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Spotlight: Jean Loo (photographer, producer and writer)

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

Life on Tracks

Kampong Angke, nestled right beside a busy main road and a 15-minute-drive away from some of Jakarta’s biggest malls, is a railway squatter settlement home to more than 300 families. They live in derelict shacks no bigger than a toilet cubicle, where walls are made of discarded wood and the roof, a sheet of corrugated metal. Sanitation is scarce and electricity, a luxury.

Jakarta, home to approximately 13 million people, is Southeast Asia’s most populous city, according to the United Nations World Urbanisation Prospects. About 40 per cent of these people, most of whom migrated from the countryside, live in slums along railways or rivers. The situation in Jakarta mirrors that of other megacities in Southeast Asia, where a quarter of the region’s urban population lives in slums according to a UN Habitat Global Urban Observatory report.

Ooi Giok Ling, a researcher who studies urban planning in Southeast Asia, says that rapid urbanisation – a situation whereby an increasing proportion of the population are living in the city – is to blame for the development of these city slums in the region.

For the millions of poverty-stricken slum dwellers in Jakarta, proper and affordable housing is a major issue. “They don’t just lack money. They also lack an identity, security and culture,” says Wardah Hafiz, 56, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a non-governmental organisation lobbying for the rights of slum-dwellers. “These people really have nothing.”


Q & A

1) What are the factors that would attract you to an issue, that ends up as a documentary project?

I am attracted to any good story, simply because I am pretty inquisitive by nature. I see each new project as an opportunity for me to know something more about the world, which is why I try to spend my time working on a few projects at a go. If I find a personal connection with the people or issues involved, that connection will probably spur me to go deeper and allocate more time and resources into pursuing the project. Usually, this involves taking it beyond photography - maybe a campaign, feature stories or a short film - to try and find the best way to tell that story and make things better. 


2) How do you describe your style of shooting?

“What’s the story?” –– It’s a question that I always ask myself. It could be personal or reflective of the world we live in today. I am drawn to create images that capture moments worth remembering. It is a long-term goal to visually archive memories of my life through my work because it is an accumulation of my energy and time spent. 
This is perhaps why I always try to go deeper than merely clicking the shutter through conversation and observation. I think it's important to make conversation and be sincere about your motives. While I was a student, I came across something Mary Ellen Mark once said –– “I just think it's important to be direct and honest with people about why you're photographing them and what you're doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”
 
I think there lies the responsibility of photographers, especially those drawn to social documentary storytelling, that we have to be sincere about engaging the people we photograph.


3) As a photographer, how worried are you about the digital technology being ever more prevalent and accessible?

I am not worried because it's encouraging that more and more people are familiar with photography as a medium of communication. It makes them receptive to learning more about all kinds of photography. Important stories are increasingly expressed through this medium. I suppose this is when really good stories, or storytelling with heart, will stand out from all the digital noise out there.


4) What drove you to become an independent photographer?

I'm quite a free-spirited person and realised during my travels as a student that I wanted to get the most out of life. I realised that photography could be a means of achieving that. So I decided to give it my best shot and see where this path would take me. I'm currently in my 4th year of working independently and there have been plenty of rough moments - to name a few: a lack of confidence; the initial anxiety of earning less; grappling the concept of balancing passion and survival; how to run my skills as business assets... the list goes on.

But the beautiful and rewarding thing, really, in my opinion is that you are forced to be honest with yourself and take responsibility of how you want to live. I'm constantly fueled by projects which open my eye to another aspect of life and to do good. I love meeting all kinds of people through my work. It still scares me now, but I'm confident and hopeful things will work out fine.  


5) What future documentary project(s) are you most excited about?

I've just started work on a project on palliative care in Asia that's funded by the good people from Lien Foundation. The journey ahead is long but I'm very excited about it as it's a collaborative effort the involves my friends and people I respect in the industry. Another project that I've been busy with is a news portal on news related to the non-profits, social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and volunteerism. We're due to launch soon and it's been an incredible learning experience to put together something like that. I see it as an extension of the social documentary photography I've been working on. I'm hopeful about connecting the good work out there to make things better.

6) Your project in Kampong Angke was carried out five years ago. Have you kept in touch with them, and do you know if your work helped improve their situation?

My photos on Kampong Angke were part of a book project spanning 10 Southeast Asian countries which explored how children in the region were growing up amidst rapid modernization, and in Jakarta's case, urbanization. I have not gone back since but I'm quite sure that my work has not helped their situation, because I approached it purely from an observer's point of view with no action plan in mind. Looking back, a good way to follow up would have been to share my work with some Jakarta-based NGOs dealing with similar urbanization issues to see how my pictures might help their reports and documentation.

 


Bio

Jean Qingwen Loo is an independent photographer, producer and writer passionate about adventure and creating social dialogue. Her recent projects include a travel journal for the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti in Tanzania and Dear Thuriya, a solo exhibition at the Esplanade. Her commissioned work includes documenting expeditions to Puerto Rico’s rainforests and Iceland’s glaciers for HSBC and the Children of Mekong, a multimedia project on water for the Lien Foundation. She is partnering the Foundation to produce a short film and web campaign celebrating Asian women pioneers in palliative care that will launch in 2013. Jean has been recognized at the International Photography Awards and PDN Photo Annual, and was selected for the Eddie Adams workshop (2009). Female and Asian Photography magazine have featured her as an emerging talent. http://logue.sg

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