Singapore_Jay Sim.jpg

Street Photography: A Good Day For Jay Sim


by Carolyn Oei, 27 August 2017

“A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights – to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on….After the event has ended, the picture will still exist, conferring on the event a kind of immortality (and importance) it would never otherwise have enjoyed.”
– From
“On Photography” by Susan Sontag.

Photograph, photography, photographer – what do these mean? Susan Sontag’s thoughts might explain the first two. But, what about the third?

It would seem that anyone who takes pictures with a smart phone prides themselves in being a photographer. Social media platforms enable this delusion. That said, there are many actual photographers who might utilise the smart phone as one of their tools of the trade. But a smart phone does not a photog make.

Portugal - Photo: Jay Sim

Jay Sim is a photographer and occasional user of his smart phone for picture taking. Currently based in London, Sim’s repertoire ranges from corporate portraits and weddings to street photography.    

With an eye for movement and depth, Sim’s street pics are so dynamic that one can almost hear the conversations, the clamour of animals and vehicles and even quiet thought.

I asked Sim for insight to his brand of photography.      

Mackerel: What, to you, makes a good street photo?

Jay Sim: Something that isn’t contrived would be the first thing that comes to mind. Personally, I prefer wide-angled, up-close shots of people on the streets as opposed to something that’s shot from afar. Don’t get me wrong though, there are some phenomenal shots done at a further range but I feel that a wide angled picture is more intimate and draws the viewers into my point of view in that moment.

Portugal - Photo: Jay Sim

Mackerel: When you visit a new place, do you give yourself time to get a feel for it and its people before you start photographing? Or is your process, and eye, more instinctual?

JS: Yes, definitely. Different cultures react differently to a camera being pointed at them. In 99 per cent of my personal experience, I do not like asking for permission before shooting as I don’t consider a posed photo very “street” and because I don’t ask for permission, I really have to get a feel of how people react to their photos being taken should I get caught taking a picture. A good example would be Vietnam and Portugal, where people can be a bit more reserved about having their picture taken. I try to be a little more discreet with my shooting in places such as these. On the flipside, places like Bali and London are easier in a sense that people do not react as adversely to having a camera pointed at them. Nonetheless, I try to avoid the situation where the subject knows I’m taking a picture of them.

London - Photo: Jay Sim

London - Photo: Jay Sim

Mackerel: In terms of the discoveries you’ve made about people through your photography, is there a universal common denominator?

JS: Having a camera and looking at strangers in a foreign land through the lens gives me a better perspective of how they behave. Without a camera, I tend to ignore these subtleties. For example, I find that people in big cities are more self-absorbed and there is always a sense of urgency, and I can walk around almost without being noticed in these situations. When I was in Sardinia, we were in a town called Orgosolo during the down season. Half an hour after arriving in town it seemed like everyone knew that there was a bunch of tourists milling about. Needless to say, that wasn’t the best day for street photography.

Cover photo: Singapore - Jay Sim (@kutacrusader)

Singapore - Photo: Jay Sim