For a photographer with the streets as his muse, the pandemic didn’t do Lee Yik Keat any favours. The time spent indoors, however, has given him the pause to think about his purpose, which is “what I want to do in the future, because this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”.
With quite the following on Instagram, where he first started sharing his love for photography almost eight years ago posting images taken mostly with his phone, the 25-year-old, also known as YK, has since established a name for himself as a street photographer. He shot a campaign featuring local influencers for the Singapore launch of the Louis Vuitton men’s spring‑summer 2021 collection early this year; accompanied American singer-songwriter Lauv on his Asian tour as a tour photographer in 2019; and even captured local cultural landmarks for the Singapore Tourism Board, just to name a few.
Lee was set to reunite with Lauv for his world tour in 2020 but the entire schedule was cancelled due to the pandemic, which left him in a state of confusion and uncertainty for a few weeks before he pulled himself together. “Two things resonated with me: community and sharing. So in the past year, I’ve combined these two together and focused a lot more on content, both on Instagram and TikTok, on how to shoot with phones. This aligns with my main motto, which is to observe the everyday life—and that it can be beautiful.
“A lot of people think that Singapore is so boring and that there’s nothing to do here, but I really want to encourage everyone, hopefully through my pictures, that there’s really something beautiful in the little details, even during the daily commute from point A to B. You just need to open your eyes and give it a chance,” enthuses Lee, who shares tips on how to compose an image, how to be creative with angles, and even photo shoot ideas in his tutorials.
Social media is the core of everything in his portfolio. “Without the following that I’ve built up through these platforms, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do a lot of the jobs that I could only dream of—even those offline. All of them happened because of the great networks that were built and also the trust of my followers on this journey. I get messages of how a photo or video has benefitted them and, with people reaching out to me like that, I ought to share my gratitude. I feel the next generation of photographers can benefit from my experiences.”
Such content has clearly resonated with his audience of photography enthusiasts and aspiring photographers as in mid-May this year, he reached 500,000 followers on Instagram, and gained the same number by early June, with over 1.2 million followers to date. His following on TikTok (he hopped on the platform last year during Singapore’s circuit breaker period to curb the spread of Covid-19) currently stands at 1.7 million.