Chua, who is Chinese but grew up in Malaysia and lives in London, started out writing code professionally. His programmer’s salary funded a growing interest in photography, which originated in what Chua calls "an attempt to get over a girl." But something clicked, so to speak, and soon he was blowing most of his money on cameras and shooting trips. He quit his job and set out on a year of travel.
It was during that year that Chua began After the Fall, a series that is being lauded by the likes of the British Journal of Photography. The project, which is ongoing, captures moments where nature collides with manmade landscapes, in exurbs, edge cities, and city limits shot in 15 countries and hundreds of cities and towns. The series is a kind of encyclopedia of change, documenting what Chua calls "the collisions that are gradually and chaotically reshaping the spaces around us.” That sounds cerebral, but take a look at the images, and you’ll see it’s actually right on. The original photo that spurred After the Fall shows a field littered with plastic bags. As he was passing one day, he heard a couple remarking at how awful the scene was. “I paused momentarily before surprising both of them and myself by remarking that the scene was one of the most wonderful things I’d seen in a while,” he remembers. Nature finds a way, indeed.
Chua keeps a very fun and well-written online journal, where he ruminates on his work and on photography in general. It’s a fascinating read, and I mention it because so few contemporary photographers give us this kind of insight into their work, either intentionally or not. In one post, he meditates on what he’s searching for as a photographer:
I’m looking for something slightly different: scenes that are simultaneously more complex and minimalist, harder to read and mysterious. What I aspire to (but usually fail to achieve, I might add) is to make a photograph that could be considered transformative. An image whose content, though rooted in reality, appears at first glance to be completely out of context with the “normal” world. A perspective which transforms the setting into something the viewer initially couldn’t contemplate and, since we’re being ambitious here, may even provoke a reassessment of their daily viewpoint of the world. Of course I appreciate how hard this is to realize, but you’ve got to try, don’t you?
For now, Chua tells Co.Design that his next project is to turn After the Fall into a book. In the meantime, check out his current show at Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, if you’re in Great Britain.