It was only three years ago that Javan Ng got his hands on his first Nikon DSLR camera whilst living in the Big Apple, New York City. It has been an integral part of him ever since. Every road he walks he carries the feeling that ‘maybe today will be my lucky day and I will take the photo of my life’.
An urban explorer in every right, it is his love for traversing the cities he is in that goes hand in hand with the cityscapes he captures. He marvels at the daily humdrum of the metropolis and has an eye for uncovering patterns in places others may never encounter them. “When I photograph, I want to offer my audience a fresh perspective of the city, by producing images that busy people are unable to see and marvel at everyday.”
Javan wouldn’t call himself an ‘artist’ but he does believe that creating photographs with intent, vision and soul is art in itself. He credits his camera as a powerful tool that propels his courage, and helps him be more creative and interested in the world around him.
“Photography has also helped open the door to making connections with others. I’ve met some great friends and photographers through photography, and being able to share my love and passion with them is inspirational.”
These same friends are ones who have helped improve his work. Their honest feedback and critiques pushed Javan to evolve and see things through fresh eyes.
Reflection on Lily Pond at the Art Science Museum in Singapore - Nikon D750, ISO400, f/11, 1/125 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 85mm
Reflection of Art Science Museum and Marina Centre skyscrapers at sunset in Singapore - Nikon D750, ISO400, f/16, 1/30 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 24mm
Vertical Horizon - Looking up at Hollywood Terrace Apartments in Hong Kong - Nikon D750, ISO100, f/11, 1/80 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
Parallel - Reflection of a public housing building in Singapore - Nikon D750, ISO500, f/9, 1/640 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
One big canvas - Reflection of People’s Park Complex in Singapore - Nikon D750, ISO200, f/11, 1/100 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
As one who is always traveling, Javan welcomes new perspectives in both local and foreign corners of the world. Whether shooting cityscapes or human elements, he tries to shed his tourist’s eyes and hone in on the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of a location. “With the composition rule book in mind, I always try to pursue offbeat framing opportunities and take chances on unique perspectives. Angles, distance, lighting - all of these can lend themselves to the story of a particular place and its people.”
His style of photography can be described as bottling the essence of a scene. He not only captures the beauty of what is before him, but also enjoys adding a unique angle to it all. He aims to inspire people to travel, or even revisit a familiar scene, only this time with new context in mind.
There is a pattern that often emerges in his images, and that is patterns in itself. The playful use of reflections and repetition creates an almost kaleidoscopic mosaic in his imagery. A man who has always loved geometry and abstract design, he is quick to find the hidden patterns that reside in our skylines.
Emphasizing and highlighting these patterns can lead to striking shots. Patterns, both natural and man-made, bring a sense of visual rhythm and harmony to photographs. “The great thing about patterns is that they do not have a particular scale; they can be vast or micro, but to make a good picture out of a pattern, the pattern needs to be the star. Patterns also reinforce the emotional appeal of the images. The emotional response to an image is multiplied when it is repeated in a pattern.”
His trick for eye-catching compositions doesn’t stop there. He also has a penchant for symmetry. Javan believes that symmetry has a profound effect on our subconscious, even if it is too subtle to register. “We are drawn to balanced images and tend to think they are more aesthetically pleasing than off-kilter images.”
Javan says that symmetry is one of the best forms of patterns and the best place to look for symmetry is in architectural details, such as skyscrapers. Reflection in photography is a good example and it can lead to some amazing effects and beautiful images. Using water, windows, mirrors or any sort of reflective surface can change an image into a work of art.
“The wonderful thing about using reflections when taking photos is that they can completely alter the image from something fairly straightforward to something richer or abstract or otherwise more artistic.”
The secret to uncovering patterns in the wild is down to Javan’s vantage point. He takes his time with his methods, viewing a location from as many angles as he can and judging the impact it may have as well as what story it might tell from said viewpoint. This means sometimes getting a higher viewpoint or even getting low to the ground. It is all about perspective; Javan tends to go wherever he believes your eyes wouldn’t.
The only trouble with this is Javan can often find himself in strange positions to get the perfect shot, which earns him glares from passersby and sometimes a sore neck, but he soldiers on through it all. In contrast to the strange looks he might get, there are times when fans of his work have recognized him on the streets and tell him how much they admire his work,“Such compliments go straight to my heart.”
Seeing double - View of Singapore’s downtown skyline from the lily pond at ArtScience Museum - Nikon D750, ISO200, f/11, 1/500 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 24mm
Mirror, mirror, on the floor - Manhattan skyline reflection at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, New York - Nikon D750, ISO100, f/16, 15 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 32mm
Reflection of downtown Manhattan skyline at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, New York - Nikon D750, ISO200, f/11, 1/30 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 31mm
Reflection of St. Paul’s Cathedral at One New Change in London, UK - Nikon D750, ISO400, f/11, 1/80 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 24mm
Under the Esplanade Bridge in Singapore - Nikon D750, ISO400, f/11, 1/200 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 24mm
One of Javan’s personal favorites is his image of the Manhattan skyline at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, New York. He remembers it well; he was strolling in the park after a rainy evening when suddenly the Manhattan skyline came to life in all its glittering glory.
“The skyline looked stunning with the low hanging clouds and there were water puddles everywhere on the wooden pavements. I had to walk around and get down low in area to find the perfect reflection. Once I found the perfect reflection of the scene, I placed my camera as close to the surface of the puddle as possible so that the shot would make even a small puddle appear expansive in my final image.”
The result? A perfectly symmetrical reflection of one-of-a-kind skyline.
For an urban wanderer like Javan, he travels light. His set up is kept simple, as it is not practical to carry a lot of gear when traversing a city. His equipment consists of his Nikon D750 camera and usually his AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR for its wide-angle to mid telephoto range. He keeps a mini tripod, a shutter release cable, a 10-stop ND filter, a cleaning cloth and extra battery on hand too.
For those new to capturing urban scenes, Javan insists every photographer should take time to wander through their chosen location before shooting. This involves soaking up the atmosphere before you even begin looking for the right spot to place yourself in.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.” He ends with one final note, “Be passionate and shoot everyday.”
Javan is a self taught photographer from Singapore. He was fascinated by the possibilities of photography three years ago, and now rarely goes anywhere without a camera.His work focuses mainly on urban and city photography as well as other photography genres such as architecture, portraits and fashion. He was inspired by street photography which fits with his enjoyment of wandering urban environments. All of these genres of photography enlighten the other and create unique blends that all fuse into one distinct style.