Catching Up With: Ernest Goh

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Ernest Goh is a photographer and visual artist. His work includes Altered Land, a documentation of the aftermath and recovery of Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 South-Asian Tsunami; Beyond Mask, a book documenting the situation inside Singapore’s largest hospital at the height of the SARS outbreak in Asia. His current focus on the natural world was nurtured as a young boy wading in the streams of his grandmother’s kampung(rural) village looking for fishes. In 2011 he presented The Fish Book, a whimsical study of the ornamental fish bred in Singapore. Following that in 2013, he released COCKS – a book showcasing portraits of supermodels of the chicken world. He is also the creative director of The Animal Book Co; an outfit that works with animal welfare groups through photography.

Describe your proudest moment
When my baby nephew said ‘meow meow’ after I repeatedly tried to teach him about cats.

Your source of inspiration…
Walking in the wild.

Describe your studio
Wildly quiet.

Your perfect day
A wildly quiet one.

Your greatest indulgence
Expensive walking shoes

Your biggest challenge
Photographing Orang utans in Sumatra. Although the Orangs utans were in captivity in a rehab centre but they were wild caught so working with them was not easy.

I wish…
for more greenery and less concrete.

What colour best represents you, and why?
Green. It reminds me of the wild and the freedom to roam free like a wild animal.

Happiness is…
encountering nature daily.

50 years from now I will be….
a farmer of some kind.


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You have a very clear affinity for the natural world and for animals- how did that come about?

I grew up in my grandmother’s rural village in the 80’s when it was still possible to see rural farmland in Singapore. At that time my playthings were plastic water pistols and fishing nets. Time was spent either running after chickens in the front porch or by the stream catching fishes and frogs. Photographing animals is a way for me to recollect those memories.

Your animalia series showcases expressions of chickens and fishes and other animals that are rarely seen- how do you go about photographing and selecting these animals?

As with finding any interesting stories it is all about keeping your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground. When I travel I talk to strangers a lot and that’s one of the best way to find out more about a place. Animal rearing is very much tied to the culture of a country or a village so knowing the culture will tell a lot about the animals within that community.

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Is there a deeper meaning behind this body of work?

My work has always been about animal appreciation because many people have little or no knowledge of the natural world. It is even more frightening that a lot of kids these days grow up having very little, or no affinity to nature. If we want to save the planet, we need to first make sure the next generation appreciates the planet.

When did you buy your first camera, and what was it?

The first camera I bought was a Nikon FM2 in 1995.

Do you have any advice for individuals looking to pick up photography?

Learn to appreciate whats around you first.
It is only when you do that you will start to see beyond what is simply just in front of you and that is what photography is about.

What would be a good camera to start off with, and what would be some useful tips to get kickstarted?

Any camera will do! Useful tip: wear good walking shoes.

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Where do you envision yourself as an artist in the next 5 years?

Being able to tell much more people about the natural world.

Do you have any big projects or shows in the coming year?

I am launching the first part of a new series of work titled The Gift Book come 2 December 2014 at the National Museum of Singapore. It will be expanded and launched on a broader scale in 2015. The Gift Book is about the duality of nature; being both the gift and the giver of natural resources.

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