Ever since he got his first film camera at 12, Thomas Shiang has always loved taking photos. His friends and clients seem to love them, too, since he gets constant requests for his pictures to be blown up into canvas prints to be hung in homes and developments around the world.
But there is one person who’s not a fan: His wife.
“My wife always says my photos aren’t good,” he laughs. “She’s always saying, ‘Why do I look like this? Why did you make me look fat?’”
Still, the duties of dedicated holiday photographer always seem to fall to Shiang: After all, he doesn’t carry around his Canon DSLR, an Olympus pocket camera, and a Huawei P20 Pro on holiday for nothing.
Between sporadic work assignments that take him around Asia as a resort development consultant, the 63-year-old semi-retiree has plenty of time to indulge in his hobby — and its also given him a spate of properties for him to use as makeshift galleries.
“I just place my pictures in most of the properties that I design,” he laughs. “Buying pictures is so expensive, so I’m cutting costs!”
Shiang doesn’t just foist his pictures off on unwitting clients, though. Most have seen his work and have requested specifically for Shiang’s snaps to line their walls. That’s how his pictures have found homes in the unlikeliest places around the world, from lavish American steakhouses in Fuzhou to cozy B&Bs in Bali.
But as for a full-fledged exhibition, with his name emblazoned over each metal plaque? Not a chance, he demurs.
Shiang is content enough being his wife Instagram husband — the dutiful photographer behind every beaming holiday shot — simply because he loves taking photos of wife Jocelyn Tjioe that much.
“A model knows what their ‘good’ side is, so they’ll always look similar in every shot. But normal people don’t know this, which is why they look more natural,” he says.
“When I first started to take pictures of my wife, she looks really stiff, because she’s very shy. But these days, she’s a lot more relaxed when I take her pictures.”
When Shiang isn’t busy cataloguing their family adventures — he acts every bit the role of a proud papa, and has an album filled with pictures from Nathan’s performances, much to the latter’s chagrin — Shiang loves looking for curious shots that most might overlook.
“You have to pick angles that you don’t normally look at every day,” he says.
“Personally, I try to take photos that make you look at things that people neglect in everyday life.”
Though judging by Shiang’s camera roll, which is thoroughly inundated with smiling pictures of wife Jocelyn in Norway, Jocelyn in Japan, Jocelyn in China, Jocelyn at home, Jocelyn — there’s one particular subject that he can never quite neglect.
Snapshots is a series on some of our favourite society shutterbugs.