If the word “pretty” connotes something bland and conventional in fashion today, then the work of Singapore photographer Adam Oei goes against that grain. Trained in fashion photography at the London College of Fashion, the 26-year-old is noted for his darkly romantic oeuvre featuring models who always look beautiful but with a cool and mysterious edge about them.
“I think my image making has always adopted a darker tone with the goal of invoking some level of questioning with regards to the subject and the environment around it, and I hope to bring that different perspective and tone into content here,” he says.
It is one of the reasons why Female approached Oei to lens an editorial interpreting the theme of nostalgia. The images, which appeared in the September issue, were his first work for a local fashion magazine. That spread saw him being inspired by childhood memories of his neighbourhood arcade. “It was very much like entering a different world: a neon-lit, adrenaline-filled escape from the ‘real’ world,” he explains.
Oei became serious about photography some nine years ago and reveals that his foray into it is his form of escapism. “I think it was the possibility of creating a world within that medium which did not have to conform to anything from the real world — something that would only exist in my reality.”
He adds: “I also really enjoy the fluidity of fashion photography where the subject is a not simply a fait accompli but rather an amalgamation of hair, make-up, and clothes to become the character in the narrative. And only after which begins the dance between subject and photographer — frozen with every click of the shutter, immortalising each 1/200th of a second.” Spoken like a true romantic indeed.
Here, we get to know the man a little bit closer.
The Female Questionnaire
One word I would use to describe my photography style is… dark.
The last thing I did before this interview is… having a Double McSpicy meal at McDonald’s.
My photography hero is… Steven Meisel.
My dream photo shoot would be… in any of Tim Walker’s sets.
The biggest highlight of my career as a photographer would be… getting screamed at by (cult photographer) Mark Lebon.
One song that gets me in the mood when I am shooting is… Schoolboy Q’s Dope Dealer.
My biggest inspiration is… my best friend.
My spirit animal is… the bear that wrestled Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.
One surprising fact about myself is… I used to be a programmer.
If I’m not a photographer, I would be a… hobo.
The next big project I am working on is… some top-secret short film.