Chasing Squares, Part 2: Life through a “square” lens

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — One of the first mobile photography exhibitions in Malaysia, “Chasing Squares”, starts on February 18 at D6 Sentul East offering different points of view of “what we chase in life” by seven Instagram photographers (more commonly known as “Instagrammers”).

We chat with four Instagrammers who are exhibiting their mobile photography – Trisha Toh (@trishates), Yin Tan (@tangerine_yin), Mai Fernandez (@mnf_) and Lydia Tan (@lydia522).

  • Trisha Toh (@trishates)

Why Instagram?
I have always had a passion for food. Over the years, however, my love for food has been renewed with my love for photography and the desire to keep on shooting. Instagram allows me to continuously practise both my two passions.

A sunlit table (@trishates) (left). Dining in blue and white (@trishates) (right) – Pictures by Trisha Toh
A sunlit table (@trishates) (left). Dining in blue and white (@trishates) (right) – Pictures by Trisha Toh

What is your style of shooting?
I love top-down shots. It gives me the opportunity to style my plates and get creative.

One shot or the more shots the better?
I tend to take my time when composing my photos, so I’m never satisfied with just one shot. I believe in taking as many photos as I can to the best of my ability. That’s when I get picky and spend a ridiculous amount of time choosing the shot.

Doesn’t your food get cold while you try and get the perfect shot?
To be honest, Instagram is such a powerful tool, it has become this itch that you have to scratch. However, I don’t always take pictures of food, and I certainly don’t compromise on hunger.

Some folks argue that pictures taken on a mobile phone aren’t the highest quality.
I recently invested in a new digital SLR camera but I’ve realised that I actually prefer using my iPhone. True, the quality isn’t brilliant but it’s forgiving online. I prefer to keep my photos as raw as possible, using mostly basic adjustment tools in the Snapseed app to enhance contrast, exposure, temperature etc.

Tell me something that annoys you when you Instagram.
Some Instagrammers leave comments like “follow me” or “shout for shout” – they need to understand that a follow is earned, not begged.

  • Yin Tan (@tangerine_yin)

How do you capture your shots?
I see my friends snapping away non-stop whenever we find a good spot. I tend to soak in what’s before me or around me before I start. Sometimes I only take one shot before leaving.

Above and below (@tangerine_yin) – Picture by Yin Tan
Above and below (@tangerine_yin) – Picture by Yin Tan

I guess I’m a little picky with what I capture. I value the candid ones over the specifically directed ones.

Share an instance when taking photographs with your phone wasn’t enough.
The only shots taken with a digital SLR camera I’ve posted are of the aurora borealis in Finland. I couldn’t not share their breathtaking beauty and my iPhone 5 doesn’t work that well in low light conditions.

“Apps like Instagram keep us from living in the moment.” Agree/disagree?
Agree. This is why I prefer to take in what I see first and only take shots later. Then again, who’s to judge? You’re also living the countless moments captured endlessly when you “gram” (i.e. take pictures and post them on Instagram).

View from Bukit Tabur (@tangerine_yin) – Picture by Yin Tan
View from Bukit Tabur (@tangerine_yin) – Picture by Yin Tan

How has Instagram changed your world?
It creates dreams. I see someone’s feed in Switzerland and I wonder if the pictures have been enhanced and tweaked to make it flawlessly beautiful. I ended up going there myself to find out that the view is as picture perfect as what I’ve seen on Instagram. It took my breath away.

Thanks to Instagram, I look forward to new sights every day.

Is mobile phone photography art?
Although these pictures may not taken on a “proper camera”, it doesn’t discount the fact that it is still an expression of beauty.

I’ve heard of people sharing their love for photography but when asked what camera they use and the answer is “my phone”, there is an immediate disregard. This is very sad because art has been created from clay, ice, recycled materials and many more unconventional items. Yet it hasn’t been looked down on.

Instagram has created an avenue for an endless number of self-discovered artists. Their work should be appreciated and taken seriously. Hopefully “Chasing Squares” will change this stereotype and kickstart a new art form in our country.

Field of gold (@mnf_) – Picture by Mai Fernandez
Field of gold (@mnf_) – Picture by Mai Fernandez

  • Mai Fernandez (@mnf_)

What does Instagram mean to you?
Instagram is here for self-expression. Its usage is open to interpretation, so I tend to just go with the flow.

What sort of pictures do you usually take?
I never consciously created a style, although one might say, after looking at my shots, that it’s all about Nature and colours.

The sky is a magnificent canvas especially during sunset. I love how the sun transforms everything, how light and shadows give new interpretation to everyday views and the way colours beckon you to look and double take in appreciation.

I photograph things that make me pause from the daily pursuits of life.

The waves rolling in (@mnf_) – Picture by Mai Fernandez
The waves rolling in (@mnf_) – Picture by Mai Fernandez

What do your pictures tell followers about your life?
Each picture I’ve posted is representative of a journey or adventure I’ve been on. I may have 30 or more pictures taken on a hike or hundreds from a series of sunsets at an amazing spot I stumbled upon, but I pick the one shot that makes me wish I were there in that moment again.

If I feel like that about a shot, then maybe it’s okay to interrupt someone else’s life to have a look at it.

And what have you learned about your life, from your experience with Instagram?
Well, I’ve always taken pictures pre-Instagram. It’s mind-boggling to know that thousands of people like a shot that would have otherwise just stayed in my phone.

Instagram has made me realise that there’s so much to love around me. Beauty is everywhere. The open field by the roadside, the puffy clouds while you’re stuck in traffic, the glinting sunlit building across the street…

  • Lydia Tan (@lydia522)

How did you get started with Instagram?
It is simply a medium for me to share my iPhone photographs.

Describe your personal Instagram style.
Simple, clean and minimal shots. For example, the picture most “liked” by my followers is a simple photograph of colourful umbrellas.

Waiting...  (@lydia522) – Picture by Lydia Tan
Waiting... (@lydia522) – Picture by Lydia Tan

Is there pressure to only post pictures that meet a certain ‘standard’?
No, I will post any picture that I like.

Don’t apps like Instagram make us overly obsessive?
It depends how you see it. For me, it’s just a way to express how one sees things through their photos.

Hand in hand  (@lydia522) – Picture by Lydia Tan
Hand in hand (@lydia522) – Picture by Lydia Tan

How has Instagram changed you?
Being an Instagrammer has definitely broadened my views. I see how so many different people view things in their own artistic ways. There are many beautiful sceneries and activities in other countries that I would not be able to see in my own country otherwise.

The last word on “Chasing Squares”?
We want to promote mobile photography. This means creating awareness that one shouldn’t limit one’s creativity in photography by thinking only the most advanced and expensive camera can produce nice images.

Chasing Squares at D6 Sentul East
Featuring shots by Instagrammers @mr_darcy, @trishates, @mnf_, @seanjesudasan, @tangerine_yin, @lydia522 and @koyoox.
Open 11am – 6pm

This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on February 14, 2014.

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