ONA x 100cameras

It was time for a new camera bag—I gave my old one a great deal of love and wore it down. Naturally, I perused ONA, and The Prince Street captured my attention forthwith. Slim, pragmatic, and spruce with a touch of vintage—matte black waxed canvas, detailed with full grain Italian leather and solid brass hardware. It comfortably houses an 11-inch laptop or tablet, camera, two lenses, and small personal items. It embodies style and functionality; being a light traveller and one who embraces living minimally, the carry-all suits my personality well.

Those who know me well are quite familiar with my passion in supporting children's education. It is not only design and practicality that distinguishes this ONA bag from others. Profits from this camera bag support 100cameras, which is a New York City-based organisation that empowers children through photography by giving those living in marginalised communities the tools to artfully communicate and express. Their unique stories are transformed into sellable products that directly fund medical supplies, educational resources, and lifeline necessities. "100cameras envisions a world where kids are empowered to share their stories and create impact."

The 100cameras custom photojournalism curriculum coaches on personal development coupled with fundamental photography skills. The organisation strongly aspires to consolidate artistic education and community development seamlessly, enlightening students to realise that they possess the skills and power to transform the world around them. The mission is impressive thus far, and their students are pleased to directly serve their communities via creative expression and storytelling.

Each project melds into a global network of 100cameras staff, supporters, and volunteers. Proceeds and contributions are much greater than monetary—100cameras' youth have learned the power of their perspective, and by sharing their work, they have honed their abilities to positively impact right from their own homes. And that is the goal: to empower young individuals to realise they have a voice—that they can initiate tangible change and continue the cycle by sharing their stories to the world, one community at a time, no matter their background or circumstance.



Revelations I

It always seems impossible until it is done. — Nelson Mandela

Find the thing in you that is different, that's as sharp as a diamond and jagged as a razor. Hone that, because that's the thing with which you'll cut the world. — Clayton Cubitt

Facing the unknown is daunting. It's so much easier to let things be, even when you know you shouldn't. When you feel that resistance—that almost overpowering, bone-crushing force—you have to push back...that is when you really find yourself and figure out where you're supposed to go. — Alison Sudol

...your only real responsibility as an artist is to get lost in and follow your obsessions as far as they go, because anything besides that is copying someone else or doing something that's not true to yourself. — Sam Beam

I'm not currently satisfied because that would mean I'm not hungry, and you have to be hungry to make interesting work. — Alison Sudol

As photographers, we always want to travel and go to exotic places...but sometimes there is so much magic happening right in front of you. — Andre Wagner

What I'm doing is not a sprint: it's a marathon. I'd rather focus on what's meant to be, what's organic and real. — Clayton Cubitt

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you. — Maya Angelou

The Gates Key West

We were greeted by blithe palm trees decorated with crystalline dew, encircled by the Gulf of Mexico in a tiny pocket of paradise: The Gates Key West Hotel. Its concept was inspired by the island's lush and diverse past, from Bahamian conchs to Cuban revolutionaries and literary legendaries. It is the rich, intricate history that makes Key West so special.

For an ephemeral moment, we escaped reality. 

It was a weekend getaway to unlock the keys and savour the last bit of warmth before returning to the imminent long and bitter winter season in New York. We were welcomed with a palette of creamy whites and neutral hues punctuated with colour accents, eco-friendly and reclaimed details of exposed whitewashed beams, and custom platform beds of hand-washed pine. The hotel amenities were designed for the discerning traveller, incorporating luxurious bedding, plush towels and bathrobes from Turkish Towel Company, and key lime bath essentials from Key West Aloe. Each room also displays original work by award-winning local photographer Jorge de la Torriente of Key West’s De La Gallery.

In the centre of the hotel, rests a food truck called The Blind Pig and we must admit that we were a bit skeptical. However, the fish was grilled to an excellent medium, the soft-shell tacos were splendidly spiced, and the tortilla crisps and fresh guacamole were perfectly salted and slightly tart—a unique “Conch fusion” menu inspired by Key West’s Cuban, Bahamian, Caribbean, and Floridian roots. The fare smelled delicious and instantly satisfied our palettes. We finished the trip with the perfect mojitos from The Rum Row—refreshing and sweet. The people were just incredibly cordial and warm, we will surely return in the future.



Plum Rose Tarts

As a gastronomist, I have made it a tradition to bake a special dessert that I have never created before at the start of a new semester at university to symbolise the next chapter in life. The fruit tart is my favourite pastry, so I decided to design one with a striking flair—rustic plum rose and rice pudding tart—that is intricate and illuminates detail like an anatomical illustration.

Tea Solemnity

When I brew tea, it is much more than to hydrate or to have an alternative to coffee. It is a period of reflection—I envisage the past, the present, the future, and being at home within myself is restored. It is a rumination of self-improvement, contemplation, and quietude. To achieve the correct flavour, the correct colour, the correct consistency, the act of brewing tea requires artistry, patience, technique, and a precise scope of practise—it is an art. 

Loose leaf tea flavours are authentic; the petals and leaves are less processed and bear transcendental beauty. From the moment my eyes fall upon their intricate textures and I inhale deeply, filling my lungs with their ambrosial redolence, I am carried away to another world and I fall gently into a field with tall grass, graceful flowers, and balletic leaves that dance with the wind.

A beguiling synthesis of Japanese Sencha and the enticing spirit of rose, accented with an embellishment of rose petals, possess a breath of grace and mystery. The chartreuse leaves of Sencha, fragile with accents of oceanic and verdant notes, harmonise with the lush fragrance of rose.

An exhilarant tropical brew of Chinese green and subtle Jasmine teas swathe within a haze of lush rose, marigold, and passionfruit—reminiscent of an afternoon rain and the fever experienced with the rush of young love.

A refined and distinguished concoction of white peony tea and French lavender with revitalising notes of bright grapefruit, at once casual yet opulent, dons its derivation lightly, floating delicately from morning until night.

A beautiful, herbal amalgam evocative of a summer grassland—lemongrass and verbena mingle blissfully with lavender, rose petals, mint, and sage. Airy and inspiriting.

Each tea tells a story. Each one is a circadian reprieve of peace amongst the chaos—my solemnity.

Le Labo

When I first discovered Le Labo one year ago, I was drawn in—tout de suite. The design and encasings of the formulations are minimal, yet dignified and refined. Each bottle of fragrance is conscientiously compounded using precise measurements of laboratory glassware, meticulously labeled, and personalised with the utmost care by hand. To attain the apotheosis of freshness, every creation is artfully amalgamated and coalesced by an au fait chemist right before the receiver using the finest ingredients sourced from Grasse, France. When one collects a crafted, well-balanced fragrance from Le Labo, it is said to be an everlasting emotional connection to the brand. 

Wandering to a Le Labo parfumerie is like a serendipity at a classic apothecary that has transmogrified into a polished, contemporary lab. The spaces are charming with a touch of vintage flair and I shall be returning to document them in the future. As a scientist, I cannot help but beam with joie de vivre when I stumble upon commodities codified with a scientific method foundation. Upon opening just one bottle, one will be greeted with deep, soulful scents—sultry fusions of bergamot, jasmine, patchouli, and rose.

The City Exclusives collection is composed of 9 sui generis fragrances and each scent is available exclusively in the city it belongs to, nowhere else. This means that one must venture to a Le Labo boutique in the city designated to the scent. However, Le Labo has allowed each city to be obtainable to the world for a limited time. Sample vials to experience each city before committing will be present starting on August 1st and the full bottles will be available for 4 weeks starting on September 1st, 2015.

Tubereuse 40 (New York) - Tuberose, bergamot, tangerine, and orange flower.
Vanille 44 (Paris) - Subtle amber and wood notes with undertones of vanilla.
Poivre 23 (London) - Warm, spicy, oriental, with true Bourbon pepper.
Musc 25 (Los Angeles) - Angelic, musky, aldehydic, and luminous with a dark core.
Baie Rose 24 (Chicago) - Spicy, woody, yet fresh. "Pure refinement and memorability."
Limette 37 (San Francisco) - Bergamot, jasmine, and petit grain, with vetiver and tonka bean base notes.
Gaiac 10 (Tokyo) - Gaiac wood with 4 different types of musks, cedar, and olibanum.
Benjoin 19 (Moscow) - Mosaic of olibanum, amber, cedar, and musks.
Cuir 28 (Dubai) - Animalic tar version of vanilla with leathery oriental undertones.



Wythe Hotel

Just walking into the room was a breath of fresh air. The Wythe Hotel is a haven which I frequently escape to for a staycation or short retreat and I am almost hesitant to share photos since it holds a special nook in my heart. It still remains one of my most treasured hotels and I have been waiting for the right moment to document it. From the outside, it may appear analogous to all of the old neighboring warehouses in Williamsburg with rustic brick walls and vintage industrial features, however, the inside is classic-modern, chic, and tastefully minimal with urban character. 

A former barrel and cask cooperage, circa 1901, the Wythe Hotel began with the uncovering of a factory on the Williamsburg, Brooklyn waterfront. It has now been refurbished into a 70-room hotel by trio Australian hotelier Peter Lawrence, local property developer Jed Walentas (of Two Trees) and celebrated restaurateur Andrew Tarlow (of Diner and Marlow & Sons).

With floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase glorious views of the Manhattan skyline and a standalone pedestal tub, the hotel is of ebullient industrial charm—the original bare bricks, arched windows, and impressive cast iron columns have all been artfully preserved, while the bucolic pine ceilings were reconditioned into bed frames.

The hotel’s rooftop bar, The Ides, rests in a new glass box extension above the old warehouse, while the restaurant, Reynard, serves a menu that changes nearly every day with seasonal fare, wood-fired dishes created by Tarlow, and the finest handmade desserts with gourmet flavours.



Noguchi Museum

One of my cherished perks of being a Columbia University student is that admission to NYC museums and galleries is complimentary. I am quite partial to scoping out and venturing to underrated gems, so naturally, The Noguchi Museum was at the top of my must-see list of museums. I was bestowed a small fraction of personal time, so I took the occasion to completely immerse myself in zen and augment my knowledge in art (and celebrate another year on Earth). However, I am ecstatic to be returning to the laboratory, utterly enthralled, to conduct research at Columbia University Medical Center to continue on the odyssey and life goal to mitigate cancer. But for now, let us take a glimpse into Noguchi's art and legacy. 

The Noguchi Museum was created and designed by internationally and critically acclaimed, Japanese-American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), for the installation of masterpieces he deemed to be characteristic archetypes of his life’s vision.

Opened in 1985, the Museum is housed in a reconstructed industrial building, connected to a building and interior garden of Noguchi’s design. Located in the vibrant neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens, the Museum is considered in itself to be one of the artist’s greatest works. In building a museum, Noguchi was an early pioneer who led the metamorphosis of the Long Island City area into the arts district it is today, home to cultural institutions such as Socrates Sculpture Park, SculptureCenter, MoMA PS1, and Museum of the Moving Image, among others (Noguchi Museum, 2015).

Noguchi constructed the Museum conglomerate as an open-air sculpture garden ensconced within architecture that encloses ten galleries. In its entirety, the Museum emanates a visceral, meditative amplitude in which to appreciate Noguchi's sculpture and design, accomplishing a central leitmotif that Noguchi considered indispensable to his life's cultivation. Visitors enter the two-level, estimating 27,000-square-foot, Museum through the distinguished sculpture garden. While the ground-level galleries and garden contain a perpetual display of Noguchi's work, elected from his own collection (circa 2004), the Museum routinely showcases transitory exhibitions that manifests a rich, contextualised view of Noguchi's work in the upper galleries.

An international focus point for the study and interpretation of Noguchi’s work, one can feel the dedication of the Museum to illuminating the artist’s vision, his wisdom with sculpture and public spaces, and the legacy of his work in later artists. However, just seeing the tranquil garden with Noguchi's sculptures, weeping cherry trees and bamboo, are worth the trip alone. His work is unmatched, enigmatic, and thought-provoking.

Upon entering, I was transported to a tranquil and harmonious haven that induced a feeling as if I was not in the city. The intimacy of Noguchi’s design of the Museum is an elemental and extraordinary part of the experience. It remains a place for the exploration of individual artistic endeavor and creative collaboration through exposure to Noguchi's eclectic practise. The relevance of underscoring the character of The Noguchi Museum, even as it grows in programming capacity and in public recognition, simply cannot be over-hyperbolised.



Paris in a New Light

I aimed to capture Paris in another light—to arouse another feeling, to conjure a peculiar emotion that wanders from the stereotypical whimsical photos of Paris—arcane, bold, yet wistful and still. When I travelled to France, it was mid-winter—there were no leaves or blooming flora—it was as if the city had shed its feathers into a deep slumber. I was lured to the shadows and dark elegiac light of mystérieux exposing the striking skeleton of Paris.

...your only responsibility as an artist is to get lost in and follow your obsessions as far as they go, because anything besides that is copying someone else or doing something that's not true to yourself. — Sam Beam

It is easy to go to the same location to emulate a photo that one may have seen. One may be inclined to photograph that particular place in an analogous fashion, or one may have predisposed thoughts that the way another captures a photo is the only perspective, the right approach. However, one would surely be mistaken; there are virtually endless angles and aspects—all brilliant and sui generis. Make the photo your own, your art, your voice. Create from within.

Mütter Museum

My trip to The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians Of Philadelphia is undeniably a highlight this semester. Being that I am a future physician, this place made my heart sing and tops my list of favourite anatomical museums. Mütter houses a phenomenal collection of 139 skulls showing anatomic variation among ethnic groups in central and eastern Europe, bizarre medical oddities, and an extensive library of pathological specimens. The moment I stepped onto the burgundy carpet, my heart fluttered with utter excitement and my eyes opened wide like a curious child.

I was not able to photograph too much since security was high and I did not dare to expose my bulky camera, however, I am quite content with my sneaky iPhone photos. The second to last photo features the stunning world-famous cast and livers of the original "Siamese" twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. These conjoined twins were born and amazingly survived in what is now Thailand in 1811. They came to the United States in 1829 as touring performers and speakers. Eventually, they retired, married sisters, and bought adjacent farms in North Carolina in the early 1840s. How fascinating! The legacy of the Bunkers is a topic of contemplation and is an ongoing medical interest regarding pathways leading to fetal abnormalities. The last photo showcases the full embryonic development of bone (left) and the impressive skeleton of a 7-foot, 6-inch giant from Kentucky (right).

Before heading home to New York, I took some time to wander through the streets of Philadelphia and stopped by The Philadelphia Science Festival, a delicious lineup of food trucks, and a charming coffee shop for a refreshing cold Japanese brew.



London +

While many are attracted to the equator for the salvation of warmth, I find myself gravitating toward the poles of the Earth. A few weeks ago, I began my Spring Holiday trip in London visiting family and continued to Paris and Oslo. London is one of my favourite cities I have travelled to thus far and dare I say, I adore London more than Paris. London is trim, polished, and the brisk, chilly climate is one that I fancy—the city just suits my personality. Paris is lovely, however, I feel that Paris is unduly romanticised and that the allure and crisp elegance of London is quite often underrated.

My days began at 3am. As I stepped out the door, my lungs would fill with wintry zephyr. It felt energising and restorative. The beautiful fog loomed over the city—the stillness and lull was spellbinding. I rode the Tube to explore iconic sites like the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament Square, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, and a few art galleries. I also gave Dippy the Diplodocus a visit at the Natural History Museum. I was warned by previous UK visitors that the food was mediocre in its essence, however, I had a different experience and delighted in the cuisine of the restaurants and cafés. My favourite was at a dapper Japanese-inspired coffee shop where I took great pleasure in a shrimp katsu sandwich, iced coffee, and matcha strawberry cake for dessert while reading the latest Monocle. As I sit here, typing and retyping descriptions to my photographs, I realise that there are no words good enough, expressive enough, just enough, and that they must be left wordless, unadulterated, and left to the imagination. 

It is invigorating to travel solo. You realise how small you are and you just feel so free. Limitless.

Duane Street Hotel

Old New York meets European sensibility at Duane Street Hotel, a classy monochromatic boutique hotel in Tribeca, New York. I settled in the Executive King room for a couple of days and it was a delightful experience. The décor is bold, intelligent, modern, and chic, accented with a bit of savoir-vivre. I was quite fond of the interior design as it was spruce and not overly ornate.

The rooms are a reflection of New York City with 11-foot ceilings, ceiling-high windows, hardwood floors, and handsome black tufted headboards. Amenities are luxurious with bed linens by Bellino, plush terry bathrobes by Scandia, and bath products by L'Occitane. Duane Street Hotel is also pet-friendly, a cute and pleasant feature.

Duane Street Hotel resides amidst Tibeca's classic cast-iron façades and revolutionised industrial-era warehouses, emanating a vogue loft feeling, quintessential for a creative living in New York City who has a penchant for style. One will discover cobblestone streets, fashion boutiques, a Michelin restaurant, and independent art galleries. It makes for an impeccable urban hideaway.