Art & Photography

A Thousand Words: Hin Chua

The photographer on how an image of Portland came to embody a wider project – and all the personal the anxieties tied up in the process

Hin Chua, Portland 2011
Hin Chua, Portland 2011

I don’t clearly recollect making this photograph but in terms of what caught my eye, I guess it was that compositional conjunction and layering of various horizontal planes: the sky, the sea, the sand, the buildings, the greenery and the road. Interesting from an aesthetic sandwich-stack perspective but also appropriate in terms the subject I focus on – the transformations of one environment into another.

After the Fall is a personal project that began six years ago, I’ve visited 137 towns and cities across 18 countries searching for environments that exist in a state of impermanence; fragile and fleeting. These silent hand-overs speak to something deeper within our collective memories: the loss of places we once knew, reminders of the inevitability of change, a farewell to personal Edens.

And there are moments assailed by fear and doubt, when the nagging voices within rise to a crescendo. I can’t recall the exact cause, but on the day I made this photograph, I spent a great deal of time questioning myself:

“I’ve been working on this project for so goddamn long. Am I just deluded? Does my work have enough heart? Have I become too obsessed with things that other people can’t see? Look at how well everyone else is doing. They’re out hustling all the time, they’re everywhere! Why am I not bloody everywhere? Everyone says they’re spending all their time working in their studios… I don’t even have a studio.

Am I just repeating myself and stagnating? I need to reference more writers… or poets… or philosophers… or something. And I’ve got to refer to my work as my ‘practise’, that’ll help. But hang on, what if playing the self-indulgence card is just a morally convenient excuse for not pushing myself..?”

Like I say, I don’t clearly recollect making this photograph (nor how my mood eventually improved) but months later, I stumbled across it in one of my contact sheets. Gradually, over time, it wormed its way into my affections, an upbeat ending to a long and trying day. A reminder to acknowledge my doubts but never to submit to them.

See more by Hin here