photography

Postcards from Taipei + A Playlist for Asia

taipei_danshui_fishermans_wharf_sophia_hsin-5.jpgSunset at Fisherman’s Wharf in Tamshui, Taipei

It is so weird being back in Canada after a month in Asia.

While I feel that my soul will forever be stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between North America and Asia, I am glad for photos and stories to linger over these trips and memories.

When I think of Taipei, I think of the scorching tropics, the smell of pineapples, scooter exhaust and a city vibrant with the best selection of night markets, alleyways and temples that take you back in time.

Here you will find the perfect mix of western influence and Chinese tradition with traces of Japan. But the best thing about Taipei is always the hospitality of people who are ready to make a tourist feel like local.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park: One of my favourite places with ongoing exhibitions of Asian designers and creatives, music festivals and coffee shops to sit in and watch Taipei go by.

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Taipei Main Station. Taken in 2014

So if you ever find yourself in Taipei, be prepared to let go of your western politeness, go all out with the best food, island scooter adventures and a warm experience of Asia you will not too soon forget.

A playlist for your trip: 

1. Crowd Lu – 100 Ways of Living (盧廣仲 – 100種生活)
If you are on the hunt for Taiwanese musicians this guy is such a good place to start. I love his humble lyrics like buying breakfast with homies (soy milk and salty donuts all day every day), wise words from his grandmother to the pursuit of his musical journey. He also works often with my favourite photographer Hideaki Hamada.

2. Nujabes – Aruarian Dance
Trust me. So good.

3. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
I found out about Mr. Sakamoto during my college years and my ears have been in love since. A pianist and slightly moodier composer (much like Studio Ghibli for adults), you will find yourself moved with his soft and deep pieces like Energy Flow and Rain.

4. Deserts Chang – Bao Bei (張懸 – 寶貝)
This lady is an inspo with her soft vocals, rich cadenzas and creating music for deeply sentimental people.

5. Shanghai Restoration Project – Jade Buddha Temple w/ Di Johnston
I found out about Dave Liang during my years living in China. It has been a treat following this Asian American producer turn Chinese folk songs into modern tunes. Shanghai Restoration Project brings me back to Shanghainese streets, steamed dumplings and music theatres with women clad in silk gowns and jade bracelets.

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Taipei has a pace that is surprisingly laid back for a popular Asian city. I love watching the locals stop for photos of flowers, trees, boats and anything that catches their fancy.
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Exploring old alley ways around Gongguan. Many of these apartments used to be air raid hidings from the Taiwan/Japan War in the 1900s.
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Monster shaved ice at Roji, Taipei – Are they not cute? I died a sweet death

If there was a time I grew up not knowing whether I was Taiwanese or Canadian, I am grateful for this city where I learn about my heritage every time I visit. Taipei will forever be my home away from home and hold a special place in my heart.

I leave you with a favourite quote from Ansel Adams:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

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Till next time.

Postcards from Bangladesh

bangladesh_travel_photography-14.jpgHeading towards adventure.

The are 196 countries in the world.

I am really happy to say that I have visited a handful of them and am enjoying the process of checking each one off my list.

While it feels like a waiting game some days at home when I am editing through the deep recesses of my hard drive. I hope I never stop in wonder to marvel and be expectant at these opportunities and amazing things I get to see.

bangladesh_travel_photography-3.jpgLight at dusk and sights of traffic in Jessore, taken before crossing the street to hop into my van. This is one of my favourites from Bangladesh.

Without further ado, here are postcards from Bangladesh. Taken in dusty streets with tropical humidity, surrounded by the sound of prayer call, taken beside women clad in colour saris and rickshaw drivers who distractedly wave you down in this beautiful and mysterious country that has captured my heart in more ways than photos.

bangladesh_travel_photography-6.jpgSmiling boy wearing his prayer hat. Taken in a shrimp processing factory in Chila. 

bangladesh_travel_photography-10.jpgVisiting a local village by the Pushar river in Khulna. I love how the green in her dress matches the tree.

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Made our driver stop for shots on our way to the airoport. A snapshot of the green and lush river country Bangladesh is known for.

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The cutest boy from the village and a baby goat with the most spindly legs. I have found a new love for goats after visiting India and Bangladesh.

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Local school children on their way home from school. I found him saluting our gang of security guards that tail us wherever we go and asked him to pose for this shot.

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Till next time.

Photos from Bangladesh: A Campaign with World Vision Canada

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An afternoon on the streets of Dhaka

I remember my first day waking up in Dhaka. The world’s most populated city with 14 million people, filled with blaring horns, dusty concrete walls, the smell of curry and the sound of prayer call five times a day.

I had partnered with World Vision Canada on their No Child For Sale campaign where we would visit area development projects in the slums of Bangladesh, visit communities deep in the country, dive into gathering resources on child labour issues involved in the supply chain and how it leads back to consumers in Canada.

I remember visiting countless night schools, interviewing five year olds that worked as waste pickers on garbage mountains and meeting children with stories that seemed too brutal to exist. Along the way, I was also cared for by staff that treated me like family and meet people that were working as hard as they possibly could to improve those situations.

When I tell people that I have travelled to Bangladesh most people reply with ” Why would you go there? It’s so chaotic and dirty.” or “You must feel super grateful now when you see the way people live there.” Both are true and both are perceptions that scratch the bare surface of what is real and what it was like being there.

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Mukta and Bhabna both worked as waste pickers at a very young to help their families. Through attending the learning centre that World Vision partners with, they were able to learn skills and pass exams to enter the local school system. Mukta wants to be teacher and Bhabna wants to be a doctor. Both of them love being able to attend school.

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Children from the village and visiting boys that work at machinery shops in Jessore.

Creatively, this trip really made me realize the beauty of photography and how it gives me the ability to document stories and be a voice for people that need to be heard. Along the way, I also realized that it was less about me fulfilling my creative vision but about being a person that cared more than taking a great photo and walking away.

I remember being anxious about how gruesome the environment was and doubting my ability to pull off the project. This trip really stretched that idea and my hope about these photos is to share snapshots of beauty I found in this country and translate what it was like meeting the Bangladeshi people in real life.

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Babu and Sabir, two brothers we met in Chila while visiting a group of porter boys. During our visit, Babu never let go go of Sabir’s hand and piggy-backed his younger brother from the bus station all the way to our shoot location.

To think that you can love someone you’ve met for 10 minutes and care for a nation of kids on the other side of the world is impossible. But I want to to share that the Bangladeshi people I met there were people just like you and me. They are warm, they are welcoming, they are funny. They love, they get frustrated over daily life and they love ice cream. They don’t view their living situations the way we do but work at it every day with dignity and love for those around them.

bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-8Tanya lost her mother to a remarriage nine years when her father was blinded during a terrible incident. Since then, Tanya works night shifts from at the shrimp factory to support her handicapped father and younger sister. Tanya lead our team in a terrific Bollywood dance during our visit and says she dreams of being a dancer one day.

I guess what I am trying to point out is that these trips have given me a capacity for compassion and a boldness to talk about issues that seem better kept in the dark.The decision to go on this trip was to challenge myself and take on a project I believed in; knowing that I had to be prepared to be honest about my experience and have the courage to speak out. Now that I know about these things, it seems quite foolish to stay silent.

bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-9Visiting girls at the shrimp processing depot. These girls spend long hours picking shrimp heads in this tiny dark space.bangladesh_world_vision_nochildforsale_bangladesh_no_child_for_sale_world_vision-17Children we met at the villages in Khulna. These boys spend long hours in the water collecting shrimp larva that they sell to shrimp farms which is later exported. Everyday, these children face the dangers of water snakes, floods and malnutrition while making less than a dollar a day.

There is a deep imbalance about the way we live in developed worlds and the way people live in countries like Bangladesh. After putting a face to these stories and knowing these people that can use our support, I believe that we should all do our part in creating change.

A simple decision can really make a great impact in a child’s life. There are children working in terrible situations and getting paid half of what they deserve because they are young and in situations that make them very vulnerable. By refusing to support brands who are not transparent about their manufacturing process, you might be giving a child a chance to go to school, to make their own decision in marriage and a chance to have a better life.

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To learn more about the campaign I worked on, visit www.nochildforsale.ca and learn more on how you can take part in creating change.

Postcards from Laomei Green Reef, Taiwan

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Hello from Lao Mei, Taiwan.

It’s so nice to be back in Taiwan revisiting old nooks and discovering new places on this island that feels like home every time I am back. I think the beauty of going away is being able to come back and look at things with a new perspective and fresh lens. There are many memories I have from Asia and they grows richer with each trip.

I took the liberty of the Labour Day holiday and drove out to the North coast with friends. Taiwan is small yet I never cease to be amazed by the diverse landscapes and lush beauty the island seems to hold.

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Laomei Green Reef: A seaweed carpet formed by a type of algae that grows on the reef from April to May before the summer heat hits the coast. I have never seen such curious plants and might have taken a photo too many. taiwan_lao_mei_green_stones-12engagement_photography_taiwan_taipei
Chasing the light with Albert and Liz

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My squinty friend
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I have a few more days left here and it is always a fun battle between savouring moments like a local or taking photos like a shameless tourist. I leave feeling full from the warmth of the culture here and am excited to head back to Canada with a deeper understanding of my background.

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And this is where I leave you.

Toronto City Guide: 10 places to eat, visit and photograph

CN_tower_toronto.jpgTaking in the city from the CN Tower

The last time I was in Toronto was two decades ago when my parents took us on a family holiday to Niagara Falls shortly after we moved to Canada. I remember being drenched in my raincoat under the falls and the thrill of knowing I was in a place where everything seemed new and exciting. It was wonderful to be back and experience the city as an adult, this time accompanied by my camera.

Toronto was fast paced, it was cold, grey and very diverse. I stayed in the heart of downtown where high rises loomed like giraffes and everyone seemed like they had a place to go. The city felt a little overwhelming for a newcomer but the temptation to explore was far too great to keep me at home. I loved the excitement of knowing there was so much to see and do and enjoyed discovering the pockets of peace and quiet in a bustling city.

Here is my list of favourite places:

Eat

baddies_cafe_toronto.png1. Baddies Cafe
The story behind Baddies is that Alex (the owner) found himself with the space after his dad passed away without realizing his dream of opening a cafe. Needless to say, that was exactly what Alex did. The words “You Beauty” written on the walls are favourite quotes from his dad, whom you can find in photographs on the cafe walls. The chia pudding tasted as delicious as it looked and the smashed avocado on polenta with chilli jam reminded me of India and all that is well in the world.

the_drake_hotel_brunch-1.jpg2. The Drake Hotel
I have always been a fan of The Drake General Store and was extra excited to visit the hotel known for brunch and funky interiors. The chicken and waffles were delicious and meant to be shared with at least two friends.

See

art_gallery_ontario_toronto.png3. Art Gallery of Ontario
The AGO was by far my favourite place in the city with it’s abundance of exhibitions, the beautiful space designed by architect Frank Gehry and a quiet cafe to sit and watch the city go by. If you are an art nerd like me don’t miss out on the AGO.

aga_khan_museum.png4. Aga Khan Museum
I could have spent an entire day at the Aga Khan marvelling at the architecture and reading books on Persian folklore in the museum library. I am always amazed by the intricacy of middle eastern art and the space is beautiful with a great curation of artefacts and modern Islamic and Persian Art. The museum is a little far out of the city but definitely worth the trip.

_toronto_sophia_hsin-9.jpg5. Sugar Beach
I am in love with the water and look for it wherever I go. Here I found a quieter corner of Toronto and stood here taking in the sunset, beautiful even in the cold of winter. I can imagine coming here often in the summer.

university_of_toronto_chapel-1.jpg6. University of Toronto
The interiors of the Trinity Chapel was what drew me to this location. There is so much history about the campus grounds and the university felt like another city to explore in itself. The campus is best to walk around with a local friend.

Do

7. CN Tower
If it’s your first time visiting Toronto I recommend checking out the cityscape and nearby islands from 180 floors up in the sky. The view is breathtaking and the CN Tower is next to the Aquarium which makes it a great outing for families and children.

8. Ripley’s Aquarium
If you love aquariums and fish Ripley’s is your ideal place to visit. The sting ray tank was like a giant lake and I especially loved the underwater tunnel and interactive areas where you get to pet sleeping sharks and hold tiny shrimp.

Shop

souvenir_studio.png9. SOUVENIR
A minimalistic boutique shop and studio on College Street run by Danielle. An inspiring place for the creative. The area reminded me so much of New York and here I found familiar brands from Vancouver and a beautiful curation of gifts and souvenirs. Queen Street is also a lovely place with shops like Old Faithful, Warby Parker and countless boutiques. My favourite concept lifestyle store Mjolk Shop is just a little further away.

Stay

hazelton_hotel_toronto_yorkville.jpg_toronto_sophia_hsin-12.jpgView of Yorkville and pancakes to start the morning 

10.  The Hazelton Hotel
If you’re looking for an independant luxury boutique hotel to stay in Yorkville this is it. I spent a evening at the Hazelton with my sister and had great evening unwinding in a quiet area of Toronto. The neighbourhood is beautiful though I have to say nothing beat the blueberry pancakes that arrived in the morning. The staff is very personal which made it a great stay.

Other than that, Ossington, Koreatown and The Distillery District were places I wish I had more time to explore. The diversity of Toronto is amazing and despite being fast paced, everyone seems to have a story and are very open to sit down for chat or stop to point travellers in the right direction. I felt tiny in the city but found comfort in discovering areas that reminded me of home and connecting with an array of interesting people. I hope to be back again.

Till next time, Toronto!

Photographed in partnership with Tourism Toronto | @SeeTorontoNow.

Photography and writing by me

Three tips on Photography and Styling

scanteak_canada_gastown-17.jpgI get many questions on photography and styling so I thought I will share some tips here along with photos from a recent shoot for Scanteak.

There is no greater joy than the moments on set where you get to be behind the camera, working with your hands and finishing a project with a feeling of great contentment.

Here they are: scanteak_purebread_gastown-5.jpg

1. Keep it simple, work on composition and utilize white space
I am guilty of over-preparing for every set even now but I am always surprised how a good space, ample planning and fresh beautiful props go a very long way. As Phil Hansen says ” “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless.” You don’t need a lot to create magic but it does take some practice and honing to create a refined look. Remember that imperfection is beautiful too.

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2. Choose your light carefully
Lighting, lighting, lighting! Photography is all about lighting. You can shoot the most wonderful set in bad light and it will be 😦
I love working with natural light, by a large window and preferably during a time when there is no direct sunlight hitting the subject. If I am shooting indoors I always ask  to turn off  certain lights as multiple light sources can distract and change the tone of your photos.

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A few my favourite creatives: @verdenius, @cafe_no_ma, MUJI and Azuma Makoto

3. Put together a mood/vision board
If you are an indecisive person like me (I can never decide on pho or sushi, too hard!), a good trick is sketch your concepts, put together a mood or vision board, print it and take it to the shoot. It’s very helpful having a visual guide on set and you also save time communicating to people(example: bring me a chair that looks like this!).

Other than that, planning, creating a shot list, getting inspiration and getting hands on practice is always a good thing. And of course, rules are meant to be broken so take these tips with a grain of salt and trust your gut. As the wonderful Rumi says:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

scanteak_canada-6.jpgLeave any questions here and I’ll get back to you!

Photography, art direction and styling by me

Hello 2017

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Catching the sunset at Varkala Beach, India

Hello 2017!

Oh what a year.

2016  has taught me a lot. It’s good time to look back and celebrate all the achievements like graduating design school, travelling for my first photography project, backpacking to India, getting to work with some dream clients and learning to give myself a pat on the back for all of the above. 

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On assignment for Alaska Air in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by dad

This year has taught me the importance of home, of community, people, trusting my creative intuition and the joy of a home cooked meal.

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Baking lemon cookies for Christmas. Can we all agree nothing smells better than freshly grated lemon zest and hot butter?

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Baked eggs in avocado. Homemade breakfasts with your little sister @nasheedee are the best.

While it is good to set big goals for the new year. Here is to living each day with intention, from the moment you wake up and before you put your feet on the floor. Linger on those moments like talking on the phone with grandma, the smell of fresh lemon on your coconut flour cookies and the fog pouring over the waves of water on your morning run.

Things that never get old.

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Watching Canadian geese flying over the water at English Bay. A favourite place in Vancouver

To the new year!