A KL-based photographer whose goal is to capture sincere portraits, documentary, candid and intricate details in the most beautiful way. And she goes the extra mile – literally – to get the shot, travelling the world on assignment and for her personal projects. Her style breaks from tradition and is best suited for creative individuals who share an appreciation for interesting surroundings, laughter and quiet moments.
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Jane Lee’s new book, combining film photography and printed mementoes, records her experiences in the subcontinent.
The journal is a personal analogue atlas of the places, the people, and their cultures.
Jane Lee, by her own admission, is a challenging photographer to profile.
This is hardly surprising for someone who has two social media profiles that hint at different personalities.
Hellojanelee projects a welcoming warmth, the demure, smiling girl next door.
Janethecrazy is the extrovert, the world traveller, living life on the edge.
So, when I interviewed her, I thought to myself: which Jane Lee would I be talking to?
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the happy-go-lucky, KL-based photographer and the adventure-seeker contentedly coexist in a friendly, charmingly quirky individual – someone who is delighted to talk about her personal journey, love of film photography, passion for travel, and how all these elements come together for the launch of her book.
Her photographic essay, simply titled Jane’s Journal: India, is a self-published book that shows the breadth and depth of India and Jane’s talents as a photographer.
“I love adventures, going for a road trip, singing out loud to my favorite tracks, exploring new places and experiences, tasting good food, and enjoying good times,” says Jane.
“Music and travel are passions. They keep me constantly inspired. I’m fascinated with human connection and life. That inspires me to document with my camera and telling a story through a photograph.”
Preferring to photograph alone and, at the time, travelling by herself, the book shows that Jane, during her three trips to India to make this analogue documentary, is never truly alone.
“How can you ever be alone in a country with a population of 1.3 billion?” she asks with a laugh.
She is constantly surrounded by people in India, interacting with the local population, immersing herself in the native culture. It’s a recurring motif in her colour and monochrome shots.
“I hope,” she adds, “that my book reflects my passion for film and travel in its entirety.”
Call it travelogue, street photography, reportage, documentary photography of India at work or rest, or at play or in prayer, the categorizations do not matter.
Jane’s Journal: India is a passion project, cataloguing her trips through crowded cites, chance encounters with interesting people, visits to holy sites, and the natural wonders of a vast country as she sees it.
Jane does it because she loves film photography and has a long-term fascination with India. Malaysian photography and our bookshelves will be richer because of its publication.
It’s been a long journey for Jane, literally and figuratively.
It’s not just about the frequent flyer miles. It’s also about the frequent obstacles she has had to overcome to get where she is today.
“One day, a friend asked me to assist in taking some event photos and the rest is history. I’m a wedding photographer, travel addict, plant lover, and mother to four guinea pigs. Film became a new hobby of mine when I copped my first analogue camera at a flea market and immediately fell in love with the results.
“Eleven years ago, my then-boyfriend, who’s now my husband, had almost broken up. That’s where my story in India began. I dived straight into my first trip there, determined to see where it would take my relationship, and I have no regrets. Since then, I have been back twice, and these trips to India were so authentic and pure. I had such great experiences. I can’t wait to go back for more.”
In the digital age, the obvious question for Jane is: “Why film?”
“At the time, I had only just got my hands on the Leica M6. So, I decided to get some practice at Batu Caves before going to India. It was a great idea, but not such a great outcome. Somehow, amidst all the action, I lost both the battery and the light meter cap, which I’d never shot without before. But was that going to get in the way of my excitement? Would I actually let that bring me down? It did actually. But I was still determined to make the most out of the India trip. So I brought the Leica M6 along and shot as manually, blindly, and maniacally as I could. The result: a handful of rolls with some of the best street snaps I could ever get.”
Some may consider film old-fashioned, but for Jane it’s about paying homage to the origins of photography. Likewise with her other hobby: keeping journals and scrapbooks, which hark back to the days before digital publishing and online social media.
“It has become a habit of mine to collect little treasures – some might call it junk – from any trip, like restaurant flyers, water bottle and creamer labels, or local currency, to fill up the pages of my journal.
“Combining photos shot on film with printed memorabilia has made this whole publication truly analogue. It’s a throwback to the days when people wrote down their innermost thoughts in journals, drew on sketch pads, compiled photo albums, and put everything together in scrapbooks.”
The M6 is a rangefinder camera manufactured by Leica from 1984 to 2002. The M6 combines the silhouette of the Leica M3 and Leica M4 with a modern, off-the-shutter light meter with no moving parts and LED arrows in the viewfinder. There is an M6 variant, called the M6 TTL.
The top and bottom plates were made from lighter magnesium alloy rather than the heavier machined brass of the M3 and M4. The M6 and M6 TTL are mechanical cameras. Both the Leica M6 and Leica M6 TTL have a quiet, rubberized, mechanical shutter.
The M6 is enjoying a revival along with the resurgence in film photography. What was old is new again. What may have seemed dated is cool once more.
Loved by photojournalists for its durability in the field, the M6 is becoming increasingly popular with modern street photographers.
Paired with the Leica Summicron-M 35MM f/2.0 ASPH lens, as Jane did in India, the M6 produces a unique visual quality and is rekindling the romance of capturing analogue images.
With a book published, herself established in KL as a professional photographer, what’s over the horizon?
“Seeing Jane’s Journal: India finally in print has been great for me. It’s really boosted my profile. It’s brought me to the attention of Leica Camera Malaysia. Leica will be hosting an exhibition of the book’s film photography in their Avenue K store. The exhibition will open in early September and it will run for two months.
“I will be presenting at the exhibition. I hope you can all attend. It will be nice to meet you all. I look forward to seeing you there. There are so many details – funny anecdotes and interesting insights – about my trips to India that I can share when we meet at the exhibition.”
Those interested in Jane Lee’s exhibition or to purchase Jane’s Journal: India, please continue to visit https://www.leica-store.my/ for the latest details.
Written by Kieron Long
Kolkatta | Agfa Vista 400
Man Shaving by the Ganges River
Varanasi | C200
Man Drinking Tea & Reading Newspaper
Varanasi | PROPLUS III 200
Holy Mountain with Homes
Badrinath | PORTRA 400
Boy Band at 15,200ft
Hemkund Sahib | PORTRA 400
Overlooking Kang Yatse Glacier Peak
Kongmaru La | Fuji 400
Running Mountain Sheep
Tso Moriri | Kodak TriX 400
Holy Blessing in Ganges River
Varanasi | PROPLUS III 200
Varanasi | Ilford HP5
Locals Making Boats
Varanasi | Ilford HP5