January 29, 2019

To the uninitiated, Aik Beng Chia seems like any other Singaporean Uncle. Yet, beyond his modest appearance, he is actually a critically acclaimed street photographer who has an eye for capturing everyday life. His work, in particular, seeks to shine a spotlight on the raw emotions of Singaporeans in their natural habitat. Soulful, poignant and poetic are words not often associated with the mundanities of life, but Aik Beng has managed to transform our perception through his imagery—inviting us to reflect deeper on our overlooked surroundings. 

As someone who is always on the go, he shares with us his Everyday Essentials that aid in creating the stunning and sublime visuals he is known for. 

What are your top 5 everyday items that you can’t live without?

My camera, phone, power bank, iPad Pro and AirPods.

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How do these items help to improve your lifestyle?

Camera: I use it to capture what I see every day and for on-going photo projects.

Phone: Obviously to make calls, text, social media and lastly, to photograph.

Powerbank: To charge my iPad Pro, AirPods, phone and camera battery.

AirPods: Listen to music, watch movies and make calls.

iPad Pro: Watch movies, edit my photos using Adobe Lightroom and doodle illustrations using apps like Vectornator or ProCreate.

Do these items reflect your personality too?

Yes! I’m mobile and I move around a lot.

Is there a story behind any of these items?

Most of them are gifts! :)

Do you carry a notebook or any sort of reference during your shoots?

I carry an iPad and use a mind map app to jot down my thought process as a reference for my shoot.

As a street photographer, what preparations do you do before you go out and shoot?

I make sure my power bank and camera batteries are fully charged. I normally wear a good pair of walking shoes but sometimes when I’m feeling lazy, I will put on a pair of slippers. I always carry a brolly just in case it rains suddenly. I prefer to travel light and comfortable, therefore I don’t carry too much equipment with me. I don’t bring any snacks or drinks as I will stop over at a kopitiam to have a drink and take a break.

Do you wear a particular “uniform”?

I tend to dress in black, whether it’s my shoes, bermudas, pants or tees.

Is there an item that you carry which helps boost your productivity and efficiency?

My phone is essentially my secretary.

What is your typical day like?

I’ll start off the morning by browsing social media before I head to work. I make use of my lunchtime to do some photography or catch up with friends. After work, I’ll head home or grab some drinks. I’ll catch a movie on my iPad, post-process my photos or do some illustrations before I sleep.

How do you gain inspiration and what motivates you?

Everything in front of me inspires and motivates me. Not necessarily pretty things, but also the mundanity of everyday life.

How would you describe your body of work to a regular person?

My illustrations are weird and surreal, and my photography captures the mundane.

What do you see that others do not? And how does your perception of reality guide your craft?

It’s like having a crush on someone. Be an observer, not a stalker. Pay attention to the little details around you.

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Chase Jarvis famously stated that the best camera is the one you have with you. What are your thoughts on that? And what’s one piece of equipment that is essential for every shoot?

He’s right. The one piece of equipment that is always with me is my phone, which I use to capture images more than my camera.

Tell me about a time you went to great lengths to capture a photo.

I waited for almost two hours just to photograph a cat walking past me.

Is there truth to the statement “beauty is in the eye of the beholder?”

Yes, I agree. In my opinion, mundanity is beautiful and that is reflected in my photography.