Words by Alek Rose
In our Who We’re Following series, we look to the world’s favourite picture-hosting social media site in order to hand-pick the gems from the masses. By shining a spotlight on our favourite users and their beautiful, varied work, we’re clearing up a cluttered landscape, lighting your way to Instagram feed perfection. The next instalment of this series centres around Mandy Sham (@peach.punk) and her pictures of paradise.
If you didn’t know otherwise, and all you had access to was Mandy Sham’s Instagram, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole world was constantly golden with sun, warm and calm. With an eye for capturing serene moments of people and landscapes from around the world, Mandy has built a sizeable following of fans, hungry for their next taste of paradise.
Can you introduce yourself?
Sure! My name is Mandy. I wear multiple hats — predominantly as a photographer and writer, sometimes technical producer and journalist. I travel to the familiar and far-flung in search of people, everyday stories, and good breakfasts.
Who was your childhood hero?
My aunt Ethel. I have an old photo of her travelling through the Mongolian steppe wearing the most amazing fanny pack. She’s still my hero, of course.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering. She dives deep into the framework of what makes for thoughtful human interaction (and how we can make our own gatherings meaningful rather than perfunctory). I’m also reading MAD Dispatches’ You and I Eat the Same, an essay anthology of behind-the-food stories.
What album are you listening to at the moment?
Room 25 by Noname.
What sparked your interest in photography?
My passion with cameras actually began with moving pictures rather than still. I’m a fan of visual auteurs — Kubrick, Wong Kar-Wai, Kurosawa. There’s such purpose and elegance and craftsmanship involved in how framing and colour - along with various other elements - are layered to convey evolving dynamics and emotion. Those same considerations really played into my approach from the beginning.
As far as my ‘journey’ into photography as an artistic outlet goes, I’d say it began with the first camera I owned — a mirrorless Nikon J1. I used it to document a three-month trip to Hong Kong and more or less haven’t put my camera down since.
When did you first pick up a camera?
I’m not sure exactly when, I grew up surrounded by cameras because my mom loved having her photo taken and her children were naturally caught in the crossfire. It’s interesting now as I don’t necessarily view my photography as being autobiographical or for the purposes of posterity — probably because my early life was so saturated by it.
How do you think that Instagram has changed the world of photography?
Well, it’s changed in so many ways. Instagram is my journal and portfolio. It can be superfluous or serious. The photography featured on it carries similar attributes. It’s perhaps more experimental and personal for me.
Notably, I have an easier time (as someone who’s self-taught) dismissing the notion that there’s a right way to approach, learn, or disseminate photography. I like that the global community of photographers appears to be more accessible and widespread. There used to be a fine arts sense of seriousness surrounding it, but it’s become quite entrepreneurial. An increasing number of people have opened up to the idea of photography as a creative avenue. I’ve heard people joke about how everyone’s a photographer now, but seriously, why not?
Where’s the best place that Instagram has taken you?
Through Instagram I was offered the opportunity to live for a month in Barcelona, most of it spent idling in a house on a hill and alternating between museums and montaditos with vermouth in the local neighbourhood haunts. It was excellent.
Can you give us all one tip to up our Instagram game?
Content and candour are both important. Also, if you’re just starting out in photography — learn to edit. It will elevate your work.
Who are three people we should all go and follow?
I love the work of photographer Robbie Lawrence (@robbiel1). It’s like a version of golden hour where people aren’t looking.
Leslie Zhang (@lesliezhang1992) is another favourite.
Also, the bold and plentiful world of Olga de la Iglesia (@olgadelaiglesia).