Juliana Tan is a Singapore-based photographer working across Southeast Asia and China.
Trained as a filmmaker, she is interested in people and stories that speak to our current moment, especially in the areas of culture, business and politics.
What does the photograph capture?
The photograph is of Uncle and Auntie Pang, the owners of Yong Huat food stall in Singapore, in their stall’s kitchen.
What do you love about this particular image?
I love how comfortable and happy the couple are. It reminds me of the time before Covid-19 when we could be close to each other and share a good laugh. I also miss going to coffee shops and hawker centres to eat together with my family and friends.
What did you have to do to get this specific shot?
I had to make the couple feel safe and comfortable enough to take the directions that I had for them. They were not used to getting their photograph taken – but instead of freezing up, they were amused by the whole shoot and laughed heartily throughout.
What was the assignment?
The assignment was to profile four different hawkers and their stalls in Singapore. What makes them unique is that they have not found successors to take over their businesses – so there is a sense that the latter might not be around for much longer when these hawkers decide to retire.
What was the most memorable moment of the assignment?
Eating the food! It was all very delicious, and my assistant and I had a great time tucking into the various dishes.
What’s your one piece of advice for budding photographers?
Study the history of photography. Learn what has come before you so that you can contribute and add something new to the medium.
What’s your favourite place to photograph in the world and why?
I don’t really have a favourite place to photograph. I usually work with what I am presented with and try to make something interesting and personal.
What’s been your most memorable travel experience for work or pleasure?
I backpacked around South America for four months by myself. In that time, I hiked for four days along the ancient Inca trail to Machu Picchu, visited the salt flats in Bolivia, studied Spanish in Oaxaca for two weeks and went on many adventures. I had food poisoning twice and had to nurse myself back to health. It was unforgettable.
Where would you love to photograph that you haven’t yet?
I would love to go to North Korea. The country is a mystery to the outside world, and I would like to see it for myself – with minders following me around, I’m sure.
What are your three travel essentials?
My phone – which can act as a map, torchlight, music player, camera and communication device – a first aid kit and packing cubes.
Where do you dream of travelling to next?
New Zealand. I miss the great outdoors after being cooped up at home for so long. Also, their response to the Covid-19 situation has been excellent and should this pandemic continue for a longer term, I would feel safe being there.
See more of Juliana Tan’s photography here.