Parts Of A Whole


Su Shan
Street Style Photographer

How did you first get into photography?
I first got interested in photography because my father has a lot of cameras, and he’s very into photography himself. I picked it up officially as a hobby when I was in Singapore Polytechnic, and started with Polaroids, and then film, and eventually, digital photography.

When I went to the UK to study fashion marketing, photography evolved to become a way of expressing myself.

In 2018, I interned for a fashion brand, Emilia Wickstead, that was showcasing during London Fashion Week. At that time, I was really curious about Fashion Week, particularly street style and how it’s shot at events like these, so I went to have a look. I travelled five to six hours on the bus, in the middle of winter, from Leeds to London, and after that first season of Fashion Week, I was hooked, and have been shooting Fashion Weeks around the world since.

I think what really got me hooked was the whole experience of seeing people wear certain brands, whether it’s PR from the brands or just dressing themselves and attending the shows, and how vibrant the clothes were, and how people dress according to their personalities. As a photographer, you’re shooting for the whole day, and you don’t even have time to eat your lunch, but it’s so exhilarating!

Is this something that you see yourself doing long-term?
I hope so!

Before I started, or before I left Singapore to study in the UK, I didn’t know what street style or street photography was. So when I met people or photographers at Fashion Week, I began to see street photography as a viable career option. I thought that it’d be really cool to be one of the few pioneer street style photographers and represent Singapore or Southeast Asia, because I don’t really see much local representation in the industry. I normally see photographers from Japan or Korea, and occasionally ones from Hong Kong and China, but I don’t really see anyone from Southeast Asia in particular.

I hope that by doing this, art students or young creatives in Singapore will see that street photography can actually be a thing, and that if you push hard enough to pursue your dreams, you can actually get to where you want to be.

So I really do hope that it can be a viable career option. But if it isn’t, I know that I still have people and opportunities that I can fall back on. My family runs a construction business, so I do help out there in between seasons, whenever I can, and I can always use the skills that I learned in university to work in another job.

Who’s the most memorable person you’ve shot?
So many! But if I had to pick one, it would be JJ, Lin Jun Jie.

I saw him in Paris, just before the Louis Vuitton show in 2019. It was crazy, because everyone was at this huge runway, with the celebrities just walking in. I was actually shooting backstage for another show, but I knew he would be attending this particular show, and I really wanted to shoot him, so I rushed to the pre-show and caught a glimpse of him, but he was mobbed by the crowd.

At the end of the show, I saw him again. This time, we made eye contact and I shouted, “Hey JJ, I’m shooting for a Singapore magazine, can I shoot you?” He looked at me and nodded, and I felt like it was a Singaporean thing, or a sense of familiarity between the both of us. He gave me barely five seconds of his time, just glancing at my camera, and off he went.

All the girls were like, “Oh my God, why does this girl get such a privilege?” So yeah, I got a great shot of him, and it was published in Men’s Folio Singapore.

Would you say that your personal style has changed since becoming a street style photographer?
Yes, it has changed tremendously. When I first started out, I tried to follow trends and really tried to impress everyone, but it didn’t go well. Now, I realise that I get influenced by the people that I photograph.

I recently travelled to Sydney, where I saw a lot of women wearing suits of different colours for different seasons. And then at my next shoot, my eyes were just drawn to women in suits. What I’m wearing right now is part of a suit set actually. These are just the pants, but there’s a blazer that comes along with it.

These days, when I shoot, I tend to photograph people whose style I want to emulate. For instance, I like shooting people dressed in a very minimalist style, because I’ve been hoping to curate a capsule wardrobe of my own. I also like shooting people who can really pull off sneakers, because I love sneakers.

How’s your capsule wardrobe coming along?
Well, I say that I hope to curate one, but I don’t think it’s possible for me because I love fashion so much. But I do thrift my clothes majority of the time—70% of my wardrobe is thrifted, and I try my best to opt for timeless pieces when shopping.

I thrift online when I’m not travelling, but when I do travel, I enjoy visiting thrift shops and thrifting in person. For example, this Celine bag that I’m carrying was thrifted in Japan, and in Milan, I thrifted a suede Gucci skirt for just 80 Euros. This Issey Miyake top that I’m wearing was thrifted too.

I really love thrifting, and I see it as a way to play your part to be sustainable. Nowadays, fast fashion brands are just pushing consumers to buy stuff, which isn’t environmentally friendly. So these days, I’m streamlining my wardrobe by purchasing more responsibly, and trying my best to curate a capsule wardrobe, or at least get as close to one as I can get.

Is there a city you’re dying to visit soon?
I really want to go back to Shanghai! The last time I went to Shanghai was in 2006, but I was so young then, so I really want to go back, because I know that Shanghai Fashion Week is a thing and I want to see what Chinese fashion like looks like. Yeah, so Shanghai is definitely on my list.

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