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Inspirations >> Photos & People

Breaking the norms of street photography

While most people think of street photography as shots of buskers, street hawkers or the homeless, Zinkie Aw has a different philosophy. She shares with us her perceptions on street photography and tips for aspiring photographers. (Report by Natalie Koh)

What is street photography? To some, it's a simple photo along a pathway or road - preferably with a human standing in the middle of it. To others, it's taking street photos of buskers, street hawkers or the homeless - you know, people on the streets.

But to street photographer Zinkie Aw, street photography is so much more than that. Not all street photographs have to be portraits; neither must they be candid.

"I think it all depends on what you want to convey," she shares.

Instead, when she's on photography assignment she looks out for two things. First, the story behind the shot. Second, how it "reflects your unique personality, perceptions of the world, personal tastes and preferences and role as a visual storyteller".

Naturally, each of her photographs tells a unique story, often bringing out the unexpected in the everyday scenes.

"I love the spontaneity it gives to my daily chores. On days where I have street walks, it feels like a treasure hunt sometimes," she quips. "You never know which corner presents an opportunity for you to have that chuckle with your photo caption - and then you immortalise that moment."

She often packs the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens for street work. In crowded spaces, she sometimes brings along the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens for its wide angle advantage.

Ask Zinkie for advice she might have for aspiring photographer, and she cites her favourite quote by Cartier-Bresson: "Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."

"To many, photography may seem glamorous or fun, but we often do not see the commitment and work behind ‘successful’ photographers. I say ‘successful’ in quotes because each lensman defines success differently," Zinkie explains.

Next, she says that apart from creating "nice-looking visuals", photographs ought to resonate with others and communicate some sort of wisdom. "This wisdom is up to us to invent - it could be lighthearted, tame, loud or philosophical. It all depends on the image-maker."

Finally, she advises: "Go meet fellow photographers and mentors for critique sessions. It really helps a lot to know what you stand for, who you are and what you really want to do."

Zinkie Aw

Zinkie's work has been widely published and featured online. She has exhibited in the Dali International Photography Exhibition (2015), Singapore International Photography Festival (2014), Milan Image Art & Design Fair (2014), and Px3 Prix de la Photographie Paris exhibition (2013). Zinkie also does corporate events photography and portraiture work, alongside involving herself in education and outreach programmes.