5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Wondering Mind and a Leica M3 – By Ong Sien Hong

September 25, 2019

My interest in photography has always been people. So naturally, when I take a camera out into the street, I look out for faces around me. I imagine most of us street photographers, are a bit of a lone wolf. I don’t participle in group photography, I don’t discuss gear, as a result, I don’t actually know a lot of real-life photographers. Maybe one or two but not a lot. So I sometimes wonder what is in your (photographer) mind when you take pictures of people. Do we think alike, when we put a camera in front of a stranger?

Recently I sold all my camera gear. At the time of my writing this 5 frames, I don’t actually own a camera or a lens. The reason why I sold all my gear? I am not exactly sure. Have you been through this phase in your photography journey? That you feel stagnant. Like every photo that you took look alike.

I started asking myself why do I take pictures of people, strangers on the streets. I don’t use a zoom lens, I use a rangefinder, a Leica M3 and usually equipped with a 35mm or 50mm lens, i.e I do get very close to the person(s) that I am taking photos of. My subject(s) would have known my presence either before or after I have taken the photo, usually after. Am I invading their privacy? Getting so close to their personal space. Why do I take photos of people?

The reason is perhaps less complicated that I initially thought. I don’t know if other photographers asked themselves the same question, why do they take the photos they took? For me, I realised it is about human interactions. Capturing moments of their interaction with me. For a few seconds of our lives, we were together for a moment (captured). I am never in the photos but their expressions would have shown that I participated the moment together with them. Most times, I would look up of my viewfinder, say hi (after taking the photo), but sometimes, I would just quietly slip away because some moments are best not to be interrupted.

Thank you for reading.
Sien Hong

My Instagram

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-Free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you’ll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial)
Subscribe here

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.


  • Reply
    Graham Orbell
    September 25, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Nice photos Sien. I also like to show people in their environment usually more or less front on. I find that being up close with my 24 mm lens I’m less conspicuous than standing off with a big long tele lens which looks like snooping. Up close with a 24 mm people think I am photographing something behind them which is where I seem to be looking and the wide lens takes in the environment. I also use 35 mm and 50 mm primes but up close with 24 mm f 1.4 is my favourite choice.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 25, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks, I agreed, when I take photos I don’t like to be looking like I am snooping.. 24mm is a great choice, just that its a little too wide for me.. I couldn’t even get used to 28mm. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Terry Allen
    September 25, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Got rid of all your gear because you felt stale?
    Seems a bit extreme…reminds me of Van Gogh.
    Don’t lop off anything else;-)

    Can I suggest doing some volunteer work?
    Those people love helping people. It gives their life meaning.
    I’m sure you would find new meaning taking those photos.
    Best of luck!

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 26, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks, I do hope to find new meanings and excitement on taking photos again.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    September 25, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    A well written piece that raises some pertinent questions. Here’s my take:
    “Do we think alike, when we put a camera in front of a stranger?” I look for mannerisms or gestures that unite us a humans – I’m not a ‘hunter’ or collector of faces per se. I like funny situations or graphic representations.
    “The reason why I sold all my gear? I am not exactly sure.” I did the same after I retired from teaching. I went through a stage of self-doubt and trying to think if I mattered any more. In a dark moment, I sold almost all of my gear, then three months later, regretted it. I’ve since re-build my armamentarium. I’m in a better place now.
    “Why do I take photos of people?” To start, I’m a crappy landscape photographer. People? I love the fact that we are different, but we have more in common no matter what our skin color or age, et al. People are just people. I never tire of watching & snapping.
    Photography is process for me. I see the act of taking a photo an unbroken chain from snapping the shutter to processing the film to making the final print in my darkroom. I just don’t get the same feeling of creativity or accomplishment when I work in a digital workflow. But, that’s me.

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 26, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Dan, thank you for sharing your thoughts…Glad to know I am not the only one who sold all gears, tho I am still without a single camera or lens (but lots of films in fridge).

  • Reply
    September 26, 2019 at 7:59 am

    Great ! Wonderful !
    A great use of a LEICA M3.
    Congratulations !
    A breath !
    Thank you so much.
    I really like this photographs and this Leica M3.
    😉 😉 😉

  • Reply
    Brian Nicholls
    September 26, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Sien, I like your pictures. I find them captivating and keep returning to them. I like your thought provoking questions.
    I have been taking pictures since 1957 when I was given a Coronet box camera as a birthday present. I acquired a lot of gear over the years. I once had two Canon AE1 bodies, an array of lenses plus filters and other associated accessories which I used to lug around in a camera bag. I wasted most of my time agonising on what combination to fit to what body and so missed many good pictures. I too sold all my equipment (in 1993) and bought a Nikon Zoom 100 compact. At first, I felt naked, but suddenly began to take more pictures and enjoy photography. There was no drop in the quality of the images after the transition and I realised that to limit yourself is to add to your creativity.
    The road of excess had led to the path of enlightenment!
    Well Done! Brian (UK)

    • Reply
      Sien Hong
      September 26, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks Brian, I am flattered and encouraged by your comments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-Free Experience -Click here to find out more