You may have come across his photographs on Twitter or Instagram. Be it architecture or street photography – his photographs have a style that’s uniquely his.
They exude a level of maturity far beyond his age, and while I can’t exactly put a finger to the reason behind it – I was curious to find out more behind Yik Keat, or YK as he’s known more commonly.
Still in the midst of serving national service, Yik Keat tries his best to juggle both his photography work and national duties. In his free time in camp, he settles the digital aspect of his freelance work such as emailing clients, having phone calls or editing pictures.
There’s no surprises when it comes to what he does when he’s out of camp – taking photographs.
Delivery Boy’s Fascination
Yik Keat’s interest in photography began as mere curiosity 5 years ago. Yik Keat was working part-time as a delivery boy, and was drawn to the photographs on the then newly-launched Instagram. Armed with his iPhone, he used his part-time job to his advantage and began randomly snapping photos during his delivery trips.
This eventually acted as a spark that ignited the fire within him.
Like all great artists, Yik Keat’s photography has gone through phases as well, which he credits to helping him develop different aspects of his photography. He first started off shooting architecture, which is “what we have and are blessed with”.
“Being raised in this beautiful city there’s so much cool and unique architecture that are not to be missed and should be shared to the world.”
The next was a black and white phase – Yik Keat reveals that he was fan of black and white photography back then because the emotion it gave him was different and allowed him to focus on composition and framing.
When he finally got back to shooting coloured photographs, the colours stood out even more to him – and also gave rise to the red and blue tints that many associate with his style today.
Yik Keat describes his current style this way: “I would say my visuals brings people to the spot itself and emulate a certain kind of emotion, something that gives the audience a second look at something out of the ordinary.”
It’s clear that Yik Keat has always been about the stories – what makes his photographs unique is his ability to see the beauty in the monotony. A daily occurrence that many of us take for granted becomes part of a story that Yik Keat captures through his lenses.
To date, one of Yik Keat’s favourite photographs is the one that he shot in Tokyo, Japan.
“It’s a great example of contrast, the person on the right is waiting for food and the person on the left is serving up food, there’s so much story and difference between one tiny pillar.”
He shares that a main theme in his photographs is the concept of contrast. Be it in terms of gender, lighting, or other aspects of his photograph, he makes sure that they all carry through theme of having contrast.
While his breathtaking photographs have earned him 212,000 followers on Instagram and paved the way to a few opportunities, his journey has not always been a bed of roses.
He admits that it can be difficult to prove his worth because he has lesser experience than his pioneers, and because of the lack of recognition when it comes to his portfolio.
“My works are based off Instagram, which I treat it with 101% seriousness but some people might see it not as a portfolio yet.”
Even so, the experiences he’s had thus far have made it worthwhile. He recalls shooting in Hong Kong, where he started talking to a lady who owns a store beside the place he was shooting.
She was curious – wondering what’s nice about the area she has been living in for years and always seeing people take photographs of.
“She later gave me a photo keychain and just like that friendship was forged.”
Setting His Sights
In the near future, Yik Keat plans to host travel workshops when he has attained enough knowledge and capability. He adds, “I would also love to make a short series and educate people about the art of observation.”
As our interview draws to an end, I ask him about any advice he has for aspiring photographers. Given that we have multiple social media platforms with global reach, the number of creatives (or aspiring ones) I’ve seen on these social media sites has grown exponentially since a few years ago.
“Shoot what’s on your mind. Always hunt for things on the go even if you do not have a camera – imagine the frame you see in front of you freezing, and think of what’s gonna be captured in the picture, and the story behind it.”
To check out more of Yik Keat’s journey, click here.