10 minutes with Stefen Chow

Interviews with Photographers November 11, 2011 12:18 pm

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer? 

I knew it when I was climbing in the Karakorams in Pakistan on Gasherbrum II, the 13th highest mountain in the world. I was halfway through the expedition, and my team mate and I were scouting a route when an avalanche from 6000 feet crashed above towards us. My last moment before the avalanche struck was spent composing a frame with my camera, and later (yes, we survived) I felt instinctively I was a photographer through and through. 

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Tell me about your project, The Poverty Line. What gave you the idea to start it and how long did you work on it?

The Poverty Line (www.thepovertyline.net) was a project addressing what it means to be poor. It is a factual and non emotional depiction of the choices one would face being poor. This project was in collaboration with an economist, HY Lin and we came up with the concept together. We wanted to do a project that is based on visual representation along with well researched facts that can hopefully appeal to a wide range of audience ranging from the general public to the academia world. The idea is generally straight forward, as we researched different poverty line figures across different countries, and we have the figure 0.49 usd for China, 1.71 usd for Thailand and 8.02 usd for Australia. This figure represents the amount allocated for food to a person living per day in that country. This amount is then used to purchase different food products in local markets, and we photograph each item worth the poverty line against newspapers of the day. We have just finished latest country with USA. We have already covered ten countries across 5 continents, and the project was started in November 2010. 

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Who was your client for your series, Shipyard Keppel? How long did you spend there?

The client for Keppel Shipyard is Keppel Corporation, Singapore’s biggest private company. They commissioned me a 2 year long project on documenting their shipyard across 3 yards, which is the world’s largest for ship conversion. They have about 25,000 workers, and working inside gives you a sense that you are in another world. It was truly fascinating and a privilege, and being an ex-engineer, it was a dream to be able to see this world behind a lens instead. 

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow

If you could go back 10 years and give yourself advice, what would it be? 

Don’t be afraid of set backs, and care less about money. Take the advice of others wiser than you, but be sure to learn from actual experience instead of hearsay. Jump, don’t stop and don’t be afraid of committing to the woman that you know you will spend the rest of your life with. 

 

Any words of wisdom for the up and comers?

Keep heart. The industry is harder ever than before, but it was the same 50 years ago. Photography and being in the creative industry is always a difficult and lonely road. Get meaningful feedback, and get inspiration from outside the photography world. 

 

(Stefen is based in Bejing and Singapore. See more of his work, here.)

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