Azure blues pooling around powdered sand, a cozy Japanese soba restaurant filled with warm light, inside or out, Elliot Lee immerses himself in a space and captures it in its most flattering state. Drawn to the quietness of environments, he believes that a great interior shot can tell the viewers about the designer of the space and why they may have designed it in such a way.
It begins with the simplest of gestures, Elliot was handed a camera. His father had gifted it to him because Elliot was due to move to Singapore, he taught him about handling the speed, the aperture and it snowballed from there. “The process and the result of photo-taking was something from which I find relief – I had always felt that time and moments were fleeting, and had this impulse of trying to hoard every experience I could. And suddenly, a camera was thrusted onto my hand.”
It has given Elliot a voice, an identity, a sense of empowerment. He describes much of his personal work as mellow, and he enjoys a sense of solitude in his images but the most common thread in all his works is minimalism. He gravitates towards clean lines, isolation and straight angles. Nothing from his work screams out at you, they all exist in harmony and tread lightly.
Inside a Soba house, a Soba maker is preparing a set for the guests in Hokkaido, Japan - Nikon D810, ISO400, f2.2, 1/40 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
A white sandy beach in one of the island inside the Komodo group of islands, Indonesia - Nikon D810, ISO100, f/8.0, 1/640 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
Interior of 'Gedung Putih' - translated to White Building in Bandung, Indonesia - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/4.0, 1/30 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
Interior of 'Gedung Putih' - translated to White Building in Bandung, Indonesia - Nikon D810, ISO100, f/8.0, 1/640 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
The trees in a playground framing the sea in the background in Tai O, Hong Kong - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/2500 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
A jetty overlooking the sea in a fisherman village, Tai O, Hong Kong - Nikon D810, ISO200, f3.2, 1/8000 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
With his commercial work he is often tasked with capturing spaces, both indoors and outdoors. There are several things Elliot considers when stepping into a space. First, he considers what to feature; whether it be a room or building, he takes time to understand what the designer of this space intended and what his reference point will be. Perhaps the focus is a long wooden table or the road stretched out before you. He believes that most of the time, less is more. Next, he considers the light – how it best hits the subject and what is most flattering. If he thinks a different time of day may present a better light, he will return at a later time. A tip he also offers to any first time photographers is to have patience.
“Lastly, you should figure out the gear that works for you. I have a NIKKOR 20mm f/2.8 that I go to for most of my interior shots. I think using the same lens for years have helped me to figure out my framing easily.”
When working with tight spaces, he suggests having a wide-angle lens on hand that doesn’t distort images too much, and also to practice your stretching.
His favorite thing about the whole process is being able to immerse himself in a space, surrounded by the silence, and at the end of the session knowing it intimately. Of course, he also appreciate that it allows him to travel and constantly see new things, but Elliot loves the act of capturing a landscape at a moment in time just as much.
His most rewarding experience so far brought him to Bali, a recent trip that is still fresh in his mind. The assignment was to capture the essence of Bali itself.
“I drove down from the mountain at 4am and reached the beach at 5am to try and catch the fishermen coming back from the sea. But the beach was empty, and it was drizzling. So I started walking along and stumbled into a market. And there was this lady amidst several baskets of fruits. Light was dim. She looked up at me as I got my camera ready in the rain. She ignored me and looked back at a list of things in her hands. I took the shot. That was the first shot of the trip, and it’s one of my favorite.”
An exterior of a hotel in Tai O, Hong Kong - that used to be a police station - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/8.0, 1/125 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
A wall with rainbow murals overlooking benches and bicycles at a plaza at Tai O, Hong Kong - Nikon D810, ISO80, f/1.4, 1/8000 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
A peek over the bar inside a Soba House, to see where the Soba makers prepare their tempura in Hokkaido, Japan - Nikon D810, ISO1600 f/2.0, 1/1600 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G at 35mm
A view of the interior inside the National Gallery of Singapore - Nikon D810,ISO31, f/16, 1/3 sec, PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED at 19mm
A view of the interior inside the National Gallery of Singapore - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/16, 2.0 sec, PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED at 19mm
Rice field at Jati Luwih, Bali - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Nikon D810, ISO800, f/11, 1/1600 sec, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 90mm
A view of Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore CBD area from on top of the National Gallery of Singapore - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/16, 1/60 sec, PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED at 19mm
Elliot is always sure to pack a tripod along for his shoots, along with his D810 and the D610 as a spare. He keeps a AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G for street photography, the AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D for interiors, and a AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED for most product shots. He also has the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II and the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED to complete the range. The only other thing he needs when out shooting is a chance for good weather and lighting, otherwise his planning is all down to logistics and flexing his skills.
So, what’s next for Elliot?
“I just moved in to a new studio. It’s a space I really, really love. And I’m just trying to grow this space into a hub for photographers."
Elliot Lee is an award winning photographer and partners closely with Nikon Singapore. As a commercial photographer, the years have allowed him a distinct style in translating ideas into images of space, still life, and portraiture, although in an ideal world he would call himself a storyteller. His visual narratives have won him honorable mention at the prestigious International Photography Awards (IPA), and participatory invitations at the Singapore International Photography Festival. On an off day, Elliot enjoys the company of a cold glass of ice cappuccino and a sketchbook; either that, or a full day simmering in his studio.