Sensitive Warriors

Sensitive Warrior: JOHN TAN

John’s so easy to talk to that you feel like you’ve known him forever. He’s also always impeccably decked out.  The first time I saw him, he was wearing a jacket – in Singapore. In a non-AC setting. (In Singapore. Where it’s hot enough to make one sweaty and grumpy even on the best of days. Yet he was still unerringly nice!) That’s when I knew he was serious about his style – and I have nothing but respect for people who are that committed to how they present themselves. Peel back his easy-going ways and you’d find a man who knows his mind, has a strong point of view, and is attuned to detail and quality. His insta feed (@redrangefinder) is basically what instagram is made for: beautiful, idiosyncratic images that boast his strong eye and an appreciation for out-of-the-ordinary beauty.

Not that he needed validation from anyone – but he was also a finalist in Esquire’s Best Dressed Real Man 2013. And he’s hilarious – I don’t think I ever laughed so hard as when he was trying to take my portrait; he was trying to coax a good shot out of me because I have some kind of fatal photographitis where my facial expressions immediately become 50 shades of awkward in front of a camera. They turned out pretty good anyway, mostly thanks to this guy!

Get to know John

John is a street-style photographer, bio-medical sciences student and a very well put-together man.

On his interests

What draws you to what you do?
It’s a really big question but I guess it all ties down to the fact that I really enjoy human interaction, I’m curious about stuff and I enjoy story telling. I’ve always believed that information is not meaningful information unless it can be understood, so photography has always been a medium that I look towards to express myself and to allow others to understand the message I’m getting across.

I study bio-medical sciences  because at the very root of our existence, we are after all flesh and blood. It always seems puzzling (and amazing sometimes) to me how clueless we are sometimes on our own bodies and how it functions.  The same goes for photography, we all kind of own a camera nowadays but the amount of people who actually do know how to use a camera is well, not proportionate. Granted, I don’t know everything in this world – can’t cook for nuts or do computer coding – but I do know if you fall sick, none of that matters anyway; plus if you didn’t get a photo of it – it didn’t happen.
With regards to photography, I do it because it is challenging. When I first started out photographing stylish people, it was because a majority of Singaporeans didn’t dress up and it was a challenge for me to look for those individuals who put in effort. It is also my belief that the camera has been invented to photograph people, I mean I’m pretty sure the inventor of the camera didn’t do it just so he/she could take photos of his/her breakfast…
Plus the thing about photographing a person is that – you are aware that every single person you take (a photo of) is an individual. To put things into context, you wouldn’t say things like “that’s an ugly photograph of a lion” but you would say “that’s an ugly photograph of Tom/Dick/Harry”. We see people everyday, interact with people everyday and thus, have an idea of how a good looking human being looks like. Therefore, it is so much more challenging and difficult to photograph people. 

On effortless style 

What do you look out for in the people you photograph?
These days I look out for very functional and workwear clothing (or pretty much anything that says made in Japan works too), focusing on little details and quality.
I don’t really have certain outfits or personalities that I look out for but I look out for people who dress without effort. Without effort meaning any other time you spot them, they’ll be in something representative of their style. They don’t only put in effort for important occasions but because of their wardrobe choices and their intrinsic sense of style, they’re always decked out in something that represents their style. Though I must admit that girls with short hair do look much more stylish in general.

How does dressing up make you feel?
It really depends, but most of the time it can be quite therapeutic – knowing that your outfit is in order despite all the mess in life. Like at least you got one thing settled before you start the day!

On inspiration

Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Seishi Shirakawa, he’s this amazing Japanese photographer who does regular editorials for Monocle Magazine in a really moody and candid style that I am really, really inspired by. The most amazing thing about him is probably how he lacks an online presence – if you do a Google search on him, nothing turns up. He doesn’t have an official site or an email where you could contact him at but his work is simply phenomenal.
Hideaki Hamadaalso a Japanese photographer. He photographs his two kids in Japan and I’m pretty sure you’ve seen his work online somewhere. There’s a warm feeling you feel when you see his photographs and every time I see his work I feel extremely inspired (and also the urge to fly to japan and live there forever).

On sensitivity

What are your thoughts on your sensitivity? Have you tried to mask it?
Well, I’m a guy so it’s not exactly the best trait to have while growing up. Possibly because of the way I’ve been brought up, I’ve always given a thought to how people feel and think, and I always give people the benefit of the doubt whenever things go wrong.
I think its more like tuning as opposed to masking, I simply adapt to the existing conditions and provide a suitable amount of sensitivity depending on the circumstances. (Sensitive people probably make good actors I suppose.) A better option would be to simply build a community of friends who are equally sensitive so no masking is required.
What do you think the best and worst thing about being sensitive is, for you? 
One of the worst things about being sensitive is the inability to let go of certain things. You think too much about it, think too deeply about it and more often then not, take much longer than non-sensitive people to let go of certain things. Being sensitive can be quite annoying sometimes, when I take ages to reply a message or ages to type something out, making sure everything is said carefully.
Having said that though, being sensitive does have a ton of benefits but the best thing is that it actually helps you understand others slightly more so than the average person. Plus, there are certain kinds of women who value sensitive men…
What are your favorite therapeutic activities – what do you do to relax? 
Going to my favourite cafe for tea and cakes (alone), taking a long shower (really really hate being disturbed when in the shower) and going to the gym.
See more of John’s work on his Tumblr / Twitter / Facebook

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