Interview with Street Photographer Thomas Lim

Q: Thomas I found out about you and your street photography on EyeEm, could you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Thomas Lim, born in Singapore and currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Unlike many photographers, I didn’t have interest in photography when I was a little kid, my dad did gave me a film camera, but I couldn’t figure out how to use it, my younger brother took over it and he now has more camera gears than me! So yes, I’m a latecomer in photography, only started street photography in 2014 after graduating from Melbourne Polytechnic with a diploma in PhotoImaging at the age of 39!

Q: You are a street photographer based in Melbourne Australia. How's Melbourne as far as street photography goes?

Melbourne has amazing modern architecture, which intersects with an extensive range of nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings, so you have a mix of contemporary and colonial colours in your background. The lights are great especially during winter, casting long shadow on your subjects. In the city centre, it’s easy to blend into the crowd as a tourist with a camera, you can get intimate close-up shots of people. Away from the city, the inner suburbs offer more characteristic if you are looking for something unique.

Q: Have you always been focused on street photography or has there been a progression from another genre towards street?

I did landscape photography during my photography studies but it didn’t turn out well. I grew up in a cityscape country, so I reckon street photography in an urban environment will suits me more.

Q: What's your primary camera? I see you shoot a lot with your iPhone.

I started shooting street with my iPhone 5S, I’m still doing it with my new iPhone 6S even though I got myself a Sony A7S last year. The Sony is now my weekend camera while my iPhone is my daily camera. So I’m well covered.

Q: Your work appeals a lot to me. Single person in the frame, a lot of symmetry, contrasts of both colours and shadow/light areas. How would you briefly describe your work to someone who hasn't seen it?

I love to isolate a single person in my frame, I don’t know why I always did that but I like to keep it simple, less is more. My style of street photography is about documenting space, life and time. Space being the urban spaces, life being the people (including cats, dogs and pigeons) and time being the moment. I usually find a space, with good light and colour, framed and wait for the moment my subject enter the scene. I started out standing far away from my subject, moving closer and closer as I built up my confident. I don’t ask for permission, I prefer to stay invisible.

"Photograph to express, not impress."

Q: Going back to the use of colour I feel you have something going on with the colour yellow in particular. It's prominent in your work it seems. Is this correct and is there a reason?

My first inspiration in street photography comes from Jesse Marlow, another Melbourne based photographer who is great at colour street photography. Check out his work and you will know why. Whenever I walk on the street in the city, yellow is always the most prominent, which is why road-warning signs are yellow. But I wouldn’t say yellow is just the colour I look out for, I love to use bold colours like orange, red and blue in my work. 

Q: You shoot a bit of black and white but am I right in saying you prefer colour? 

There are too much B&W street photographs out there, some really good one but most just simply convert their colour images to B&W for the sake of making it looks like a street photograph. Till this day, I still think it is harder to photograph in colour than B&W, beside light/shadow and subject, you have one more element to consider before clicking that shutter, the colour palette. I wouldn’t say I prefer colour but I sees it as a challenge for myself. Colour captures the atmosphere while B&W captures the emotion.

Q: How's EyeEm as a photography community? What do you see as its main benefits to you as a photographer?

I used to think EyeEm was an alternate platform to Instagram but after using it for some times, I realise they are completely different. While there are many self-managed communities on Instagram, EyeEm manage the community from the top. We know the name of the people running the community, so the relationship between EyeEm and its users is closer. However, with the growth in numbers of users and images shared on the platform, it will be interesting to see how EyeEm maintain that relationship with its users. There is only so much a few people can do in a day, curating will be a huge task. 

I have sold a few images in the EyeEm market, which is a bonus to many photographers. I shared my images to Flickr, Tumblr and Twitter through EyeEm as I’m able to upload high-resolution images while using a Wi-Fi connection. 

Q: Have you got any plans or projects for the coming year you'd like to share?

I just had an exhibition early this year featuring my urban landscape, I’m hoping to have another one soon featuring work from my street photography. I’m also working on a photo book featuring my mobile street images, picking 50 images out of my 2 years archive is really difficult. Another future plan is to teach and share my knowledge with people who are interested in street photography. It isn’t the most popular photography genre in Australia right now, but I’m hoping more people will learn to appreciate it in the future.

Q: Finally what would be your single most valuable piece of advice for a budding street photographer?

Photograph to express, not impress. Don’t worry about the style, your interaction with the urban surrounding will change as you learn and progress. The journey is always more rewarding than the destination, just be there to experience it.

 

Thanks very much Thomas!

Make sure you visit Thomas Lim's website, follow him on Instagram and check out his portfolio on EyeEm.

All photos in this article © Thomas Lim