Sometimes you discover about the best things by accident. I often do. Especially so in the case of young and rising Singaporean fashion photographer Jiajia Tan, who is currently based in Melbourne, Australia.
For starters, I have always had a faint recollection of her name and her face, having been in the same course and school as her in the Diploma of Apparel Design & Merchandising course in Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore more than five years ago, where I was one year her senior.
What I didn’t have a vivid impression though were the works that she has done, at least not until now. Yes, I can be that oblivious to things sometimes.
So you could imagine my surprise when I saw her name once more at the prize giving ceremony of the Harper’s BAZAAR Photography Awards 2014 in Singapore last year, where Tan was one of the recipients who have received a Honourable Mention title in the annual competition.
I was blown away by the bold composition of her photographs, coupled with her usage of light painting.
The way the light glides over the edges of the dress silhouettes, enhancing the curves and the lines of the model, and how she has managed to create the element of motion in the static photos, as seen through the spontaneous swaying of the fringe at the hemline of the dresses, as well as the headgear on the model.
To put it simply, Tan possesses a photography style that is undeniably fresh and distinctive.
Above: ‘When Fashion meets Art’
More importantly, her creative approach is also reflective of the technologically advanced world that we are currently living in.
At first glance, her photos have the capabilities to offer a glimpse of what is to come in the future; a world that looks like it is cross between the iconic 1980s sci-fi classic movie series Back to the Future, and in more recent times, Tron: Legacy, a movie that chronicles around the journey of a man who goes looking for his virtual world designer father and ends up inside his father’s digital world.
This made me curious. I knew I had to find out more about her works. Needless to say, this led me to the portfolio website of the 24-year-old photography graduate from RMIT University, where she has posted some of her recent works as well as past works.
I was once again entranced by her latest photography series; an eye-catching fashion spread that showcases yet another collection by Melbourne-based fashion designer Vanessa Xie. The only thing, of course, is that her approach has become more organic and visceral, and in the case of Xie’s collection, more sculptural.
That was my last straw. Think of it as how a matchstick could ignite a spark within my intuitive soul.
I decided to contact Tan for an interview; to speak to her on her interesting creative journey so far and to ask her big questions pertaining to culture, fashion and her camera which she has coined as “her passport of wonderment and joy to see the world with fresh eyes.”
The rest, as they would say, is history.
So now, enjoy my dialogue with this talented photographer that you should watch out for!
JY: I understand that you were formerly trained in fashion design in Singapore. What made you decide to embark on the path of a fashion photographer?
JJ: I’ve always been interested in photography ever since I was gifted a disposable camera for a kindergarten school trip to the zoo. I had my DSLR when I was 19, but only started taking it seriously in the last 3 years. During my fashion design diploma, I collaborated with friends and started to shoot more. Since then, I knew it was the perfect mix of my love for photography and fashion.
JY: Tell us a bit about what inspires you.
JJ: My family, friends and loved one inspires me a lot
JY: Your recent photo series is the result of collaboration with fashion designer Vanessa Xie, who is a fashion designer graduate in RMIT University. How does this series differ from the rest of your other works? Were there any challenges faced when conceptualising this series?
JJ: I’ve collaborated with the very talented Vanessa Xie a couple of times. The recent series was focused on bringing out the unique textures and forms of Vanessa Xie’s sculptural designs. It was challenging to change the light accordingly, to compliment the different personalities of her designs.
Above: ‘Dreams Embodied’
JY: What is it about Melbourne, the place that you are now based in, that makes it such an interesting provider of subject matter to you, especially in terms of culture?
JJ: Melbourne has a great sense of community in the creative scene. People are generally open to ideas and collaborations, which makes it easier for shoots to happen.
JY: If you were asked to define your works as art, how would you describe it?
JJ: I would say that they are “works in progress.”
JY: As a whole, what do you desire from your work?
JJ: I love bringing a vision to life and hope to keep experimenting and pushing the boundaries of my craft. My biggest satisfaction is seeing everything come together in an image.
JY: What do you hope viewers get from your work?
JJ: I hope my work charms and inspires. It would be nice if people appreciate the fashion and photography of the visuals, as well as see the beauty and understand the amount of work that goes behind every design. In the long run, I would love to tell stories through photography.
Above: ‘Cast on, cast off’
JY: Are there any special projects on your plate right now?
JJ: I’m looking into doing Ambrotypes, which is the making of positive images on glass!
JY: Who are some of your dream collaborators?
JJ: Coco Rocha, Eniko Mihalik, Iris Van Herpen, Gareth Pugh, Zac Posen etc. That aside, it’s been quite a dream to work with upcoming designers like Joseph Jang and Vanessa Xie!
Check out Jiajia Tan’s website for more of her stunning photography works!
When Fashion meets Art
Model: Peggy Ford @Scene Models
Designers: Tan Trieu (Green top & skirt), Vanessa Xie (Red jumpsuit and Blue dress)
MUA: Samantha Nicholls
Assistant: Alexander Stoeckel
Model: Emma Sawatsky @Scene Models
Designer: Vanessa Xie
MUA: Lidiya Kaplun
Hairstylist: Phoenix Ly
Assistant: Kevin Leong
Cast on, Cast off.
Designer: Molly Dockray
MUA: Nikola Komada
Hairstylist: Kylee Carlsen
Assistant: Rio Aditya Arianto