Yaopey Yong is a landscape and architecture photographer, originally from Malaysia, who is currently residing in the United Kingdom. His works have been featured extensively throughout America and the United Kingdom, where he has gained inclusion at exhibitions and festivals such as the London Photo Festival, where he won a Landscape prize, and United Through Art, New York. He was a finalist in the 2020 Siena International Awards and won 2nd Place in the 2020 Zebra Awards.
Yong’s photography represents a contemporary approach to landscape and architecture photography – his works examine age old topics such as stillness, light and the interplay of geometry, however his techniques utilise modern post-production techniques. Form, figure and focus are a consistent theme throughout Yong’s oeuvre; his artworks exhibit both representational and impressionistic approaches, seeking to find and examine the balance between configuration, appearance and impact.
Yong’s recent works have focused on Singaporean metropolitan landscapes and natural waterfalls in Iceland. His black and white photographs are bound by the common theme of grandiosity. Spanning the modernisation of a downtown megalopolis to a preserved, natural landscapes, they exhibit an effective and tactile approach to the display of overwhelming and engulfing scenes.
"We are all born to drift. Catching the waves on distant shores...before we find our way home with hearts full of memories."
Originally from the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia, I was exposed to photography as early as I could remember. The main influence that led me to photography was my father, he was an avid photographer. As a child, I’d flip through his photography magazines that were always casually lying on the table. I would admire the beautiful printed pictures on glossy papers and wonder how these were created. My father owns an analog, fully manual Olympus SLR with a manual focus lens. Sometimes, I’d sneakily take it out to play when he wasn’t around.
My first camera was a gift from my parents. It was a Yashica point-and-shoot compact camera. The body was made of plastic and it was white in color. It was an analog camera that has a latch to open the back compartment to exchange films. I used it to take pictures of friends, family, and random things that I see in life. There was a counter on top of the camera that tells me how many shots have been taken. Once a film is finished, I’d send it to a photography shop/studio to get my photos developed. This often takes a day or two so I know the feeling of anticipating the films to be developed into photographs. Several years later, digital cameras came along and I got myself a Canon IXUS 400. It was a silver compact digital camera with a 3x zoom lens and a humble 4MP resolution. Compared to what I have today, it’s fascinating just to realize how far technology has advanced.
I often considered owning this camera marked the beginning of my photography journey. I was in university at the time and would bring my IXUS everywhere. The photographs I took were mainly sceneries and travel-related as I backpacked through Europe and other parts of the world. A heartbreaking event happened while I was traveling in Paris. I dropped my beloved camera and it stopped working immediately! Although I got it fixed in the end, I thought it was time for me to upgrade. So, I bit the bullet and bought my first “serious” camera, a Canon 40D. This “quantum leap” opened my eyes to creativity that I never thought I could achieve. In the beginning, I did a lot of high dynamic range photography and this went on for several years. As I gained more experience and knowledge in the art, I started to pay more attention to light, composition, and how to connect with viewers through visual content. When I started out, I thought photography was all about the visual effect. But over the years, I have come to realize that the emotional element is more important than its visual, literal form. How much our subconscious gets affected by how we connect emotionally with a photograph is more than what we could comprehend.
My interest in travel, exploring new places, and experiencing new cultures have influenced and shaped my artistic approach in photography. For me, photography is not just about eternalizing and documenting moments. It is also about recording the mood, atmosphere, emotions, and experience the photographer was going through when capturing the image. When someone looks at a photograph, an emotional response is triggered. What kind of emotional response the viewer has would depend on how they relate to the visual stimuli, that is the photograph. Have you ever had that feeling of familiarity and comfort like remembering a positive experience you have had when looking at a photograph? The warmth in your heart and the emotional outflow triggered by a vision are priceless. That is what photography means to me and that is what I'm hoping to achieve with my work.
I don't believe in images that are straight out of the camera because a camera sees differently than the human eye. In most cases, post-processing is required to regain the colors and tones observed by the photographer. Personally, I enjoy both realistic and impressionistic approaches in my work, depending on what I want to convey. I use a combination of global and selective adjustment with more emphasis on the latter to achieve my vision. Sometimes, I also use selective exposure blending to recreate the scene I have photographed. My photographs are not always about recreating reality but an artwork that is a reflection of my vision, using photography as the medium.
Another element that has influenced my vision in photography is my profession from my formal education. I was trained in the medical profession, photography began as an interest which gradually evolved into a channel for me to escape and search for serenity amidst the chaos. Working in my field, I have celebrated life and witnessed men in their last breath. Observing the most vulnerable moments in human life has shaped the way I see the world. It makes me appreciate little things, seeking solace through simple beauty even in the mundane. As a reflection, my photographs are about aspiration, composure, and admiration of life.
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