10 minutes with Sit Weng San

Interviews with Photographers October 14, 2011 12:05 pm

Tell me a little bit about your background, when did you first start taking photos? Did you ever have interest in doing anything other than being a photographer?

I used to believe that art and me will never cross path because (1) I was told that there were no artist in my family, so genetically speaking, I will never be an artist  (2) a teacher gave me a ‘zero’ for art class (now thinking back, it may be just my own fabricated memory).
I took the path with the least resistance and came out with a degree in Economics which allowed me to focus my time on sports and other non-academic activities in college. After that, due to family obligations as the eldest child in the family, I went on to work in a company for about nine years that manufactures and sells cleaning and maintenance chemicals which left me knowledge now on how to remove the most stubborn stains on your kitchen floor. I never liked working there, but the experience shaped the photographer I am now. Maybe just having to work with  diverse groups of people make me realized that no matter how different we seem to be, there is always plenty of universal experiences.
One of my earliest memory of making images was when I used my point and shoot camera during a trip to Yunnan in China. I remembered that feeling similar to writing a diary, except that was able to extract out some of the emotions that I fail to articulate. 
An astronaut, a travel guide book writer .. and many more. So many things in life amazes me, and of course, I cannot be everything at the same time. Being a photographer allow me to explore things that mean something to me, and to seek answers to the questions I have.

 

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

How long did you work on your project, Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)? What inspired you to work on this series and how did you find your subjects?

Spent about maybe 6 months in total. For a large part of this period, I was still working full time. My inspiration was very simple. I grew up in an asian society where it was important to conform to social norms which includes the body size. Being bigger then the average young women, I had confidence issues, and stopped myself from doing a lot of things because I did not feel that I am entitled to succeed. And of course that was bull-shit, but I also realized that I was not alone. Hence the series was ‘give a face’ to women who had largely been invisible in the media and other public arena. I soon realized that this project was also my way of dealing with my own insecurities.
I was fortunately that after searching for some time, I met up with Erica who owned an online boutique selling clothes for plus size women. After that, it was by word of mouth.

 

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

 

I love your project Under one Roof and the idea of all of these people, and all of these different looking spaces, occupying one building. How do your subjects react to your wanting to come in to their homes and spaces and photograph them?

I grew up in that building, and there had been talks to demolish it. I was upset about it, and probably made some of them upset about it and so we ended up collaborating. Of course, some felt sorry for me for having to keep knocking on doors and having the doors slammed into my face, some of them saw me grow up and knew my parents and some of them were curious about why they have not seen me through the years we lived in the same building. Initially, there is also an overall idea that the home should be in the ‘best state’ in order to be ‘worth’ photographing, which is untrue in my opinion.

 

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

Sit Weng San

 

Which photographers are currently inspiring you?

 

Sophie Calle! Also photographers like Alec Soth, Taryn Simon, Aget etc The most recent films that I found inspiring were Le Quattro Volte and Apitchapongs Uncle Boomie who could remember his past life.

 

What is the best advice that you have been given?

 

It’s not an advice, but an example. When I was young, maybe 5,  my grandfather visited from Hong Kong. He did not know English and asked me the pronunciation and meaning of some words on a sign. For the next few days, he repeated those words and asked if he got it right.

 

(Based in New York, See more of San’s work, here)

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