When one talks about street style photographers, names like Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist) and Tommy Ton naturally surface to the conversation. So when I met the 22 year old John Tan a year ago, I told myself, ‘This kid has balls!’ – for doing street style photography in hot and humid Singapore, with its harsh lighting and severe lack of ‘fashionable’ subjects. Trust me, hunting for stylish men on the streets of Singapore was no easy feat, speaking from my experience running the search for Esquire Singapore’s Best Dressed Real Man (BDRM) campaign last year.
But John, besides being a street style photographer, was surprisingly very well dressed and knowledgeable about trends, thus he was an obvious choice for me when picking the finalists for the BDRM campaign.
I caught up with John again recently to find out what he is currently working on and asked him a few questions about himself for this month’s Style Profile feature.
HSD: What makes you pick up street style photography?
John: I’ve always been interested in taking photographs of strangers and capturing a moment. It’s an especially interesting phenomenon in Singapore, when the weather isn’t really conducive for dressing up. As such, It becomes that much more rewarding to spot a well dressed individual here.
HSD: What are the challenges you faced when taking street photography in Singapore?
John: The lighting. Unlike studio work, street photography entails using whatever available light there is and making the best use of the background.
(Photos by John Tan, Streetpeek.com)
HSD: What cameras do you use?
John: I mainly use a Nikon D7000 for most of my shoots but I also carry around a Voigtlander Bessa R3m for my film work.
HSD: What are some projects/achievements that you are proud of?
John: Being the official street style photographer for Audi Fashion Festival for two consecutive years as well as having my work published in the Men’s UNO China, (March 2014)
HSD: What do you hope to achieve next?
John: I’d like to venture a little out of Singapore, perhaps to Taipei or Japan, to capture well dressed people who are over 60 years old. Grandparents with style maybe?
HSD: Describe your personal style?
John: My personal style is very much influenced by Japanese people, more specifically a very dandy and rugged ivy sort of style.
HSD: Who is your style icon?
John: Mr Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi, a buyer for United Arrows Japan.
HSD: To you, what is the biggest fashion faux pas?
John: When shirt collars are disproportionate with respect to the person’s head.
HSD: What is your one wardrobe essential?
John: Navy linen pants.
HSD: Name me something you are obsessed with…
John: Pocket Squares and Ties.
HSD: Who are some of your favourite fashion brands/designers?
John: Thom Browne, United Arrows, Muji, Uniqlo, Newbalance, Mr.Bathing Ape, Vandafine clothing, J.Crew
HSD: Do you feel that men are fashionable from where you come from?
John: If you’re asking me if Singaporean men are generally fashionable, I’d say yes. Singaporean men are starting to put emphasis on what they wear these days.
HSD: Describe your daily grooming regime?
John: I use a general face cleanser every morning, followed by a moisturizer that doubles up as sunblock.
HSD: Wet Shave or Electric Shaver?
John: Wet shave for the stache, Electric shaver to maintain the stubble on my chin.
HSD: Where do you get your haircut?
John: Good ol’ barber near my place. Depends on my mood actually, usually a trim is good.
HSD: What’s your favorite hair-cut?
John: A Pompadour
HSD: Name me 5 things you can’t leave home without?
John: My iPhone, moleskin notebook, portable battery pack, name cards and earphones
HSD: Give us a style tip:
John: Always start from basics. Have at least a pair of navy trousers (pretty much goes with everything) and a few white shirts.
HSD: Complete this sentence: A stylish man is…
John: Someone who cares about the details.