justin & debbie

This year marks the 13th year I’ve shot weddings. I’ve been very fortunate to have superb mentors early on in my journey. They often taught me certain rules that did not make sense to me. For instance, the idea of how different lenses give your image different types of compression. An image shot with a 35mm lens and one shot with 85mm lens, despite being composed exactly the same way, gives us a completely different sensation.

Following rules blindly is very difficult for me. When I was 4, I asked my grandma if God exists. 27 years later, I am still asking the same question. But because my desire to become a world famous photographer was so great, I decided that if the rules didn’t kill me, I should just follow them.

Recently, I have a desire to go beyond these rules. I found many of these rules, while useful, are not penetrating deeply enough. I no longer want to be a world famous photographer. I want something different.

When I think of images that make a deep impact on me – the kind that haunts me in my sleep, as I shower, while I look at the sea, the mountains – they fulfil these rules and something else.

I am keen to investigate what this something else is about.

I keep returning to this memory I had when I was 19. I was backpacking Europe and found myself in Uffizi Gallery, Florence. I came across this incomplete painting:

Leonardo da Vinci - Adorazione dei Magi - Google Art Project.jpg

I was struck by how it grabbed hold of me in the gentlest way possible, and left my spellbound. I couldn’t stop looking at the lady in the middle even though she was not framed with a close-up. The people around her look troubled but yet rendered so beautifully. The tones are few but the palette is expansive. There were soft sounds reverberating outwards even though this was a painting. The energy of the painting was so abundant that it was able to spare me some. The weariness flowed away from my feet. I did not want to walk away. I wanted to be there forever. When I did walk away, I felt nourished and refreshed.

I thought to myself: This painting must be a gesture to reach out to God.

I don’t really have an answer for what it all means. But maybe God responded.