URBAN KOI,

NEW YORK

“New York is bursting with inspiration. Perhaps I am a bit odd, but I see a narrative in nearly every nook and cranny. From the grit of the Metro to the weathering of alleyways, I am endlessly inspired by the diverse history and I long to unearth the stories told within the walls.”

Where did you come from originally and where do you live now?
I was born and currently reside in New York.

You’re a very talented photographer, but also art director, writer and scientist. Can you tell us a little bit more about the relationship between these different fields?
Thank you—I am humbled and very much appreciate the kind words!

On first impression, art, writing, photography, medicine, and science may appear to be completely unrelated fields that do not intermingle. However, these realms can be colourful threads that weave together to form a vivid web.

At the lab, I work with imaging technology and take photos of immunohistochemistry slides of various tissues that I prepared, stained, and mounted. Under the microscope, cells will be seen fluorescing in beautiful hues of red, purple, green, and blue, depending on the reagents and chemical reactions. Experimental design shares characteristics of art directing as well—one must direct a team of scientists to conduct experiments or studies aimed at a proposed idea or objective. Science presentations, conference posters, and publications require art design and proficient writing in order to illustrate discoveries, showcase data, and convey hypotheses to the community.

Medicine is one of the most dynamic and complex fields. It begins with genuine compassion and honest concern. The best physician interlaces science theory, empirical evidence, and the art of humanity. Every human is unique and requires individualised attention—not every condition must be treated in the same manner. Thus, eclectic creativity and critical thinking are essential in order to provide the best care for each person. Medicine is an art.

What does art mean to you?
Art is the language of the universe.

When did you first get in touch with photography?
My passion in photography was born when I was four years old and I was playing with my parents’ old Ricoh and Konica cameras. I became mesmerised by the mechanisation of the camera and curiously dissected it, unmasking its anatomy. I discovered how light travelled through lenses, reflected off mirrors, and exposed part of the light-sensitive emulsion. Thus, I learned the elements of photography like aperture, shutter speed, and ASA (ISO) through the most classic way—film.

There seems to be an underlying simplicity and calmness in your photographic work – where does this very particular vision stem from?
New York City is often characterised as the ‘city that never sleeps’ and sometimes labelled as a centre of chaos. However, take a deep breath, ground yourself, and feel the rhythm of the city. The way the vines overturn a deserted brick building in Brooklyn, the way the fog lingers, gracing rooftops with a beguiling stillness, the way relentless sunlight slices through the scaffolding, casting obsidian shadows with mysterious messages, and the way the car horns beep or footsteps pitter-patter on the cobblestone streets—there is beauty in the seemingly mundane.

Food and medicine are recurring themes in your photographs – can you tell us more about this aspect of the work?
I was four years old when I started baking and cooking on my own, and food became one of my first subjects in photography. I fancied experimenting in the kitchen while documenting each concoction throughout the years. As an aspiring physician, I believe that what we ingest is a vital component of our health outcome, so I always make time to hand-make my meals and pastries from scratch.

What role do fashion and design play in your work and life?
The interior design of my studio is extremely minimal and monochromatic, punctuated with marble and dark wood accents. The open space helps to keep my mind clear. Regarding fashion, a large portion of my wardrobe is military-inspired or NASA themed. My daily uniform typically consists of a button-down with a bowtie and double-breasted coat or flight bomber with vintage patches. I also rarely wear matching socks. Life is too short for matching socks.

What photographic equipment do you usually travel with?
I generally travel extremely light, so my companion is usually just my DSLR with a couple of lenses—nothing too fancy. On slower trips, I will also bring along my old film camera and a few rolls of film.

What is the best memory from one of your photography trips?
I have an intense affinity for astronomy and geo-space science—my secret love-affair, so photographing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in Iceland for the first time was absolutely breath-taking.

What is New York like to work and live as an urban creative?
New York is bursting with inspiration. Perhaps I am a bit odd, but I see a narrative in nearly every nook and cranny. From the grit of the Metro to the weathering of alleyways, I am endlessly inspired by the diverse history and I long to unearth the stories told within the walls.

UT Final Five:

Best purchase ever?
Jazz. I found her as a kitten abandoned in a box on the sidewalk and I instantly felt a special connection to her. I took her home with me and since then, we have become inseparable. When she stretches, her black and white hair pattern resembles piano keys, which is why I named her Jazz. Although she was technically not a ‘purchase,’ she is one of the best things to have ever happened to me.

Next trip?
Where I will travel next is not set in stone—I will allow the natural flow of life lead me.

Favourite book?
Since I am a bit of a bookworm, it is too difficult to select just one—1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and The Stranger by Albert Camus are my favourites. The genres that I tend to gravitate towards are mysteries, science-fiction and non-fiction, or anything related to outer space. I am also enraptured by works that embody the tenuous nature of existence.

Favourite dish?
Squid ink fettuccine with pesto or grilled prawn dressed in fresh tomato sauce and chopped basil.

Insiders tip to New York?
Skip the super touristy attractions and sought out hidden gems—that is when you will truly experience New York.

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