Singapore is an island nation and city-state home to a distinctively multicultural population, with four official languages of Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English. This hub of business and prosperity was officially founded in 1819 as a trading post within the British Empire. Its actual history dates back at least a millennium, with notable periods as a trading settlement for its neighboring nations. By World War II it served as a pivotal battleground, which the British lost to Japanese occupation until the war’s end. A chaotic period of violence followed in the wake of its destroyed infrastructures. This led to an embattled and ill-fated merging with Malaysia, resulting in its expulsion in 1965. Yet, this also marked its true independence. While riots and unrest still plagued the 60s, the following decades would show a leadership focused on entrepreneurship and economic growth. By the early 1980s, the Port of Singapore became one of the world’s busiest – further heralding a period of trade and tourism that would lead to its current status as one of the world’s great business hubs. One can only imagine that within the lifetime of older Singaporeans, this distinctive and turbulent history has likely given rise to countless personal narratives of resilience and hardship. Considering its ethnic diversity, proximity to other nations, and international importance, it’s clear why an editorial photographer in Singapore would have no shortage of stories to document.
At Wonderful Machine, we define editorial photography as anything done for a publication that tells stories about people, places, and events. Here to capture such a myriad of histories, accounts, and events yet to unfold, are Singapore’s best editorial photographers.
Lauryn Ishak is a Singapore-based photographer with a deep understanding of the Lion City’s multitudes, due to her own dynamic story. Having lived and worked in Germany, Hong Kong, New York, Indonesia, and Switzerland, Lauryn travels worldwide to shoot portraits, interiors, travel, food, and animals. She’s naturally a perfect fit for editorial photography, incredibly adept in all of these categories. Lauryn’s portraits show her subjects at their best while allowing their personalities to shine through. Her work often documents people traveling to less accessible places in order to embark on adventurous activities. She also visits these terrains to photograph nature, getting fairly close to animals – such as lions and elephants – that are seldom seen outside of zoos. Her outdoor photography always allows the sky itself to set the mood, as Lauryn’s ability to work with natural light brings a palpable reality to every image. Indoors, she often uses naturalistic light, which always serves the rich colors she frequents in her work. Capturing the many sides, stories, and experiences one can have (not only in Asia but all over the world), Lauryn’s honest lens is a guide worth following.
Boban James is an expert at documenting the human condition, making a name for himself photographing people from all spheres of society – from the famous to the salt of the earth. His work traverses Asia, capturing authentic moments in a range of settings from studios and offices to monasteries and streets. Regardless of the subjects’ diverse backgrounds, he possesses a unique ability to create comfort, enabling them to express themselves genuinely. Another thing that Boban’s images have in common, is his relationship with lighting:
I love using light to create mood and drama, be it in the studio or out in the natural or urban environment.
In the studio, Boban often uses a sparse background of grays or earth tones, utilizing lights to illuminate his subjects, allowing their personalities to take center stage. He also exhibits a strong fashion sense in these images, likely planning the backdrops he uses around their clothing. If he shoots but outside of a studio, indoors, he allows his creativity to take complete control; he often positions his subjects in unexpected places such as underground hallways and loading docks. This further displays Boban’s knack for dramatic effect in his work. When outdoors, he is careful to work with the time of day to capture not only the nuances in the expressions of the people he photographs, but also the place that they work or live in. Boban is a perfect choice for an editorial photographer in Singapore, where so many different backgrounds call the same city home. No matter where one may come from, all will have the same attention and celebration of their individuality in Boban’s images.
Ore Huiying grew up in rural Singapore but moved to the city as the country went through development. In 2010, she earned a Master of Arts in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. After, she returned to her home to tell its story. The transformation within her own country has deeply influenced her perspective, becoming a recurring theme in her work. Her coverage exemplifies a profound empathy for the lives affected by these changes. She shoots candid portraits, following her subjects through their daily tasks or posing them in natural light to further illustrates the emotions they carry. The “in-between” moments are constant in Ore’s work, showing people in their downtime, areas that seem to have been forgotten, and evidence of the lives once lived where fresh ruins now exist. As an editorial photographer in Singapore, Ore also extends her focus to Southeast Asia itself. Her passion is both following and documenting societies as they move from one period of time to another, finding pain just as often as beauty. Her interest and ability in photographing abandoned buildings especially achieves this and has won her both awards and showings in Singapore and abroad. With a quiet serenity, Ore’s images reveal the true experiences and struggles of life in Southeast Asia as new ages dawn.
Amrita Chandradas is a dedicated documentary photographer who holds an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from the London College of Communications. In 2014 – the same year she graduated – Amrita achieved remarkable recognition by winning the internationally renowned Magnum Photos’ Top 30 under 30 Documentary Photographers award. Her work has been prominently featured in publications such as the New York Times, Financial Times, BBC World, and Dagbladet Information. Amrita’s focus lies in capturing the evolving landscapes and shifting dynamics of Asian countries amidst globalization. Within this is her dedication to telling the stories that the rest of the world otherwise might not hear about. She often photographs candid moments beyond the scope of portraiture, giving an accurate account of the emotions experienced by her subjects in real-time. Amrita also embraces a lot of courage to capture moments that would generally be purposefully hidden, such as soldiers and their occupations of areas. For all of the honesty in these images, Amrita is just as gifted when she does embrace classic portraiture, using lighting and location to embody the personalities of her subjects. She is also extremely gifted in shooting landscapes, with strikingly colorful images from angles only achieved by traversing difficult terrains. When this is matched with her ability to capture humanity in posed as well as candid moments, she can easily take on travel photography and has done so to great success many times. Yet her heart is clearly in delivering the news we in the rest of the world may not have heard.
An accomplished photographer and director, Juliana Tan sets up scenes to bring out the human truths within the stories of her subjects. After spending time in New York and Los Angeles as a photography assistant and lighting grip, Juliana graduated from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University School of Communication Studies. There, she gained training as both a filmmaker and photojournalist. She combines both disciplines while working with lighting and color to bring the real-life moments captured in her shoots, to life. “Real life” just might be the perfect phrase for Juliana’s work. While she allows her creativity to guide her dynamic and often very exciting approach to lighting, her interest is in the experiences that unfold in front of her. Her focus on portrait and documentary photography often revolves around stories involved with culture, politics, and their effects on those living in the societies around them. If she takes a portrait, it will often be as a series featuring images of her subjects as they show scenes from their lives. If she photographs an area without a main subject, she’ll show people in a variety of corners within the same society, as well as the small aspects that make the area itself interesting. This could be in grandiose architecture, small neon-lit spots within public spaces, or even beneath bridges. Juliana brings the same level of dedication to the human condition to her films, most recently with Durga, following a 16-year-old child bride and the struggles of her situation.
Trained in both Sociology and Theatre at the National University of Singapore, Mindy Tan began her career as a journalist at the Singapore Press Holdings. Reporting breaking news, her first break came in covering migrant labor and issues between youth and communities within Singapore. By 2007, she won the Society of Publishers Asia Award for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting. The following year, she worked for herself as a documentary photographer. Focusing on portraits, lifestyle, social documentaries, and sports worldwide, she has shot for Bloomberg, National Geographic magazine, The Guardian, Die Zeit, China Daily, SCMP, and The Straits Times. As a dedicated editorial photographer in Singapore, her candid approach often shows people as they go about their daily lives in a rapidly-shifting landscape throughout all of Asia. She has even braved and documented the elusive North Korea, getting powerful images in spite of the risk it no doubt took to do so. Fearless in presenting vulnerability, exhaustion, amusement, and celebration side-by-side, Mindy’s work creates a mosaic of experiences that define the struggles within Asia today. Mindy also had the notable experience of being hand-picked by Fujifilm from 500 global ambassadors to create, write, and even narrate the 90-minute documentary ‘Camera Punk.’ This focuses on her experience, as well as other professionals, with the X-Pro3 mirrorless camera. She also produced and hosted Fujigirl, a 9-part series for Fujifilm Singapore. Both are available to watch on Youtube.
As both a photographer and creative director, Kevin WY Lee has been a professional creative in Asia and Australia for over two decades. Graduating from the University Of New South Wales, Australia, with a degree in Fine Arts, Kevin has gone on to shoot for countless publications with a focus on Asia. Showing an interest in exploring the cycle of life, Kevin shows the ways various regions interact with food as well as how they cope with death. His greatest interest is his home city; he created and published several books on various aspects of it. Suddenly The Grass Became Greener focuses on the soil of his homeland, while Hundred Daughters Hundred Patience Hundred Meals focuses on the life and career of his restauranteur father. His achievements also go beyond the lens. An adjunct lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, he also founded Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA) in 2010. As a platform for photography and the arts in Asia, IPA has since become a leader in its field by supporting photography and other arts through showcases, exhibitions, education, and workshops. He has also been both curator and juror in many festivals, including the World Press Photo in 2021, Angkor Photo Festival in Cambodia, WMA Masters Award in Hong Kong, Singapore International Photography Festival, Odessa/Batumi Photo Days Festival(Ukraine), Prix Pictet Award, and PhotoQuai Biennale in France.
To be an editorial photographer in Singapore is to take on a landscape that has withstood a period of constant flux. The stories of this journey, as well as within all of Asia, are alive and ready to be told. All of these photographers have shown the many ways this can be done, and with all the events unfolding every day, their work has only just begun.