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Photography as a meditation on outer space

By World Photography Organisation | 8 months ago

Based in Malaysia, Photographer Jack Yong explores the contrasts and contradictions of the delicate balance within urban life. "My photographs traverse amongst the disparate environments, fragmented nature and the duality of nature - culture dichotomy. I try to document this permanent quest of transcendence as deviant documentary observations where the apparent objectivity interweave with semantic ambiguity." 

His series, 'Space Project 2088', was shortlisted in the Professional Competition of the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards


Hi Jack. Thanks for talking with us! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you and your photography 

Hello! My name is Jack Yong and I'm a photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My works are compelled by my interest and fascination in the observations of science and technology and our interaction with them within our contemporary environment. 


Why photography? What does the medium mean to you? How did you get started? 

I find photography to be a romantic medium - one that draws and holds our attention towards a peculiar subject and in that precise brief moment before we press the shutter, a chemistry of emotion and exchange of gaze intercepts our stimuli resulting in the immortalization of time and memory. The act of photographing is therapeutic, as it allows me to be alone and immerse myself within my environment with a deep sense of macroscopic observation. By observing a particular subject, my curiosity awakes leading to a plethora of question and through the questions, I seek to find answers by visually deciphering it. On the other hand, photography provides me with an access to control time, which is integral in my practice. I'm also intrigued by the medium's limitations in depicting the objective reality and its equivocal quality in evoking dialogues between various registers: the concrete and the metaphorical, the factual and the fiction.

My earliest encounter with photography began when I was in a clinic, flipping through a National Geographic magazine with mesmerizing photographs. Never have I've seen the world to beautiful and detailed through the pages of a magazine. Since then, I use photography as my reason to see the world intricately and to extend my periphery of view that gives me an advantage in pushing the physical limits of my vision. As I progressed with this journey, I learnt that photography was not just an extension of my vision but an experience that widened my perception and perspective towards the subjective culture and the unfolding spectacles of life.


Tell us more about your successful image series, ''Space Project 2088'', which was Shortlisted in the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards

Space Project 2088 is a meditation on outer space, the perpetual desire to be closer with celestial space and the portrayal of Earth bound astronomical machines as a stimuli to envisage the cosmic spectrum. Driven by my childhood dream to travel space and the gradual limitations that unfolds, this series reflects on my empirical knowledge of outer space and the pursue to redefine the two dimensional view of outer space into a tangible medium. The project peers into the space facilities in Malaysia that facilitates the on-going development and research towards the studies and understanding of anything above Earth's surface. 

Living in an age saturated with imagery, we are often shown images of outer space that are visually spectacular and ethereally beautiful with vibrant hues and abstract forms. We recognize stars, nebulae, galaxies and planets through images derived from sophisticated satellites and astronomical machines. Through this pictorial form, our grasp on the notion of space that lies light years ahead is rendered visible into a two dimensional form. Frustrated by this ambiguity and pictorial flatness, I diverted my focus towards the "operative-culture" side of these facilities as they serve as the eyes and ears of the celestial bodies.Therefore, this project extends the timeline in both directions - from the theoretical origin of outer-space imagery to the cold macroscopic environment that serves as an antithesis and subtle reminiscent of space. By accessing these facilities, I've garnered photographs that reminds us not just of the representation of these machines and landscapes as functional objects - but an extensive re-interpretation of "space" on Earth.


Do you have a photographic philosophy? 

As we age older, a photograph doesn't. It holds time, eternalizes emotion and immortalize what we look at. Photography is not only a fulfilment - it is a window to understand the past, to look at the present and to see the future. 

Where in the world are you and what's next for you?

I'm in my beloved country, Malaysia and currently I'm working closely with a group of space engineers, scientists and space experts to initiate a long term plan towards the development of a skilful and resourceful space community that aims to share each others expertise and knowledge towards the advancement of Malaysia's space industry. This will be the Phase 2 of Space Project 2088 and there is a large involvement and collaboration with these talented and intellectual individuals. I'm absolutely thrilled and excited to be continuing this project. The final outcome of this project will eventually be published into a book.