His fascination with capturing emotional moments since young made Shintaro Tay the passionate photojournalist he is today.
From humble beginnings with an instant camera to becoming an award-winning photographer, Shintaro Tay has accomplished much in his 19 years. His most recent works were featured alongside 20 other photographers in the book Thank you, Mr Lee that honours the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
The mixed Japanese-Chinese Mass Communication student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) came from an underprivileged background. His father was an odd job worker while his mother was a housewife until 2003, where she began teaching Japanese.
In the first seven years of his life, Shintaro only had three photos that documented his entire childhood. His parents could not afford a camera for the family.
It was a far cry from his life today, where he brings a DSLR with him wherever he goes.
He said: “I was not privileged like other kids. I stayed in a 2-room flat and did not have the latest toys, gadgets, and even Internet until I was in secondary school. I was pretty cut off from the world, and that lead me to love stamps, books, post cards, and brochures instead – items that symbolised national identity.”
His journey to becoming a professional photographer is a remarkable one. Starting off with an instant camera, Shintaro’s first digital “camera” was the one on his father’s Siemens C65 phone.
It was only during his time in St. Andrew’s secondary school’s photography club that he began using a DSLR.
His very first personal DSLR was not even bought, but earned, from a school photography competition after clinching the first prize.
Shintaro often ventures out into the streets to take photos of people and their surroundings. One notable event that he experienced first hand was the Little India Riots in 2013.
He said: “People were screaming, shouting, and things were being hurled around – a total state of disarray. I was scared and felt really unsafe. I was talking to my friend on a phone and a glass bottle was thrown right at me, missing me by just a few centimeters.”
Shintaro’s friends and family flooded him with hundreds of messages and tweets, concerned with his safety. Despite this frightening experience, he was happy to have experienced such a significant event in Singapore’s history.
The 19-year-old adolescent mostly focuses on the struggles of the people, in the hope of shedding some light on them.
Recently he embarked on a project to document the closing of Thieves’ Market in Sungei Road, Singapore’s largest and oldest rent-free hawking zone that is over 70-years-old.
When asked about his future plans, Shintaro thought of the humanitarian aspect of his works that could improve society.
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