Billy Mork sees things through his eyes, because he believes that humans are emotional. And so is he. Emotions and influences in his environment affects his photography. As a veteran in the industry himself, you would think that he is the epitome of inspiration to budding photographers, but that is far from the truth. Drawing animus from the likes of Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna, Billy strengthens his language of photography by reflecting on how he views things during different periods of time. With a keen eye on bringing together art and photography, he will be presenting XEdition, an exhibition to celebrate vibrant culture and diversity of the visual art scene while stimulating critical and commercial attention for artists and editors this September. We sat down with the ocular genius as he lifts the lid on his aspirations and what drives his work in the 21st century.
How did you get started in photography?
My father was into photography and that influenced me a lot when I was younger and during my teenage years. I did stage photography because I was part of the drama society in Victoria Theatre in 1967. So, I spent all my time in theatre, doing photography. I specialised in black and white photography because there wasn’t digital back then.
What are your views on digital and analog photography?
If I’m going to compare both, I’d say analog forms the basics. But we can’t say which is better. Now, we’re fighting for time so digital is great when a client tells you, he needs the prints the same day as when the photographs were taken. Back then, a client has to wait at least a week to to process the photographs before it’s ready.
Previously, you’ve to shoot everything in analog and then wait for it to process to see the results. With digital, you can shoot something and see it immediately and choose which ones you are pleased with. So, either way, you need to be sure what you want. Let’s say you’re sent to the mountains to shoot with film rolls, when you leave the spot, you know that’s all you have and whatever you’ve taken shows your skills. Nowadays, you are able to view the images instantly and you can use applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to edit, and that involves a different skill set. A professional photographer will constantly select the right medium for the job and shoot, whether its analog or digital.
What are the challenges you face when making prints via analog photography?
With analog photography, when you shoot, it’s only 50 percent. You have a concept and you shoot it like how you see it. After that, when you are making your prints in a dark room, you have the image in your mind that you want it to turn out to look like. Sometimes, you shoot different layers to combine it and the challenge is you don’t see it when you’re in the dark room. In the dark room, you’re burning, dodging and exposing the light – you don’t get to see it after you print. So, you must know the difference a second of work can make. I have worked with photographers including Russell Wong and it’s incredibly difficult to print other people’s works because as a photographer, you know what you want. But I won’t know about others’ specifications, and I have to print it the way I think you would want it. A few years ago, I printed a shot of Lee Kuan Yew for Russell Wong and that shot was from TIME magazine. That single print took me over three days to replicate. With hand-printing, you can’t get the same product. That’s a challenge as well. You can never get the same result.
“We need to figure out what we want show to people and there should be a purpose when you project what’s happening in the world through your photographs.”
What do you think about the cameras in mobile phones?
It’s no longer just a phone – it does more than the simple functions of a phone. When I travel, I don’t bring a camera unless I’m doing it for a project, but with a phone, you are able to record everything and its easier – and faster too. The phones these days can give you a great image if you know how to use it. In the mid ‘90s , there are only 3.5 megapixels, now its over 20 megapixels on phones. Those are great resolutions, so it really depends how you use it.
From all the subjects you’ve taken photographs, what is your favourite?
Architecture. It reflects how the society grows and how technology has improved over the years. Buildings can tell a story about what’s going on in the world. I find it interesting when I take a shot and show it to an architect, and they can’t tell which part of their building the photograph was taken from.
Tell us about your upcoming show, XEdition.
I am the organiser for this exhibition. In Singapore, we have different professional photographers and somehow we are not well-connected. I came up with platform to bring all photographers from various backgrounds, both local and international together. Besides this, I want to showcase the best works to people because not everyone has the chance to travel, and this will be a great chance for others to see different types of works. I think it’ll be a great exposure for both local and international photographers, and I hope to continue this for at least three to five years. It won’t be a one-year-only event.
What is iFOMATS Magazine all about?
As a curator, I pick photographs that shows different stories and put it together in this magazine, iFOMATS. In Europe, “photo” is spelled “Foto”, so the title of the magazine is generic and anyone who see it can tell its about photography. The magazine showcases photographers’ work before the exhibition.I have distributed this magazine to 17 countries to expand the reach for the photographers. Hopefully in a year, I could have four to five issues so, when I collect enough work, I can showcase various photographers from both amateurs and professionals. iFOMATS also announces various art events happening in the world. It’s the size of Nat Geo Magazine because I think its a convenient size to hold and keep in your bags. Russell Wong was the first one to support this magazine by including his work in it. So, this magazine covers a broad range of photographers including Stephen Schaub, who is coming to the XEdition as well. He owns five galleries in the United States and this is his first time showcasing his work outside of the U.S.. I think that’s very exciting.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
When you shoot, you need to tell a story. You often see someone just shooting something that doesn’t tell anything. For example, when I visited Bhutan, it’s a third world country so, I try to show the happiness in the Bhutan people. I think, we need to figure out what we want show to people and there should be a purpose when you project what’s happening in the world through your photographs.