Finally, after two weeks of delay, I present you a whutderrfakqizvat! special:

10 / 10
ten out of ten

           It'll be part of my own portfolio as well showcasing (and practicing) skills in writing, art directing and honing my digital skills and space aesthetics. This project has been hatched since the first interview assignment from school where I had this concept going on (the next page would be that friend of mine who'd I interviewed with hilarious obscure answers).
          Plus, it'll be what the blog's name is for - WHUTDERRFAKQIZVAT, to translate, what the fact is that ______________________ (fill in the blanks where I've found something/someone/somewhatever)  frivolously fierce and fabulous personality. Or just to re-bump them up, up, up.

              THE BRIEF:
10 people for the year 2010
Is not popularly mainstream
10 quick questions filling 10 minutes to know more about them
(It'll be like a one-stop quick profile to learn about the person)


             The first person who will I award the WHUTderrFAKQizVAT out-of-the-blue is to Outré's very own James Bent. Catched up on him one afternoon in conjunction for Whiteboard Journal special feature, say, tête-à-tête column?

Without further ado, kudos to Mr. Singapore's very own Street Snapper and here's an almond to the jar on his world: 

*Gotta click to make it big and readable.*

               Rants and reviews are most appreciated on the big picture or little details, it'll be most appreciated! Since it's for my portfolio I'd still go back and do some tweaks, it'll be a series of 10, and it shall need to look like a series. But of course, what I've found out on those sudden organic white shapes - it looks good, I like it very much!

As for the elongated interview for the hour, click on to read more...

| tête-à-tête

Once in a blue moon, stumbling upon an obstacle could lead to a good thing. Or even better, greater things.  British traveler now living and working as a Learning and Design Consultant James Bent never knew about the A-B-C’s of fashion or even to get close to it. Being an English student, he only aspires to only write better and opened his blog to be the motivation to keep writing.

Nevertheless, life gives its twist and turns; he needed some inspiration to write, and found that he was visually attracted so photographs were the sparks of his inspiration. On the fateful day in Sydney, The Sartorialist by Scott Schumann caught his attention. He opened it, not knowing how influential it would be to him and his creative engines.

The offer of relocation from the company at the end of last year brought him to the shores of Singapore in January, and between his limited free time he brings forth his camera, sits down and spot a person he’d like to take a photograph of before approaching for a consent. It wasn’t long that people started to be aware and appreciate the photos that showcased the term street-style (which wasn’t his main objective) matching up to readership of his stories. It picked up even further to get recognition and got featured in Vogue France.
But true to the roots, in spite of all this, being a foreigner and still a fresh-face in the ever-evolving industry, James coolly chats off the record on what his thoughts of this new adventure he gets into.

Where do you see yourself and what do you think of the Fashion world?
I guess I’m in a funny position as I don’t really see myself as a “blogger”, nor really part of the fashion world.  I’m not formally trained in fashion and I don’t really have a background in it, no more than anyone else really.  I see myself more as a person who enjoys taking photographs of people that catch my eye.

As for fashion itself, it does seem to be moving more onto the streets, moving more into the personal space, as in anyone can have a say in fashion and in what fashion is.  I think it’s now much more available for the masses, and because of blogs particularly it’s really out there way more now.
I don’t know how powerful the fashion industry is now compared to before - I’ve read articles that suggest the fashion industry is becoming more of a follower than a leader, but then maybe a lot of things that a written are speculative. I’ve also read that magazines are struggling more, but that is also because of the recent global financial crisis which affected everything.

How did you start doing street style photography?
It had nothing to do with fashion, nor street style, or anything connected to it. It had started last year when I needed inspiration for writing – I studied English and Creative Studies at University and I’d always wanted to write.  So last year I completed a novel and then wanted to continue to improve my writing. So I started the blog, Outré, last November as a means to force me to write daily 1000 word short stories.  I figured if I could get an audience, then I would feel more inclined to keep writing.  I also realised that I relied heavily on photographs for inspiration.
So late last year, when I was still back in Sydney, I went to a bookstore and looked through the photo book section searching for a whole book of people who I could use for characters, and happened picked up The Sartorialist – at that point I didn’t know what or who he was - but it was perfect to write from.
Then in January 2010 I moved to Singapore and had used up all the photographs to write stories from The Sartorialist book;so  I started taking photographs of people on the street purely just to write the stories.
But then, almost straight away I could see from the number of hits of my blog, that the photos were way more more popular and much more fun.  However at that time I wasn’t really so into street fashion, but I guess that’s how people viewed the blog, like it should be street fashion, so it was a pretty painful period trying to re-adjust the direction.  And even now I’m still developing - it feels like a real rollercoaster - lots of ups and downs.

What kind of inspiration did you take from the Sartorialist?
I’m a very visual person - I need to see something to get ideas and inspiration.  The Sartorialist’s photographs aren’t just about the clothes like other street fashion blogs - it’s about people as well, capturing all the details from how they stand and their expressions showing on their faces to the ongoing mood behind the photographs. Therefore it was easy for me when I looked at his photos to start creating personalities and characters.  So it helped by establishing a starting point of the stories I wrote, and gave enough richness to describe all the details like what were they possibly thinking, what did they do before this shot, etc.  And that was enough to write 107 short stories from.  It was like I could really get inside the people who he photographed, by their person and by the way they dressed and posed.

It’s like you’re a psychologist then!
Yeah, I did study psychology for a short while at college, and in a previous job as a trainer I went into emotional intelligence and body language and I find these very fascinating.  I also studied semiology (the science of signs and symbols) at Uni, at that has had a big impact on me.

After hours, besides taking photographs what do you usually do?
My partner is a painter, and so I help her with her paintings. Just as she helps me with building my style with the photos, I give her feedback for her paintings
But honestly, I really just love getting out into the city, so every night we’ll go out.  I absolutely enjoy eating and trying all the food courts here, just sitting around, going for coffee while watching people, going shopping, finding new places to hear great music. Since we’re new to the country, we like to explore around and try to find the essence of Singapore.

Any specific photographing times or where you roam around?
I work in Wisma Atria during the weekdays, so Orchard Road between Ion and 313@Somerset. I don’t have specific time of shooting, but usually it would be lunchtime around 12 or 1 or after work from 5.30pm.
I’ve noticed that noon is too early, around 1-1:30PM people who are much dressed up start to be around. Although it can be really tough getting good light - it’s too bright and too much overhead, so I have to use tree or building shadows creatively.
Then in the afternoon about 5:30-6:30PM more dressed up people are out (after office hours). But there’s no science to this - no real time is a good or bad time.  I was taking a stroll about 10:30am the other day and I saw 3-4 people, but I didn’t have my camera.
Additionally, instead of walking the whole lane, I now find that sitting down in a spot and just looking for people to take photographs is better.  I like sitting on the red seats outside Ion, although I always thing it’s a shame there’s not more seating like that outside Takashimaya or Mandarin Gallery.  I do find that outside Ion people tend to be more stylish.
On weekends I like to get out and about more.  It does frustrate me to be kind of chained to Orchard Road in the week.  I like Ann Siang Hill and Haji Lane, around Stamford House and Raffles City, Raffles Hotel, Esplanade, but it can be tough to find people sometimes.
I’ve also started to arrange with local bloggers and designers to do street-style shoots which are a lot of fun, and it’s really cool to find a lot of talented designers and style-oriented people that others may be unaware about .  There is a lot of style in Singapore.
Pretty much I’ll shoot anywhere where I can find someone to shoot. There isn’t any science theory behind it; it’s just about being out as long as possible.  If I could, I would be out all day, everyday, from sunrise to sunset.

How’s the Singaporean crowd accepting you? Were there declinations from your request of taking pictures?
Of course, even there was one tonight that refused. It happens. People might find it a little strange to be approached and asked for their photograph, and probably since I’m a foreigner and not an Asian-looking person.
But having said that, about 95% of the people I ask are absolutely cool and loving it, and even thrilled when I show their photographs.
In general, the ones that say no is just a minor thing, maybe just don’t like having their photo taken. I do find Singaporeans are very friendly and open though. It’s great place to be.

Any interesting encounters while hunting for a photograph?
In fact there was one approximately a week and a half ago? I was around in City Hall, nearby the electronic mall after getting some camera gear. I saw this guy, who caught my immediate attention – there are a few people that make me immediately want their photograph, and this guy was just like that. So I turned the other way and followed him, and when I got to him I asked for a photograph, but he kept on walking. Then he took notice of my name card I showed him and stopped, and then started signing things with his hands. So I realized he was deaf. Then we had this slightly surreal and silent conversation, me trying to signal and point at my name card, camera and to him indicating I’d like to take a picture of him, and him replying with nods. I’d also pulled my shirt and pointed at his with thumbs up sign to suggest I liked how he was dressed.
After I’ve gotten his photo I tried to tell him as well that the photo would be up at 8 in the evening and telling him to visit the website address on the name-card,  and he gestured like he was typing in a keyboard and then pointed at the card and nodded.  And that was that.
And that’s nice, because sometimes I have to stop and think about these experiences I’m having, all because I want to get photographs!  But also its nice to find and record people that you don’t see or meet everyday in Singapore.
I have to say though that the photo I got was soft on focus, and that really gets to me.  I’m not a photographer by any means, but do border on having slightly perfectionist qualities.  I want to get it absolutely right.  I think that’s what drives me at the end of the day.  If I start it, I want to perfect it.

So let’s talk more about you! Do you consider yourself stylish?
That’s an interesting question, I’m definitely conscious of my style, I pay attention to details, and I’m conscious when I’m not happy with something, like when I wear a large shirt and it doesn’t match my pants or my shoes, then I’d feel uncomfortable.  However being fashionable is not my concern.
So this habit has been done even before you started the street photography?
Yeah, I’ve always, always, always been paying attention to these things, and feel very uncomfortable if the clothes I wear don’t feel right together.
Right now, little things like turning my shirt cuffs out and buttoning them back, it’s a detail that I like and it makes me feel like I’m me. [If you’d pay attention to his shirt on his quick profile cut in the writer’s blog for a better view, the cuffs and lining of the shirt has a different pattern.]

Fashion errors you’ve made so far?
The biggest thing for me is clashing colors and patterns. Once I wore this hounds tooth-patterned pants and a checkered top because that was all that was left clean in the wardrobe, and I felt horrible. I just had to buy a plain black shirt immediately when lunch break came around. Clothes that don’t fit well also bug me badly.
Before I came to Singapore I was in Sydney, and Australians serving of food is extra large.  I put about 9 kilos in 9 months. In contrast, it’s my 4th month here in Singapore and I’ve lost the whole 9 kilos, so the clothes from Australia are now all too loose, and even the clothes I bought when I first came to Singapore don’t fit either, so I have to get new clothes again.  I just don’t feel right otherwise, but then, who would?

So back to Outré. Since you’re a writer, then now a photographer, would you like to combine writing and photography together? Or would you like to do Fashion Journalism?
Definitely, I love writing, and somebody even encouraged me to keep writing after I reviewed a short passage regarding the encounter with the deaf guy about 2-3 weeks ago, “you should continue writing about what you see.” I don’t think I’ll be going specifically to the fashion industry or into journalism.  Maybe writing editorials or a column, that’d be cool.  Something that I could have creative control.  And I’d want to write something from my perspective and give my thoughts on it.
In any case, I’m more familiar with fine arts than fashion since I’ve worked as an artist before and studied Arts as part of my degree.  I tend more to view fashion from an art perspective and relate it back to paintings or sculptures, rather than fashion and fashion designers.
So if that particular fashion journalism career allows me to write whatever I’d like to write from my point of view, definitely I’d love to do it.  I think it’s a big ask though!
Would you like to be a part of the fashion industry?
Not really. Well opportunities from it are most welcome, editorial spread features or having a column in a magazine, but I wouldn’t want to restrict myself just in fashion, because what I’m trying to report is not only fashion, but also the person. It’s more of finding what’s interesting in the person I take a photograph of.
Besides, I don’t how know much fun working in the fashion industry would be.  It looks very competitive, and I imagine that everyone aspires to be at the top of the list and anything less isn’t good enough.  I frankly don’t know how much satisfaction that really brings at a human level.

Besides blogs and local designers, what other collaborations would you like to do?
Musicians, artists, other photographers, people who think about their style… but to be honest just about anyone that I meet on the street, if they have such natural style and if I think that if I met them on another day I’dfind their style equally as interesting, then it’d be great to keep photographing that.
At the end of the day, I’d like to work with anybody who has something interesting that people would like to see. It’s boundless; I’m open to anything!

Why Singapore?
Partly because my work had an office here and my Australian visa was up, but in general I love Asia and the Asian culture. One of the biggest charms of it is food. But in terms of Singapore, I see that it’s developing its art sector in a larger scale with more funding and it’s well connected with the rest of the world even though it’s a small city, or small country. I think a lot of exciting things are going to happen here in the next few years.

Comparing with the leading capital fashion cities in the world, how is the Singapore street scene like?
For me, I’ve only been staying here for 4 months and I’ve discovered great local designers, but as said previously, Singapore seems perhaps more mainstream-minded. I’d bet that if you would ask a local to name a local designer, 9 out of 10 wouldn’t know even 1.
But as I said before, now is probably the right moment to be here and hopefully to contribute to the growing fashion and arts industry here in Singapore.  However, I get the feel that most people here look down on Singapore or are too modest thinking that it’s too small here, maybe afraid to say, “we can be good at this, we’ve got great potential, we can lead with our designers and as people we could just wear whatever we want and go out and look great.”
However, I’d say that fashion and style is as good here as anywhere else, it’s just that it’s not mainstream yet - it hasn’t got into the collective consciousness.  I think Singaporeans need to feel like they have style and they should show it off.
What’s the most important thing you’d tell anyone who wanted to do this kind of thing, or any creative venture?
You need to have fun in what you do, and realize that this is a chance to live your passions.
Also, be open to criticism.  I find that I learn most from criticism.  If I get really badly criticised, I find that I can always get to a point where I think - do they have a point?  Can I learn from it?  And how can this make me stronger?
But fundamentally just have fun and enjoy what you do. And if you find one person that likes it, then chances are there are hundreds more that will appreciate what you as well.

Is there a life after street fashion photography; your life plans?
I think the next step is to get out of a “job” situation.  I want to sustain myself in doing things I enjoy. Once I get to that point, I see there’s much more opportunity to do the things I love: writing, painting, and sculpting.  And maybe making short films as well.
And of course one of my biggest loves is traveling. I think it’d be great to set up a good base in Singapore and then go out to different cities, live for a couple months in a different city, but always come back to Singapore. I’d also like to build my family, and take them everywhere I go as well.

So to clean things up, would you like to do Outré full time?
To have a life like The Sartorialist, to be able to travel here and there, Tokyo, New York and Singapore in the same week, and to be able to roam around and find people to get photographs of all day long, that would be very cool.
For me now, however, I have to focus on getting better and better.  If I could spend more time on it; right now I’m getting good shots, but if I have more time for this, I’d get great shots.  To get more time though, I have to get better and get a good name.  That’s my goal right now.

 •Bent's snapshot, Jak & Jil detail-capture style. Full outfit could be seen on the post titled 'Demeanor'•

Outré is on the web at: http://jamesbent.com/blog

 Hope you enjoyed this round of session! Look forward to the next people to watch out for this exhilarating year.

Hmm, a little hint?

Say, the next designer to look out for after she ties up all her shoes in order, and a French photographer who loves milk...

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