Leaving everything behind to move overseas is never an easy task. This sentiment is further echoed by Isaac Sim, a self-taught photographer from Singapore who is based in Vancouver.
I spoke to Isaac via an email interview and found out that his entire family moved to Canada when he was 22 years-old. The move was due to the pursuit of school, job opportunities and to experience a vastly different lifestyle.
You may have heard of the common phrase ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’, but not for this young man.
As he recounted:“It was just as hard finding a job or school here initially being new and not knowing anyone here. Moving is not [at] all glamorous and easy. I had days where I cried and wanted to move back.”
Photographing Concerts To Weddings
He did not develop an interest in photography until a mutual friend, who was doing music photography, gave him the idea of combining music and a hobby.
That is when he started to experiment with shooting bands and portraiture as well.
Isaac recalls the first band he shot after fumbling through his hard disk — Kris Roe from The Ataris during a solo acoustic in the year 2011. Then to musicians of Bring Me The Horizon, Lights and The Flatliners.
How did shooting weddings come about?
Ironically, he did not like the idea of being a wedding photographer initially. Yet an opportunity came knocking for him to be a secondary photographer at a wedding when he was phasing out of shooting musicians and bands.
Isaac continues to shoot for weddings till now because the process of witnessing the matrimony among the couple’s closest members and friends is a beautiful experience to him; akin to being part of the family.
Stepping Out To Face The Challenges
There are bound to be pros and cons as an independent photographer or in any profession, especially in a foreign country. Claiming to have faced many challenges, Isaac proceeded to point out three specific ones — finding work-life balance, building a clientele for a small photography business and maintaining consistency in post-editing.
One of the advantages of ‘being your own boss’ means having the freedom to determine your own schedules. Often, he can get distracted or feel guilty for not working during his time off.
He shared this tip when it gets difficult to strike a balance: “Working straight for 8 hours won’t allow us to be productive. Spreading out the work and taking breaks in between makes one more productive.”
It is much tougher starting out as a nobody when no one knows you.
But Isaac also knew building a name for himself is a constant uphill climb. He added pragmatically,“even when you start to get noticed, it is never going to be consistent for the next five years without [always] putting your name out.”
However, it is still possible to start a personal brand. His advice is to do good work, be a nice person and make useful connections. He sees no point in comparisons because reaping what you sow takes time – everyone’s journey is different regardless.
Dual Identity: Still Proud To Be A Singaporean
Being away for a period of time meant that Isaac does not stay up to date on our news or politics in Singapore. Yet, his extended family and friends back home, and even the cultural diversity of our country have shaped him as a true blue Singaporean.
“I’m always so proud and excited to tell people here in Vancouver about the food and cultures in Singapore,” he shared as a testament to forming many good conversations.
When asked whether he would have picked up photography if he had stayed behind, he replied yes. He was dabbling in portrait shoots even before his move.
He is, of course, appreciative of being able to do what he loves in Vancouver and cities outside of it. This includes his personal favourites Abbotsford and Pemberton which are an hour or two drive from Vancouver.
With hopes to venture further and someday back to Singapore, he added:”I would love to photograph a wedding in Alaska or the East Coast of Canada someday!”
“I haven’t had a chance to shoot in Singapore because I haven’t been hired to do so yet. Hopefully, someone will hire me to fly back and photograph a wedding or pre-wedding session.”
To our surprise, his wish to have a shoot in Singapore came through just as we were selecting the photographs for this article. It will happen next spring from February 23 to March 10.
All of the images have been provided by the interviewee.