‘I made a short film “A Wes Anderson-ish Singapore” in 2021 and then came across the Accidentally Wes Anderson community.’ Explains, Architectural Cinematographer, Photographer, and Short Filmmaker Kevin Siyuan. Accidentally Wes Anderson, was Founded in the summer of 2017 in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, by husband and wife team, Wally and Amanda, as a way of developing a personal travel bucket list. Kevin wrote to the couple sharing his work, who were instantly taken by it, they got to know each other, and have kept in touch since.
This friendship would eventually result in the incredibly successful ‘Singapore Community Guide.’ which launched this year. This project was a collaboration between Accidentally Wes Anderson and the Singapore Tourism Board and showcases the utterly incredible architecture, cuisine, and melting pot of culture that can be found bubbling away in Singapore. ‘Wally and Amanda have been very kind to get in touch with me to work on it together, it’s a very fun project which I deeply appreciate.’ Kevin tells us. ‘The majority of the photos from the guide are shot as part of the short film project but I do get to include a few newly completed architecture into the guide.’
The guide captivates and captures the outstanding beauty and uniqueness of Singapore through Kevin Siyuan’s lens. His work takes us on a journey, highlighting and illuminating buildings such as the Esplanade Concert Hall, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and the country’s oldest fire station, which was built in 1888. His curation of favourite photos and impressive sights give you a spectacular take on his hometown and leaves you with no doubt that Kevin is an incredibly talented individual.
‘I am currently working on “A Wes Anderson-ish Singapore Vol. 2”, where I hope to wrap up this incredible 3-year adventure by the latter part of 2023,’ says Kevin. ‘This is a major project so there is still lots of work to be done, but so far so good.’
Born and based in Singapore, Kevin started photography as a hobby back in 2008. He began taking commissioned work in 2016 and as a result, established Shiya Studio. When Kevin isn’t producing masterpieces, he’s busy thinking about creating them, and occasionally leaving some downtime for Netflix and playing the piano. However, being a man of many talents means he is also very much in demand, and this year shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. ‘There are commissioned architectural cinematography and photography projects in the pipeline that I have to attend to. And since the pandemic is over (hopefully) I have quite a few travel plans. It is going to be a busy, but great year going forward I hope.’
Despite an incredibly full schedule, Kevin found time to sit down with The Atlantic Dispatch to tell us more about Shiya Studio, give us an insight into the best advice he’s ever received, and how SIngapore has helped shape and inspire him.
field of vision, outlook
Shiya Studio is more of a brand concept than an actual business, it comprises of me and a friend of mine (whom I met at my former urban planning company), plus a few other frequent collaborator friends with whom we work together when there is a need. The name actually originates from a Japanese Kanji – 視野 [shiya], which means field of vision, outlook. I treat this as a personal endeavor to always be on the lookout for new perspectives on the things, buildings, and people I have met in life. As of now we work on a variety of projects related to architectural photography and cinematography, and our clients range from real estate developers, hotel groups, architects, and brands to creative production houses.
Good work takes lots of patience and perseverance
The best piece of advice I have ever received was from a very established photographer and author whom I had the privilege of knowing (regrettably, he passed away some time ago). At the very early stage of my photography endeavor, he showed me the way. He told me if I wanted to specialise in architectural photography, I need to get the right tool (a tilt-shift lens), I remember we had an overseas phone conversation and he told me repeatedly that I will need this type of lens. It was a very simple bit of advice that has helped me tremendously.
Besides the above advice (having the right tool for the trade) I also hope to say to all aspiring artists and creatives to set a goal, take small steps, and be patient in getting there, patience is the key. Nowadays we all live in a very impetuous reality, our works is judged and favoured by the amount of hype it generates, which is often fleeting in nature. Good work take lots of patience and perseverance to create and will be treasured years down the road.
buildings around me have essentially shaped me and my work
My interest in architecture was nurtured during my undergraduate years. Back then I was studying urban planning, in which architecture was an essential element in shaping the urban forms, functions, and imageability of cities. A great majority of my works are based in Singapore because this is the place that nurtured me, it’s my home. During my free time, I love walking the streets and visiting different neighbourhoods for street photography ideas, which then accumulates to my familiarity with the built environment around me and thus enabled me to create the works I am showcasing. Quoting Sir Winston Churchill, “Buildings around me have essentially shaped me and my works”.
it opened my eyes to new possibilities
To me, Wes Anderson’s work has this magical power, which leaves an everlasting impression and it has inspired me a lot. His cinematography, colours, music, and story all have a very distinct style, a style that makes him an auteur in a league of his own. What inspires me the most is his cinematography. I also have to mention Wes’ DOP Robert Yeoman here as well. His love for symmetry, precision in framing and camera movement, signature shot, and transitional elements resonates strongly with me. His approach to framing and filming composition has a lot in common with architectural photography. “Grand Budapest Hotel” was the very first of Wes’ work that I watched, it piqued my interest in cinematography and inspired me to explore videos as a medium to express myself. Before this, I was only doing photography but after watching his films it opened up my eyes to new possibilities in capturing buildings, interiors, and spaces through videos.
“I also hope to say to all aspiring artists and creatives to set a goal, take small steps, and be patient in getting there, patience is the key. Nowadays we all live in a very impetuous reality, our works is judged and favoured by the amount of hype it generates, which is often fleeting in nature.”— Kevin Siyuan
be more appreciative of the places and people around you before they disappear in time
“A Wes Anderson-ish Singapore” is my most enjoyable and biggest project. It has been 3 years since I first worked on it and I enjoyed every bit of the creative process. I look forward to going out, walking around different neighbourhoods to find the “Wes Anderson” spots. The eureka moment upon finding the sweet spot is the most enjoyable. I am proud of the final shots captured through the viewfinder but what I can’t capture and what’s the most genuine feel is experiencing the neighbourhood through my own senses, taking these trips is calming and therapeutic. As some of the buildings I have captured are no longer around despite it is only less than a year ago, my key takeaway is to be more appreciative of the places and people around you before they disappear in time.
Besides Wes Anderson, I am also a huge fan of Wong Kar-wai, Takeshi Kitano, and Bong Joon-ho. I enjoyed studying how they tell stories visually and how they integrate architecture into their films, for instances Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express was actually one of the films I have to study for an urban planning module, it’s about density, human interaction, and the sense of place the built environment could influence its users.
With thanks to the gentleman that is Kevin Siyuan. For more information on Shiya Studio, please visit here
You can also follow Kevin’s adventures and work on Instagram