Diamonds are many a girl’s best friend, but not for Georgina Chin. When her husband wanted to buy her a diamond ring as a wedding anniversary-cum-birthday gift in March 2009, she asked for a camera instead. But it wasn’t until a year later that she started experimenting with the Nikon D700, and a photographer was born.
Birds In My Backyard is the astonishing fruit of this accidental photographer’s labor—astonishing because one, the quality of the shots in the 170-page book belie Chin’s short one-and-a-half-year’s experience with photography. Bird photography is formidable undertaking even for seasoned photographers.
And two, most of the birds were shot in her backyard, or near it, hence the title of the book. One particularly arresting picture of a Buffy Fish Owl, a striking-looking species of large owl with piercing yellow irises and bold streaks down its back, was captured after a neighbor excitedly tipped her off about the bird’s presence in her backyard; Chin calls it a “Mona Lisa” shot with eyes that follow you around the room wherever you go.
According to her husband David Chin, a chief human resource officer with a shipping company, a key success factor of her shots was that she was able to get close to the birds at the opportune moment. In fact, many of her pictures are chance snapshots, products of her being at the right place at the right time. Nothing can explain these repeated “co-incidences” except a God-given calling on her life to bring attention to His beautiful creations through the lens.
Chin testifies, “When I take pictures of birds, I see the beauty of God. When I get close to them, I feel the peace of a powerful God hidden in nature and His creations. If God can ‘paint’ the birds so beautifully, how much more can He look after me?”
Chin shopped around for support to turn her photos into a book, but she could not garner official sponsorship (it was eventually self-funded). But Birds In My Backyard has been more than well-received since its official launch on Jan. 4 this year, and has sold about 500 copies so far. Nine canvas prints were auctioned off the day of the launch.
Among other friends, Chin credits founder of fashion chain 77th Street Elim Chew as her source of encouragement, especially when challenges came her way, such as finding the right partners to work with. “It was God’s grace and a sense of purpose that helped me see the whole project to its completion,” she says.
A counseling psychologist by profession, the mother of three boys in her 40s writes, “While technique is important, I have learned that no one needs to tell you what a good photograph is or isn’t, rather, it is instinctive and extremely personal.”
Indeed, the visual page-turner is replete with beautifully composed, full-color shots of birds both rare and ordinary, such as the endangered Brown Winged Kingfisher and Red Naped Trogon, as well as the more commonplace sunbirds and doves.
Pictures aside, Birds In My Backyard is filled with memorable anecdotes; the completion of the project had itself been a learning journey. In her enthusiasm to capture the perfect shot of a nesting Nightjar once, she got too close to the subject and was chastised by a friend for inadvertently leaving behind scent trails which might have tipped off predators to the presence of the nest.
But at the end of the day, it’s not about an up-and-coming star on the scene, although she is one —Chin’s work has been published in various magazines, including online publications such as the UK-based ARKive, an electronic vault that captures and catalogues rare and endangered species around the world. “I’m only an instrument for God. Why me, I don’t know,” she admits. She also does not know where exactly He is leading her with this new venture, but this much she does know is important: “being sensitive to God’s voice and acting on the faith that arises when He speaks.”
“Like” Georgina Chin’s Facebook page “Georgina Chin – The Accidental Photographer” at www.facebook.com/accidentalphotographer to get in touch with her or to purchase the book (S$100). Alternatively, log on to www.accidentalphotographer.sg Birds In My Backyard is fully funded by Georgina and David Chin, and all proceeds go to Life Anew!, a non-profit organization to support convicts, ex-convicts and their families.
Additional reporting by Joshua Lok
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