WPO interview photographer Nick Ng Yeow Kee, winner of the Low Light category in the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards with his intense image of men bathing in Old Kolkata, India. The low light image won the heart of the SWPA judges as it did ours.
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Tell us more about your winning image
In October 2014, I decided to explore Dhaka on a solo sojourn, and after 5 days in Dhaka, Kolkata was the obvious choice, as it is only an hour away by flight. The winning image was shot on a morning walkabout in Old Kolkata. Seeing some locals going into an abandoned shop house stirred my curiosity, and I knew I had to go in. Inside, it was amazing, seeing the locals getting ready for the day, washing themselves and their clothes. After mingling around for 5 minutes, they were getting used to my presence, and that was when I shot the winning image. The only source of light was from the opening of the courtyard above, and although people washing up is something we all do every day, scenes like this are not what we normally see. I found out later from my guide that these people are actually local migrants from the outskirts of India, and abandoned shop houses like these are sometimes converted into a public wash place.
What is your background? How did you get into photography?
I am a dental surgeon by profession. My foray into photography was by accident. In 2006, after coming back from a dental implantology course in Boston, USA, I needed a camera for the purpose of recording my patients’ cases, and a friend took me to purchase my first camera. The camera sat collecting dust in my office, and it was only towards 2008 that I began to fiddle with the camera. That was how I got into photography.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
To connect as deeply to the people that have allowed us a glimpse into their lives, and to respect that privilege.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography is my chosen medium to express my passion, and that passion stems from a long time ago memory of my old grandfather, a Chinese Migrant to Malaya then, who worked as a goldsmith in a dimly lit area. It is that memory which has pushed me to look for hidden gems in cities and outskirts. And it is with hope that my passion can be shared among the world.
Can you tell us about a current or future photographic project you have planned?
Winning the SWPA category has opened up opportunities. I have recently been appointed Sony Malaysia’s Alpha Professional, where I’ll be a Sony sponsored photographer. There are plans for some projects together with Sony Malaysia Corporation, and I am deeply honoured with this appointment.
On a personal venture, I’m planning on taking contemporary environmental portraits of the people in Malaysia, and soon will be going around townships in Malaysia for the project. It is something that I should do, as Malaysia is still my home. Sometimes the best images are those taken from near our home.