“This is not good, that’s not good, and that’s terrible,” these are the words that young Lalin Jinasena would hear each time he brings a stack of freshly developed photos to show his father. Each critical comment stung like hornet’s sting, but his Dad, Dr Nihal Jinasena, had his reason. “I’m being very honest because I want you to improve, I want you to be as good as you can be.”
Lalin Jinasena, 37, describes his father as a very honest and blunt man. Although painful, his words helped influenced the way the young photographer captures his stunning images. From snapping stills of elephant bums to photographing the tenderness between a lion and lioness in the Serengeti, it was clear that Dad’s hands had shaped the mold well.
It took Jinasena 25 years before he finally showcased his collection, launching Lalin Gallery in July, at the iconic Raffles Hotel. The collection changes every two months, each time housing up to 40 images. Never intending to take photos for commercial purposes when he first pressed the shutter of his father’s Nikon FE2, Jinasena saw a lack of fine art photo galleries in Singapore, despite what he feels is an already saturated arts scene. Thus, he decided to set one up on the little red dot, where he and his family now call home.
Apart from the lessons Father taught him, Jinasena never truly attended classes on photography or picked up books by prominent photographers, he shied away from other’s influence. Instead, he threw the rulebooks aside and shot from the heart. Take the photo of a lone buffalo by the river made gold from the rising sun for example, “I would have been told don’t take that, because you shouldn’t shoot into the sun, but I do that a lot.”
“I don’t believe that fine art photography should be perfect,” says Jinasena. “Everything should be in focus, no pixelation, that’s making postcards.” The multi-talented designer defines art as about what the artist was creating that moves people, “It’s about how it makes you feel.”
Shooting in Africa has by far been his favorite, and has returned to African jungles repeatedly, each time coming back with eye-catching images. “It was early in the morning and we were tracking a pride of lions, we spotted a lion slowly making its way towards the pride,” recounts Jinasena on his experience on Kenyan plains. This majestic beast with its golden fur and mane would walk right up to a female and stop in front of her. They gazed into each other’s eyes, sharing a precious instant. “It was a very touching and poignant moment, and I was lucky to capture it.”
That one photo took four hours of patient shadowing of the lions. It was all done from safety of a jeep, driving right next to them. “They don’t interact jeeps, but if they see a human form, then it’s a very different story.”
Jack-of-all-trades, Jinasena has no preference of subject. The gallery exhibits his photos of wildlife to architecture. Nature and people was immediately obvious for Jinasena, having grown up in the culturally rich and bio-diverse island country of Sri Lanka. However, the keen-eyed gentleman only began appreciating the lines and construction complexities of buildings and bridges after studying Product Design at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. Photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and interiors of hotels line some of the panels of the exhibit.
Photojounalist Steve McCurry, synonymous with his photograph Afghan Girl, is one photographer that Jinasena admires. “It’s a very simple photograph, but it’s the look in her face, in her eyes.” Like the rest of the world, her piercing gaze enraptured Jinasena. “Taking a photograph is a skill any photographer should have, but having the eye for a picture coming into creation, the anticipation is what makes the best standout,” says Jinasena. In an age where almost everyone has a camera phone, any regular Joe can take a snapshot, but a photographer “identifies” the moment.
When asked where he would explore next with his trusty camera, South America got the nod. “It’s a very photogenic country; the people, the incredible country and culture there.”
Photos courtesy of Lalin Jinasena
Other Lalin Endeavors
An award winning boutique hotel set in a 200-year-old mansion and finished with a modern and edgy touch. Rated as the best hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
A mobile app designed to bridge the gap between retail stores and customers, helping shoppers cut out all the legwork of having to search for a particular thing you need.