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March - Kay Chin Tay.

Kay Chin Tay was born in Singapore and trained as a photojournalist at the University of Missouri-Columbia. As a frequent speaker, judge and exhibitor, he is now based in Singapore.

His first solo exhibition, consisting of panoramic pictures from his travels, took place in Sydney, Australia in September 2002.

“As soon as I heard that Hasselblad had made a panoramic camera, I knew I had to have one. Somehow, that’s how I see the world – as a panorama. Now I own a Hasselblad XPan and a Hasselblad 501CM. The latter has, I think, an ingenious construction. The fact is, I can sit and look at it from all angles and feel happy. It is so simple, so basic, and yet so solid. I travel a great deal and sometimes I ask myself, ‘What if my cameras fail when I’m on an important assignment on the other side of the Atlantic?’ Reliability is definitely at the top of my requirements list. And after-sales service is the next item. I really need to know that if something happens to my cameras, no matter where I am, there are people close to hand that can help. Only then can I sleep soundly.”

Kay Chin Tay grew up in Singapore and acquired his basic photographic knowledge by spending hours at the library and poring over all the photographic literature he could find.
“When I discovered the photojournalism program at the University of Missouri in the USA, I immediately decided that I wanted to study there. In fact, those studies laid the foundation for my entire professional life. So I’m eternally grateful to the teaching staff there. During my time there, I got to hear many established photographers and editors talk about their work in guest lectures. I also made many friends with similar interests. More than a decade has passed since I graduated from university, but my education continues. I’ll always be learning new things.”

 After graduating, Kay Chin Tay returned to his hometown and started to work at the largest English-language daily newspaper in Singapore. After a few years, he’d advanced to become one of the managers of the newspaper’s photographic department. However, the life of the independent photographer held an attraction and Kay has been working freelance fulltime since 1999.

“I spend a great deal of time searching for meaningful projects. I think I’ve found one in the form of Panoramic Singapore, which is a look at my motherland as I see it through my Xpan lenses. This project is really a life-long project, focused on things fast-disappearing from our environment. I expect my other project to be finished in 2005, when Singapore celebrates 40 years of independence. This project comprises photo essays about 40 Singaporeans born on the 9th of August, Singapore’s independence day. I’m also working, on and off, with a project I loosely call Things Chinese, exploring icons and objects typical to Chinese culture.”

When Kay Chin Tay shoots, he’s happy to improvise, and seldom allows art directors to dictate. “The only real planning I do is a thorough review and check of my camera equipment before I leave for the shoot. It is, of course, different if I’m on an assignment. Then I try to find out as much as possible about the project and the places where I’m going to photograph.”

Kay Chin Tay now has a solid photographic platform to stand on. This gives him the freedom and capacity to handle most assignments. “In terms of technique, I’m a relatively basic photographer. I always try to keep things simple and focus on the story instead.”

The world-renowned war photographer Robert Capa once said that if the picture wasn’t good enough, then you hadn’t been close enough.

“Every photographer I respect says the same thing: get close, get closer. I’ve interpreted this so literally that I turn the camera inward and shoot what is closest to me. I’d really like my pictures to speak to people on different levels: to offend, to motivate, or to move – but never to bore. I would hate to hear someone say that my photographs are beautiful.”

Please visit Kay Chin Tay´s two websites:  singlish and eastpix.

Kay Chin Tay spoke to Kerstin Fiedler