Arts & Culture

MEANTIME: Everyone Can Be the Artist of Their Own Life

What’s photography without Instagram?

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Though made accessible through Instagram and the fact that mobile phones have cameras these days, photography is still one of the hardest crafts to master. It is not a simple equation of taking a photograph and picking whichever filter seems to work. That, perhaps, would be sufficient for a hobbyist. However, a professional might beg to differ.

You need to develop and hone your ability to look at composition, colour and intention, among other qualities. There are some photographs that just seem to speak to you, while others do not seem to move you. Why is that?

Kaiyan Chong and Pang Xue Qiang, the faces behind MEANTIME, a zine that is part of The Future Of Our Pasts Festival, tells us more about the art of photography and how these visuals tell stories that go beyond the visual eye.

MEANTIME is about love and history with photography as its main narrator. Tell us more how this idea for a zine came about.

Many of our photos — and so our memories — are stored in a digital repository, and sometimes they get lost in the realms of the internet. We wanted a tangible product that can be touched, felt and appreciated for its tactile experience. Thus birthed the idea of a zine, where more than photos and text printed on a page, you get to see words bleeding through a page, pull out love letters, unfold an illustration and pin a photograph or a note.

Why do you think it is so difficult to talk about love?

There is no good love story without grief, regret, heartache or sorrow. Not all stories end with a happy ever-after. Our love stories reveal our deepest vulnerabilities and secrets. We do not necessarily share our love stories with everyone, only with the people we trust.

We are incredibly humbled that our profiles in the zine have opened their doors, minds and hearts to us and entrusted us to share their stories truthfully.

Photography used to be a means to capture memories and mark the passage of time. Now, it is more commonly used for aesthetic purposes. Why do you think this change has come about?

Everyone now has access to a camera. With social media, anyone can be their own publisher and publish their photos for the world to see. This, in many ways, is a good thing.

Everyone can tell their story. Everyone can be the artist of their own life.

Photography used to be a window to the truth — to freeze time, capture moments and document changes. But the proliferation of photography today may have inadvertently brought about an opposite trend – to hide truths or even mask reality. I think the change is a reflection of the time. People in the past were fascinated with photography as a means to capture the zeitgeist. Today, people are fascinated with photography as a means to hide imperfections.

How do Instagram and other social media platforms contribute to this ongoing conversation about photography?

Instagram has made photography accessible to the layman and proliferated the photography craft to the masses, which is a good thing. But what is missing is perhaps the appreciation that photography is more than just beautiful photos.

Instead, what is the story behind the photo? What is the context and why is it important?

In your opinion, what is the most misunderstood aspect of this craft?

That photography has to be beautiful. Photography is more than just beautiful photos. It is also a means to tell a story.

If the world had no photographs to tell its story, what sort of world would it be?

It would be a world with less colour, wonder and joy.

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