Liu Yuhong, In Pursuit of Grain

I fell in love with film in 2010. Those who know me might have already heard the sto­ry count­less of times; of how I picked up a film cam­era (a Cosi­na CT1-Super) for all of $20; of how my heart pound­ed as I clutched the lit­tle disc con­tain­ing my scans of the first roll of film; of how I impa­tient­ly peered at the tiny con­tact sheet that pho­to labs pro­vid­ed with the disc, slot­ted inside the jew­el case.

I try to take pho­tographs to try to pay my dues. Some­times I try to make videos to try to make my ends meet. I touch my DSLR so much that it feels like going to work. Don’t get me wrong, I love it but shoot­ing for oth­ers and shoot­ing for myself are two entire­ly dif­fer­ent enti­ties. Film offers an escape route for me. It lets me feel more. It lets me soak in the feel­ing and the expe­ri­ence, rather than be con­cerned of get­ting that per­fect pho­to­graph (as if such a thing even exists). I become acute­ly sen­si­tive and hyper­aware of the sur­round­ings; of lit­tle pock­ets of light mak­ing a rare guest appear­ance for all but 5 sec­onds, of the dis­ap­pear­ing sil­hou­ettes as the heavy cot­ton wool in the sky takes a pri­vate moment with the orange orb.

Liu Yuhong would under­stand. After all, he has amassed over the years hun­dreds of cam­eras. He has a deep knowl­edge of the tech­ni­cal know-how and has an undy­ing pas­sion in shar­ing his love for film. I was for­tu­nate to meet him when I was an unof­fi­cial, unreg­is­tered ‘mem­ber’ of the SMUSAIC (a pho­tog­ra­phy soci­ety). He has not only the gear but also the thirst to make beau­ti­ful pho­tographs. I stum­bled upon his trib­ute to Old Places in Sin­ga­pore some time back and have been want­i­ng to do a fea­ture on it.

Tell every­one a bit about your­self.
I’m pret­ty much a quar­ter-pho­tog­ra­ph­er, one-eighth col­lec­tor, one-eighth chron­ic wan­der­er and half a stu­dent (that includes run­ning the pho­tog­ra­phy soci­ety – SMUSAIC, hunt­ing down good food and run­ning to lose fats). Yes, too many hats to wear while try­ing to catch up on sleep!

Capitol (1)

Every­one has their own unique rea­sons to shoot in film. What’s yours?
Let­ting the cat out of the bag… I start­ed shoot­ing on dig­i­tal when I got hooked onto pho­tog­ra­phy 9 years back. Dur­ing those days, hav­ing a DSLR slung over your neck was a cool thing. One fine day, I picked up a set of man­u­al-focus Nikkor glass, and that was my turn­ing point – Ana­logue became my new love. I remem­bered my first roll being a Velvia 50. Till today, I blame it for throw­ing me off the chair and spend­ing more mon­ey of film each day.

Capitol (2)

To slow things down a lit­tle, I shoot main­ly on film these days. Off the record – My dig­i­tal cam­eras are now ‘lens testers’. Of course, they are great tech­no­log­i­cal won­ders, but noth­ing can quite replace clock­work-like mechan­i­cal per­fec­tion on ana­logue cam­eras. Films are also more chal­leng­ing to shoot with, but the excite­ment see­ing images crys­tal­lize in front of my eyes and the sheer sat­is­fac­tion of a good print keeps me going.

Capitol (3)

On books and good reads…
If you have spare change after buy­ing film, save them up and buy pho­tog­ra­phy books. You can hard­ly go wrong with them — this day and age of dig­i­tal media, good prints are hard to come by, and the clos­est you can prob­a­bly get is either buy­ing a book or vis­it the gal­leries (again, there aren’t many gal­leries devot­ed to pho­tog­ra­phy local­ly!) Noth­ing beats look­ing at pho­tographs that are not made up of pix­els; you just have to try to know what I mean. In case you’re won­der­ing I’m flip­ping very slow­ly through the pages of Sam Abel’s and Bruce Davidson’s books late­ly.

Cityhall (1)

Cityhall (2)

On for­mal pho­tog­ra­phy school…
I would very much agree with the com­mon belief that pho­tog­ra­phy comes with prac­tice, prac­tice and more prac­tice. The first hun­dred rolls are crap; if you keep chang­ing lens­es; you’re prob­a­bly not good enough; if the pho­tos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough… the list goes on. I think if you try believ­ing each of the famous quotes by the many teach­ers, dead and alive, it will be more effec­tive than pur­su­ing a for­mal edu­ca­tion in pho­tog­ra­phy. On the oth­er hand, learn­ing art fun­da­men­tals, his­to­ry and the envi­ron­ment for you to do noth­ing but every­thing relat­ed to pho­tog­ra­phy could very well be a life-chang­er – some­thing I’d def­i­nite­ly not mind try­ing!

Cityhall (3)

What I like to shoot…
I love shoot­ing peo­ple and places (read street and land/cityscapes). The voyeur (less the sex­u­al-sadism) in me makes me want to explore and fol­low the foot­steps of strangers, go to places and of course, even­tu­al­ly doc­u­ment­ing them on emul­sion!

Cityhall (4)

How many cam­eras have you been in pos­ses­sion of?
If I say I don’t count, most wouldn’t believe. I should say I chose not to count – the aware­ness will let the prag­mat­ic thoughts take over, and that will be the end of any col­lec­tion. And who says col­lec­tors are ratio­nal? I’m crazi­ly irra­tional. LOL. (note from derek: do check out his face­book album “crate of apples”)

National Stadium (1)

National Stadium (2)

Tell us more about the album you enti­tled Old Places.
They say col­lec­tors are ‘pack­aged’ hoard­ers – I’m no dif­fer­ent. If I could, I would very much want all the icon­ic build­ings / play­grounds / cof­fee shops etc. to stay for­ev­er. Singapore’s fast chang­ing cityscape has got to be doc­u­ment­ed for the next gen­er­a­tion, for our rem­i­nis­cence in the future. That’s how the album Old Places came about.

Things come and go, but film is for­ev­er (RIGHT?!) So shoot­ing these places on film will at least ensure some per­ma­nence in them!

National Stadium (3)

Which icon­ic structure/building did you have the most con­nec­tion with?
The old play­grounds filled with sand pits and Per­anakan hous­es are some of my favourites. I’ve always dreamt of stay­ing in one of them, with a retro swing in the front-yard and a lily pad at the air­well!

Railway (1)

Railway (2)

Do you think film is here to stay?
If only it was up to me to decide… let’s just keep our fin­gers crossed that “FILM IS FOREVER” stays true FOREVER.

Stamford house (1)

Stamford house (2)

Stamford house (3)

Yuhong is cur­rent­ly work­ing on his web­site to show­case his body of work. You can see his oth­er work on Face­book and Insta­gram.
Insta­gram: filmnog­ra­phyy

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