Interview by Claire Liu - Illinois, USA
Part of the magic of photography is its ability to capture an instant of life. From family vacations and nature to graduations and art, photography serves as a method of preserving memories in frames. Singapore-based photographer JT is more than well-versed with medium. After working on the side as a photographer for mostly couples and families over the past 3-4 years, earlier this year she made the move to work as a photographer full time, increasing her focus on fashion editorials and portraits.
Despite her current popularity as the person behind Jtwonggg Photography, JT was inspired to begin her journey in photography as a way to capture moments of her own life and family. "I saw photography as a way for me to document moments of my life, different memories of friends and family, it started out as me capturing moments on my mobile phone... it was really poor quality stuff but I really liked capturing photos of my friends and family," JT said.
After beginning to hone her skills as a photographer in university, she was asked by her older cousin to take photos for her graduation shoot, eventually also becoming the designated photographer for her cousin's engagement (or "pre-wedding") shoot and growing connections with other individuals looking to organize photo shoots for their own weddings and engagements. Still, JT recalls the importance her first shoot with her cousin played in her journey as a photographer.
"It opened a lot of doors and possibilities for me, it allowed me to see myself as a photographer... it helped open my mind," JT commented. Once branching out through her cousin's connections with other brides-to-be, JT joined the thriving industry of couple photography in Singapore as a freelance photographer on the side of her full-time job.
Without formal training, JT relied on her own grit and observations to obtain the necessary skills to shoot the photos she was proud of shooting. She especially began coordinating shoots with other influencers and models she found on social media in addition to following and learning from photographers she enjoyed seeing online. One of her favorite experiences in accordance with this was a bridal shoot for a close friend and influencer she had initially met over Instagram. As a more formal shoot, there were many creatives and stylists on set, all of whom happened to identify as female.
"Surprisingly we were all females, so it was quite empowering and really cool to be in this group of girl-bosses who were all doing our own thing. It was really uplifting and everyone was very supportive... it was very special feeling just to be working with a bunch of fellow females in the industry," JT recalls. Despite feeling some pressure as the photographer who many looked to for direction during the shoot, JT remembers the experience fondly and looks back on the photos with pride.
However, her scope in photography has quickly grown to broader extents than the couple shoots that she had started out her career with. Contrary to the popular industry of couple photography in Singapore, JT is strong in her encouragement of more individual and portrait shoots that people can organize for themselves. She especially emphasizes the value of individual shoots as a way for people to value and care for themselves.
"A lot of clients that come to me haven't done a photo shoot at all... they don't really know if they have it in them to look [a certain] way... when we're shooting I'll show them the photos and they usually are really happy and really excited and I think that's the best feeling to have," JT said. She stresses the humbling experience her growth in these photo shoots have experienced, specifically in regards to the ways in which all people are beautiful.
"Working with different clients and seeing how they view their own bodies and how we view each other, you start to learn that actually we are all beautiful in our own way," JT stated. Particularly after having worked with a wide range of people with varying body shapes and sizes, JT understands her role as a photographer as a way to increase self-love, help others feel beautiful, and encourage people to view their insecurities from a new aspect despite the smaller industry these individual and portrait shoots provide, "I want to stick it out and encourage more people to consider booking a photoshoot as something they can do for themselves, in the interest of self-love or just having a new experience," JT said.
Nevertheless, JT has also faced her own amount of struggles in her journey towards developing her identity as a photographer. Prior to this past year, JT remembers feeling stuck in her personal growth and unsure of her future, "I was thinking about my purpose a lot and what I want to be doing with my time... I started to wonder what would my next step be... at that point I felt like I wasn't mature enough in my photography career to even think of going full-time as a possibility," JT recalled.
After deciding to take a month long sabbatical from her job, JT pushed herself to ignore her self-doubt and go outside to shoot photos in a much greater quantity than before. "I went to go out and shoot as much as I can, I didn't want to think too much about making a shoot perfect... my priority was just to get out there and shoot," JT said.
During this time, JT also began expanding her reach and connections over social media to meet other creatives and widen her audience. She grew her skills as a photographer and despite her initial hesitation, made the decision at the start of this year to go full-time as a photographer.
"The biggest success for me was really getting out of my own way. I realized I was the one putting all these barriers in front of myself... I was preventing myself from making progress towards the goal that I wanted," JT stated. After making her own start and teaching herself skills in photography, she began learning business and media skills in addition to growing her creative identity to continue her journey as a photographer today.
Throughout this experience, JT reflects that her greatest successes and growth came from places of perseverance and effort. Specifically, she encourages growing and beginning photographers to push themselves past creative perfectionism towards spending as much time possible on practicing and taking shots. "Even if you don't realize it from a day to day basis, at a certain point when you look back you'll see the significant progress that you've made. You'll see how the experience helps you," JT said.
In the future, JT also hopes to branch out more into greater fashion and editorial style photography. "Fashion [photography] is definitely something that I've always wanted to do but at the same time I don't think i'm limiting myself in any way. I obviously still want to keep couple photo shoots open... I still do enjoy shooting couples a lot but I think fashion is still my main area of interest and where I feel there is more opportunity to grow," JT stated. Regardless of the specific path she takes in the future, JT is sure to continue her journey through photography and additionally, the empowerment she aims to spread through it.
This or That with JT:
1. Books or movies? - Books (audiobooks lately!)
2. Winter or summer? - Winter
3. Singing or dancing? - Singing
4. Cake or pie? - Cake
5. Chocolate or vanilla? - Chocolate
Connect and follow JT at the following links!
Jtwonggg Photography Website: https://jtwonggg.com/hello/
Jtwonggg Photography Contact: https://jtwonggg.com/contact-me/