Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taking photography to new heights

40 years ago when I held a SLR it was like holding a precision machine with very accurate engineering to be able to do what it was designed to do. Today, a DSLR is still a very precise machine and more. It comes with a computer inside. This is the kind of power in the hands of a photographer.

40 years ago I was messing around in the dark room all alone, with chemicals and fearing a little ray of light sneaking into the room. And the processing of the negatives and printing were mainly done manually with a lot of guess works. Manipulating them for different effects was tedious and failure rate was extremely high. Today, every thing a dark room processing can do can be done much better and easier, with more control and refinement using a processing software loaded into a computer. No more messy stuff and expensive errors that had to be thrown away at great cost. The software can work practically at anywhere with no fear of sneaky lights. And any error can simply be erased and redo again at practically no cost.

The tools of photography and the nature of photography have taken a qualitative leap to allow photographers to do many things that they could not do before. With such powerful tools and computing power, there are many avenues to explore for the photographer. I was not content with just doing and repeating the same thing all over again, shooting the best portrait, the best bird in flight, night photography, sports photography, travel photography, macro or micro photography. In many of these areas, everything has been done and shot by the professionals.

With two computers, one in the hand, one sitting on the table, and a more power third computer in the head, I started to explore and experiment with the untouchables, the taboos, the things that were frowned upon, striking out into new frontiers, to capitalise on the power of 3 computers. Photographers must do justice to the enormous creative powers their tools are able to perform today.

The first step I took was to embrace refraction, something that was nearly totally disregarded by photographers for the distortion it caused. Conventional photography is all about reflection, shooting an object to get a clear and crisp image. At times blurring and zooming effects were introduced, bokehs etc, but still an act of reflection.

Refraction is about seeing light travelling through more than one medium of different density. The bending of light through a prism to reveal the rainbow colours is a basic example of reflection. Light contains many things that the naked eyes could not see. Light is after all an electromagnetic wave. The signals received on radio or the television, through the phone, are all electromagnetic waves with information of sound and images embedded in them. The decoder in the TV unscrambles the information to make them visible and audible.

Light entering and exiting a medium like water are distorted by refraction and reflection. It also picks up other information that we could not see but exists. If only such information can be translated into something visible, revealing what they were like a TV image through a decoder, the final image can be stunning and unpredictable.

The Art of RAR or Reflection and Refraction is a technique that I have developed exactly to do this function. The images taken in the water will not be seen through the naked eyes or the camera sensor. The water will still appear as an image of water in the sensor. Through processing, the multiple images hidden in the light that came out of water can be seen in all its glories.

The Art of RAR is a key or a decoder to do this job. Many unseen images cannot be obtained from a seemingly non existence object in the water. With this methodology, photography is now able to do something new, something that was impossible and now possible. The images that came out from this technique can still be like a photographic image or an image that looks exactly like a painting with no trace of it being a photograph. It is a new field of photography that modern technology makes possible with the help of the creative and imaginative mind of a photographer. The possibilities are unlimited and photographers, with their creativity and imagination, could move beyond the confines of conventional photography, to explore new frontiers using the camera to produce new art forms.

The Art of RAR is not the only new technique available and more creative usages of the camera and technology would likely to lead to more innovative ways to expand the art of photography and how to use the camera. The art of photography is beginning to see new light.

Chua Chin Leng

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Secrets of Mother Nature Exhibition at NUSS Guild House Kent Ridge 22 Oct-21 Dec 12.

Everyone is invited to the Exhibition. These are some of the works I put up. Admission is Free.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paintings of god 神画 - Yellow and blue series

The painting on left is one of 39 pieces of works in the exhibition held at NUSS Guild House, Kent Ridge from 22 Oct  to 21 Dec.

Paintings of god 神画

What is 神画 or paintings of god? The Secrets of Mother Nature Exhibition now at NUSS Guild House at Kent Ridge(22 Oct – 21 Dec) is about a new photopainting art form.  I have developed this technique after many years of experimentation. It is called the Art of RAR or Reflection and Refraction. It involves the taking of invisible images in the water and turning them into paintings.

Such paintings have never been done or seen before. It is about a photograph but not a photograph, a painting but not a painting, an original but not. It is not computer graphic art or animation. It is a hybrid of a photograph and a painting created not by a human artist but by Mother Nature, or god in a liberal sense. It is painted by a human artist but it is not. Let me explain this new art form before I confuse everyone.

Why is it a photograph but not a photograph?

A photograph is the product of an image taken by a camera of an object. There is a direct object image relationship. In this art form an object is photographed using the camera. But the image captured is not that of the object. The object is simply water in a pond and nothing else. The image can be anything, looking anything other than water. The image is inherent in the water but is not visible to the naked eye and needed some processing to reveal what it really is, and definitely not the water that it originally appeared when being photographed.

It is a painting but not a painting

A conventional painting is normally painted by an artist onto paper or canvas with ink, pigment, water colour, oil, crayon etc. The painting in this case is printed by a printer and can be pigment, ink or oil. It has some similarities with a conventional painting in the sense that it came from an artist’s idea or thought. The difference is that this idea or concept comes from the thought of Mother Nature and can only be captured by a camera before being translated into a visible form.

It is the original but not the original.

The real original of a painting created by this method is invisible, is fluid and is in the water, and vanishes the moment it is photographed and would never be seen again. This original concept exists in a different plane, like a human thought. Thus the painting in print form can be called the original as it is the only available arising from the first thought in the water.

It is not computer graphic art or animation

The painting comes from a digital image of a camera. It only goes through some processing that are similar to darkroom processes, eg brightness, contrast, colour, sharpness, intensity, brilliance etc. There may be some touching up of spots or removal of minor blemishes. No major alteration of the image is done. The authenticity of the digital image is preserved and can be easily returned to the original form with the hitting of the reset button.

It is painted by a human artist but it is not

The conceptualizing of the painting is done by Mother Nature. Everything is already there and the contribution of the human artist, the photopainter, is to assist in bringing out the details of the painting that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The photopainter, the human artist, can only do what is already present in the original image and does not introduce new or additional elements into the paintings. As the possibilities of each image are quite varied, the photopainter could interpret it in many ways and there is no certainty that the image in print is exactly what Mother Nature intended. This is the part played by the human photopainter, introducing some subjectivity into the final form.

In summary, every painting created by this technique is conceived and designed by god or Mother Nature, photographed and fine tuned by a photopainter. It is a photograph turned into a painting with Nature doing the bulk of the creative part of the work. The photopainter just collaborates with Mother Nature and the final work is the effort of both parties with Mother Nature playing the bigger role.

This art form or technique is intrinsically a Singaporean creation.

Chua Chin Leng - Photopainter