Photographer in Singapore launches project to showcase local artists and creatives in their own unique light amidst pandemic

Jacklyn Kuah, Theatre Director. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)
Jacklyn Kuah, Theatre Director. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)

Welcome to the Local Heroes series, where we highlight inspiring stories by people in Singapore who are using their skills to do good.

SINGAPORE – The year 2020 has been especially challenging with COVID-19 changing and affecting almost every industry across the globe. In the recent Sunday Times survey which 1000 Singaporeans took part in, 71% picked artist as the topmost non-essential job in the pandemic, sparking anger in the community.

Partly fuelled by the survey, Shian Bang, a portrait photographer based in Singapore, kickstarted a passion project where he seeks to showcase the local art scene and artists through his lenses. The photo series will be shot for free, and Shian is giving the royalty-free images to the creatives/entrepreneurs to use for their creative businesses.

Yahoo Lifestyle SEA understands more about the project from Shian, how his job is affected by the pandemic, and his favourite photo taken so far.

“COVID had hit everyone hard, regardless of your social status, gender, race, etc. But, one area it had hit especially hard is the arts industry. I am part of the creative/arts industry, and it took COVID-19 to be a sort of 'catalyst' to show all the problems and issues that the arts/creative industry had always faced.”

Shian’s latest project initially started as a simple idea to showcase local artists in their working space, which could be at home or a professional studio. “I wanted people to know that you didn't necessarily need a professional space to make art, it can come from any place and space.”

Presenting these 30 artists and their art to a wider audience, showcasing Singapore’s incredible variety of creatives and artists, and allowing a better understanding of the issues creatives face in Singapore became the main objectives of Shian’s project.

Kamini Ramachandran, Storyteller. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)
Kamini Ramachandran, Storyteller. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)

Amongst the talents featured in the project are Jacklyn Kuah, the theatre director who brought the show Lone Journeys to live, Maybelle Lek, a freelance dance artist and choreographer, Kamini Ramachandran, the director of MoonShadow Stories and lecturer for The Storytelling Intensive at LASALLE College of the Arts, as well as Jocelyn Leow, a female tattoo artist at Horikawa Tattoo.

“I will work with the space they have, and whatever props I can find within their space to best tell their story.”

Many in the performing scene have since resorted to various ways to reach out to their audiences, including uploading music video collaborations to YouTube, teaching music over Zoom, and conducting Facebook live performances.

Having just rented a studio space in 2019 to build specific sets for his photography business, the pandemic caused jobs to dry up in this period of uncertainty. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 came, and it affected me both financially and mentally. With no work coming in, I've decided to do odd jobs such as safe distancing ambassador roles.”

Despite being adversely affected by the pandemic, Shian is offering a completely free portrait photography session with the artists that are joining him in the project.

“There is no deadline (to when the project is completed),” Shian shared. Keen to allow his subjects to be photographed when they are most comfortable, and working to their schedules, he predicted that the project can take upwards of a month or more before it will be completed.

Jocelyn Leow, Tattoo Artist. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)
Jocelyn Leow, Tattoo Artist. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)

The project will be posted on various art-related local Facebook groups upon completion. “Hopefully more people can share the stories and profiles of these artists and creatives, which can hopefully help their business to flourish.”

Curious about what prompt Shian to choose being a photographer as a career, the photographer surprisingly credited National Service for kickstarting his interest in photography.

“I didn't really 'chose' to be one, in the traditional sense, and rather was given the role to take photos during my NS. Initially, the photos were nothing creative, it was documenting prize presentations. But it led me to enjoy the process of photography.”

Embarking on a backpacking trip around Europe, Shian was determined to take well-composed shots of places that he travelled to. His favourite shot came in northern Norway, in Tromsø, on Valentine’s day.

“I was able to see the northern lights and to see them in the picture was pretty amazing. One-shot I really liked was when the tour bus stopped at a lake and the people got out to watch the lights dance in the sky. It was also Valentine's day, and some tourist decided to draw a heart shape in the sand, I felt it was really memorable and framed it with the northern lights above.”

You can also check out Shian’s other works on his Instagram account.

Northern Lights in Norway. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)
Northern Lights in Norway. (PHOTO: Shian Bang)

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