A graphic designer by profession, Danny Santos calls himself a weekend photographer. Based in Singapore, Danny’s focus lies on street photography and in particular, Orchard Road. Emaho Magazine spoke with Danny on his experiments in photography prior to finding his interests in covering the street, his projects and his plans for the future.
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I’m a weekend photographer, and I’ve been shooting Orchard Road for almost four years now. I first started out shooting candid portraits and scenes, playing around with light and even with rain. Later on, I worked on a personal project called ‘Portraits of Strangers’ where I approached strangers and took close-up portraits of them while not smiling. So yeah, I pretty much tried to mix things up, experimenting on different approaches in street photography.
Describe your earliest memories with a camera.
I had just moved to Singapore and I got my first DSLR, a Nikon D80. It felt so good having that piece of equipment in my hands. I didn’t know what I wanted to shoot; I just knew that I wanted to shoot. So I basically photographed everything from cats, flowers, sunsets, landscapes, long-exposure night shots… everything; until I discovered street photography.
What does your street photography gear comprise of?
I use a Nikon D300 with a 20mm f2.8, a 24mm f1.4, and an 85mm f1.4. And I always have a compact umbrella with me in case it rains.
What made you choose street photography? And why Orchard Street?
There’s just something about capturing something that’s real that appealed to me. I guess I also loved the whole process of walking, watching, and waiting. It’s like a personal spiritual journey that allows you to watch other people while possibly learning more about yourself too. I remember when I first saw Orchard Road, I was so amazed by the place that the first thing I did was grab my mobile phone and take a photo of the street. Of course, the photo sucked, but there was just something about it that I wanted to capture. I guess you can say I spent the next four years trying to do that.
Do you think candid shots capture a lot more than studio shots?
In candid shots, you basically observe and capture what you see. In studio shots, you create what you want to see. I respect both, and each has its ups and downs. Candid shots can be the most boring of photos, but if you do it right, you’ll have captured and personified the soul of a person in his most natural state. But then again, you can also do that with studio shots, if you do it right. I think both can be equally powerful.
What’s been your favourite picture till date?
I can’t choose one! It’s like making a parent choose which one is his favourite child.
How do you choose your subjects?
I don’t have a certain criteria for choosing the subjects. It’s always subjective. It’s just a feeling. As long as I think that person looks interesting, I go for it. That’s why I think the strangers’ project is very personal.
Any advice for aspiring street and travel photographers?
I remember the first thing I did when I got my first camera was buy a how-to book of the camera. So I’d say, first thing’s first, know your gear. Then know your passion. What you want to shoot. Once you’ve figured that out, look for inspiration. Find out what makes a good photograph. Immerse yourself with the works of the masters. While doing this, never stop shooting and never stop trying to get better and better photos. If you really like what you’re doing, it wouldn’t even seem like hard work (but it is).
Digital or film photography. Which one do you prefer and why?
I haven’t really tried film, so I really can’t compare the two. I do appreciate the aesthetics that film produces, and I would like to try it out when I can afford to do so. But for now, I’ll need to stay practical and stick with digital.
11. Do you plan on experimenting with other locations across the word in a manner similar to the way you shoot at Orchard Street?
That would be another dream. I once wanted to do that for Tokyo and New York. But again, I have to stay practical since doing so will mean spending large amounts of time in those places. Maybe someday if I get an opportunity to do so.
Do you ever orchestrate a shot?
If by orchestrate you mean selecting a location with good light and good background, and wait for the right subject to pass by and hopefully make an interesting shot, then yes.
What do you think of Emaho?
I commend you guys for giving photographers across the globe a venue to inspire and be inspired. I always believed inspiration plays a very big role in fuelling every photographer to push through with what they want to achieve.
Interviewed by: Manik Katyal and Marukh Budhraja
Photos and Video by: Danny Santos