Sharpening His Focus

Aspiring photojournalist Shintaro Tay (CS’22) shares about his love for photojournalism and how WKWSCI has helped further hone his skills.

An aspiring photojournalist, Tay finds joy in telling stories through photos. PHOTO: NIGEL CHAN

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Shintaro Tay (CS’22), a second-year undergraduate from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, fondly remembers the day he received his first camera phone when he was 10. As a child, he had always been drawn to the photos found in National Geographic magazines and photo books related to Singapore’s heritage from second-hand bookstores at Bras Basah Complex.

“There are a lot of photo stories in these magazines. I loved it because it was like collecting pieces of the world,” said Tay. Fond of black and white photography in photo books, he felt that it was able to showcase the emotions and soul of people compared to coloured photos.

Today, Tay has had experience working as a photojournalist for various local news outlets such as The New Paper and The Straits Times.

With Tay’s interest largely centred on documentary photojournalism, his online portfolio comprises mostly of human interest and cultural photography such as capturing the shop owners of the former Sungei Road flea market. At present, he is a recipient of the Howe Yoon Chong PSA Scholarship.

 

His First Prized Possession

In secondary school, Tay competed against other St Andrew’s students from primary school to junior college levels in a photography competition. He attained the top prize for two consecutive years. He was awarded his first ever DSLR camera and lens as a prize in 2010.

With the camera, he was able to further pursue his interest in photography.

“I always found it motivating to go out there and find places or people to take photos of. I became very interested in storytelling through pictures for keepsake purposes,” said Tay.

 

Kickstarting His Journey In Photojournalism

His first formal encounter with photojournalism began in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where he attained a Mass Communication Diploma. Deciding to develop his interest in photography to something more serious, Tay took up modules that involved photography.

Apart from photography, Tay also directed a documentary titled “Saving Sungei” in 2016 that was premiered at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, the third largest documentary festival in the world.

“Polytechnic was a starting point for me as it was very technical and I learnt many photography and editing skills,” shared Tay.

“Being inexperienced then, I could not identify if it was appropriate for me to take a photo during that moment when his wife was grieving.”

SHINTARO TAY (CS'22), PHOTOJOURNALIST STRINGER WITH THE STRAITS TIMES, YEAR TWO UNDERGRADUATE AT WKWSCI

Tay’s six-month internship at The New Paper in 2015 provided a memorable experience as he was given the full professional job-scope of a photojournalist. He was required to cover a wide variety of assignments that he considered “dynamic’ as it ranged from crime, entertainment to public events.

During his six-month internship, Tay made a mark for himself as a student photojournalist. He clinched an SPH News Picture of the Month award for his photos of the murder case of a 76-year-old man found dead in a blood spattered Yishun flat in November 2015.

Recalling the experience, Tay said he faced a dilemma when he arrived at the crime scene.

“Being inexperienced then, I could not identify if it was appropriate for me to take a photo during that moment when his wife was grieving.”

However, the opportunity to cover the murder story offered him a lesson that was unlike any other as he learnt to provide empathy to people who were grieving.

“Photojournalism teaches me to deal with people and how to cope in difficult times. Capturing these moments showed me what it meant to be human and to be there for others,” added Tay.

 

STORYMAP: WILLIE TAN (View Fullscreen)

 

“Photojournalism teaches me to deal with people and how to cope in difficult times. Capturing these moments showed me what it meant to be human and to be there for others.”

SHINTARO TAY (CS'22), PHOTOJOURNALIST STRINGER WITH THE STRAITS TIMES, YEAR TWO UNDERGRADUATE AT WKWSCI

Honing His Craft

During the recent summer break in May 2019, Tay took on an internship with The Straits Times for three months. One of his most notable works during his internship was his involvement in the National Day photo series, #myhomeSG.

Coordinated by a notable WKWSCI alumnus, Neo Xiao Bin (CS’07), the #myhomeSG series was a multimedia project for photojournalists to uncover something unique in neighbourhoods where they spent their childhood or have a special memory of. The diverse photo series also featured other works of renowned and seasoned photojournalists.

Tay was amongst the few photojournalists who had the privilege of participating in this project.

“Initially, it was meant for full-timers but I was privileged to be given a chance to be featured after pitching a few ideas to Xiao Bin,” added Tay.

Tay, wanting to seek connection with meaningful places in Singapore, chose to tell the stories of Little India in his series titled Fans and Friends in Little India. It portrayed the hustle and bustle in Little India, documenting the old trades that remain in that area today.

The other WKWSCI alumni who were part of this project were Jason Quah (CS’13), Kevin Lim (CS’09) and Ng Sor Luan (CS’01). They worked on the stories for Telok Blangah, Pasir Ris Town and Bukit Panjang respectively.

 

Juggling Between School and Work

Tay’s current education in WKWSCI has also value added to his skillset, making him more adaptable and quick-thinking on-scene. The newsroom simulation in journalism modules has taught him to perform under pressure.

“I now know when and how to craft a story without needing long hours,” said Tay.

The two internships were also defining for him as it provided him with an invaluable experience in the industry and the ability to expose himself to industry standards.

Despite being a full-time undergraduate, he explains that he finds time to cover events whenever he can as a freelance photojournalist with The Straits Times to keep his portfolio fresh.

“School is still a priority for me. During the curriculum, I will cover what I have to study. If it is during the weekends and there is availability for me, I attempt to head down to document stories so as to keep myself relevant,” shared Tay.

Admiring the seniors in the industry, he aspires to be like WKWSCI alumnus Edwin Koo (CS’03), who has been a big inspiration for him.

“It is a humbling experience to share the same space with these seniors who have established themselves in the industry. Like them, I hope that I will be recognized for the work I am passionate about,” said Tay.

Embarking on this journey has motivated Tay to become a full-time photojournalist for The Straits Times in the future.

“I am keeping my doors open and my hope is to combine journalism, photography and documentary all in one,” added Tay.

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