“Ever since I was young, I knew in my heart I would be an artist of some sort,” states photographer Ervine Lin. Unfortunately, the educational system in Singapore tended to frown upon students who chose to study art during Ervine’s youth, “leaving only the less academically inclined students to pursue it,” he says. Ervine was whisked away into science-related courses with other academically-gifted students. The closest he could come to art was becoming an architectural major, which proved to be an unhappy pairing.
Taking a year off from his studies, Ervine and a friend opened a photography studio. His friend quickly left the business, leaving the neophyte photographer with the studio and the rent to pay. Ervine found himself a professional photographer with professional responsibilities very quickly. Fortunately, commercial clients appeared, and Ervine began his autodidactic journey as a photographer.
When asked about his impressive blend of lighting and saturation, Ervine claims to have a split personality when it comes to work for clients and work for himself. He will do anything required to get what clients are paying him for, including total image manipulation with his formidable Photoshop skills. His personal photographs get very little digital tweaking, if any. Most are scanned directly from slide or negatives. Sometimes there’s dust removal, cropping, and maybe a small amount of dodging and burning. “Most of the saturation that you see comes from the slides I use,” he says. “If you thought the photos online were saturated, wait until you look at the some of the slides under a loupe!”
Although his black and white photos often exhibit a wide dynamic range of luminosity, Ervine professes to not work hard to get this effect with his Mamiya gear. “While I often bring my Sekonic with me, there are times when I’d rather skip the whole zone metering and just let the camera do its work in AE mode,” he says. “I’m using a Mamiya 6, (a forerunner of the popular Mamiya 7 II) and it’s metering is done through the viewfinder. Film latitude on black and white negatives is just so broad that it’s really quite hard to go drastically wrong.” For color work, he shoots Kodak VS100 and Fuji Provia 400F. His black and white films are Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 and Neopan 400, and everything is scanned with an Epson Perfection V700. He shoots with strobes for his professional work, but his personal photos are done with available light only. When necessary, he utilizes a Sekonic 758 meter. “One of the biggest plus points about the Sekonic is its ability to average out a number of meter readings. This really speeds things up for me when I need to move fast but still meter with a spot meter.”
Completely self-taught in the art and science of photography, Ervine switched from the Mamiya RB67 to the Mamiya 6 Rangefinder. The reason for the switch was ease of portability in the field, as most of his personal photographs are done in foreign countries. Of the Mamiya 6, he reports, “It’s shutter is so slient you can hardly tell it went off.” He shoots the 50, 75, and 150mm lenses. “All three lenses are superb and pretty much ideal for the work I do. They tack sharp even when wide open.”
Ervine has written about how digital photos appear too clean for him, and film seems “more authentic.” When asked if this is something to do with medium format film, he replies, “Not just medium format film. Polaroids, 35mm, 8×10′s, et cetera, all have this wonderfully beautiful look. Anything shot on film looks more down to earth, more humane, more alive, even. There’s the fact that when you tell people you shot a photograph on film, it helps to give you a bit more credibility as a photographer.”
When viewing the gorgeous tonality evident throughout his work in exotic locations from Australia to China to Bali, it’s clear Ervine Lin made the right choice. He is definitely an artist, and was wise to listen to the voice which spoke to him in his childhood. With his sights set on moving from commercial photography to more personal work and possibly opening a gallery, Ervine says, “I love making nice images for no other reason than making nice images. There’s nobody to answer to, no lists of deliverables and deadlines to meet, no invoices and quotations to write, and so on — just taking photographs for the love of photography and nothing else. Again I boil this down to my photographic split personality. In the future, if the time and opportunity arose for me to earn a decent living with my personal work, I would make the switch in an instant.” Although his commercial clients would disagree, we look forward to more stunning personal work by Ervine Lin, and wish him the best in continuing to make his artistic dreams a reality.
Ervine Lin Photography: http://www.ervinelin.com
Written by Ron Egatz