earlier than his fruit toast fortunately, was not quite hot (which I did not complain and took in). I went back to order coffee and pastry, and only coffee came. It was my turn to catch the same helpful waitress with Chinese accent, but the coffee was cold and little of it was left in my cup by the time the raspberry danish finally arrived. To change our moods, we decided to have a walk around the place. It had been some time since I went there last, and the sky was blue, not a bad Sunday.
I remember the first time I came here years ago. It was some kind of ‘open house’ thing, with a tour showing different parts of the former convent. I remember the moldy smell of the old function room upstairs, or the large kitchen with a couple of big ovens that used to bake bread every morning in the old days. And around the back, the place that looked a bit like a factory, a ruin. Now it is completely fenced off. There seems to be some installation work done by artist, but there is no way it can be properly engaged when there is a wall to wall fence blocking the view. My camera is less than an inch on the fence to take this shot inside the ‘ruin’, to blur the fence. But that is still such a shame. I can appreciate that some kids would vandalise the place otherwise. I get that. But… I just wished more members of general public could appreciate this beautiful place with a sense of time and history. Sitting in a temple in Kyoto, you’d feel that time flashing past. Sometimes you could almost see the shadow of some one who was there hundreds of years ago. In Cambodia I felt the shake run through me when I could feel the presence of one of my favourite film makers who was inspired by that place in making some of his films. This convent could have that depth, too. If you could let people be… but how can we avoid those kids using this place to practice their spray skills without the security lock-down?
I came back out to the courtyard and my friend who had little sleep after party the night before was enjoying the sun on the grass. It was much warmer here than on the wind-blown terrace of the cafe on the other side. Now our mood was much more positive. We were glad we made our little trip.