Meet the Singaporean photographer weaving dreamscapes out of her images

There is something about Lenne Chai's work that we love.

By Vanessa


From the strong use of colours to the inventive use of props and mise-en-scène, it is humbling to know that the creator of these images is based in Singapore. When Lenne Chai is not busy planning fashion photoshoots, you can find her directing music videos – all through the lens of her whimsical style.

We caught up with the young photographer to find out what goes behind constructing the dreamscapes of her images, be it still or moving.

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via Lenne Chai photography

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen recently?

I had the best yakiniku of my life in Osaka some weeks back, the marbling and texture of the beef was beautiful. I’m also obsessed with The Love Witch by Anna Biller. I have so much respect for how she constructed every element of the film.

Is there one photograph or artist that had a significant impact on you? 

Phillip Toledano’s Days with My Father was the first photo series that made me cry.

What was one of the most memorable photoshoots you had and why?

I shot Lily Cole in Bintan when I was 21, slipped on some moss and fell into the sea. I still have a scar to show for it!

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via Lenne Chai photography

What sparked your foray into photography as a profession?

I took Photojournalism as a module in my final year as a Mass Communication student, and my lecturer recommended me for an internship at The Straits Times as a photojournalist. Things snowballed from there.

Why did you decide to pursue fashion photography?

The fashion industry as a whole fascinated me as a young girl, and photography happened to be the medium that I could communicate my ideas best in.

 

You mention in the ‘About’ section of your site that you enjoy weaving stories out of photographs. Do you think that fashion photography grants the photographer a stronger control over the visual story elements rather than, say, documentary photography?

Definitely. I love the process of taking ideas and figuring out how to make them a reality, and fashion photography allows me to create a slice of that world from scratch. I love documentary as a genre, but I think there’s a strong element of art direction in my work that doesn’t always work for that genre.

Are there other forms of photography you are interested in and why?

That’s a tough question to answer: I don’t strictly categorise my photography in any one form, and I feel like I’ve tried a bit of everything.

I directed a few music videos earlier this year, does that count? They’re all passion projects, and it’s like an enjoyable side interest for me.

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via Lenne Chai photography

Would you say that Singapore is a conducive environment for aspiring photographers to grow their skill and passion?

Technically, Singapore isn’t the easiest place to shoot photographs in, due to our proximity to the equator. That said, it’s conducive in the sense that there are lots of photographers, communities, and resources that aspiring photographers can tap into.

How would you describe your photographic style?

It used to be youthful, dreamy and feminine, but I’ve noticed that my style is slowly shifting away from that. While I love constructing sets and props to complete the story presented in my photos, I like photos where the model looks comfortable and natural, even if the scenario is completely unbelievable.

What other mediums of art feed into your photography?

I’ve been reading up on modern art history lately – the process of how art movements develop, as well as how they impact the “real” world intrigues me.

I also watch a lot of films, and read a lot of science-y books, though my interests lean towards sci-fi or even magic, like artificial intelligence and astrophysics.

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via Lenne Chai photography

While your portfolio spreads across different contexts and job scopes, one consistency I noticed throughout your images is the strong use of colours. What are your inspirations for your colour palettes?

Colours tell a story, and my palettes are largely dependent on the mood I’m trying to evoke. Sometimes, if it’s a period piece, I look at the types of colours used in that era to decide how accurate (or intentionally inaccurate) I want it to be.

 

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via Lenne Chai photography

What do you hope to evoke out of viewers when they see your body of work?

I’m still far away from where I aspire to be, but hopefully someday my work will make people feel something when they see it.

What are your current and future plans?

I have a couple more music videos lined up for the year, and I’m thinking of moving away from Singapore for awhile to see what happens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Find more of Lenne Chai’s work on her Instagram or website.