Chow Chee Yong shares with us his inspirations, challenges and his proudest moments.
ARTIST: CHOW CHEE YONG
Chow Chee Yong graduated with a BFA (Honours) degree in Photography in 1994 from Western Michigan University, USA. In 1998, he received the JCCI Art Scholarship, which brought him to Tokyo where he pursued his graduate studies. He received his MA (Distinction) degree in Photography in 2001 from Musashino Art University, Tokyo, Japan. He has participated in more than 30 solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums in China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States of America.
CATCHING UP WITH: Chow Chee Yong
When you think back to the time where you were creating surrealistic images using only film cameras, was there a core message you were trying to communicate?
Basically, during those days, one would often hear the saying that a “camera never lies” and the outcome of that is a photograph. Especially in the older days of film, where manipulations are hardly heard of, viewers are always baffled by what they see. The black and white silverprint has been a source of truth and proof of existence. Since the images were created from my mind, the “truth” threw many people off. Their eyes see a “proof of existence” but their mind tells them otherwise, sending differing and confusing messages through their mind.
Has being an art educator and curator influenced your perspective as a photographer?
I think it certainly has. Teaching forces me to create works all the time so that I can continue to understand my students and the various projects that they have to do in school. And being a Curator and Educator both influenced my perspective on the different genre of photography and understanding the trends of photography throughout various periods. As such, there are times I feel the variety of works that I have seen would have altered or influenced my thoughts when making artworks.
You have a strong love for capturing and interpreting space. Through your image-making, you often deal with architecture and landscape. What is it about this relationship that excites you as a photographer?
I’ve liked Architecture since I was young. I just love the various structures, especially those with interesting lines and forms. Architects are great people who are able to visualize a 3-dimensional space from an empty plot of land or a piece of blank paper. That is how I usually approach my work, I imagine and visualize my work often before I shoot them.
Give us some insight into your artistic process- what are your favourite cameras to use? How would you best summarise your practice at this point?
My favourite camera is the large format 4×5. The one I am using has an extremely bright ground glass which allows me to compose my image very easily even on a bright day. This eases the process of an already “troublesome” format. As for digital, I would definitely go for the mirrorless systems, which I personally feel will be the way of the future. My practice is to continue to create different bodies of work that deals mainly with the local scene.
With the advent of digital tools, how has that affected your creative process? On that same note, what do you miss most about Analog? Do you think Analog still has a role to play?
I can only embrace whatever is happening in the digital realm. In fact, I think it is really great as I can choose which is the so-called better format to use, film or digital. It definitely has affected the creative process as far as techniques are concerned. Some are better done in film, others in digital. So the thinking will be slightly different. I actually miss the smell of chemicals in the darkroom! I sincerely believe Film will continue to stay but will take on a slightly different role away from the commercial especially.