HAVE YOU EVER wanted to pursue a new hobby, but couldn’t get started on it because of a lack of support? The lack of money, parents fearing that it’s a mere whim; just an ephemeral phase?
For Nathaniel Leong, it took him over a year to persuade his parents to get him his first camera. Undoubtedly, photography is not the cheapest hobby to pick up, and his parents decided that Nathaniel had to prove he was truly passionate about it before investing into it.
When I asked if he ever got tired or bored of photography, he swiftly replied me, “It’s not tiring. If it is [something] you have interest in it, it doesn't seem tiring, cause you just want to go all out for it.” Photography, for Nathaniel, has clearly went beyond the point of mere entertainment, it has become something he draws kicks out of.
Probing further on the extent of his interest in photography, I posed him this question: would he ever consider a career as a photographer. “If all else fails, I will pursue it as a career. It is my back up plan for the future, the long future,” was his reply.
For people, it's those moments when they smile and you don't get to see them smile again. In street photography, you only get to see that moment once and you may never get to see that again.
Most aspiring photographers attempt to capture the widest array of scenes or moments, from landscapes, to urban shots, to sporting events. Yet Nathaniel sticks closely to only one. He shared with me, with much fervour, that he prefers human subjects; the cursory and fleeting nature so intrinsic to them enthrall him.
He gets me to envisage a scene to explain his point: “Someone could be smiling right now in this place we are at, and you might not even know it. That's where I come in – to capture that smile in a photo”. The moment worth capturing, he continues, is when people are at their most joyous.
As we continue to chat, the simplicity of his philosophy becomes increasingly evident. “People change, but landscapes don’t… you can take a picture of it and it will still remain the same the week after.” Having captured special and irreplaceable lifetime moments like birthdays and maternity periods, he knows well the emotional value of his photographs.
He is a man seeking to make the transient concrete, to make fleeting joy permanent.
The 19 year old started on his first project called ‘Sleep’, a collaborative project with a friend involving the who-what-when-where-why and how people sleep. Employing dreamy lomo effects and ironic situations, ‘Sleep’ explores the insatiable need for rest in a hectic, cosmopolitan environment that preaches only work and play. The message resonated strongly with me; I fell in love with the project.
Rest and sleep may be subjects that Nathaniel is exploring in his first series, yet he is far from ready to take a sabbatical from photography. After all, passion is eternal; it is never a phase.