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On The Move: Morgan & Owens

Thursday December 27th, 2012

by Honore Brown

This past autumn, globe trotting photographic team Morgan & Owens picked up shop and relocated from Singapore to Boston. I asked them a few questions about the move, and about their experience working abroad. Here’s what they had to say:

Can you tell us a little bit about your recent move? How are you adjusting to life back in the U.S.?

Having moved to Boston in September, we adjusted to life back in the U.S. one farmer’s market at a time. We soaked in the remaining autumn sunshine in parks whenever we could grab a moment and we began getting back in touch with our New York connections from our many years in Brooklyn.

What do you think you will miss the most about Singapore?

Singapore is bound by its unique city-state reality. It is both extremely cosmopolitan and yet quite insular. Singapore maintains a shocking wealth disparity and yet some of our best moments were over a mind-blowing bowl of Laksa for $2.50 at a food court. Its borders are porous, its airport is a dream, and nearby, you find weekend getaways and a lazy kind of luxury. We felt both incredibly limited and wildly liberated by choice and opportunity. So why did we come back? We returned to the U.S. for family and holidays, the seasons of the year, and our people. We were home so often during our three years in Singapore,  it felt like we never really left.

Can you tell us a little bit more about making work in Singapore?

In Singapore, most of our contact with editors in NYC was about travel within Asia – Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, and even as far north as Korea. Ideally, our fly-time from Boston will be as long and will take us to as much diversity, but we’d like to increase our assignments in cookbooks, food, and portraiture.

What kinds of assignments have you been working on?

Photography is a language with many dialects, and as editorial travel photographers, we’ve always felt like intermediaries between our subject, our editors, and the audience for their magazines. This approach has made it possible for us to work with many different titles—in Asia, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast UK, Monocle,  The Globe and Mail, Budget Travel, and DestinAsian. Each of our client’s needs were unique. We see our role in producing our vision, as bringing it all together — the place, the people, and the audience. That strategy works everywhere.

Are there major differences in being a working photographer in the U.S. vs. Singapore? 

While the world and its cultures are very different, it is possible to see parallels all over the world. Parts of Malaysia remind me of Louisiana; Seoul with its distinct, decentralizing neighborhoods shows similarities with New York. So, in a way, shooting here is no different; it’s about engaging with the subject and seeking to prolong that connection while making a fixed image in time.

What is your favorite kind of assignment?

Of course, each subject we shoot presents us with the opportunity to “fall in love.” We love shooting people and their work when we see it has “heart.” We like to engage subjects with passion. Passion can be found in a restaurant opening or designer’s new line or a person we stop on the street. For us, the key is engaging the person and the place to get the shot, not the other way around.

Has this changed at all over the years?

This hasn’t changed over the years. It might seem like it should, but we really don’t see any difference in shooting in Jackson, Mississippi or Penang, Malaysia.  Take our word for it — they are the same subject, different verse.

Our favorite assignments are the ones with the most freedom to get out and shoot the world, but everyone says that, right?

View more of Morgan & Owens’ work at morganowens.com.

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