Yeehui Tan is a closet sentimentalist. Lucky for us, though, the Singaporean shutterbug has discovered how to express her feelings through the prettiest of pics. They also offer an eye-catching glimpse into the lush, hazy cities of Southeast Asia – take a peek at her lovely snaps below, along with a wee chat we had with the talented lady herself.
What is your name and how old are you? Yeehui, 25!
How does where you live affect your photography? In my mind, Singapore is the lap of Southeast Asia. Being here puts us in a lucky position with so many other lush cities as neighbours, and being able to travel around them so often makes something resonate deep down in my soul. I can be in a stranger’s house in the north of Thailand looking at the kaffir lime trees in their backyard and the wicker chairs up front, and feel something stirring, like I’m returning to a parallel home. Often I find it’s this feeling that makes me want to create a photograph.
When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer? I’ve never known that I wanted to be a photographer – I still want to be so many things! But I am a closet sentimentalist and take photos as a way of trying to distil a time, a feeling, a story that matters and will never happen again. People notice different things; photography is my way of remembering and sharing what mattered to me.
What areas, things or people in your neighbourhood do you like to photograph most? I like to (but don’t often) photograph people I love in a way that shows them “Here, this is why I love you! This is why you’re beautiful!” without having to say it.
What kinds of subjects interest you the most? I’m interested in the sentimental and in expressions, whether it’s embodied in a person, in a home, in graffiti. I’m always chasing or imagining the meaning in things, and to me a lot of meaning is encapsulated in feelings.
What do you shoot on (digital or analogue) and why do you choose to use that type? I shoot on analogue for fun, and use digital whenever I have to take photos for work! I choose analogue because I like surprises (to an extent), and because, as an impatient person, waiting for film to be processed forces me to practise delayed gratification. Getting back a roll of film weeks or months after starting it always feels like receiving a love letter from the universe. Also, because the uncle (in Singapore we call all old men ‘uncle’) who works at the film developing shop – the only one that is still running that I know of here – is a great character, and I hope his business sustains itself forever!
What kinds of ideas are you working on at the moment? I’ve been wanting to do a project about missed connections. I’m intrigued by the romance of missed happenstance and am curious to weave it into the narrative of life in this city, where it often feels like everyone’s too preoccupied with looking down at their phones to catch a stranger’s eye in real life.
What advice can you offer on finding your personal style or aesthetic? Don’t make a photograph that doesn’t feel special to you.
What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a photo? “You might never be back here again.”
What do you enjoy doing when not taking photos? Caring for my plants, rock climbing, baking granola, drinking from coconuts, eating with my family, journaling, and working for a lovely social enterprise.
Where can we see more of your work? On my website.