In 2006, I met portrait photographer Tan Ngiap Heng at a week end photo workshop being conducted in Singapore. Ngiap Heng and I stayed in touch afterwards, and shortly following the workshop he asked whether I would sit for a portrait session at his studio one day.
When I agreed, Ngiap Heng asked me to bring a few JPEG's of my own photography to the shoot -- some of my favourite personal work -- and although I wasn't exactly sure why, I obliged.
I soon learned that Ngiap Heng was experimenting with using a digital projector to cast images against a backdrop, and then having his subjects pose within the projected image while he photographed his portrait. I had never seen this before, and was intrigued when he projected one of my own photographs on me and then made my portrait.
It is five years later, and I still remember my portrait session with Ngiap Heng. So, when model Paula asked me if I'd be interested in doing a personal test shoot with her, I was inspired to borrow from my projection experience with Ngiap Heng, but take it a little further...
I came up with the idea of shooting Paula once, and then projecting those images of her back onto her own skin while photographing her again; I wanted to use Paula as a canvas for herself.
I met with an artist friend and frequent collaborator of mine, fellow Canadian Billy Ma, and together we wrestled with exactly how to execute this idea, and what style and tone the photography should take. We wanted the series of images to show sensuality, yet vulnerability; we wanted the photographs to be raw and honest, like only someone very close to the subject (a lover?) could have made them.
With Billy art directing, and wonderful hair and make-up artist Dewi Mahoney assisting us, I lit and photographed Paula in a variety of poses in my Chinatown studio. Billy took these images away, printed them on plastic transparencies, and then we came back together again with Paula a week later for the second part of the project.
Billy owns a decades-old analog overhead projector, complete with dirt and scratches, that was perfect for the job. Together with the help of another hair and make-up artist Winnie Chow, Billy projected images of Paula back
onto her body while I photographed this series; these are the results.
This was an exciting and rewarding project to undertake with my creative friends, and we are all proud of the results. However, like many collaborations, this shoot was not without its frustrations -- we encountered technical and creative challenges along the way -- but we persevered, and in the end we got where we wanted to be, together.
I don't believe the creative process is supposed to be easy: for me , it's about push and pull, give and take, partnership and compromise. I am glad that I have a group of friends and colleagues who believe this too.
See more of my fashion and portrait photography on my website.