Jeffrey Chan is a photographer from Toronto, Canada specializing in fashion, lifestyle, food & travel photography, as well as tv and film production stills. His work is surprisingly diverse, with colorful, vibrant fashion and lifestyle photography juxtaposed with stunning and engaging street photography. This has already resulted in a rich collection of images, especially on the many trips he has captured lots of authentic moments. People deeply absorbed in their work, old men passing the time playing, dense hustle and bustle in crowded streets. For C-Heads he tells us personal thoughts, stories and memories about some of his wonderful images that moved us.
“My street photography, captured on film, was shot in various cities, mostly on my travels around Asia, but also around Marrakech, New York City, Hawaii and my hometown of Toronto. They were shot using my favourite vintage cameras – the rare & fast Norita 66 with 80mm f/2 lens, a Rolleiflex 3.5F and the fun to use Leica CL. I really love shooting with slide film as it delivers unrivalled lustre, depth and contrast. Fuji Provia 100F and 400X are gorgeous. I also discovered a small little shop in the US called dr5 that converts black & white negative film to b&w slide film. It transforms b&w negative film into something truly stunning.”
He continues: “I enjoy shooting film as it really slows down the photographic process since you have a limited number of frames to play with. It allows you to study a scene, the light, the composition and really capture a moment. And using classic film cameras is a truly tactile experience from clicking the shutter button, to advancing the film and focusing the lens. The look & feel of film photography is also very nostalgic. The images can be grainy, warm and a little blurry, harkening back to another time period.”
“Many times on my travels, I’ve been able to strike up conversations because of the film camera, which then allows me to build a bond with someone, so I can then capture a portrait of them without conflict.”
Street photography today is definitely more challenging, especially with the ubiquitousness of digital cameras and smartphones. People on the street always notice you or are aware of being photographed. In the decades before digital photography, cameras were less prominent, so it was much easier to capture a candid moment. Shooting with a film camera is less conspicuous and sometimes puts subjects more at ease, as they’re fascinated by it or feel more connected to it. Many times on my travels, I’ve been able to strike up conversations because of the film camera, which then allows me to build a bond with someone, so I can then capture a portrait of them without conflict. Some people refuse to have their photo taken but once they realize it’s film and shot with an old camera, they relax.
Doing street photography is always more enjoyable when traveling as there are so many more interesting things to capture than back at home, where it’s all very familiar. In Asian cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo, there’s always so much activity on the street, especially around markets. People are always out and about. The same can be said in a city like Marrakech. There is so much character and vitality to capture everywhere.
“Shooting with a film camera is less conspicuous and sometimes puts subjects more at ease, as they’re fascinated by it or feel more connected to it.”
The film cameras I use are all fully manual. To get the most out of them, you really have to have an understanding of how cameras function. To nail the exposure, using a light metre is necessary, but it’s not always straightforward. In trickier lighting situations, where the subject is backlit or side lit, balancing light and shadow is very important, but it also depends on what your creative vision is. Photographing portraits, and street scenes or landscapes are different as well. With portraits, you can measure the light hitting the subject directly with a light meter but with street scenes or landscapes, it’s much more effective to measure the light bouncing or reflecting off the scene. The Leica CL has a built-in spot meter, which is brilliant to use.”
“The man with the smartphones was from Senegal and he had traveled to Marrakesh to make some money selling phones. We had a nice little conversation and he appreciated that I took the time to hear his life story and his challenges. Again, he was hesitant to have his photo taken but was fascinated by my Rolleiflex TLR film camera.”
“The shot with the taxi cab at night is in Shinjuku. This is one of my favourite film shots ever. It was shot wide open at f/2.0 on the Norita 66 with Fuji Provia 400X slide film. I had to hold the camera very steady as the shutter speed was probably 1/15 second. The photo really shows the beautiful bokeh and narrow depth of field of the Norita 66 80mm f/2 lens.”
“These were shot in Toronto with my Leica CL on Fuji Neopan 400 around Kensington Market, which is a bohemian neighbourhood with several indie shops, vintage boutiques and arts spaces. The classic motorbikes and cars, along with the moustachioed hipsters are a ‘flashback’ to another era.”
“This was on a flight home from a trip to Hawaii, after attending my cousin’s wedding.”
“This image was photographed during one of my most epic travels. This was shot in Bagan, Myanmar from a hot air balloon, also with my Rolleiflex on Fuji Provia 100F. There are over 10,000 temples in Bagan, each with a statue of Buddha inside. I was inspired by the non-narrative documentary film ‘Samsara’ and had to visit Bagan. It was also my first ever hot air balloon ride. Floating up in the air, without any glass or windows between you and the landscapes, is an unforgettable experience.”
“These were shot during a weeklong trip to Tokyo. I visited many markets including the famous Tsukiji fish market. The photo with the man with the mustache was a funny moment. He was telling some people about some products that he was promoting. I really loved that scene, as well as the framing of the image, but the ‘mirror slap’ from my Norita 66 was so loud, he immediately stopped talking and looked straight at me after the shot. Like the Pentax 67, the Norita 66 is a very noisy camera when you click the shutter!”
“This was in Marrakech, as I was exploring the main market square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. There are always many interesting characters to meet and talk with. I really loved the egg merchant and his trays of eggs. The wrinkles on his face tell another story. He didn’t want his photograph taken until I offered him a 10 dirham coin.”
“This was also during my trip to Tokyo. I visited a sumo ‘stable’ where sumo wrestlers train. It was very fascinating to see their training regime. I lived in Japan during my mid-20s where I taught English. I had a chance to go to a sumo tournament but I was very sick the weekend that my friends went. I was upset that I didn’t get to watch the tourney. On my follow up return trip to Tokyo, there were no sumo tournaments but a visit to a sumo stable was just as fun to see!”
“Random shots around Hong Kong Island.”
“These were shot around Peng Chau, a small outlying island around Hong Kong. I took the ferry there and spent the day exploring.”
“Shot on my Rolleiflex in SoHo, Lower Manhattan on a trip to New York City.”
“This is a photo of my friend Jun on a trip to Seoul to visit him. We met in a hostel in Miami before a three month road trip he did around Mexico & Guatemala.”
“This was again shot in my hometown of Toronto. This was at Yonge-Dundas Square, which is like Times Square in NYC. It was hilarious to see that ‘Spock’ had beamed down to Toronto to have a look around but also to have his photo taken with passersby.”
“Random moments captured around Tokyo.”