We met up with Daylon Soh to talk about taking pictures in the military, PR in Singapore and the future of the work place.
You have a vast communication and PR experience – how has Singapore changed in the last 10 years in terms communication and publicity?
10 years ago, popular social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had not been launched for public use yet. 10 years ago, we would attend a concert, maybe snap a few photos and enjoy the rest of the concert without flashing our mobile phones. 10 years ago, our complaints and compliments about service levels would only be known by our circle of friends, unless we have a blog.
Today, we know that all of that has changed. Social media has challenged corporate communications to become a conversation rather than a broadcast. That transformation is a double edged sword and the communications industry is trying to integrate marketing, advertising and customer service as part of a broader communications strategy. Firms are learning to become better storytellers and listeners that are quick to deliver and react to public communication, online and offline. In the case of Singapore, we’re generally playing catch-up to build these capabilities as compared to markets that are bigger and more vocal e.g. USA.
Working in the creative industry for many years, do you think that the ‘work space’ in the future will become more flexible?
I’ve recently read the book Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace. The author Ricardo Semler, a successor to the aging Semco Corporation in Brazil, said, “Companies tell their employees they are part of one big, happy family. How can they rationalise such sanctimonious sentiments when they frisk their workers on the way home? Or deduct vacation time when someone arrives 10 minutes late.”
Ricardo Semler has proven that Semco’s management style of treating employees like adults rather than children is good for business, even when you’re a profitable multi-billion dollar corporation with thousands of employees.
I believe that work in the future is one where more people will choose to work on their own terms. Companies, including the creative industries, who want to hire the best talents, will inevitably have to allow more flexibility.
What role will design play in the modern work space? Or how does design effect it already?
The success of workspace design (or user experience design) will be closely tied to increasing employee productivity. When we think about how, Steam, one of the most successful game companies in the world, empowers its staff with movable tables or how Google invests in sleep pods for its employees or how organisations are acquiring Herman Miller Aeron chairs for their offices, it’s clear that design is effecting the modern work space.
As you are passionate about startups, what makes a successful startup?
A successful startup is one that scales to create immense value for people at zero marginal cost.
You are also involved with the Creative Mornings in Singapore – tell us more?
It’s a free monthly breakfast event for creative types that fulfills your morning desire for caffeine and good conversations with like-minded folks. Past speakers include Felix Ng (A Design Film Festival), Kenny Leck (BooksActually) and Ho Kwon Ping (Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts).
My co-organisers, Grace Clapham, Renyung Ho and Richard Korff have been running this for more than 3 years in Singapore with a group of wonderful group of volunteers. It usually happens at the Singapore Art Museum on a Friday morning these days with a crowd of about 80 interesting people.
What means creativity to you?
Creativity fuels ideas and vice-versa.
Besides being a content marketer and communications manager, you are also a photographer. How do you balance both jobs?
They’re symbiotic in the sense that every time I improve my craft as a photographer, the assets that I art direct or produce increases in quality. On the flip side, as I become a sharper communicator and writer, I become a stronger visual storyteller.
How did you get started as a photographer?
I was in the intelligence branch of an infantry unit during national service and managed to convince my superiors that getting a DSLR camera for the unit would be helpful for archiving stories of the soldiers. That was how I started playing with manual camera functions and trained my eye to react quickly to what’s happening in split seconds during military training.
What are you looking for when you look through viewer?
Beauty or truth.
As you like to shoot portraits, who would you love to get in front of your lens?
I’ve always wanted to do a series about ordinary people going about their morning rituals in front of a mirror.
What is your inspiration when it comes to photography?
The people and the process inspire me. I still remember the week when I stayed in a rural village in Cambodia for a voluntary welfare mission. Even though I didn’t speak a word of Khmer, the villagers showed incredible warmth towards outsiders and curiosity towards my camera. The children are usually a little shy when you first take their photo, but once you show them the first picture, they get incredibly excited to take more and that enthusiasm is contagious. I ended the trip with many photos of Khmer children in rural and suburban settings.