On the Edge: Kevin Lim.

On the Edge: Kevin Lim.

© Kevin Lim. All rights reserved.

“This memory maker machine should only be handled after some training as you risk degrading your memories with snapshots no one wants to see.”

Q1: Please state your name and occupation, please. Where do you live?

My name is Kevin Lim and I currently reside in Malaysia.

My photographic commissions include corporate memory and commercial work.

l am also specialised in System Dynamics and have successfully helped multinational healthcare companies multiply their revenue and EBITDA.

Q2: Welcome to On the Edge. You will have to pick one of your best street photographs and you are asked to refer to that photo only during the interview. Would that be ok with you?

A: Such a pleasure to be here, I thank you for considering me , Knut! I have chosen a photograph that is not necessarily my favourite but serves as a good reference point for my work.

Q3: Any particular reason for taking that picture, Kevin?

I rarely set out on a planned shoot, that is to say, I don’t go out hunting for images. I am however, curious about the way light behaves on the objects or people when I come across them. I am even more curious what it would look like when it is made into a photograph! For that reason I never leave home without a camera. I have a camera with me ALL the time just in case a scene worth remembering comes along.

Q4: Is this your style of street photography then? Do you think you have a style? If so, can you describe it?

So I don’t see myself as having a particular style. It is how it is. I have always enjoy making photographs so you can only imagine how excited I am that available technology also allows me the ability make photographs of everyday things and the camera has become my de facto notebook, invaluable in helping me recall events .

Q5. Tell me what is street photography? Have you got a definition? Let’s hear it!

A question with a multitude of answers that raises even more questions.

Over the years certain general principles and guidelines have emerged to define street photography and this in turn has also been subject to personal interpretation. According to these principles, to qualify as a street photograph there should be a person or persons in the frame or at the very least, evidence that a person is just out of frame or represented. These principles also stipulate that the image captured must be in a public place and be candid.

For some shooting an image in an outdoor urban environment is de riguer. To others the rules are irrelevant.

Some focus on content to elicit a response and focus on compositional techniques such as using negative space, geometry, juxtaposition. Some like shadows and silhouettes, visual puns, symbolism, forced perspectives, some want pictorial images others gritty.

Some discuss gear and go on about lenses and focal lengths, ‘you need to get in close’, ‘use a wide angle’, or ‘telephotos’ are not kosher’. Colour vs Black and White…Eye contact – no eye contact?

I feel there are many too many imposed rules and elitism in the community on what makes a street photo. Challenges in the photography community may occur when peers or peer groups subcategorize genres too strictly. Such boundaries are often times unnecessary.

For me personally, my criteria is twofold.

Firstly, the situation is candid and clearly shows an evidence of a person or persons in the frame .Secondly, I am out of my house and home .

Street photography for me is not a location as much as it’s a method of approaching photography by way of seeing things beyond the obvious and to sharing the final results with others.

Q6: Give me some basics. How long have you had an interest in street photography? Do you have any mentors that you have learned from?

I am in my 50s and I have, as far back as I can remember, felt that there was something very magical about a photograph. To me it was amazing how something I see; an object or a scene can be fixed onto a piece paper. As a kid, I had zero access to reading resources. Books and magazines were scarce. My dad’s limitations as a teacher resulted in me vaguely understanding 3 things – the concept of depth of field, shutter /exposure priority and the loading of one’s film cartridge in the dark.

Thus as a young man, 1980s London was a wonder for the likes of me. Gorgeous people & architecture, museums, bookshops, art and photo galleries galore. Importantly second-hand camera gear and optics were at affordable prices which provided almost limitless resource for a young man, keen to document everything down photographically. Self directed learning through various mediums then, made so much easier nowadays through online resources and feedback, learning has always been for me, is a wondrous thing.

Q7: Let’s talk about equipment. Some have an almost religious addiction to it. Long lenses, short lenses, rangefinders, non-rangefinders, compacts. Leicas, Canons, Nikons, analog or digital. What is your opinion of this? What is your preferred gear? Don’t be boring when you answer this, please.

I, like most, underwent the phase of needing to own all the cameras in the range and acquiring glass for the pure sake of having them in my collection and for those who enjoy it, I say,  please continue. I like to shoot fairly close to my subjects and do not use telephoto lenses as a preference.

I currently enjoy using the Fuji X range as they feel right for me at present and that is important for me creatively. I use my cameras intuitively, so I suppose it’s an extension of my being without which I am but only a spectator.

Q8: Are there any particular reason why you call yourself a street photographer? Many people capture landscapes, seascapes, birds caved in. Do you take such pictures as well?

If I can see it, I can shoot it. My interest is wide ranging from flowers to animals, but I do enjoy Street as I am infinitely curious about people. Although I prefer an urban environment for street photography, I’m generally not concerned if its indoors or outdoors, as street photography to me is a way of seeing rather than a place or subject. I like to think that I pay more attention to my environment, to light and shadows, shapes and profiles, the time of day…little things missed by those who are perhaps not primed to look.

Q9: Do you know what is the difference between photography and plain picture taking? If so, tell me what it is.

Today, photography may just be a matter of pressing a button on a mobile device. The real challenge for any serious photographer is for their work to be better than a snapshot.

This requires study! Time given to the understanding of the amazing nuances associated with the camera. Time allocated to the understanding of light and how it gives form, or not as the case may be to objects, as a reflection.

The final challenge comes from having a prevision to a final frame…. to capture and make an aesthetic image. To produce that once is luck. But to do it consistently requires all that we are as photographers.

For me … a camera is the best dreamcatcher of all … but like all good things .. they should also come with a warning label that reads:

“This memory maker machine should only be handled after some training as you risk degrading your memories with snapshots no one wants to see.”

Actually learning to operate a camera properly is not rocket science and like everything else…requires a modicum of skill .This …plus a desire to keep your memories intact should see us making that extra effort to obtain said skills .

Q10: Why do you think that all the best street photographs are shot in black & white? How do you explain that?

A: I like both mediums but I find B&W gives me more latitude when presenting geometric arrangements clearly according to my vision within a given frame.

Q11: Do you think that street photography is a serious type of photography? Can anything good come of it? How do you see this?

In the song ‘Open the Door, Homer’ Bob Dylan wrote “Take care of all your memories … For you cannot relive them.”

When we come to realize that our memories are wispy, fleeting and dreamlike at best, we also come to realize that we had better do something to preserve them. For me street photography is the best documentary of a period in time, our collection of memories in a gift basket for us now and for future generations.

Q12: Are there any value in street photography you think, besides your own enjoyment?

As Above.

Q13: Your vision? What is your vision for European street photography? What is the vision for your own photography? I am not going to ask to see into the future, but tell me anyway.

It’s a challenging time for street photography in Europe as regulations on privacy make it difficult for us enable our vision. It would be good if there is a defined platform to nurture and educate younger or new photographers who are keen on the fundamentals underlying street methodology and philosophy in the making of a street style image.

Q14: One last question: What is the most important thing with a photograph? With any photograph?

Edgar Allen Poe wrote in the “Art of Composition”… “That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.”

In our throw-away world… we must also be careful not to also relegate our memories to the rank of disposable ,forgettable nonsense or worse still …a photographic monument for all to mock.

In life we always have choice. So let us make less of images that do not look good and more that look better. After all we are but the sum of our memories ..let us at least make them good looking. Let us stop our pattern of blindly looking and learn to see better. In doing so we may well give our memories a fighting chance.

Q15: Is it true then that street photography was invented in Europe?

A: Yes. European artists have been documenting life on the streets for the longest time and the first photograph of figures in the street was recorded by Daguerre in the late 1830’s in Paris .

Thank you very much, Kevin. Much obliged. Will you see yourself out?

Thank you Knut, I enjoyed this interview.

© Knut Skjærven.  All rights reserved.

#kevinlim #newstreetagenda #knutskjærven #knutskjaerven #oneverystreet #leicastreetphotograpy #theacedemy #ontheegde


About author

Knut Skjærven

Knut Skjærven is a Norwegian photographer, writer and researcher working out of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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