Alvin Ng is a Singapore-based photographer whose conceptual work often embraces mythical themes. While exploring the human condition through unique spiritual scenes, he also gives his time to documenting the world of people. Specializing in Portrait, Hospitality, and Travel photography, Alvin’s work is as colorful as it is exploratory of life’s simple wonders. He recently had his debut feature in Monocle, a magazine focused on global affairs and lifestyle. Alvin made this happen by doing something simple: introducing himself. After sending an introductory email, he had the opportunity to meet the publication’s photo editorial team.
I was visiting London for the Photo London Fair as one of the exhibiting artists for Lensculture’s booth. So I had the great opportunity to arrange a visit to Monocle’s office and meet with their team in person and share more about my work. The success of this meeting came to fruition about three to four months later. They reached out to see if I was interested in doing a feature on a local clothing brand in Singapore for their October issue.
Also based in Singapore, Graye Studio creates sustainably made, unisex clothing designed for a slow-living lifestyle. With styles simultaneously minimalist and warm, they formed in 2016. Alvin himself was a fan and even bought a piece when they were starting out as a pop-up online store. Now with their own successful location, he’s watched them grow and was excited to work with them on this project.
One thing I really loved about this project was being able to connect and work together with the owners of Graye Studio, Calvin and Qian, in such a comfortable and intimate manner. The whole process of creating the photographs was smooth and fun as if we were old friends working together on a shoot. This editorial project is what I’d like to call a “golden opportunity” because it’s like reconnecting with my inner child.
Monocle, of course, has its own style to work with. The requirements were sensible but diverse. These included interior photographs, details of the space, the owners wearing their collection, and selected pieces that encapsulate their brand.
My photographic style and approach have three components: to be at peace, be supported, and have the freedom to explore. To do so, I usually approach all of my shoots, commercial or personal, with an open mind and empathy, along with research on who (or what) I am taking photos of. So before any shoot commences, I usually break the ice and chat with people, connecting with their interests, hobbies, mutual friends, or even past experiences. I’m incredibly lucky to have be extroverted and enjoy chatting with people and making them feel comfortable during a shoot.
With an open mind and empathy, I give my subjects space to open up and be vulnerable. Be it models, corporate workers, or individuals outcasted by society — I treat them all with the same level of kindness, love, and respect regardless of where they are in life. I also have a curious, analytical mind. So I’ll do my research on whoever I’m photographing. I like to find out about their interests, work, and passions before meeting them.
Alvin worked independently on this project, representing Monocle himself. With his dynamic editorial experience, he walked in with a familiarity with both his client’s needs and his subjects’ backgrounds. Fortunately, the stars also aligned for a smooth, enjoyable shoot.
For this project, I was grateful that there were no complications whatsoever. The timing, location , and the weather were all great. It was one of those rare moments where everything simply comes together perfectly.
Within his editorial work, Alvin has shot in many conditions. He’s captured chaotic urban sprawls like Mumbai, the rainforests of Brunei, and the heights of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Even though this shoot was a convenient 25-minute drive from his home, he still found space to hone his craft.
I’d like to think my process is something like a ballet — an intimate balance of trust, respect, and understanding. One cannot exist without the other. I think that lesson that I’ve learned through this shoot is that effective, emphatic communication remains the utmost priority to establish an environment that’s comfortable and effective.
See more of Alvin’s work on his website.
Photography Editor: Alex Milnes