Turn Off the Air-con is a fanzine printed in 100 copies that brings to life a two-years look into the Singapore punk and DYI scene. It’s a very small but very active a scene built around confrontational music in a society who shuns direct confrontation and goes the extra mile to manufacture harmony and consent. A scene that, despite being artistically confrontational, it’s incredibly inclusive and devoid of the nihilism typical of similar American or European realities. A scene willing to give back some of Singapore’s functionality and comfort to reclaim wider spaces of expression and artistic freedom.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Luca. I’m a part-time photographer. I’m part-time partially because I’m not sure I’m talented enough, but also because I have a career in another field. This allows me to keep photography as a “clean space” for me to do what I want without any of the necessary negotiations a professional choice brings along.
How did you get into photography?
Mostly because my father was a pretty good photographer. Family snapshots, but always with a bit of a twist. He got me interested and gave me my first camera when I was 15.
In your perspective what makes a good Image?
It’s contextual. It provides an insight or a way into a bigger topic. It doesn’t necessarily explain it all, but it drags you into wanting to find more about it. Photography was the hyper-link before the internet.
Out of all photography genres why did you choose documentary photography?
I do believe all forms of expression should provide some kind of social context. I’m not a big fan of purely visual creative works – whether literature, photography or else. If you start from that frame of mind, documentary is a bit of an obvious choice.
Are you working with an agency or independently?
How do you choose the stories that you want to cover?
Since this is not my main career, I tend to focus on the place I live in. I moved around a lot (I’m now in my fourth country and third continent in ten years), and photography allows me to investigate the context I’m in – hence getting to know it better and learn about it. That’s how I find out about the punk scene: I know about professional journalists and photographers who have been here for years and completely missed it.
What was the project or single photo launched or shaped your career?
I guess the photo that shaped my growth – as I said I don’t really have a career – is a picture I shot in Jerusalem in 1998. It shows an Ultra-orthodox father praying by the Wailing Wall, holding by the hand a son more interested in the gun held in the back of his father’s pants. I thought was really good, that it really depicted an inherent contradiction of both Israel, specific and of religion, generally. A couple of years later in a workshop, Alex Majoli (from Magnum) dismissed that pic in a second, showing me how cliche it was. That was a great moment. Not necessarily pleasant, but necessary to start looking at things differently.
What challenges do you face in Documentary photography?
Abstraction. I come from a verbal narrative background, so I found very challenging coming up with images that are visually interesting and innovative yet narratively clear enough. It’s far too easy to just “freeze” a moment, it’s way more difficult to make it worth watching, no matter how trivial.
Have you ever gotten emotionally involved during an assignment?
I always do. That’s the freedom of not having any journalistic responsibility. Also, since I tend to focus on medium-long term projects, I need to be able to maintain a medium-long term interest in what I’m looking into, and this means developing relationships with the people or the surroundings.
Which photographers inspire or have inspired you the most?
Alex Majoli for sure. Call his critique a Darwinian imprinting, ha! Luc Delahaye – I love how he moved journalism into fine art. Glen E. Friedman for his ethics. Gueorgui Pinkhassov because it took me years to understand why his pictures were meaningful, and that challenge was a great learning curve.
Are you developing any personal projects at the moment? If so, would you mind sharing it with us?
I just closed this punk project and I’m about to leave Singapore for good, so no, currently I have nothing in mind. I’d like to edit pictures of all the countries I’ve been in into a story of how foreign one can feel, but haven’t found the angle yet. I’m just waiting to see what could be interesting to work on, in Australia.
What is your biggest fear? Widespread consensus. That’s never good.
What’s your greatest achievement? Having been arrested just once.
Favorite place to shoot? Those that seemingly have nothing interesting.
First thing you think when you wake up in the morning? Wait, what day is today?
To see more of Lucas work:
Instagram: Luca Vergano