Image copyright Hin Chua
Hin Chua’s After the Fall depicts sites of struggle in a thoughtful, lyrical way. Shot at the edges of towns and cities, it shows the places where city life has broken down but the simple pastoral of nature hasn’t yet begun. “At some level it’s about man and nature, but at another it’s just about me wandering around reacting to things and photographing them in my own style,” he says.
Evocative and surreal, Chua’s images work together to create a kind of science fiction narrative, despite being straight documentary shots. It’s all the more impressive when you consider he’s fitted the project in around his full-time job as a software designer, shooting in his spare time in 35 cities around the world. He has 100 days off a year including holidays and weekends, he says, and he tries to spend all of them shooting, taking day trips and holidays alone. His friends have dubbed him the vampire, because he’s never around during the day. Chua has never formally studied photography, and only seriously started taking pictures when he moved to the UK five years ago. He took it up because he’d never done anything creative, but he’s clearly got an eye. Starting out with 35mm street photography, he discovered the work of Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld and started working in colour, settling on the Mamiya 7 because photographers he admires, such as JH Engström,Lars Tunbjörk and Trent Parke, use it. He’s educated himself, finding a community of friends online and buying and studying photography books. “I’m lucky that I’m not completely broke, I can wander down to The Photographers’ Gallery and buy five books,” he says. “But although I’ve never wanted for money, I’ve always wanted for time.”
It’s meant he’s had to play to his strengths, shooting in intensive bursts wherever he happens to be. If he’s sent abroad for work he takes a camera with him, hiring a car and taking off to shoot at the weekend. It’s a freewheeling but focused approach that’s served his project well – the mixture of countries and places only emphasises its unsettling atmosphere and the universal nature of the phenomenon he’s shooting. He also shoots in every kind of weather, but even so his sense of colour and light stands out. “I didn’t appreciate the light until I moved to London,” he says. “I grew up in Malaysia where the light is really straight-down, and when I was 15 I moved to Australia where the light is really harsh. But when I came here I realised, ‘OK, there is a lot of bad light but there are also times when there is good light as well’. The light changes here. But because of my circumstances I can’t rely on good light. I can’t wait three weeks for the light to improve. The most I might do is half an hour for the clouds to clear.”
Chua’s work is already attracting attention – Troika is selling prints of his work, and the Magenta Foundation picked him out for one of its Flash Forward Emerging Photographer awards in 2009. But although he’s been working on it for three years, he thinks he’s got another couple of years to go. “Most of the projects I admire seem to have taken about five years and I want to make sure this project is worthwhile,” he says. “I’m not walking away from my relatively well-paid office job just to do something ordinary.”
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